Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Egg Curry

I only make egg curry about 2-3 times a year.  Not because it's not delicious, but because I seldom think of eggs as anything but brunch food.  When planning meals I run through a mental decision tree that altogether forgets that eggs are just as valid a protein choice as meat or legumes.  In truth they can be a lovely addition to the rotation.  In a week or three I'll post a recipe for Japanese chicken omelet rice that proves just how versatile eggs can be in dinner dishes.

The advantage this recipe has over some of my other curry recipes is that it all comes together in about 45-60 minutes.  Not bad!

You know the drill: skip to the bottom for the quickie version of the recipe.

Basic Egg Curry
Total Real Time:  45-60 minutes, depending on how long it takes you to puree onions/tomatoes and how long it takes the sauce to finish simmering.

Weirdest Ingredient:  Mango powder, also called amchur/amchoor powder.

It turns out there are loads of variants on egg curries.  Like the turkey curry from earlier this month, this one has a tomato and onion base.  Coming up fairly soon I'll share with you a recipe with a coconut base, just so you don't think that tomatoes and onions are the only way to go.

To help cut down on cooking time I blended up the onions and the tomatoes.  Keep in mind that this totally changes the texture from the "mince & slow-cook" method we saw with the turkey curry and spiced lentils recipes.  Since eggs are smooth and almost creamy, the pureed onions help to a little texture.

I started by chunking up two whole onions and two green chili peppers, but I froze a bunch of the onion paste for future recipes.   If you're making it just for this recipe with no intent to freeze the extras, just go with maybe half an onion and one green chili (adjusted for your own spiciness preferences).  Remember: gloves are your friend whenever you're chopping chilis, even the very mild ones.

Pop 'em in the processor and mush it into goo.

Onions are naturally watery, so you shouldn't need to add water or oil to make them come together into a paste.  Here's what mine looked like when it was done:

Add more chilis if you like heat.

I put the onion paste aside - to be used in just a minute - and then did the same thing with a handful of roma tomatoes.  Again, I froze my extras, so you're not going to need as much as shown in the picture.  About two cups of tomato puree (or a can of crushed tomatoes) will do the trick.

Looks like there's been a murder.  I assure you there hasn't.

Alright, so now you've got a bunch of goop that you're ready to cook together.

You remember the weird first rule of south Asian cooking, right?  Spices go in first.  Think of it as making an on-the-fly flavored oil.

Heat one teaspoon of Oil of Choice (I used olive oil) in a saucepan on medium-high heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add one teaspoon of cumin seeds one bay leaf and heat for thirty to sixty seconds, max.  Don't let them start to smoke or turn black.  Have your onion goo ready to go.

Reminder: cumin seeds are not cumin powder.   You already knew that, though, didn't you?  You clever reader, you.

Once the cumin seeds are smelling toasty and doing their little sizzle dance, plop in your onion goo and add two to three dashes of salt.  This won't be your final amount of salt so no need to go crazy.  What the salt does at this stage - I'm leaning on my high school biology here - is to cause the water in the onions to ooze out.  That's going to help them cook a little faster.  Not a lot faster, but a tiny bit.  Every little bit counts, eh?

You'll notice the pureed onions are wet and gooey anyway.  Your mission is to stir them every minute or two on medium-high heat until you're not seeing puddles of liquid any more.  Part of that is going to happen because of heat and evaporation, and part is going to happen because of adding spices that help to soak up the moisture.  First let the onion paste cook for about 5 minutes or so, just to get the party started.

Next, add one teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon of fennel powder.

This should cause the onion paste to both change color and bind up a little.

There's still some liquid, though, can you see toward the bottom there?  So we're not quite set yet.  Add in one teaspoon each of ginger and garlic paste (seriously, there's almost nothing that doesn't call for at least one of these).  Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Ginger & garlic: good in everything but cereal.

Time to add a few more spices to help bind things together a bit more.  This time up it's one teaspoon of chili powder, one teaspoon of coriander powder, and one teaspoon of turmeric powder - keeping in mind that turmeric stains everything, so don't use your favorite ladle to stir.  I've got a set of three wooden utensils that I've resigned to having ruined by turmeric.  Be cautious not to get it on clothes or even skin; it takes for-freaking-ever to scrub off.

I used two teaspoons of chili powder.  Use as much or as little as suits you.

Cultural tidbit:  Some South Asian cultures have a wedding tradition of using turmeric paste on their skin to help them achieve a yellowish glow.  On someone my shade (think Slavic-Irish blonde), however, turmeric stains look like jaundice.

Give it another 5 or so minutes to cook the spices and evaporate the last of the onion puddles, then add your tomato goop.  No need to go for bone dry or scorched, just push the onions to one side and make sure that no juices are leaking out.

