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A few recipes I have might use 5 or 6 tablespoons of yogurt but want it fully mixed spoon by spoon and cooked for 30s before adding the next spoon.

Can't I just dump the lot in and mix well?

Edit: The recipes tend to share the same order: cook spices, add onion & garlic, add browned meat, mix in yogurt, add water, simmer for an hour or more. So it's quite a dry mix when the yogurt is added.

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Yeah, I think that's the key. I also add yogurt to vegetarian curries where I'm adding it to a whole pot full of cooked vegetables. In that case, you add it all at once. –  FuzzyChef Dec 14 '11 at 5:19
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2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Yogurt curdles at high temperatures. If you curdle a big lump of yogurt, breaking it up well is hard, and it doesn't taste too well. You want to end up with tiny particles evenly dispersed in the dish. So when you add it a spoon at a time, you can mix it really well before it has had time to curdle.

An alternative method is to do it the other way round. You remove a spoonfull of the curry and dump it into the yogurt, then stir immediately. When it is completely absorbed, you add the next spoon. You continue until you have something like a 1:1 mix in the bowl, then dump it into the still cooking curry and stir.

The second method requires less than 30 s between spoons, but isn't necessarily less work. (You may have to prepare a separate bowl for the yogurt). However, it produces even smoother results. If you have a problematic yogurt (low fat content, high clumping tendency), use the second method.

Edit HenrikSöderlund's comment makes me think that my explanation wasn't clear enough, so here an addition.

The yogurt will curdle a few seconds after it is dumped in the pot. The point is, you don't lumps of curdled yogurt. A lump of curdled yogurt is grainy and sour and doesn't mix well with liquid. Encountering a lump of curdled yogurt in your soup/curry unpleasant in a way similar to encountering a lump of undissolved baking powder in your cake.

On the other hand, A tiny droplet of curdled yogurt is too small to feel as grainy, too small an amount of acid to give you an unpleasant sensation, and small enough to form a suspension with the "broth". That's why you have to break up the yogurt in droplets before it curdles, and this is only physically possible when you start out with a small amount like a single spoon.

It is even more important to do that when adding to the dry-ish mixture described in the edit than when adding to a simmering broth. The broth is below 100°C, the curry base can be much hotter, causing the yogurt to curdle quicker. Also, a liquid will dissolve the yogurt easily and disperse it, but with the dry curry base, you have to rely on stirring only to reduce the yogurt to droplets.

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Everything in your answer makes sense, but will it really make that much of a difference here, where the recipe calls for the curry to "simmer for an hour or more"? Will not the simmering cause the yoghurt to curdle anyway? –  Henrik Söderlund Dec 14 '11 at 8:38
    
@HenrikSöderlund see the edited answer. –  rumtscho Dec 14 '11 at 11:03
    
I like the edit. Thanks. –  jontyc Dec 18 '11 at 2:12
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There are two key considerations at play, slurry and concentration of flavor.

Adding spoon by spoon while mixing allows you to more smoothly integrate the curry powder and avoid clumping. Also, if you are unsure how much of the curry powder you will want (e.g. in a new recipe, a new brand of curry, etc), you will want to gradually temper it down as once you have added too much yogurt, you will have to add more curry and so on.

Adding the process of cooking it will further the distribution of the flavor and allow the mixture to create a smoother mixture (think of how it is easier to dissolve sugar in hot liquids as opposed to cold). I do not know if I would necessarily bother with that step, but it may be useful.

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Hah, I didn't notice that we are posting simultaneously until the last moment. Are you sure he is adding curry powder to the yogurt? Because of "cooked for 30 s", I think he is adding yogurt to a bubbling pot of curry. –  rumtscho Dec 13 '11 at 23:57
    
Edited question to make that clear. Thanks. –  jontyc Dec 14 '11 at 0:24
    
"think of how it easier to dissolve sugar in hot liquids as opposed to cold". This makes a lot of sense. –  jontyc Dec 14 '11 at 0:26
    
@Rum I was misunderstanding the question; I thought he was wondering why you add powders ("curry" qua curry powder) to liquids gradually instead of all at once. I did not realize he was using "curry" to refer to the entire dish. –  mfg Dec 14 '11 at 15:50
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