Catering the curry to all

By Claudette D'Cruz

Catering the curry to all

Curry is delicious; don’t keep it all to yourself!

Everyone loves a good curry, and it easily forms the centre piece of a feast, complete with rice, breads, side dishes, salads and pickles. Feasts are only fun when shared with all the people who matter to you, so why not switch the Sunday roast for a curry and invite your favourite folk over to enjoy it?

You’ve been polishing up your cooking skills and are finally feeling confident enough to get the gang around to taste your efforts. The invites have been sent, the date approaches, and you gleefully sit down to figure out your menu.

But wait! Auntie Peggy is a vegetarian, and Mum is a coeliac. Oh and you think that your sister’s teenage daughter is trying to avoid dairy. Plus Dad needs to watch his weight, so nothing too fattening for him…

Suddenly, designing a menu feels like more of a chore than a joy! Perhaps a curry is a bad idea….

Stop! Don’t let intolerances, allergies or dietary requirements put you off cooking a curry. With a few easy changes and amendments, a curry and all the trimmings can be tailored to suit a variety of diners – yes you really can keep everyone happy!

Let’s start with coeliacs, who are allergic to gluten. There are plenty of foods that will likely appear in your curry feat that a coeliac can eat: meat, fish, potatoes, lentils and rice are all a-ok for those avoiding gluten.

Bread is one of the biggest problem areas for those with gluten intolerances, so ensure you are purchasing gluten-free naans and chapattis. If making your own breads, use gluten-free flour – there are lots to choose from, including rice flour, chickpea flour and millet.

Gluten can often sneak into supermarket-bought condiments such as chutneys. You can play it safe by making your own chutney, which is very straightforward and will impress your guests!

Vegetarians are very simple to cater for, but take some time find out what sort of vegetarian they are. If they are very strict, they may prefer that you prepare the vegetarian curries with different utensils to those used for meat ones. Vegetarian curries are plentiful and delicious, and there are lots of proteins to use in lieu of meat: tofu, tempeh or legumes such as chickpeas and lentils work well.

Some people prefer not to eat dairy, while others are actually lactose intolerant, but all are easy to cater for when it comes to a curry feast. Avoid using Indian paneer (a cheese made from milk) or raita, the latter being a dressing that uses yoghurt. If you are creating a dish that requires a dairy product, find a dairy-free alternative such as coconut yoghurt. If cooking with a dairy-free paneer, it might be worth having a practice run to see how the ingredient works when cooked – dairy free alternatives don’t always behave the same under heat!

Many people are conscious of not eating too much fat, whether to maintain a healthy weight or as response to more serious health threats, such as heart attacks or obesity. There are various little tweaks that can be made to ensure a curry and its companions are as healthy as can be:

  • Use as little oil as possible when frying meat or vegetables, and opt for healthier oils such as pure olive oil instead of ghee.
  • Pick lean cuts of meat and trim off any fat before cooking. Try to focus your efforts on chicken, fish or vegetarian curries, as these will be lower in fat than those made with red meat.
  • If using dairy in the dishes, opt for low-fat varieties.
  • Make salads or roasted vegetables to serve as side dishes rather than deep-fried snacks such as bhajis or pakoras.
  • If anyone has any space left for dessert, offer ow-fat options such as fresh fruit or sorbet. Both will be refreshing after the mixture of spices and flavours in your curry, plus they don’t involve cooking – you will have enough to do with the main course creation!

Ahhhh, suddenly it all seems easier!

The golden rule when it comes to catering for those with specific requirements is to be careful. Thick twice about each ingredient you use, check labels and packets carefully, and hop on the internet to verify what is and isn’t suitable if unsure. All the No Worries Curries spice blends are gluten free and the packets always offer vegetarian alternatives, so it is very simple to tweak the recipe to suit the diner.

It is worth getting in touch with the guest themselves to find out what alternatives they use in their own cooking, and whether they can offer you any tips or advice. They might be able to recommend good supermarket brands that cater to their needs, or suggest a curry they make for themselves at home.

There is no reason why curry can’t be catered for all, so go ahead and plan your feast! A little care and an open-mind will ensure everyone can enjoy your cooking!