On a cold wintry night, nothing warms you up more than a curry. With so many great quality curry pastes on the market, it can be very easy to do at home.

Curries are generally spicy dishes from Indian and other Southeast Asian cuisines.

In India, curries developed in the different regions and the dishes have been named to indicate the meat and/or vegetable, cooking method and combination of spices used. There are so many different types of curries; I have always found the names and varieties to be slightly confusing.

Korma is a mild, yellow curry. Rogan josh is a medium curry with tomatoes. Madras is fairly hot, red in colour with chilli. Vindaloo is regarded as the classic ‘hot’ curry, sometimes with the addition of potatoes. The tandoor (an earthen oven) is used to make tandoori chicken (first marinated in a spiced yoghurt). It is India’s version of barbequed chicken. Chicken tikka is traditionally baked on skewers, also in a tandoor, after marinating in spiced yoghurt.

Indian curries use spices such as coriander seed, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, pepper, chilli, cloves, tamarind, cardamon and saffron.

Southeast Asian curries, from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam use many of the same spices, but also galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf in addition to other fresh herbs. The different combinations of herbs and spices produce quite distinctive flavours.

I have included an easy recipe for a lamb curry that uses a ready-made curry paste. There is a great little shop at the Prahran market called Curry Creations, which makes its own. Add other vegetables such as potatoes or cauliflower, if you like.

If you are feeling more adventurous, try making your own curry paste. The yellow Thai curry is vibrant and refreshing. I have added pea eggplant, which is quite sour, but you could use other vegetables like green beans.

If you don’t have much time, you could try a quick stir-fry of Singapore noodles, which simply uses curry powder. It is so easy to make, you’ll never need to have takeaway again.

Kashmiri lamb curry

An easy curry that makes use of ready made curry pastes that are available. You can use lesser meat cuts which will become tender with the long cooking time. You could also cook this in the oven.

1 cup yoghurt

pinch saffron

3 tbs almonds, coarsely ground

1 kg diced lamb

2 tbs ghee

2 onions, peeled and sliced

375g bottle Rogan Josh Curry simmer sauce

1 bunch fresh spinach

juice of half a lemon

1 cup water

Mix yoghurt with saffron and almonds. Add lamb and marinate for 2 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.

Heat ghee in a large frypan and cook onions until softened, a few minutes.

Add lamb and marinade to the pan. Add curry sauce and simmer, covered, for 1 ½ hours until lamb is tender. Add water if needed.

Meanwhile, clean and wash spinach leaves. Cook spinach in a large pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until wilted. Remove from heat and drain. Chop finely and set aside.

When lamb is tender, add spinach and lemon juice. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with rice and pappadums.

Serves 4.

Singapore noodles

Pick up some Chinese barbecue pork from your local takeaway, where you see various cooked meats hanging decoratively in the window.

Half a packet thin rice stick noodles (rice vermicelli)

500g Chinese barbecued pork

1/4 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 tbs peanut oil

1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons curry powder

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1 red capsicum, deseeded and finely sliced

One quarter Chinese cabbage, shredded

1 cup mung bean sprouts

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 eggs

coriander for garnish


Place noodles in a large heatproof bowl. Pour over boiling water to cover and soak for five minutes, gently stirring to break up any clumps. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse.

Cut the barbecued pork into thin slices.

In a small bowl, mix together the chicken stock, soy sauce and brown sugar. Set aside.

Heat a large wok over high heat. Add the oil for stir-frying. When the oil is hot, add the curry powder, garlic and ginger. Stir-fry briefly until fragrant. Add the onion and red capsicum and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes until it begins to soften, then add the cabbage and stir-fry for about 2 more minutes.

Stir in the bean sprouts, cook briefly, and then add the barbequed pork and the noodles. Add the sauce, tossing the ingredients carefully to mix. If too dry, add a bit more chicken stock or water as needed. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Add more curry powder, soy sauce or sugar if desired.

Make a simple omelet by whisking the eggs with 2 tablespoons of water and cooking in a small non-stick pan. When cooked, remove from pan and roll up. Slice thinly and scatter over the noodles. Garnish with coriander and serve.

Serves 4.

Yellow Thai curry

Adapted from a recipe by Geoff Lindsay, this is a lovely way to enjoy fish in winter.

Choose a firm fleshed fish that won’t break apart. The combination of sweet, sour, spicy and salty is refreshing.

5 dried red chillies

1 yellow capsicum

1 tbs ground turmeric

4 shallots, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped

1 tsp shrimp paste

1 tbs vegetable oil

1 litre chicken stock

1 cup coconut cream

1 tbs tamarind puree

2 tbs palm sugar

2 limes, juiced

400g swordfish steaks

1 bunch chinese broccoli, trimmed and cut in large pieces

To make the curry paste, blend the chillies, capsicum, turmeric, shallots, garlic, lemongrass and shrimp paste in a food processor until smooth.

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the curry paste for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, stock, tamarind, palm sugar and lime. Stir well and simmer for 10 minutes. Check the flavours and adjust to balance the sweet, salty, spicy and sour if necessary.

Cut the fish into large chunks and add to the curry. Add the broccoli. Simmer for 5 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the broccoli is tender

Garnish with Vietnamese mint.

Serve with rice.

Serves 4.


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