Point us to a human who does not love a warm and spicy bowl of curry. It is hearty and comforting – and don’t even get us started on the spicy benefits!
A staple of the globe, this dish with its origins on the Indian subcontinent is packed with flavour and nutrients.
For a start, the veggies typically used in a curry are a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Another key flavouring ingredient, turmeric, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the compound curcumin. This is also what gives the spice its orange colour.
The flavours and spice blends in a pot of curry is nothing short of magical, says Gauteng food blogger Chanel Hamiel.
Her Indian South African family, originally from Durban, has long passed down “Indian old wives’ tales” from generation to generation, about the healing properties of the spices in curry.
“If you are drinking a turmeric tea, it is anti-inflammatory and also gives you its antibacterial properties. I went through a phase where I had bad skin. Just making a simple turmeric mask, and applying that to my skin, had an antibacterial [effect].”
She adds that cinnamon was often a spice her grandmother had used to regulate her blood pressure. “My gran had a remedy for everything. If you had a problem with your blood pressure and needed to lower it, that would be her go-to medicine.”
NOTE: ANY PERSON SUFFERING FROM HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE SHOULD CONSULT WITH A MEDICAL PRACTITIONER FIRST TO IDENTIFY THE IDEAL TREATMENT OPTIONS. NATURAL REMEDIES CANNOT BE USED TO REPLACE MEDICAL TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF HYPERTENSION.
Heating it up
And what is a curry if it cannot pack a punch? Johannesburg caterer Apriena Jugoo Pummer believes in the burn.
“Chilli is high in vitamin C and antioxidants if red, yellow or green chillies are used,” she says.
The bite behind the chilli is due to the presence of capsaicin, a chemical that is known to release endorphins that make you feel happier. “Chilli never hurt anybody,” she says.
Cumin has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, while coriander seeds may help to support healthy blood sugar levels. Garlic and ginger have a multitude of nutritional qualities, including supporting the immune system, she says.
She adds that a good base for your sauce starts with the fats you use. “The nutritional benefits of eating curry all depend on what you are cooking with. Ghee is one of the best fats you can put into your mouth. It is still made with cow’s milk, but ghee is clarified butter, so all the impurities of butter is extracted. Ghee imparts a beautiful flavour to the food.”
How you can achieve the perfect curry pot:
Generous spicing, ginger, garlic and onion are the foundations of the perfect base. Do be sure not to overdo the spices, Hamiel advises.
“With curry the magic lies in restraint. There are so many different flavours, ground spices, whole spices and veggies. Don’t overdo it; take it easy.”
You will also need quality spices, she adds. “When you are picking out masala, it should not be very sandy or very gritty. That would be a sign that it has a filler-like flour to bulk it up. You want to go for a very fine powder that needs to be deep red in colour.
“When you create your own blends, it sort of feels like you are experimenting. You never know what you are going to get. For me it is therapeutic because I get to use my creativity.”
Jugoo Pummer cautions against burning the spices. “It works quite simply: You are going to start with your ghee, add onion, garlic and ginger, lower your heat, then add spice. The heat is going to bring out the oils from your spices and infuse the oil.
“But if you burn the spices, your curry is going to have that burnt taste no matter what you do.”