Now to be clear, I don't know what the definition of a korai is, so for all I know this might not be one, but the recipe started out life as one. I don't remember where the recipe came from or I'd link it, but I've tweaked it till it ended up as the one I'm going to run through for you now, so at this point I'm fairly comfortable with saying it's mine.
Our local butcher does beautiful organic lamb, so that's what I've used. I grow my own coriander and I'd highly suggest you do the same if you like curry because it makes a whole world of difference. Onions are best home-grown if you can manage that as well. Same goes for garlic actually. The rest of it you probably need to buy.
This is an easy recipe. Other than the actual ingredients, the most important ingredient is time. It's also easy to scale it up, so go ahead and make it for a load of friends. It's really forgiving so you can mess it up and still make a great curry, and you can vary it to your own tastes if you want to.
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Step 1: Ingredients
Get all of this out ready before you start. It's much easier if you don't have to go rooting through a cupboard for something mid-cook.
- 3 fairly big brown onions
- Low calorie cooking spray (or just olive oil, butter or ghee, if you're not fussed about the low calorie thing)
- 3 or 4 big cloves of garlic
- a thumb-sized piece of ginger, or just a good fork-full of easy ginger from a jar
- 1 and a 1/2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 300ml (1/2 pint) lamb stock (cube is fine, chicken will do if you don't have lamb)
- 450g (1lb) of lamb leg steak (organically reared if you can manage it)
- a couple of very generous pinches of sea salt
- about 20 turns of your pepper grinder
- 1 generous tablespoon (tbsp) of ground turmeric
- 1 generous tbsp of chilli powder (you choose here; I use half hot and half mild, but you could make it milder or hotter, and if you want it really spicy just add some cayenne, but be careful!)
- 1 generous tbsp of ground cumin
- 1 generous tbsp of paprika (not smoked; just normal)
- 1 generous tbsp of ground coriander
- 1 or 2 fresh chillies (optional) if you want it nice and spicy. I have some chopped and frozen
- 200g fresh spinach (optional)
- a really good handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon of garam masala
You'll want to serve it with rice, and some sort of bread. I like poppadoms; my wife likes naan. Ideally serve some cucumber raita as well - you'll find a simple recipe on the Options step of this guide.
Step 2: Tools
You can get away with any variation, but this is what I use:
- a sharp chef's knife
- a chopping board
- a casserole pot or large saucepan
- a garlic press
This is basically a one-pot meal, so that's about it really. (Actually it's not at all, once you consider the rice and raita and whatever. You'll need a pan and some serving stuff for those too.)
Make sure your knife is really sharp. You'll be able to chop things more finely, and you'll be less likely to hack a finger off because the blade will cut into food rather than sliding off the top. You can get a cheap sharpening stone or metal equivalent for a couple of quid off Ali Express so there's really no need to put up with blunt knives, and you'll thank yourself once you've sharpened them for the first time.
Step 3: Preparation
Chop your onions as fine as you can. Start by cutting the top and bottom off, then peel the skin off so you've only got edible onion left. Chop it in half (top to bottom) and lay each half flat-side down. Orient your first half so a rounded edge is towards you, then make cuts across it (see picture) as close together as you can make them, all the way from the near to the far edge. Then turn it and slice finely the other way, so you end up with loads of tiny onion pieces. (A little tip: as long as you do the second, across-the-way cuts really fine, you can get away with the first cuts not being very fine at all.) Now do that with the other half. Now do it with the other two onions.
If you have extra onions at any point by the way, chop them up and freeze them. They keep for months and work just as well as fresh ones.
Also, don't worry about chopping them fine if you can't (or can't be bothered). It doesn't really matter too much as long as you give it all plenty of time to cook down. You could even use shop bought pre-frozen onions if you want. I have done, and it comes out fine. Just remember to tip off the water as they defrost in the pan.
Remove the fat and sinews from your lamb. You can ignore this if you want to speed it up a bit, but you'll find your lamb falls apart in your mouth if you remove this stuff before you start cooking.
Now to start cooking...
Step 4: Start Cooking: Onions First
If you're using low calorie cooking spray, whack a load of it into your pot. Alternatively, put a couple of tablespoons of oil in.
Because I'm using a casserole dish I heat it on high for a minute then turn the heat down to medium, just to make sure the whole pot has heat through it.
Add the onions, stir well and cook for about 20 minutes. You'll notice they go translucent. Stir every 5 minutes to stop them from sticking. If they do stick, add a bit of oil and stir well.
