The title of this post should really be, How to Make a Balls-Up of a Perfectly Good Recipe that Other People have been Following for Years with Total Success.
This recipe comes from the lovely book that Kathryn sent me from Colorado last year, when I acquired a slow cooker and tried to embrace a more domestic persona.
On the spice side, it calls for curry powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Oh yay I already had all those ingredients! And more – I also found tumeric, a packet of curry leaves and some chili flakes. May as well use them up, too, right?
Mistake #1: Don’t think you know better than the person who wrote the recipe. If you start chucking in any old thing that you come across in your spice rack, you will destroy the delicate balance of North African flavours that the dish is supposed to be about.
Mistake #2: Take the quantities seriously. If the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of curry powder, do not simply open the jar and vigorously shake the powder all over the meat and onions. The same goes for the paprika and the cumin and the chili flakes. Once it’s in and cooking, it’s impossible to get it out later.
Mistake #3: When you buy your curry powder straight from Priscilla (the lovely Indian woman from Durban who makes her own and then travels round the country selling it directly from the back of her van because it’s so popular), you’d better know that it is The Real Thing, not some watered-down mild version from the supermarket. If you use too much and then eat the food, you will die. Okay, you won’t actually die but you will be wishing that death would come because the physical agony of consuming a massively over-curried mouthful of food is sheer torture.
I prepared this early on Friday. The aroma was so wonderful, I couldn’t wait to have a taste of my wonderful dish. By 7.00pm it was time. I spooned out some of the sauce and let it cool for a while in a cup before taking a hearty swig. By 7.06, my entire body had broken out in a very serious sweat and my mouth, nasal passages and throat had swollen up – I couldn’t even scream for help. I bounced off the walls for as long as it took for the nightmare to end (about 30 minutes!) and then managed to calm down enough to google How to Salvage your Fire Food.
One hack wasn’t enough. My food had to be rescued by using three of the remedies: 200ml of cream, 750ml plain yogurt, and a big slosh of balsamic vinegar. So, all was not lost in the end. But you know what they say – once burned, twice shy. I think I won’t try my hand at making curry again for a very long time…