Many regard curry as one of the new things in cookery. This is a mistake. Curry is an old, old method of preparing meats and vegetables. Nor is it an East Indian method exclusively. In all Oriental and tropical countries foods are highly seasoned, and although the spices may differ, and although the methods of preparation may not be the same, nevertheless, generally speaking, the people of all Oriental countries freely indulge in curried food.
However, in India curry reaches its perfection. The people of India since Vedic times have eaten curry and always will. They eat it very, very hot, and Europeans who live in India soon find themselves falling into the habit of eating very hot and spicy foods. Whether it is good for one to eat as much hot stuff as one is expected to eat in India is a disputed point. In moderation, however, curry is not harmful, and is a very satisfactory and appetizing way of preparing scrappy and inexpensive meats. If carefully prepared, everybody is sure to like it. Do not introduce it, however, to your family as a mustard-colored stew of curry powder, onions, and cold meat served in the center of a platter with a wall of gummy rice enclosing it. Most of the family would hate it, and it would be difficult to get them to the point of even tasting it again. Curry, as usually made in India, is not made with curry powder at all. Every Indian cook-house is provided with a smooth black stone about a foot and a half long and a foot wide. There is also a small stone roller. On this large stone, by means of the small stone, daily are crushed or ground the spices used in making curry. The usual ingredients are coriander seeds and leaves, dried hot chilies or peppers, caraway seeds, turmeric, onions, garlic, green ginger, and black pepper grains. All these are first crushed a little and then ground to a paste, with the addition from time to time of a little water.
Now of course no American housewife would want to squat on the floor and grind up curry stuff on a stone, as do the women of India. So I hasten to say that very good curry may be made from curry powder. Curry powder may be obtained from almost any grocer. The best in the market is Cross & Blackwell's.
A good plan, however, would be to make your own curry powder. It is better, much cheaper, and is very little trouble to make.
The following formula is excellent: Curry Powder
Coriander: You will note that coriander is the chief ingredient of curry powder. Coriander is used extensively in flavoring throughout the East. It can be grown any place, however. The seed can be obtained from any large florist. It grows rank like a weed. The leaves are delicious as a flavoring for meats and vegetables. A patch of this in your vegetable garden will repay you, as many a bit of left-over can be made very tasty by using a little of the finely minced leaf. The seeds are useful in many ways.
Fresh Cocoanut is another ingredient frequently used in making curries. This gives a delicious flavor and also adds greatly to the nutritive value. A cocoanut paste is prepared by a very elaborate process in the Indian cook-house, but in this country we are not only confronted by the problem of living on our so many dollars a month, but also by the equally great one of living on twenty-four hours a day. So we will pass the method of preparing cocoanut by with the suggestion that you buy your prepared cocoanut. Baker puts up an excellent preparation of fresh cocoanut with the milk. This comes in small tins at ten cents a tin.
Making curry is a very elastic method. Much depends upon the taste of the individual. Some think a teaspoonful of prepared mustard or Worcestershire sauce a great improvement.
Always get cheap cuts of meat for curry. The hock or heel of beef makes perhaps as fine curry as any other cut.
There are many different kinds of curries. Some are so hot that the consumer thereof may feel that he is the possessor of an internal fiery furnace. Some are mustard-colored, some are almost black, some are thin and watery, some are thick, some are greasy, and some would be quite impossible for America.
Onions are always used in making curry, but do not let this discourage any one who does not like onions. One reason that onions are so unpopular is that so often they are improperly cooked. In making curry onions should be cooked until they are perfectly soft. Indeed they should be reduced to a pulp. This pulp helps thicken the curry gravy, and many people who claim that they cannot eat onions really enjoy them without realizing what they are eating.