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I'm trying to make a curry, and failing. I'm a decent amateur home-cook, but now that I'm exploring outside of my usual cuisines, I'm at a loss how to improve my preparation of this recipe. Either that, or the recipe might just be of questionable quality... which would also be good to know.

Following this recipe (automatic translation here), I end up with something that looks and smells very much like a curry, but it tastes very flat/bland, while still hot/spicy.

I'm not used to talking about flavour so forgive me for this poor attempt at describing the taste (any hints on how to learn that skill?). It's spicy, but only as an after-taste, mostly in the back of the throat. Most curries I've eaten in Indian restaurants had a real strong flavour right at the first impact, which mine is lacking. Adding questionable amounts of salt after serving helped a little bit, but felt like a cheap trick to mask the issue.

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The recipe is easy on spices with (perceived) spiciness: No peppers, just the usual amount of ginger and only 2 cloves. On top of that, close to half a liter of coconut milk gets added, which will sweeten the curry, and dampen the (again: perceived) spiciness.

The main veggies are cauliflower, far from the most exciting taste in the world, and peas, which tend to have a sweet taste.

Also, the amount of veggies (close to a kilo) compared to the amount of the spices seem a tad on the small side.

Personal observation: I'd have to make it myself to see what (if anything) is missing, but as Chris mentions, some cumin (usually an equal or half part compared to the coriander) might help, as would nutmeg and/or mace, all of which (IMHO) go well with cauliflower.

I've found that good Indian recipes are hard to find on the internet (or I'm not very good at searching). They tend to be of the Ginger-Garlic-Coriander-Cumin-Cardamom-Blended-With-Tomato-Puree variety, which although definitely tasty, all merge in to the same taste. Maunika Gowardhan has nice authentic recipes, and the slightly dodgy looking India Curry too, together with lots of spice mixes and background information.

  • I could drop by in Utrecht to let you have a taste (half an hour by train), but I'll probably save your tastebuds that displeasure. Thanks for the advice, and the links! Do you have any recommendations on what to replace the coconut milk with, to keep fluidity without dampening the taste? Just use water, or something else? – kander Mar 1 '16 at 7:23
  • @kander coconut milk can be good. You could use water and ground almonds, yoghurt or just water but a little less of it. All would be suitable but different. – Chris H Mar 1 '16 at 7:39
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    @kander: What Chris says, but keep in mind that coconut milk in curries (massaman curries for instance) is also there for the taste, not just as a convenient sauce maker. If you're using canned coconut milk/cream: I personally prefer to squeeze coconut milk from grated coconut flesh (available frozen in toko's). It's a lot less greasy and fresher than it's canned counterpart. – Willem van Rumpt Mar 1 '16 at 8:13
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    ...and I use dried coconut cream to give me control of the consistency. Just in case there weren't enough parameters! (+1 btw). – Chris H Mar 1 '16 at 10:48
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Were your dried spices new, or had they been sitting around in the back of the cupboard - ground spices can lose flavour over time.

In terms of tweaking the recipe here are my thoughts but it's a matter of taste: I'd also expect cumin. For the quantities of veg the recipe seems light on spices overall. I'd double them all except the cloves and add a (not too hot) chili to start with (assuming the paprika isn't hot). Some cardamon wouldn't go amiss as well.

Salt in curry recipes can vary wildly. I tend not to add any as such, but most of my "recipes" include tamarind paste or mango chutney which add a bit.

  • Thank you! I'll give it a shot in a couple of days. I'm looking suspiciously at the turmeric and ground coriander now; can't remember how long ago I've bought them which is probably not a good sign. Will replenish and see if that helps, and add a dose of cumin if during preparation it seems to be heading south again. Really appreciate the answer! – kander Feb 29 '16 at 19:34
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    The Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett was asked about old spices on a TV show and she said don't throw them out just add more – user23614 Mar 1 '16 at 10:17
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After taste that you are getting is cloves. To even out flavors add cloves and cinamon and fry them a little until spices release their aroma. Add them to the blend(tomato, onion & garlic paste). Fry the blend until oil is released. Add coconut milk and fried vegetables and salt, bring the gravy to a boil until oil comes on the top. Finish the dish with cilantro.

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The recipe basically shows how to assemble a curry powder for that "curry" flavor. What the recipe lacks, and may account for the general "blandness" that you can't put your finger on, is salt. Add a little salt, if there isn't any elsewhere in the recipe, and see if that perks up the flavor.

As noted in the question, with all the spices and no salt, one would expect it to have some heat, but to be a bit bland.

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If the curry is bland, the most probable reason is the flavor infusing ingredients are added in lesser quantities than needed. The main ingredients should be things like ginger, garlic, tomatoes, chillies and various others. Adding coconut and coconut milk, although they give a nice, mild flavor and taste, do tend to suppress the spiciness of the dish.

Try adding more quantities of flavor adding ingredients to match the amount of coconut used and the end results are bound to be good. Generally Indian curries taste good when they are bit spicy, tangy and little salty.
All the best.

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This recipe is missing both sugar and an acid (eg. vinegar, lime/lemon, amchur, tomato), so the taste (in a six-basic-tastes sense) beneath all the aroma is unbalanced - there is bitter from the spices, salty from the salt, fat from the coconut oil, but only a bit of sweet from the coconut products, very little umami since no tomatoes are used, hardly any acidity because neither tomatoes nor a stronger acid are used.

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