My younger self engaged in some unhealthy eating habits, one of which was a near-weekly indulgence of a Sunday brunch buffet at the local Indian restaurant. I’d pay my $12, then gleefully pile a plate high with fried pakora, samosas, saag paneer, tikka, tandoori chicken, goat curry, dhal and rice, paired with warm garlic naan, a mango lassi and milky chai.

I’d have a second plate and after that, try to finish a third. Then I’d stagger home and collapse on the couch in a semi-comatose state of discomfort and regret. The next weekend, mistakes forgotten, I’d make the same doomed trip.

I like to pretend I’m older and wiser now, but those binges are fond memories. So when I was presented with a copy of “The Curry Guy: Recreate over 100 of the Best Indian Restaurant Recipes at Home,” by Dan Toombs, I was hopeful I could relive my experience, but with the guardrails of a home kitchen.

Toombs, who is not a professional chef, turned his obsession with classic restaurant-style Indian food into a years-long journey to get to the heart of beloved dishes by interviewing cooks and owners of curry houses.

Like many recipes from the Indian subcontinent, it is easy to get intimidated by the huge number of ingredients called for in each dish, some unfamiliar and difficult to find outside specialty stores.

Beyond that stumbling block is the problematic scale of recipes presented in “The Curry Guy.” Many require a base curry sauce that takes hours to prepare, as well as a healthy dollop of garlic-ginger paste, another time-consuming preparation, pre-stewed meat or vegetables and a kaleidescope of spices.

In the kitchen of a Indian food restaurant with sufficient ingredients at hand, these recipes would come together in a snap. At home, it took roughly eight straight hours of cooking to make chicken korma, muttar paneer and channa dhal, plus rice, chutney and raita, a yogurt sauce.

Everything was delicious and had a classic curry house taste, but as I came close to finishing I began to have flashbacks to mornings of intemperate Indian consumption. What I had planned to be a smallish meal for two turned out enough food to serve a family of eight. I wound up eating leftovers for about a week and still have roughly 4 quarts of curry base in my freezer.

“The Curry Guy” is a great resource for a fun dinner party, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone trying to cook Indian cuisine for the first time. With such lengthy, involved recipes, I don’t see myself turning to Toombs’ book for a quick nightly meal. For that, I’ll gladly turn to my local curry house and pray I can keep my inner glutton in check.

Peter McGuire can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


Serves 4 or more as part of a multicourse meal

4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter), rapeseed oil or seasoned oil

1-inch piece of cinnamon stick or cassia bark

4 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised

1 teaspoon garlic and ginger paste

3 tablespoons sugar, to taste

6 tablespoons ground almonds

2 tablespoons coconut flour

3 cups base curry sauce

31/2-ounce block coconut or 4 extra tablespoons coconut flour

13/4 pounds chicken breast, cut on diagonal into 1/4-inch slices or pre-cooked stewed chicken

1 tablespoon garam masala

1/2 cup light cream

1 tablespoon rose water or to taste

2 tablespoons cold butter (optional)


Heat the ghee or oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. When small bubbles appear, toss in the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Let the whole spices flavor the oil for about 30 seconds, then stir in the garlic and ginger paste. Fry for about 20 seconds before adding the sugar, ground almonds and 2 tbsp coconut flour. Mix into the oil and pour in about 1 cup of base curry sauce; it will bubble up nicely. Break up the block coconut, if using block, and add it to the simmering sauce. It will dissolve and give your korma a nice light yellow tone.

Pour in the rest of the base curry sauce, then add chicken. If using raw chicken, press it right into the sauce so that it cooks quickly and evenly. You can add a little more base curry sauce if you need to, as it will boil down anyway. Swirl in the garam masala.

When your chicken is cooked/heated through, remove the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and stir in the cream. Add the rose water and finish with butter, if you want. Season with salt to taste and check for sweetness, adding more sugar if you want.


Makes 6 quarts or enough for 22-24 servings

3 cups oil

41/2 pounds Spanish onions, roughly chopped

1 ounce carrot, peeled and chopped

41/4 ounces cabbage, chopped

31/2 ounces red bell pepper, deseeded and diced

31/2 ounces green bell pepper, deseeded and diced

2 cups tomatoes, diced

9 tablespoons garlic and ginger paste

3 tablespoons garam masala

3 tbsp. ground cumin

3 tablespoons ground coriander

3 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons fenugreek

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

Place the onions in a large stockpot and top with the rest of the vegetables, tomatoes and garlic and ginger paste. Pour in the oil and 1 quart of water. Stir to coat and place the pot over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, covered, for about 45 minutes.

Now add another 2 quarts of water and stir in the spices. Continue simmering for another 30 minutes. When the oil rises to the top and vegetables are soft, carefully skim the seasoned oil off for use in curries.

Using a handheld blender, blend for about 4 minutes until the sauce is smooth, with no chunks. Base sauce can be stored in refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


Makes 15 generous tablespoons

51/2 ounces garlic, chopped

51/2 ounces ginger, peeled and chopped

Place garlic and ginger in food processor or mortar and pestle and blend with just enough water to make a smooth paste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days and use as needed.

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