Cooking a Simple Curry

The simplest curry I’ve ever eaten was during a camel safari near Jaisalmer. Made over a fire of twigs and branches, the plates were cleaned by scouring with sand afterwards. And it tasted pretty good. But what is the simplest curry I can cook?

When you’re a terrible cook, people like to give you cookbooks as presents. It’s as if the right combination of words are going to make up for lack of experience. A lot of these presents were potentially deadly – given the disasters I’ve produced, why give me a book whose recipes involve cooking things in pans of deep oil? It’s one thing to produce an inedible meal with a cooking disaster, quite another to need skin grafts.

Student cookbooks are the lowest form of cookbook. These are aimed at people who have never cooked. The ones I have date back to the days when students arrived at university with a new set of pans from Woolworths. They are aimed at people who have no idea what they are doing, and would rather be in a bar. The only simpler recipes you’ll find for a curry are ready meal instructions. They are almost a joke – unless you know very little about cooking, in which case they’re a lifeline.

I won’t name the cookbook I’m using, but the edition I’ve got comes from 1997. Its recipe for ‘Vegetable Curry’ fills me with suspicion for its simplicity as well as its enthusiasm for fruit. The ingredients include a huge amount of coconut, something I’m not a huge fan of, and the introduction suggests the use of “slices of banana and apple as a tasty side dish“. There’s a whole post to be written sometime about the English and Australian obsession for linking fruit and curry.

The recipe uses potato, onion, cauliflower and carrot as the vegetables. The curry-ness is provided by a tablespoon of curry powder at the start. While the ingredients are all ones you might find in a takeaway curry, I think they’d need a little more excitement to make something of them. This is basically a stew with a sprinkle of curry flavour.

More than anything, this dish is reminiscent of the one I was served at ‘Slices of Balti’ a few months back. It tastes a little better, because I’m capable of not cooking vegetables until all texture is destroyed. But it’s still bland. This is what vegetarianism used to be like, when the mockery of meat-eaters was a little more justified. Look at this picture, to get an idea of how joyless this recipe turned out to be:

Taking this photo, I realised that it’s more difficult than I thought to take decent photos of food at home. I guess the lighting in restaurants is better for this. I know I did a half decent job, solely because some of the photos I took are much, much worse:

That’s the simplest curry recipe I can find on my bookshelves. It’s interesting to compare to what I’d normally make: I can do much better.

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