Step 5: Tomatoes
After about 20 minutes, add your garlic. (The trick to peeling garlic, by the way, is to cut the fat end off and snap the very tip of the thin end. Then you can usually just peel the skin off without any of it sticking.) Peel and grate your ginger if using fresh, or finely chop if using from a jar. Add to the pan and stir well.
Give it a couple of minutes then add your 1 and a 1/2 tins of tomatoes. Add half your stock. Stir really well and give it a couple more minutes.
Step 6: Lamb
Once you've removed the fat and sinews from your lamb, chop it up. Each piece should be about an inch square, but I like to vary it a bit. (Normally when cooking you want all your pieces of meat about the same size so they cook at the same rate, but because this is cooking over a fairly long time it doesn't really matter, and variation makes it more interesting.)
Add a load of salt and pepper at this point too, then stir it all in and turn the heat down to low.
Cook for about half an hour, stirring every 10 minute or so. If it sticks, you've got it too high. Maybe move it to a smaller hob. You'll notice each time you stir it, it's probably got a little bit darker and a little bit thicker.
Step 7: Spices
After half an hour of cooking, it's time to add spices. (If you're not watching the time too carefully, you're better off going over rather than under.)
Add all of the powdered spices: turmeric, chilli powder, cumin, paprika and coriander. Too much is better than not enough, but don't go crazy. Chuck them all in and then give it a really good stir, then add the remaining stock and stir that in.
You'll notice it goes much darker and much thicker. Looks good doesn't it? Smells even better. But it's not ready yet.
Now cook for at least 45 minutes. During this time, the spices will soften the meat and dissolve into the liquid. Check it every 10 minutes or so, making sure it doesn't stick. If it does stick, make sure it's on a really low heat, give it a really good stir, and add a bit of boiled water or stock, if you have any left.
It'll keep getting thicker and you need to keep an eye on that. Add water or stock as needed to keep it at the consistency you want it to be when you eat it. This is supposed to be a fairly thick curry, but you don't want it too dry. If you pick a load up on a serving spoon, it should pile up nicely and not really move much, but if you shake it gently from side to side it should move and fall.
Step 8: Options
If you're adding spinach, wilt it by chucking it in a hot pan with a lid on for a couple of minutes. (Put a little bit of water in the pan if it doesn't look like anything's happening.)
Once the lamb is cooked, stir the wilted spinach into your curry.
Check how hot it is. If you want it hotter, finely chop your fresh or frozen chillies and add them now. (If you do this, you'll need to stir well and give it a minute.) Alternatively, you could add a bit more hot chilli powder or cayenne.
A couple of other options you might like to consider:
- Peppers. Fresh is better - chopped up, mixed colour - but half a bag of frozen mixed peppers from Tesco will do just fine. Put them in about 10-15 minutes before you serve so that the bitterness is taken off but they're still a bit crunchy.
- Peas. Chuck a few handfuls of frozen peas in about half an hour before you serve.
- Fresh tomatoes. If you've made it a bit too hot, roughly chop some fresh tomatoes and add them just before you serve. They'll provide some fresh, un-spiced texture.
You should also consider making a quick cucumber raita. Just finely chop about 2 inches of a cucumber (see picture for an idea of how fine, though it doesn't matter too much) and mix that into 6 or 7 tablespoons of natural yoghurt. You can use fat-free if you want. Add a small pinch of salt and mix in. Grind some pepper in and mix, then add a couple more turns of pepper to the top. You could also add a pinch of paprika. (Chopped fresh mint, ideally from your garden, is a great addition too.)
Step 9: Finishing Touches
You're almost done. Add your garam masala, mix well and taste again. Should be good.
Now turn the heat off and stick a lid on it while you sort your rice and anything else you're having with it. Letting it rest will give the meat a chance to relax. You might find the liquid separates a little while it's resting, but just stir it back in if it does. Plain boiled rice will do nicely, maybe slightly salted. (Also, and you might think this is a bit weird, but I think a bit of grated parmesan over the rice goes really well.)
Add your chopped fresh, organic garden-grown coriander right at the last minute and stir it all in, so you get all the aroma and flavour fresh on the plate when you serve.
Add a few coriander leaves to the top so it looks like you care, and maybe a pinch of paprika to the top of the rice if you can be bothered.
Step 10: Enjoy
Serve it up in multi-coloured bowls and plates and let everyone dig in.
I hope you enjoy it. This was one of the first curries I made from scratch and it gave me the confidence to try experimenting and cooking with spices more, and it's still my go-to curry today. Using local organically-reared lamb and home-grown, organically grown coriander, onions and garlic gave it that extra lift as well, so I'd recommend the extra effort involved in doing that, if you can be bothered.
Runner Up in the
Organic Cooking Challenge