Curry in a hurry

The Curry Guy Easy, by Dan Toombs, published by Quadrille, $28
The Curry Guy Easy, by Dan Toombs, published by Quadrille, $28
The British love their curries as any Kiwi who has travelled knows.

So much so that Dan Toombs, also known as The Curry Guy, has made a career out of sharing the secret of fuss-free curries that can be cooked in half the time but still taste as good as the takeaway.

He claims to have perfected the art of British Indian restaurant cooking and in his latest book, The Curry Guy Easy, he has come up with a collection of simple dishes for those takeaway favourites.

Toombs, who lives in Yorkshire, has spent years researching the methods and secrets of Indian chefs and has included many hints, cheats and ingredient shortcuts to save time and money he picked up from Indian chefs over that time.

His first book The Curry Guy (2017) was a bestseller.

Handy labels are included for quick reference, with plenty of recipes in the 30-minutes-or-less category.

He sees it as an essential guide to making your favourite recipes for the perfect Friday night (or any night) takeaway at home.

 

Photos: Kris Kirkham
Photos: Kris Kirkham
Saag paneer

It's so often the case that the best recipes are the simplest. You don't need to slave over the hob all day to make a delicious meal. Back in 2015, I visited Thali on Old Brompton Rd in London. I was there to review the restaurant and they brought out a meal that was beyond amazing.

One of the side dishes they served that evening was this saag paneer. It's different to the way I've been making it for years, but I think it gets a much better result. You will need a big pan for this one as there is so much spinach, but it does reduce down a lot during cooking. You could also use frozen spinach for this recipe, which is a lot easier.

Serves/Makes 4 or more as part of a multi-course meal

Prep time 10 minutes

Cooking time 20 minutes

Ingredients
250g paneer, cut into cubes
5 Tbsp rapeseed oil
1kg fresh baby spinach leaves, washed or frozen
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp red chilli powder (or more or less to taste; optional)
1 tsp ground turmeric
4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp plain natural yoghurt
salt
3 Tbsp single cream (optional)

Method
Fry the paneer in about 3 Tbsp of the oil in a frying pan set over medium-high heat until nicely browned. Set aside while you cook the spinach.

Pour 285ml water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the spinach and simmer until the water has evaporated. Allow the spinach to cool, then blitz to a thick paste in a food processor. Set aside.

Now heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When visibly hot, add the cumin seeds and stir them around in the oil for about 30 seconds, then add the chilli powder and turmeric.

Stir in the chopped garlic and fry until it is light golden brown in colour. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will turn bitter.

Add the blended spinach to the pan and stir in the yoghurt, 1 Tbsp at a time. Stir in the fried paneer and heat through.

Season with salt to taste and serve immediately. I like to stir in about 3 Tbsp of single cream to finish the dish off. This is optional but very nice.

 

Photos: Kris Kirkham
Photos: Kris Kirkham
Tandoori beer can chicken

This is one you are very unlikely to find at a curry house, but it was too good to leave out of the book. I've been making beer can chicken for many years and this Indian-inspired version is one of my current favourites. You could also easily make this in a conventional oven.

Serves 4

Prep time 10 minutes, plus marinating

Cooking time 1-1½ hours

Ingredients
100ml (scant ½ cup) rapeseed oil
440ml can of your favourite beer or lager
900g whole chicken

For the marinade
2 Tbsp garlic and ginger paste (see below)
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 small bunch fresh coriander, blended with a little water
salt and freshly ground pepper

Method
Blend all of the marinade ingredients into a paste or pound them using a mortar and pestle. Slowly drizzle the rapeseed oil into the paste, whisking continuously until you have a smooth emulsion.

Cover the chicken inside and out with the marinade and allow to marinate for 8 hours or overnight. I carefully rub about half of the marinade under the skin but don't worry if you can't be bothered.

When ready to cook, set up your barbecue for indirect cooking (see below). Drink half the can of beer or lager and add 1 tsp of marinade from the chicken dish to it. The beer might foam up when you add the marinade, but that isn't a problem.

When your barbecue is good and hot you're ready to cook. If you have a thermometer, aim for a cooking temperature of 190-200degC.

Place the chicken, standing on the beer can directly on the grill on the side with no coals. Cover and cook for about 1-1¼ hours until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when stuck with a knife in the thigh.

You can't be too careful with chicken so if you have a meat thermometer, check that your chicken is 82degC.

When cooked through, transfer to a serving plate and cover with foil to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tip: You can also cook the chicken in the oven. Heat the oven to 230degC. Place the chicken on a rack over a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 200degC and continue to roast until cooked through and the juices run clear, about another 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and add salt to taste. Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

Garlic and ginger paste: Garlic and ginger paste is so easy to make. Simply peel equal amounts of garlic and ginger and blend with just enough water to make a paste.

If this sounds like a bit too much work, you can also buy it ready made at Asian grocers and most supermarkets. You can also substitute grated or finely chopped garlic and ginger for the blended paste.

Some stores only stock garlic paste and ginger paste in separate jars. Just take equal amounts of both out and mix them to make garlic and ginger paste.

Preparing your barbecue for indirect cooking

This is the method to use for roasting. You will need a barbecue with a tight-fitting lid. Fill your barbecue basin with about two shoe-boxes full of charcoal on one side, leaving the other side empty.

Tuck a few fire starters into the charcoal pile and light them. Let the charcoal heat up until white-hot, then place the barbecue grill over the top.

Place whatever it is you are roasting on the side with no coals and cover with the lid. If you are barbecuing in this way over an extended period of time, you will need to add a few handfuls of charcoal every half hour or so.

 

Bangladeshi vermicelli

This is Bangladeshi comfort food that is delicious as a starter or snack. You can find Asian vermicelli at Asian grocers and online.

Feel free to use Italian vermicelli if you have trouble finding the Asian stuff. Asian vermicelli is quite a lot finer. When cooked, the fine pasta tends to clump together, but that is one of the things that makes it more interesting and different from Italian.

Serves 4

Prep time 5 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

Ingredients
150g Asian vermicelli
3 Tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp curry powder
2 eggs
3 Tbsp chopped coriander
salt

To serve
lemon wedges

Method
Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the vermicelli. It only needs to cook for 3-4 minutes as it is so thin. When cooked, pour it into a colander and rinse with cold water.

Heat the oil in the pan you used to cook the vermicelli over medium high heat. When visibly hot, add the chopped onion and fry until soft and lightly browned. Add the green chillies and garlic slivers and fry for a further 1 minute or so.

Add the turmeric and curry powder followed by the eggs and fry it all up until good and scrambled.

Tip in the cooked vermicelli and toss it around until well mixed and heated through.

Season with salt to taste, sprinkle with the coriander and squeeze lemon juice, to taste, over the top to serve.

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