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How to Curry Vegetables

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Bowl of vegetable curry

This is not a recipe for curry, this is a set of instructions outlining a method of cooking. You probably already know how to to bake, boil or fry vegetables; this recipe will teach you how to curry them. This is just one method of making curry which uses tomatoes as the base of the sauce. Making curry isn't an exact science, it's just a matter of trial and error. One of the most satisfying things is making it just the way you like it. Nothing in this recipe is exact, including amounts.

Basic Curry, Tomato-based Style

This is a basic method – as you get more comfortable with it you will adapt it to your own taste.

Essential Ingredients

  • Half an onion per person, or more if you want.

  • One tin of tomatoes per person (chopped).

Variable Ingredients

One or more from each of:

  • Carbs and protein  – there's plenty you can use: potatoes, first par-boiled then cut into small cubes; chick peas; kidney beans1; lentils; or any other sort of beans apart from baked ones. It's quicker to buy the tinned ones because they don't need soaking the night before.

  • Main vegetables  – you'll need at least two of: spinach, (tinned is easiest, but you can use fresh), mushrooms, carrots, whatever you have to hand or want to use up.

  • Spices  – about four tablespoons of dried spice. The type you choose depends on what sort of curry you make. You can get 'Curry Powder' or 'Tikka flavouring' or use the individual sorts of spice. A basic curry could use two tablespoons of curry powder, one of cumin and one of chilli powder, but experiment with whatever you want. Turmeric makes things go yellow, so is nice if you are using potatoes or white vegetables such as cauliflower. Alternatively you can use curry paste, in which case the jar will have instructions on how much to use.

Paneer, an Indian-style type of cheese, is a gorgeous choice to use as well. Although it's sometimes translated into English as 'Cottage Cheese' or 'Feta', you can't substitute any other sort of cheese, it just won't work. Paneer is the only cheese that doesn't melt, and absorbs spices.


  1. Find a clean pan. If this fails wash up a pan, the largest one you've got.

  2. If you are going to eat your curry with rice, and are using a brand that isn't easy cook, then put that on the back burner and keep an eye on the time.

  3. Add a splosh of oil to the pan, enough to cover the base. Heat a little and add onions, garlic and any other fresh veg that takes a while to cook.

  4. Wait until onions are soft then add dried spices if you are using them. It's essential to make sure all the spice is covered in oil, keep stirring until it starts to bubble a bit. Burnt spice is a bugger to clean off the bottom of a pan.

  5. Add carbs, stir until the spices covers all the carbs.

  6. Add any other vegetables you are using, either tinned ones or fresh ones that cook quickly, such as mushrooms or spinach.

  7. Add tinned tomatoes, including the liquid. There should be enough liquid to just cover all the contents of the pan. If there isn't then make up some stock and add it.

  8. Cover and go and look at h2g2. Stir every five minutes or so until cooked. Leave it on the lowest heat you can. This needs to cook slowly. If all the liquid boils away then add more (I keep a jug of stock next to the cooker whilst I'm doing this). If you are using curry paste then the spices are pre-cooked, so all you have to worry about is cooking the veg. If you are using dried spices there is a potential screw-up moment, you have to make sure that the spices are cooked as well. Keep tasting to see if it's done. Uncooked spices taste gritty and not flavourful. It's pretty darn impossible to overcook but if you run out of liquid then it will get stuck to your pan. I find that this last stage takes about 20 minutes with dried spices.

  9. Eat. Either with rice (you were keeping an eye on it as you went along weren't you?), naan bread, jacket potato, on its own, in a toastie, with normal bread, pitta bread, rolls, or in a sandwich.

  10. Don't forget to wash up!

1Drain and rinse these before use.

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