Until next spring this may well be my last batch of fresh curry leaves from my yard. I usually wait till they are a very dark green which usually means they are fully grown. At this stage the leaves are bigger and more opaque. Although in a hurry and when necessary I have plucked some not so fully ready sprigs.
As any cook/foodie from India (or any other south asian country) worth his/her salt will tell you these curry leaves are as necessary in authentic vernacular cooking as eggs in good cakes. Well and then they have eggless cakes!
We use this mainly in dressings where 1 or more tbspns of oil is heated to which 1tspn ( or equivalent) of black/ brown mustard seeds are added. While the seeds splutter the heat is reduced and the leaves ( removed from the stem) are added. This is then poured ( as dressing) onto curries/ stews/ chutneys/dips and dishes.
This basic dressing is varied far and in-between by adding chillies, whole spices, powders and grains. It's even used as an ingredient by itself in authentic dishes.It imparts it's own special signature aroma and taste to the dish.While my more modern friends use the leaves and mostly throw the stem, I have learnt from my mother that the stem can be cut/ crushed and added to the dressing or cooked with the whole main dish.
I found this page on curry leaves at 'wisegeek' very informative from a non- Asian's point of view.
My mother still proudly doles out bushels full of sprigs to her more 'cosmopolitan ' (read as- lazy to plant/maintain or dwelling in yard-less apartment) neighbors.
She still tcch tcchs at her baby ( read as- good ol' me) not having these in bountiful!
Yet we make-do. The local Indian groceries do stock them for a price ( ofcourse) when they can n will!
But we have learnt to be self sufficient. My one sapling given by a benevolent friend has now grown into 3 plants in 2 pots.
They grow bigger and better in the ground but the climate here demands that we bring them in for winter! Thus the pots!
So unlike my mom ( and her neighbors) we enjoy our fresh curry leaves from spring to late fall. Until spring doth spring again!
I recently saw this clip on Hetal's and Anuja's blog that egg shells are very good natural fertilizer to curry leaf plants. So since then all the eggshells cracked in the kitchen have found home in the curry leaf pots!
Do let me kinow if you use these aromatic leaves in your cooking!
Until next time happy cooking!
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Thank you and Bon Appetite.