This recipe might have been named ‘Devil Curry’ as an indication of how ‘fiery’ hot the curry was. If you have never had Devil Curry also called Curry Debal, you are in for a surprise. It is not like curry as you know it. To start, there is no coconut milk in it but ingredients you probably would be surprised to find in a curry -roast chicken, roast pork, Spam, smoked sausages, cabbage, cucumbers, vinegar, mustard… . Wait, don’t give up on me just yet! I would not be posting this recipe if it did not fall in my list of ‘Top 10 dishes I am most often asked to cook’. This is a curry enjoyed by those who know of it and who have access to it. It is very rare to find this dish on a restaurant’s menu. If you are lucky, you might be invited to a Eurasian family’s home for dinner where this dish originated. Consider yourself even luckier if they serve this for dinner. Expect to taste a spicy, smoky, slightly tart curry gravy, enriched by caramelised onions and roast pork. As there is no coconut milk or cream added, it is surprisingly light for something tasting so good. Best served over rice.

As I write this, I already have a request to cook this again soon. The conversation over dinner went something like this.
Diner:  I think you need to retest your recipe again.
Me:  Huh? Why? You just said it is good.
Diner: Oh, yeah. It is good. Maybe it needs more chillies.
Me: I thought you said it was spicy enough. Any spicier and you won’t be able to eat it.
Diner: I just think you should retest your recipe. I think in the next few days or sooner. Maybe tomorrow.
Me: Yeah, right.

Devil Curry, Curry Debal

Prep: 30 minutes 
Cook: ~ 30 – 45 minutes
Inactive:
Level: Intermediate
Serves: ~ 8
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes, but you need a very big pot.
Make ahead?  

The onions, chillies and ginger can be ground and fried up to 3 days in advance.

There are those who like this curry even better the next day when they believe all the flavours have been allowed to blend further.

I do not do that as food loses its nutritional value with keeping and this dish is not entirely healthy to begin with. You could however make this a few hours in advance as it does not have to be served hot. With no coconut milk, milk or cream in it, it prevents the curry from going rancid quickly.

Ingredients

1 cup = 250m l= 8.45 Us fl oz

For grinding
10 whole dried red large chillies OR 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons dried chilli flakes/powder OR 6 fresh red chillies*
1.76 lbs (800g) onions
2 and 1/2″ (3 oz)(75g) ginger
Vegetables
10.5 oz (300g) potatoes
7 oz (200g) ~2 Japanese/kyuri cucumbers**
1.2 lbs (550g) cabbage
Proteins
1.5 lbs (700g) Rotisserie chicken (I like black pepper chicken)
9 oz (250g) ready roasted belly pork
6 smoked sausages
1 can (12oz)(340g) Spam (luncheon meat)***
Everything else
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup of oil
2 and 1/2 cups (625ml) water
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Steam rice to serve with curry
Using whole dried red chillies is my preferred option. The more you use, the more ‘fiery red-looking’ the curry. Using fresh chillies or dried chilli flakes/powder would produce duller coloured curry.  Chillies come in varying degrees of ‘heat’. Taste the chilli and decide if you need more or less.
** Japanese/kyuri cucumbers are long narrow cucumbers. From skin to seeds, the entire cucumber is completely edible. Even with cooking, it keeps it shape well and the skins do not toughen up. If using other variety of cucumbers, you may have to partially skin them and remove seeds.
*** 
I use the ‘Spam with Bacon’ range as the smokiness of bacon works well
.

Method

For grinding
1. If using whole dried red chillies, remove seeds, snip chillies into tiny pieces with a pair of scissors and soak in 2 Tablespoons water and set them aside to soften, about 10 minutes.
2. If using dried chilli flakes/powder, mix in 1/2 Tablespoon water and set aside 5 minutes.
3. If using fresh chillies, remove seeds, roughly cut and set aside.
4. Peel and roughly dice onions and ginger.
5. Place all the ingredients for grinding in a food processor and grind until it is smooth with no lumps. Set aside.

The vegetables
1. Peel and cut potatoes into 2″ (5cm) chunks.
2. If the cucumbers have tough skin and inedible seed, partially peel the cucumbers and remove all seeds. Slice into 2″ (5cm) pieces.
3. Slice cabbage into 2″x3″ (5×7.5)cm wedges.

The proteins
1. Cut the rotisserie chicken into ~ 6 – 8 pieces. Keep them fairly large so that they don’t fall apart as it simmers in the curry.
2. Slice the roast pork into 1.5″ (3.8cm) pieces.
3. Slice sausages into 1.25″ (3cm) pieces.
4. For the Spam, quarter it vertically, lay it on the side and slice into 1/2″ (1.25cm).

Frying the potatoes
1. In a large, wide-bottom pot, add 1/4 cup oil. Turn on heat to medium high.  When oil is hot, add potatoes and fry until almost cooked. Check using a skewer. Turn off the heat. Frying the potatoes before you add it to the curry helps the potatoes to hold their shape as it simmers in the curry. Drain, set aside.

