Britons love their curries, and figures show we now choose spicy food from the Indian subcontinent over Italian, Chinese and even fish ‘n’ chips. But can the UK’s favourite dish possibly be healthy? Well yes. If you can forgo some of the high fat creamy sauces and deep fried naan bread.
Curries are packed with health-boosting spices, including cancer-busting turmeric, which may also help to prevent arthritis. Fiery chillis contain a powerful pain reliever. It’s all in the preparation. Cook them right, and curries can be a delicious addition to a healthy balanced diet.
Follow our seven-day Curry Diet and you can get the most from curry spices and shed those excess winter pounds at the same time.
Top ten spices:
Buy whole seeds and crush
Essential oil in the seeds is used in preparations to combat bloating and gas.
The smaller the hotter
Help to stimulate the appetite and regulate body temperature.
One of the better spices to buy ready ground
Cinnamon may help control insulin levels so could be helpful in controlling cravings
Best bought in pods, split before use
Cardamom helps cool the body and can be used over as a tooth whitener. Can be used to treat urinary tract and skin complaints.
Buy seeds and crush
Used throughout history as a digestive aid.
Fresh is definitely best (no need to peel)
A digestive tonic and used in Chinese medicine to speed up absorption of herbal remedies. Also thought to ward off colds.
Avoid ready made mustards – they tend to be very salty
Mustard footbaths are used to treat muscular aches and boost the respiratory system.
Buy whole nuts and grate them for best flavour
Reputed to prevent bloating and
Help digestion – also thought to be an aphrodisiac in some parts of the world.
Try smoked paprika for an extra exotic flavour
No special health benefits, but gives food a wonderful punch without the heat of chilli.
Sprinkle cinnamon on porridge
Add fresh mango and mint leaves to natural yoghurt
Bubbling spiced banana – melt allspice and nutmeg into low fat spread, drizzle over a banana and grill
Cinnamon toast – mix low fat spread with cinnamon and brown sugar
Mix ginger and apple juice and drizzle over kiwi fruit and grapes.
Eastern spiced cous cous
Chilli pepper naan dippers
Spiced aduki soup
Coriander yoghurt chicken
Chilli lime and ginger salmon
Lamb rogan josh
Lunch recipes: (four portions)
Ginger butternut soup: 1 chopped onion, 1tsp ground ginger, 1 clove chopped garlic, oil, peeled and chopped butternut squash, 300ml vegetable stock, 450 mls coconut milk.
Fry onion, ginger, garlic until soft. Add the squash and gently cook for 10 minutes. Add the stock and the coconut milk and cook until soft. Blend and serve with bread.
Cardamon dahl: 250g canned lentils, 2 sliced carrots, ½ cauliflower cut into florets, 1 courgette, sliced, oil, 1 chopped onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1tsp ground coriander, 5 whole cardamom pods, ½ tsp ground ginger.
Cook the carrots and cauliflower in a little boiling water until soft, add the lentils and drain. Heat oil in a frying pan and add the onion, garlic and spices, cook for 3 minutes. Add the sliced courgettes and cook for further 2-3 minutes. Add the vegetable and lentil mixture and cook for a further 3 minutes- serve immediately.
Eastern Spiced cous cous: 300g cous cous, oil, 2tsp curry powder, 1tsp cumin seeds, 1 onion sliced, 2 sweet potatoes- peeled and cubed, 3 carrots- sliced, 400g cauliflower florets, 6 soft dried apricots, 125 mls water, handful of fresh chopped coriander. Cook the cous cous according to instructions. Add oil, spices and onion to a pan and heat for 5 mins. Add vegetables, apricots and water and simmer until tender. Drain, add to cous cous and stir in coriander.
Chilli pepper naan dippers: Oil, 1 chopped onion, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 chopped red peppers, 1 tsp chilli powder.
Heat the oil, add the onion, garlic, pepper and chilli powder. Cook until soft. Blend the mixture to a dipping paste. Heat a plain naan bread and slice. Serve immediately.
Spiced aduki soup: 1 can aduki beans, oil, 1 chopped onion, 2 tbsp harissa paste, 2 chopped celery sticks, 2 sliced carrots, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato puree, 900ml vegetable stock.
Heat oil in a large pan, add onion, harissa paste, vegetables and garlic and soften. Add tomato puree and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve.
Dinner recipes: serves 4
Spiced prawns: 2 cloves crushed garlic, oil, 1 fresh chopped chilli, 250g peeled prawns, chopped fresh coriander.
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix- marinade in fridge for 30 minutes. Fry the prawns on a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add fresh coriander at last minute. Serve with crusty bread and crisp green salad.
Coriander yoghurt chicken: 300ml natural yoghurt, 1 chopped onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1tsp ground coriander, handful chopped fresh mint, 1 tbsp crushed coriander seeds, I tbsp smoked paprika, 4 skinless chicken breasts.
Mix all ingredients (except chicken) in a bowl. Spread over chicken and refrigerate for 2 hours. Cook the chicken under a hot grill for 8-10 minutes each side. Serve with lemon wedges and crisp salad.
Ocean Curry: 550g white fish fillets cut into 2” pieces, oil, 1” fresh grated ginger, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 chopped onion, 1 tbsp garam masala, ½ tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, can chopped tomatoes, 200ml vegetable stock, juice of ½ lemon.
Heat oil in a frying pan and seal fish pieces- drain. Add the onion, garlic and spices to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes, stock and lemon juice to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Place fish into curry mixture and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve with basmati rice.
Chilli lime and ginger salmon: 300ml coconut milk, 1 fresh red chilli, 1” grated fresh ginger, zest and juice of 1 lime, 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds, 4 large skinless salmon fillets.
Put all the ingredients (except the salmon) into a bowl. Cover the salmon with the spice mix and refrigerate for 2 hours. Under a hot grill, cook the salmon for 6-8 minutes each side. Serve with roasted vegetables or green salad.
Lamb rogan josh: Oil, 700g cubed lamb fillet, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 bay leaves, 1 chopped onion, 2” grated fresh ginger, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tbsp ground coriander, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1/12 tsp paprika, 1tsp cayenne pepper, ¼ tsp ground cardamom, 200g natural yoghurt, 10 cardamon pods, 1 can chopped tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a large pan, seal the lamb and put to one side. Add the onion, garlic and spices to the pan and cook or around 7 minutes. Gradually add the yoghurt. Return the lamb to the pan and add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve with basmati rice.