Curry is one of the most traditional English dishes dating back to the East India Trading Company. Curry may be delicious when made well, but Indian food it is not. Now the spices and their combinations used in curry are indeed very much Indian, but in India they tend to be fresh and far more fragrant than what we see in Ireland. The name curry originated from the word kari, which means spiced sauce. Curry powder was a British invention which allowed the spice combinations of the Indians to become far more user friendly, also transporting a powder is a lot simpler than moving complex varieties of foods across continents.
Various spiced sauces can not only be found in India, but also in countries such as Thailand and Malaysia. These countries have approached the way they make their sauces in completely different ways, for example the Malaysians favour coconut pineapple bases to some of their sauces. In contrast Thai people use complex combinations of fresh flavours such as wild ginger, lemongrass, coriander, and lime leaf. The common element running through all curries is the use of chilli, which varies to a tremendous degree in heat intensity. The way in which chilli peppers heat is measured on the Scoville scale, named after its creator Wilbur Scoville. The substance that makes chillies hot is capsaicin, and pure capsaicin measures 15,000,000 to 16,000,000 Scoville heat units. The scale starts with the mildest pepper being the sweet bell pepper which rates as zero. The commonest hot pepper in Ireland is the Jalapeno with a rating of 2,500. The Hebanero comes in at a blistering 150,000-325,000, but the king of hot peppers is the Naga Jolokia (ghost chilli ) with a rating of over 1,000,000 Scoville units; to put that heat into context law enforcement grade pepper spray heat starts at 500,000 units.
Simple fish curry (serves 3 – 4 )
500 grams mixed fish cut into bite sized pieces, keep prawns and shellfish whole
1 aubergine sliced into thin strips
Holy basil (normal basil will work ) 50 grams
1 tin of coconut cream
1 300ml tin of pineapple pieces
Juice of one lemon
Thai fish sauce to taste
Puree together, place into a large pot and bring to a gentle simmer
10 coriander seeds, crushed
10 fennel seeds, crushed
3 kaffir lime leafs
1 lemon grass fresh, chopped
10 grams ginger, peeled and chopped fine
25 gram Thai red curry paste
Add to the coconut/pineapple sauce and allow infuse for five minutes.
Then add the aubergines and allow cook for three minutes, add the fish and cover with a lid, poach until the fish is cooked. When cooked finish with the basil leaf, adjust seasoning with fish sauce and serve with boiled rice and fresh cut limes.
Text and photography by Michael O’Meara, Oscars.