Note that the onion & spices look clumpy rather than soupy.

At this point turn down the heat to a low medium and stir everything together.  Tomatoes, like milk, are high in sugar so they're less tolerant of high temperatures, meaning they can scorch easier than onions.  That's why chili and tomato sauce are best slow-cooked on a low flame.  It helps avoid having everything come out tasting like old cigars.

About 10-20 minutes ought to do it.  Just be sure to stir from time to time.  Turn it down to a simmer if it starts to bubble.

When the tomatoes have had a chance to cook, add about 2-3 cups of water or stock (I used some frozen vegetable stock I had, which added about 10 minutes of cook time for me), a small handful of fenugreek leaves, one teaspoon of garam masala, and half a teaspoon of mango ("amchur/amchoor") powder.  The mango powder will impart a slightly citrusy, almost sour taste to the curry.  This helps balance with the richness of the eggs, but if you're not a fan of sour notes then go ahead and leave that bit out. If you haven't got mango powder on hand - and you probably don't - substituting a little squeeze of lime juice can get you close to the same effect.  Start small, taste as you go.  Adding a tiny dash of sugar can counteract it if you've added too much.

Crush the fenugreek leaves between your palms to help release the flavor.

Once the stock is in you can turn the heat back up to a high medium flame.  When it starts to boil - remember to stir now and then - turn it down to a simmer, cover, and let it cook.  Twenty minutes should do it.  If you're adding in vegetables or tofu that need time to soak up the flavor, add those in now.  Otherwise we're going to add the eggs in last, just as we take this off the heat.

Tofu for me, eggs for Doc.

Now, while that's doing its thing you can boil up some eggs if you don't have any hardboiled eggs handy.  Personally I find that the method of putting eggs in cold water and bringing it up to a boil makes the eggs really, really hard to peel later.  My own preferred method is to slowly lower the eggs into a boiling water (gradual immersion helps prevent cracking, since it's the fast temp change plus the jolt against the bottom that causes shells to crack), boil 10 minutes, and then immediately plop them in an ice bath to prevent the yolks from greying.  But whatever, it's pretty much impossible to get boiled eggs wrong.  Some people even bake them.

When your eggs are ready, gently cut them in half.

Resist taste-testing them unless you've made extras.

I find three eggs is plenty for two people, since that gives you six halves.  Adjust for yourself accordingly.  That's the lovely part about this curry, you can easily adjust for more/fewer people just by changing the number of eggs you add.  I used five eggs this time because I wanted to have leftovers for later in the week.

When the sauce has had time to cook, take it off the heat and add your eggs in gently.  No need to stir or cook them in, since they're already cooked.  Extra stirring/cooking at this stage will cause your yolks to dissolve, which doesn't hurt the dish but does take away from its prettiness.  


Be sure to fish out the bay leaf before serving.

Forgot it was in there, didn't you?

And then you're done!  If you want to let the eggs sit and soak in some of the sauce, feel free to do so.  It won't really hurt anything.  Add salt to taste.

You can use more sauce than this.  I skimped for the sake of photography.

I served these up over rice with a side salad and some bloomin' cauliflower (one of my favorite sides and soooo worth a try!).

His and hers!

Next up: Japancakes.  

Basic Egg Curry: The Concise Recipe
  • 1/2 onion + 1/2 green chili (or to taste), pureed together
  • 2 cups tomato puree or 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 3-4 boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half (can substitute cubed tofu or vegetables)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/2 tsp fennel powder
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1-2 tsp red chili powder, to taste
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2-3 cups water or stock
  • small handful (around 2-3 tsp) fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp mango powder (also called amchur or amchoor powder), to taste
  • salt to taste

  1. Puree onion and green chili together in a food processor, or mince very, very finely.
  2. In a saucepan, heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering.
  3. Add bay leaf and cumin seeds, cook 30-60 seconds or until fragrant.
  4. Add onion puree and a dash or two of salt (not the entire salt quantity for the whole dish).  Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek powder, ginger paste, and garlic paste.  Cook another 2-3 minutes; continue to stir.
  6. Add chili powder, coriander powder, and turmeric powder, stir and cook for another 5 minutes or until onion puree is no longer watery.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomato puree.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 10-20 minutes.
  8. Add water or stock, fenugreek leaves, garam masala, and mango powder.  If adding tofu or vegetables, do so now.  Turn heat up to medium-high again and watch for a boil.  When the sauce begins to bubble, turn down to low, cover, and allow to simmer an additional 20-30 minutes.  
  9. Remove from heat and add boiled eggs.  Avoid vigorous stirring once eggs are added.  If desired, let sit 5-10 minutes to allow sauce to permeate eggs.  

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