Curry leaves are a non-spicy aromatic herb with a subtle flavour used in many dishes from India and its neighbouring countries. If you search on-line for curry leaves, you will be flooded with information on their health benefits and how to use them to cure all ailments, including weight loss, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as beauty treatments for your face and hair. I'm not sure how much of it is actually true, but I don't doubt they are good for you. After all, they are a leafy green and loaded with nutrients. Fresh curry leaves are thick like bay leaves but they are edible. In this dish, they are dried out and ground up along with other spices.
Tamarind is a sticky, sour/tart fruit common in many Asian recipes. You can sometimes find it sold whole in a brown pod. Most commonly, it's sold as pulp pressed into bricks or in a jar as a concentrate. The pulp or concentrate are easier to use. Soak the pulp in hot water for 10 minutes, then strain the juice out of the pulp. Discard the pulp and add the juice to the dish. The concentrate can be added directly to the dish. Keep in mind that the concentrate will have a stronger flavour.
If you use the tamarind concentrate make sure it is GLUTEN-FREE. Some brands list modified food starch in the ingredients list. Modified food starch can be made from corn, potato, tapioca, rice, or wheat and may be contaminated during processing. Unless the company lists the exact source of the starch, there is no way to know for sure. For this reason, I choose to use the pulp rather than the concentrate.
You may be able to find curry leaves and tamarind paste or pulp in the ethnic section of a large supermarket, but the best place to look for them is at a local Punjabi or Asian market.
I am including a Quick Apricot Chutney recipe as a bonus. This recipe also makes a great salad dressing.
makes 4-6 servings
2.5 cm (1 inch) knob tamarind, soaked in 1/4 cup hot water
or 1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seed
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 dried red chiles
1/2 cup packed fresh curry leaves or 1/4 cup dried curry leaves
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 cups cooked or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Toast the spices one at a time over medium heat in a dry stainless steel pan until lightly browned and aromatic. Reduce the heat if the seeds seem to be browning too fast. Once all the spices are toasted, add the curry leaves to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the leaves are paper-dry and lightly browned.
To your health and happiness,
Beans and Rice