You’ve all read about my Polish food Heritage, and how that has shaped my cooking and feeding of friends and family. But there is another, slightly diverse angle to my food heritage, and that was that Dad was born in India in the 1920s to an English Colonel and his Scottish wife.
She trained as a physician, but as babies quickly arrived, she never practised. Dad went to boarding school in the northern regions of India, which gave him both loves and loathes in Boarding House food – but the biggest influence, of course, was curry…
Dad was not a cook – but he was a Host! He was very occasionally mum’s sous chef – but his role was definitely Front of House… He would meet and greet; top up peoples glasses; and talk long into the night…. It was a traditional partnership… But it worked for them.
Curry in our house, growing up, really was the hotter the better. I had an Uncle who rated mum’s curries, by sweating brow levels. Anything lower than an 8 was deemed a poor effort. This is probably where I developed my asbestos taste buds from!
Curries were always served with fluffy white rice, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, desiccated coconut, halved boiled eggs and chopped banana. Generally, they were Mutton – growing up in Hawkes Bay in the 70s, lamb was seen as Mutton’s tasteless cousin – and for a really good curry you need a meat with body – both in terms of able to be cooked long and slow, without completely disintegrating, but also in strong flavour to stand up to the spices and heat. Mum did make a great chicken curry, and a vindaloo; but “Curry” in our house was Mum’s mutton special. I always knew curry was for dinner – because you could smell it half a block away from home. And it was always better the next day.
Irene’s curries are legendary – I don’t know how many friends and whanau stories tell of them. And there have been countless deliveries of curries in ice cream containers to friends as thank yous, or as contributions to shared meals.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve worked out her curry is basically a Rogan Josh, amped up a bit. It really is worth searching out Mutton for this, but you can use Hogget or even Goat. If you go down the Lamb route, you may find the lamb “dissolves” a bit in the sauce.. but it will taste brilliant!
The quantities depend on how many mouths you have to feed.. but I’ve pinned her down to the following approximates….
For 1 leg of Mutton……
3 or 4 Onions – the more the better
250 gm Butter (Or Ghee if you can find it) I know it’s a lot, but this makes a massive amount or curry. (and the original recipe mum had started with a pound of butter, so this is slightly healthier than that)
3 -4 T Curry Powder – medium (a good curry powder, Mum always got hers from an Indian store, and used to buy it by the pound)
4T Minced Garlic
1.5 T Minced ginger
If you want to amp up the heat you can add 3-4 dried whole chillies, or 1T chopped fresh chilli
2T whole black peppercorns
6 Whole cardamoms
2 tins Tomatoes
4-5 Potatoes cubed (these soften at the edges, and help thicken the gravy)
1 Leg of Mutton cubed
Salt to taste
The process here is the important bit… start with onions fried long and slow in butter, once softened and caramelised add the curry powder and fry off for a minute or 2; it’s important to cook off the raw spice flavour.
Add the meat and fry off in batches; then stir in the garlic and ginger, fry for a minute and add the rest of the ingredients – adding enough water to just cover the meat.
And a then a long…….. low simmer….. at least 3 hours. But longer if needed.
Mum says its better made the day before its needed – to let the flavours develop; freezes well; and of course, great the next day as leftovers…
To Bruce, Dad, Pops…. XX