With tomatoes literally (almost!) falling from vines before our eyes, this is a curry that is local spice bonanza. For many years I’ve been hunched over a bubbling pot of fragrant curry masala: a spoonful here, a spoonful there; ever seeking perfection in blends of spices and sometimes herbs. This is not it, but its mighty close.
Some of my spices are straight from India, brought back on the plane in my backpack. The pack itself stunk like a Mumbai spice shop, fortunately I flew Egypt Air, Egyptians are no strangers to aromatic spices themselves. During the flight, I got vague sniffs of cumin and turmeric, I knew where they were coming from and I smiled, safe in the knowledge that I was smuggling curried gold dust.
People seem put off by curries, the list of ingredients itself can be daunting. It’s actually fairly straightforward, if you are a little organised (which for curries I am). Once you learn the basics of curry making, especially with a healthy tomato base like here, you are off into a world of pungent kitchen happiness.
These tomatoes are curiously named ‘Rambo’. I have no idea why and when I asked the tomato man at the market he simply said “Because they are from around here.” with suitable gruffness and disdain. They are a macho lot in these parts after all!
There are many spices here, not an everyday curry, but one fit for a feast and fine friends. The main difference between Indian food in restaurants and at home is that Indian chefs are not afraid to be wild and free with the spices. They also normally add lashing of ghee (clarified butter) to make it sparkle and tantalise. This tomato curry is perfect for the calorie conscious curry muncher, full of flavour and superbly healthy. This surely is some kind of elixir! After some Indian meals in restaurants I feel quite heavy and lethargic (with a smile on my face however), you don’t get that treatment here.
Please try and buy good spices and keep them out of sunlight and in a sealable container. It is well worth it, a little effort could produce a curry that blows your mind.
This makes one large panful, enough for at least six hungry curry fiends.
6 lovely large and ripe red tomatoes (chop – see below), 1 large onion (sliced), 1 stick of celery (thinly sliced), 8-10 cloves of garlic (finely chopped), 1 bulb of fennel (sliced), 1 large red pepper, 2 inch sq of fresh ginger (finely chopped), 2 teas fennel seeds, 1 teas yellow mustard seeds, 2 star anise, 2 teas ground coriander, 1 teas turmeric, 2 teas curry powder (a good one), 1 teas cumin, 8 fresh green cardamoms, ½ teas chilli powder (or as incendiary as you prefer).
Prepare all of your spices, this is quickly cooked and you don’t want to be fumbling around with packets and lids which normally leads me towards turmeric leaks and general chaos. Pop all ground spices into into a dry bowl, and the anise and cardamom into another.
Chop two tomatoes finely, forming something resembling pulp. The rest can be cut into large segments, roughly 8 to a normal sized tomato.
In a hot pan with a good glug of oil, roast off your fennel and peppers until both have colour and a little softness to them. Set aside and cover.
In the same pan on high heat, add more oil (1 tbs) and fry off your onions until soft (5mins) then add your fennel seeds and yellow mustard seeds, give a minute and constantly stir. Then the celery, garlic and ginger, stir in and give another minute and keep it all moving. Then for the spices (being careful not to burn them, add water if needed), add your spices and stir well for couple of minutes, then the cardamom and star anise can be added and the well chopped tomatoes added. Stir well and get all the flavour incorporated from the pan base (that’s the good stuff!)
Cover tightly and lower heat, leave to simmer and infuse for 10 minutes. Stir in your roasted fennel, peppers and tomato segments. Cover again and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.
Try not to stir this curry much at this stage, you want the tomatoes retain their shape and texture.
Finish with a splash of olive oil stirred in (gives it shine and a little richness) then blob on some yoghurt and brown rice, topped all fresh coriander leaves. The serving style that we like to call ‘A La Beach House’.
We Love It!
One of our favourite homemade curry delights that we’d love you to try. We made it for a recent curry night and there were many mmmmmmm’s.
Fennel is of the same family as parsley, cumin, carraway and dill. Fennel could we be native to Spain and is a highly sought after veg in these parts. Fennel contains many essential oil compounds, anti-oxidants and a good amount of dietary fibre. Although the seeds are the real stars of the fennel plant, packed full of many, many good things.