The turmeric-colored south Indian kari podi, or the Anglicized curry powder, was one of the exotic treasures that many sailors in the past brought back home to their wives or mothers. In 1792, the following instructions for a “Curry of Chicken” recipe appeared in a book printed in Philadelphia: Get a bottle of curry powder. Strew it over the chicken when frying… if it is not seasoned high enough, put in a little cayan (cayenne).
The basic art of Indian cooking lies in the careful blending of different spices to yield subtle variations in the flavor of foods. The khansamas or chefs of India have always been true alchemists, capable of mixing myriad spices that intensify the flavors of almost every kind of food.
Today there are thousands of variations of freshly bottled or canned spice powder blends (garam masala), mixes, and curry pastes. In time, a master cook in the art of seasoning and preparing sumptuous meals will develop a sixth sense for her or his ingredients without any assistance from recipes or measuring tools.
Curried Mushrooms, Potatoes, and Bell Pepper (Masalewali Khumben, Alu, aur Simla Mirchi)
This is a very popular North-Indian style vegetable curry from my mother’s kitchen.
3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup corn oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped fine
½-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
5 medium cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1 small green chili, chopped fine
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon curry powder
Salt to taste
1 large tomato, chopped fine
2 medium bell peppers, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
2 cups water
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat.
Add the onion, ginger, chili, garlic, and bay leaf and stir for 3-4 minutes until onions are soft and golden brown.
Add the turmeric, curry powder, and salt and stir thoroughly for 3-4 minutes.
Add the potatoes and tomato and mix thoroughly for 3-4 minutes. Add water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender. Add bell pepper and mushrooms and mix. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove and garnish with cilantro leaves.
Serve hot with basmati rice or roti, legumes, and yogurt salad.
Being on friendlier terms with your stomach serves you well! Discover and share my dazzling repertoire of authentic, delicious, healthy, and easy-to-prepare recipes of diverse flavors with your family and friends from my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.