Frying the ground ingredients
1. In the same wide-bottom pot (no need to wash), add 1/2 cup oil and the ground up ingredients. Do not stir yet.
2. Return pot to stove and turn on the heat to medium high. Start stirring and do not stop for the next 10 to 15 minutes. Consider this your arm workout for the day. Remember not to heat up the oil before adding ground ingredients as if you do, once you add the very liquid ground up ingredients into hot oil, you could quite possibly burn yourself with the backsplash from the oil. You also need to stir continuously otherwise the onions will burn very quickly. Nothing you can do if that happens but chuck it and start again with fresh ingredients. So be patient. This is the only hard part of the recipe.
3. After 10 to 15 minutes of constant stirring, you should start to smell the onions caramelising and you might start sneezing because of the chillies. The spicier the chilies, the bigger your sneeze – really!!
4. Here comes the important bit: You need to know exactly when the ingredients in the pot has been fried to the stage where you can add the remaining ingredients. Add it too early and you have bland Devil Curry.  Add it too late and your will have burnt Devil Curry.
5. Here are the signs to look out for:
(1) You will start smelling the paste frying in the pot.
(2) You might start sneezing. Really depends on whether your chillies are spicy.
(3) The paste is looking drier, darker and caramelised.
(4) The oil and the paste in the pot have started to separate. Depending on how much oil you used to fry the ingredients, you should notice a ring of oil on the circumference of the frying ingredients. If you use a lot less oil, like the 1/2 cup oil I use, you should notice droplets of oil clinging on the surface of the pot.
(5)Taste the frying ingredients. It should not taste raw but sweet (from the caramelised onions) and cooked.

This is the stage where you want your onions fried to. Use the five points above as a further guide.

6. Turn off the heat. You must remove the pot from stove top if you are not adding all your proteins and vegetables immediately. Why? The residual heat from the stove top might just burn those onions if you sit them there too long.

Adding everything else
1. Have all your pre-prepared proteins, vegetables and 2 and 1/2 cups (625 ml) of water close to your stove top.

All these get thrown into the pot pretty much at the same  time. How easy is that?

2. Return pot to stove top but do not turn on the heat. Stir in the 2 and 1/2 cups (625ml) of water. Start layering ingredients into pot in the following order:

  1. Cabbage
  2. Roast pork
  3. Potatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Spam
  6. Sausages
  7. Chicken

3. Turn on the heat to medium low, cover the pot and let it simmer away for 30 to 45 minutes.
4. At 15 minutes intervals, to ensure that the food at the bottom does not burn, slide a spatula under it and scrape bottom of pot. If you are not using a nonstick pot, check every 10 minutes.
5. As the cabbage and cucumber cooks and softens, it loses its water content into the pot, creating more gravy for drenching your rice with.
6. Once the cabbage and cucumbers have soften, make a liquid paste with the vinegar, salt and mustard. Drizzle into pot. Stir gently. Taste and adjust seasoning.  I am a wimp when it comes to spicy food. So, I season my Curry Devil to taste mildly spicy and more to the tart side (hence 3 Tablespoons of vinegar). You adjust it to your liking.  Serve over rice.

Tips

This dish makes an excellent potluck dish. In fact, it is a one pot dish. Someone else just needs to bring the hot steaming rice.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

Just a sampling of what to expect for English Afternoon Tea

On a recent trip to England, I could not get enough of Cornish Clotted Cream. They are the reason I eat scones. I eat Cornish Clotted Cream with scones and not the other way round. Scones are not scones without the thickest possible cream you can lather on them. I was the girl at the Pump Room in Bath and again in The English Tea Room at Brown’s Hotel in London who would ask for a second pot of that thick, minimum fat content of 55% without shame and wait, I was still on my first scone then!

It was only natural that I sought, bought and brought back two 8oz (227g) cartons of this artery clogging cream. It is even more natural for me to be eating my way through it. And, how did I bring the cream back in pristine fresh condition? Ah. Leave me a comment and I might just tell you. It is a long flight home after all. I am quite resourceful and creative when it comes to finding ways to satisfy my food indulgences.

It is only fitting that the next few posts from me would be on how to prepare a splendid English Afternoon Tea spread. From a classic Victoria Sponge Cake sandwich with buttercream icing and strawberry jam to Egg and Cress Tea Sandwiches, Smoked Salmon with Dill Butter Tea Sandwiches, Roast Beef with Beet Tea Sandwiches, Ham with Honey Butter Tea Sandwiches,Crisp Cucumber Tea Sandwiches, CheckerBoard Cookies and feather like Sweet Milk Scones of course.

I am not a fan of scones that look decidedly tall, light and slender on the plate but one bite and it feels sticky on your teeth and upon swallowing it feels as if it could be wedged in your throat. I have been using a recipe which I would like to claim as mine for it produces the lightest scones I have tasted. Unfortunately, it came out from a recipe book. Its authors tested and retested recipe after recipe for scones and then came out with their scone recipe. I have not tasted a scone anywhere that matches what their recipe produces. Do not be fooled, tall scones do not always produce airy light scones.

Recipe coming up in my next post. 55% minimum fat content super luscious Cornish Clotted Cream with airy light Sweet Milk Scones.

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