Recipe: How to make the perfect Durban curry

by The Oyster Box Executive Chef Kevin Joseph

No visit to Durban is complete without enjoying a real Durban Curry.

Curry was introduced to the Colony of Natal over 150 years ago by indentured laborers who came from India, to work in the sugar cane fields. The word ‘curry’ comes from the Tamil word ‘kari’ which means ‘sauce’.

The unique flavours of Indian cooking, which were embraced by British settlers and the Zulus, have been developed over time to make the ‘Durban Curry’, famous around the world.

Durban curries, which are usually hotter, are coloured red with tomatoes, chilies and cayenne pepper. Expert curry makers from Durban boast that a typical Durban Masala curry powder has about 12 different ingredients in the blend. These include ground coriander, cinnamon, cumin, curry leaves, fennel seed, dried chilies and cayenne pepper, as well as ginger and garlic. The array of tasty Durban curries encompass many glorious dishes made from chicken, prawns, fish, beef and vegetables, but the most popular choice is lamb or mutton.

A typical Durban curry is made in a heavy pan. Onions are browned in oil, and then curry powder is added, followed by the garlic and ginger. This mixture is simmered before the lamb, chicken, beef or fish is folded in and then all the remaining ingredients are added. The pan is covered and the dish is left to simmer, bringing all the flavours together. Coriander is added just before serving. Durban curry is usually served over rice, with condiments such as chutney, sambals and papadums.

To pick up the essential ingredients for a Durban curry visit the Spice Emporium. This is the home of spicy blends of curry powders and traditional accompaniments. Although Durban curries can bring tears to the eye, there is always plenty of flavour in every dish.

My recipe for our Famous Lamb Curry

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

Serves: 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg leg of lamb or shoulder (or 1 kg chicken), cubed
  • 75 ml oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (10 cm long)
  • 20 ml medium strength masala curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ml crushed garlic and ginger
  • 4 curry leaves
  • 5 ml whole fennel seeds
  • 250 ml water (one cup)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 medium tomato, skinned and diced
  • Coriander (dhania) leaves for garnishing

Method:

  1. Washed cube meat and drain water.
  2. Heat oil and add diced onion, cloves and cinnamon sticks.
  3. Add the masala powder mix, stir and add meat to the pot.
  4. Add salt, garlic and ginger, curry leaves and fennel seeds. Stir all ingredients together.
  5. Allow to cool on a high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
  6. As excess water and juices evaporate, add the additional cup of water, followed by the potato and tomato.
  7. When both meat and vegetables are cooked (approximately 30 minutes), simmer on high heat for 5 minutes.
  8. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, roti and green salad.

Kevin’s curry powder mix is a carefully guarded secret but we can share what goes in it with you. As too the measurements… only Kevin knows!

For veggies you can substitute the meat with vegetables of your choice including cauliflower, cubed butternut, sweet potato, lentils, carrots, courgettes and more. One note – don’t add cardamon if you are doing a veggie curry!

The Oyster Box Curry Masala Mix (100ml):
Cumin
Coriander
Fennel
Turmeric
Mild Masala
Aniseed
Cinnamon
Medium Masala
Cardamom

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5 Responses to Recipe: How to make the perfect Durban curry

  1. Pingback: Africa Adventure Consultants - The Safari Journal

  2. David Rafferty says:

    love Durban curry and oyster box…
    the best of both world

  3. Vicks Naidoo says:

    I am now living in Australia and was from Tongaat. I am very familar with Oyster Box Hotel. I want try out your lamb curry recipe. My mixed masala does not have Aniseed, Cardamon and tumeric powder in the mix. Is it necessary to add these when cooking? Thanks and regards.

    • RCH says:

      Hi Vicks, We’ve checked with Executive Chef Kevin and he says don’t worry if you don’t have those three spices they are not essential, but if you can add them they will definitely enhance the flavour! You’ll have to let us know how you get on.

  4. Devandran says:

    Hi, I’m going to try this recipe. Hope all goes well!!! Trrying to make a great lamb/mutton curry with Life giving flavour!.

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