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Curry in a Hurry

The U.S. Navy inherited a taste for curry—a hot, spicy, gravy-based dish of East Indian origin—from the Royal Navy.  It has been a favorite menu item in navy wardrooms for a century and at my table for decades.  Recipes abound, meatless versions as well. 

Making the stuff from scratch was enough of a hassle that we didn't’t have it at home all that often.  I then discovered a curry sauce mix that is very good and quick.  It is called S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix.  It’s available in many supermarkets. (Safeway has it.)  It comes in three strengths—try medium-hot first.  Just add 2.5 cups of water, bring it to boil, and its ready.  (Note: the mix contains MSG and meat by-products.)  Good as it is, it can be improved. 

Yield: 3-4 servings

1.  Start with a 10-inch sauté pan and brown in oil a sliced large onion, a diced green bell pepper, and a couple of carrots diced and blanched in boiling water for a few minutes before joining the onion and green pepper.  This takes time to ensure that everything is cooked through.
2.  Most often, at my home, the meat product (about 1.25 lbs) for this everyday dish is leftover lamb that is cubed or chicken that is pulled apart and tossed in with the veggies when they are done.  Shrimp can also be used.  If raw meat is used, cut it to bite sized cubes, stir fry it in a skillet to just barely done, drain and add it to the sauté pan with the veggies.  If using raw shrimp, add them directly to the veggies, since they cook so quickly.  If using pre-cooked shrimp, don’t add them until Step 5.
3.  In a large measuring cup, break up the sauce mix bar and add 2.5 cups of water.  Use only 2 cups of water if you prefer a drier curry.
4.  Dissolve the sauce mix in the water—heat in the microwave and stir. 
5.  Add the sauce mix to the veggies and meat or shrimp, bring to boil, simmer for about 5 minutes or until the meat is tender or the shrimp are done.  Serve over rice, preferably basmati rice (prepare about ½ cup of rice per serving).
6.  Option:  You can increase the heat of this dish at the end of Step 1 by adding 2 teaspoons of curry powder or Patak’s Kashmiri Masala Paste.  Lamb takes the additional heat best.  Shrimp not at all. 
7.  Desired Option:  Add to the warmth and bouquet of this dish wonderfully with garam masala—a northern India blend of dry-roasted spices available in many supermarkets.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of garam masala over the surface of the dish at the simmer stage in Step 5.  The addition of garam masala will remove all doubt in the household that it’s curry night.

Traditionally, this dish is accompanied by an array of garnishes selected to add contrasting textures, flavors and to reduce the heat. Each garnish is served in its own bowl.  Favorites include chutney, fresh lime wedges, toasted coconut, raisins and finely chopped unsalted peanuts, hard-boiled egg, and bacon. 

If you want to step back into India a hundred years, prepare lamb curry for a dinner party.  Then gather up the grandchildren—one for each the seven garnishes—to parade and serve your seated guests.  You can then, as they did in the Raj, describe this entrée as a “Seven Boy Curry.” 

Beer goes great with curry, especially when the curry is spicy hot.


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