Apparently, it is possible to become addicted to curries, because they arouse and stimulate the senses and provide a natural high. The liberal use of spices leads to the body's release of endorphins and combined with the complex sensory reaction to the variety of spices and flavours, a natural high is achieved that causes subsequent cravings, often followed by addiction and a desire to move on to hotter curries.

The term curry derives from kari, a Tamil word meaning sauce and referring to various kinds of dishes common in South India made with vegetables or meat and usually eaten with rice. Anything can be made into a curry if it is cooked and spices do not necessary have to be added to it. There is a common misconception that all curries are made from curry powder but there are literally hundreds of types of curries from Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia through to Thailand and on to the Caribbean.

I love the smell of the gently toasted spices and the way they fill the kitchen with the most amazing aroma. The sheer variety of flavours that they have to offer and can bring to a dish is endless, but seasoning with herbs and spices means complimenting your dishes, not overwhelming and hiding the true flavour of the food.

So what are the secrets to the perfect curry?

Firstly, be generous with your spices as they are the essence of all good curries. Don’t be afraid to make your own spice mixes with whole spices rather than ground, as they will add so much more flavour and fragrance to the final dish.

Secondly, decide how you are going to cook your onion, ginger, and garlic. Soften them slowly without colouring for a lighter, more delicate curry or cook them longer and caramelise them for a richer and darker sauce.

And lastly, decide what is going to give your curry sauce its body. This will normally be one, or a combination, of tomatoes, yoghurt, cream or coconut milk.

One of my favourite curries is chicken tikka masala. Known all around the world as one of the most popular Indian dishes, the irony is that chicken tikka masala has very little to do with authentic Indian cuisine at all and is rumoured to have been invented in Scotland!

Apparently, somebody who was served a Chicken tikka, an original Indian dish, prepared by marinating small bite-sized bits of chicken in yogurt and spices, which are then grilled over a charcoal fire, giving it that lovely, unmistakable smokey flavour, complained it was too dry and dared asked for some sauce. The Indian chef threw a little natural yoghurt over the grilled chicken, added some extra spices and the chicken tikka masala was born. Today it is the most popular dish in the UK and over 18 tons of chicken tikka masala is consumed in Britain – per week!

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA

Ingredients serves 4

4 chicken breasts, skinned & cut into large cubes
100ml cream
100ml natural yoghurt
2tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon

Tikka Masala Paste
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp paprika
2tsp garam masala
1tsp turmeric
1 (2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger
1tsp salt
2tbsp tomato paste

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend to a paste.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and fry the chicken pieces on both sides. Add the onions and garlic and fry for 30 seconds over a fierce heat.

Stir in the Tikka Masala paste and the cream. Simmer for 5-6 minutes until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Allow to cool slightly.

Add the yoghurt and return to a low heat, bring to a simmer and then stir in the lemon juice and chopped coriander.

Serve with cooked basmati rice.

BASMATI RICE

Basmati, which means "The Fragrant One", is the ultimate premium rice, only grown in one special region in the foothills of the Himalayas where the combination of rich soil and varied climate give Pure Basmati Rice its superior quality.

SRI LANKAN FISH CURRY

Related news

Ingredients serves 4

600g fresh salmon, skinned and diced
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 red chillies, chopped
8 curry leaves
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder
2 medium-sized tomatoes, skinned and chopped
50ml tamarind puree
400ml coconut milk

For the Sri Lankan curry powder
2tbsp coriander seeds
1tbsp cumin seed
2 tsp fennel seeds
A pinch of fenugreek seeds

A pinch of ground cinnamon
3 cloves
2 cardamom pods
6 black peppercorns

For the Sri Lankan curry powder, grind everything together in a spice grinder to a fine powder.

Heat the oil in a large, shallow pan, add the onion, garlic and curry leaves, fry gently
for 3-4 minutes until the onions soften.

Add the turmeric, chilli powder, fresh chillies and 2 tbsp of the Sri Lankan curry
powder and fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tamarind puree, coconut milk and season with salt. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Add the salmon pieces to the pan and spoon some of the sauce over the top of the fish. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, then cover the pan and set aside for 10 minutes.

Serve with some steamed basmati rice.

Panang Beef Curry

This Thai curry with tender beef in a creamy peanut sauce is simply delicious! You could substitute the beef for chicken or lamb.

Ingredients serves 4

100g peanuts
25ml groundnut or olive oil
400ml coconut milk
4 lime leaves
25g dark brown or palm sugar(2 tbsp)
2 tbsp fish sauce
500g sirloin or fillet of beef, cut into 2 steaks
8 wedges of lime
Juice of one lime
1 handful basil leaves
200ml chicken stock
1 red chilli, halved and deseeded
200g green beans, chopped
2tbsp panang curry paste

Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan and add a little olive oil. Season the steaks and brown on both sides for around 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and leave to rest.

Wipe out the pan with a paper towel; add the peanuts and toast over a low heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan often, until golden and fragrant. Let them cool then roughly chop, or crush in a pestle and mortar.

Add the coconut milk, lime leaves, red chilli and chicken stock and bring to the boil.

Add the curry paste and cook to reduce for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in the green beans, sugar and fish sauce, continue to simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the sauce.

Cut the steaks into thin slices and add to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes more and add the lime juice, then season the curry to taste.

Remove from the heat and scatter with the peanuts, basil leaves and lime wedges. Serve with steamed rice.