I am no expert on using curry spices. I did not get formally trained with them nor did I ever work for an Indian or south Asian restaurant. I do know some basics having worked with the many Sri Lankans in Toronto. And so, I often experiment for myself and keep to what I know when serving.
Curry refers to a mixture of spices. We here in Canada have our own standard of what we think is curry; typically a blend of tumeric, cumin, coriander and a few others. Yet, abroad in countries like India and Bangladesh, this is not the case. Some chefs I've worked with make their own curry that often include spices like ginger, mace, cinnamon, clove and many others. It does take practice blending these spices to a desired taste. Which is why manufacturers have typically three types of curries at your disposal: mild, medium and hot.
For those unfamiliar to curry, stick to the mild for a while until comfortable. Then, experiment on your own.
This recipe uses a red curry paste which is more frequent in Vietnam and Thailand. The red paste is usually a blend of red chili peppers, onion (or shallots), lime zest, lemongrass, garlic and coriander. Though they range from manufacturer to manufacturer just like they would range from home to home. The green is virtually the same but uses green chilies instead.
Braised Root Vegetables in a Coconut Curry Sauce
4 Slices of Bacon, cubed
1 Garlic Clove, crushed
1 MacIntosh Apple, cored and grated
1 Red Onion, finely diced
1 Butternut Squash, cubed
1 Carrot, cubed
1 Sweet Potato, cubed
1 Parsnip, cubed
Pinch of Dried Ginger
Pinch of Tumeric
Dollop of Red Curry Paste
1 Green Onion, diced
2 Cans of Coconut Milk
Drizzle of Sesame Oil
Juice of Half a Lime (or lemon)
1 Sprig of Cilantro, chopped (optional)
Drizzle of Honey
Salt and Pepper to Taste
In a large saute pan, heat sesame oil. Add bacon until fat renders (about 2 minutes). Add ginger, onion and garlic. Cook for 1 minute stirring frequently. Add apples, tumeric and curry paste. Cook for 2 minutes stirring frequently. Add all root veggies and cook until all veggies are coated with fat and are slightly caramelized.
Add coconut milk and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Uncover and check for doneness: the veggies should whole but tender when pricked with a fork. Add lime juice, honey and, if you want, cilantro.
Serves around 6 people.
Variation: you can keep this vegetarian and omit the bacon. If you don't like cilantro, and I know many of you do, use basil at the last minute.
A Humble Chef's tip: use a small amount of the paste at first. Especially if you are unsure of how spicy the paste is. If the amount you put doesn't cut it, in a separate pot, ladle some of the curry broth out and add extra. Whisk in until blended and then add to original dish.