Curry in a Hurry, Part One

Now that you can buy coconut milk for a third or half of retail cost, (please see previous post), you might consider keeping an extra supply in your pantry. A plentifully stocked larder encourages you to get in the kitchen and experiment a little. So, what can you do with all that coconut milk?

Whip up a curry using The Plenty Method! While recipes are useful for ideas and inspiration, their requirements for exact measurements and ingredients can often be quite restrictive and time consuming. The “Y” in Plenty means “Yum: the un-recipe recipe.” Break loose of cooking rules, formulas, shoulds and musts and experience new freedom in the kitchen!

So here is how to make a simple curry sauce using an “un-recipe recipe”. You can mix this sauce with lentils, roasted or sautéed vegetables, pineapple, noodles, rice, tofu, tempeh, beans, shrimp. Or, cooked chicken, beef, pork or lamb (which I purchase from a local farmer). The combinations are endless. And it is surprisingly easy to make this sauce.

To start, find a large skillet, sauce pan or Dutch oven. Dice an onion and sauté it in butter, vegetable, or coconut oil that has started to bubble. Sauté the onion for a few minutes until it’s translucent. Then add about a tablespoon of curry powder or paste and some seasoning salt (my favorite are those made by Maggi). To that, add a can of undiluted, unsweetened coconut milk and stir until it bubbles.

If you have some tamarind paste or concentrate, add slightly less than a tablespoon. In The Plenty Method, tamarind is what we call a “flavor burst”. It’s a concentrated flavoring that kicks the flavor up a notch and makes humble ingredients more interesting. If you don’t happen to have any tamarind on hand, don’t worry. But next time you are at an international food market or Asian grocery store, consider picking some up. It adds a lovely tart and tangy complexity to many dishes. Another flavor burst you might like to add is a splash of aged sherry vinegar. Just a touch adds yet another layer of lovely flavor. Add a touch of hot sauce if you like your food spicy (my go-to is Sriracha). Some people like the flavor of fish sauce. If you do, add that if you have some.

If the sauce seems too thick, add some water. If it’s too thin continue to cook it down or stir in some corn or tapioca starch diluted in a small amount of water. Then voila! There’s your curry sauce, ready to use as suggested above. Along the way, listen to your senses; they will tell you what to do. If it tastes a bit flat, add more curry powder, tamarind or salt. And if you are in a hurry, you can forgo the onion and start with the coconut milk. My favorite way to eat this sauce is over roasted cauliflower served on a bed of brown rice and topped with roasted cashews. Nourishing and delicious fast food!

One of my goals is to help people learn how to whip up something easy and delicious in the time it would take to get take-out or go to a drive through. Having a plentiful supply of food on hand and a few “un-recipe recipes” makes it much easier to cook on the fly. Try it, you’ll like it!

Tamarind makes an excellent flavor burst. I love Maggi seasoning salts.

PS If you’d like to learn a little more about how to use coconut milk, check out this post by Mark Bittman. Written in 1999, it’s still relevant . . . except for the price!