Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cost Cutting by Choice

Today am hoping to explain how inexpensive a curry can be to make. With the side dishes (optional) shown in the second photo, it certainly makes a dish worth serving to guests.

Obviously the least expensive curry is one made with vegetables, and these can be varied, but for economy we should use what we have. My curries tend to be made with potato, cauliflower, carrots and onions (as shown here), adding butternut squash if there is a bit needing using up. On close inspection of the picture I may even have added a few cooked chickpeas. The chunkier the vegetables are diced, the more there appears to be, and the better they look (but only in my opinion).

However, a more classic (and maybe even less costly) curry could be made such as Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potato), Saag Aloo (spinach and potato), or Bombay Aloo (potatoes, onion and tomatoes). To name but a few.

The easiest way to make 'my' vegetable curry is to part-cook the vegetables, and then finish them off in a curry sauce. The sauce itself is another way we can save (or spend) money. We can either make it from scratch (an easy recipe will be given today), or we can open a can or jar of pre-made sauce which can either cost as much as £1 or more, or - on a good day - as low as 4p (yes four pee), which is the cheap and cheerful curry sauce that many supermarkets are selling at this time as a loss leader. To this real 'cheapie' of a sauce, we can also add more ingredients if we wish (see recipe below for ideas).

We now come to the 'carbohydrate' part of the meal. Generally we serve curry with rice (as shown in the above photo to which I have added a few snippets of red and yellow bell peppers just to add colour). Again we have to take cost into consideration. Go for the expensive microwave 2 minute pilau rice, or cook rice from scratch. However, as raw rice has risen in price, we can cut the cost even further by omitting rice altogether and serving naan bread, or even puris - a puffy type of bread. Some people serve rice AND the breads, but it is not really necessary or even traditional to do this. Most of the breads are for sale in the supermarkets (at a price) but always very low cost when made home from very inexpensive ingredients (often just flour and water).

For personal meals we would probably stop there. We have the vegetables, the curry sauce and maybe rice or some naan bread. Put together we can be sure of having a good meal. But when it comes to serving guests, then we can go one step further and serve a tray of side dishes, such as this second picture (not the best selection as it is a photo I took some years ago but it gives an idea).

Starting at the top and working clockwise, the top bowl holds mango chutney, followed by bowls of raita, lime pickle, dessicated coconut, raisins, and flaked almonds. In the centre there are halved hard-boiled eggs.

The choice of side dishes depends much upon the type of curry to be served. If this was chicken based there would be a bowl of sliced bananas included, yet with beef or lamb there would be no banana or coconut served, instead maybe a bowl of sliced onion with sliced tomatoes and a dish of lentil dhal instead of the eggs. All these can be made/prepared with ingredients that many of us keep in our larders so there should be no need to go out and 'buy extra'.

Even the above can be 'extended' by including a dish of freshly made onion bhajis, mushroom pakoras and a plate of spiced samosas. Again, cheap enough to prepare and easy enough to make and cook, especially as the the samosas are able to be made and frozen prior to frying. So when we wish to serve a curry we should always be able offer something that looks good, but costs little.

Now we come to a home-made curry sauce to serve with 2 lb assorted vegetables. Much cheaper than the quality sauces sold in jars/cans, but more expensive that the cheapest sold (in all honesty we can NEVER make a curry sauce at home that costs only 4p) . We have to make our own choice of how little money we wish to spend. But always worth making the following curry sauce if we have the ingredients.

Curry Sauce: to serve four

1 tblsp sunflower oil

1 onion, finely chopped or grated

1 tblsp curry powder

1 tsp paprika pepper

2 tsp tomato puree

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tblsp apricot jam or redcurrant jelly

half pint (300ml) milk

2 oz (50g) raisins or sultanas

Put the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes, then stir in the curry powder and paprika abd cook for a further 3 minutes, then stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing well together so they are well combined. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

To use: cook your chosen vegetables in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly and add to the curry sauce. Continue cooking over a low heat until the vegetables are tender (takes approx 10 - 15 mins).

Spoon into a warmed dish and serve with rice and/or naan bread, and any accompaniments you wish.