Cocking-up Curry (Following recipes is for wimps)

In the last few years I have developed a taste for Indian food, and in the last couple – started dabbling in cooking it. From rajma (red kidney bean curry) taught to me by my Indian ex-housemate to carrot theplas (unleavened bread) from some internet page. If made properly, Indian food can be a stunning explosion of taste and smell. However, ‘properly’ hasn’t quite entered my Indian cooking vocabulary yet. Only recently, while looking up a recipe, I was pleasantly surprised that for once I had all the required ingredients. So, you know, the land of ‘properly’ is still a while away. That doesn’t stop me from experimenting and cutting a million corners. For me cooking is a bit like alchemy – you put everything into a pot and hope it doesn’t explode in your face.

Recently I have found a lovely blog on Indian cooking called eCurry. It not only has recipes for curries, but various salads, pancakes, breads, rolls/sandwiches, etc. and a very useful guide to Indian spices. The diversity of the recipes was what appealed to me the most. I have previously attempted an Indian Omelet, and it was easy to make and delicious! Try it!

So when an old friend of mine came to visit me over the weekend, I thought I should make something special for dinner. I decided on Indian, of course (any excuse to experiment). After checking what I had in the fridge, I settled on making a Chicken Curry in Fenugreek and Yogurt Sauce. You marinate the chicken, fry it up with onion and spices and then add the marinade as the sauce. Sounds pretty simple…

Boy did I get things mixed up! Not only was I trying to make sense of what to do when, but also trying to cut down the recipe to feed three people rather than six.  First, I forgot to add garlic to the marinade. I will realise this later.

PB159865

Garlic is conspicuously missing.

I whizzed the above in a blender with yoghurt. Then when it was time to marinate the chicken I ended up drowning the poor thing and leaving it in the fridge for 3.5 hours. I had other important stuff to do (surf the Internet probably).

PB159871

I reckon there’s not enough yogurt.

When it was time to start cooking I saw I didn’t have any corn flour or ground white peppercorns – I skipped those. I didn’t have an Indian bay leaf either, so I used a regular one. (I said I cut big fat corners.) I fried the bay leaf, three pepper corns, some cassia bark and three crushed cardamom seeds in ghee:

PB159876

Smells lovely!

Then I realised I was supposed to save half of the original ginger/garlic/onion/chilli mix for the frying. ‘Buggrit, millenium hand and shrimp!’ I added a spoonful of ginger/garlic mix from a store-bought jar instead.

PB159878

Major crisis No.2 averted.

After the onions softened I added the chicken and thought everything was going pretty well.

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Wrong! This was the point when I realised I forgot to add garlic to the marinade at the very beginning! Cursing myself for not paying more attention to the recipe I crushed some garlic into the yogurt mix, stirred the dried fenugreek leaves in and poured everything on the cooking chicken.

PB159881

Could’ve been worse I suppose.

At this stage I gave up referring to the recipe. That is why at the end I didn’t add garam masala as required (Major crisis No.3?). Since I didn’t use any corn flour, the yogurt split. I left the whole thing simmer for a while to cook the chicken. In the end, the curry wasn’t a looker. It seemed a bit too watery (I knew I should’ve strained the yogurt!). At the same time, I was attempting to make some naans from scratch. Translation – burning them. I felt pretty disheartened about the whole process and was resigned to the fate of an awful curry. I tasted it…

…  and it tasted great. In fact, it was the best curry I’ve made to date – despite all the mix-ups, omissions and substitutions. The sauce could’ve been thicker, but hey, you live and learn. Maybe this wasn’t such a cock-up I thought it was? My friend cleaned the plate, so I think she loved it (Yay!).

Moral of the story? Read the bloody recipe! Five times! Not so much for following the recipe accurately as for your own peace of mind.

I’m not adding cooking instructions, because it will probably be for the best if you follow the original recipe rather than my convoluted attempt.

Do you have any stories about dishes you thought you ruined?

2 thoughts on “Cocking-up Curry (Following recipes is for wimps)

  1. I am impressed. We were kindred spirits, you and I, through the beginning. The mistakes and omissions, I can relate. My cooking efforts rarely don’t involve a fire alarm and a mess the size of Jamaica. However, yours seems to have turned out happy in the end! Woohoo! :-) Congrats!

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