Curry for a Crowd


Spring is a busy time at my office. Many people put in a number of overtime hours, and because of this, we have Saturday lunch provided to those clocking time on the weekend. Usually, Saturday lunches involve catered sandwiches, or perhaps chain Mexican food.

However, over the past few months, my coworkers have realized that I like to cook. So, for a change, I decided that for the Saturday lunch I was in charge of organizing, I would cook something. It is still fairly cold in Canada, and a hot lunch on a grotty day is always appreciated.

Because I would be cooking for close to two dozen people, and because our kitchen facilities are limited, I needed to make something that was crockpot-friendly. I decided on curry. It is filling. Fairly straightforward. And budget-friendly. Curry is an ideal entertaining food. It can sit on the stove and bubble away, flavours melding, as the host mingles with guests. Similarly, it can bubble away all morning while staff are busy working and don’t have time to stir every few minutes.

I made two curries for Saturday lunch. We have a gluten-free employee, so I easily adapted the recipes to accomodate that simply by swapping out standard vegetable and chicken stock to gluten-free stocks.

For inspiration, I looked to a Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry recipe on the BBC Good Food Guide website, and a new favourite of mine: Chicken Korma, which I have previously adapted to make just two servings for myself! I cut back on the heat of the recipes because we had some curry newbies at work that I did not want to scare away. In fact, one of the nicest compliments that I received from the lunch was from a co-worker who had never tried curry, convinced it was too “spicy,” yet she tried the lunch and enjoyed it immensely!

Both recipes below make enough for about 20 servings each, depending on the crowd and how hungry they are. Serve with basmati rice and naan bread.

Lunch in action, and the final result.

Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry

2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp butter
3 large onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tbsp garam masala
1-2 tbsp mild curry paste (or more, to taste)
1 cup green lentils (dried)
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 L vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can chickpeas, drained

1. Heat the oil and butter in a large pot, add the onion and cook for a few mins until softened. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple minutes.
2. Add the spices to the onion mixture and cook for 1 min more, stirring constantly to avoid sticking.
3. Stir in the lentils, sweet potatoes, stock and chopped tomatoes.
4. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20-30 mins until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender. Add the chickpeas, then heat through.
5. Season, sprinkle with cilantro, if you like. Curry is easy to heat up the next day in a crockpot to serve a large group.

Chicken Curry

2 kg chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup butter
3 large onions, chopped finely
6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 tsp ginger paste
6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tsp mild chilli powder
2 tbsp garam masala
1/2 cup mango chutney (i.e. Patak’s)
2 fresh mangos, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 L hot chicken stock
2 cans coconut milk
2 cups frozen cut green beans

1. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large dutch oven or pot, and brown the chicken over a medium-high heat for 5-6 mins, turning occasionally. Avoid crowding the pot by browning chicken in batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate using a slotted spoon or spatula and return the pot to the heat. Keep the chicken warm by covering in foil or placing in the oven on a low heat.
2. Add the remaining oil, butter and onions to the pot and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, for 10 mins, or until the onions are soft and lightly browned. Stir in the ginger and garlic paste and ground spices and cook, stirring continuously, for a further 1 min.
3. Add the mango chutney, stock, and coconut milk to the spiced onions and bring to a simmer. Add carrots and cook for about 20 minutes, or until sauce has reduced and carrots are tender.
4. Return the chicken to the pot, add frozen green beans, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 mins, until the chicken and beans are piping hot and cooked through.
5. Garnish the curry with toasted flaked almonds and scatter with cilantro, if you like.

Note: If you want a thicker gluten-free curry, add a 1/2 cup of red lentils to the pot at the same time that you add the carrots. The lentils will break down as they cook.

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