When my doctor first recommended the low-FODMAP diet and I realised they were recommending cutting out garlic and onions (not to mention everything else), I was mystified. And scared, and then angry. To be fair, at this point I had been recommended so many different diets, gone through elimination diets that started with only eating rice (seriously), I had changed my lifestyle and diet every time a doctor or specialist recommended it. I was, with good reason, very skeptical about this new diet. Nothing had worked in the past, and why should this? And WHY should I have to give up garlic and onions - don't they know that this is what makes food delicious?!
Nevertheless, I persisted. I don't remember too much about what I would eat in those first few months - I had been vegetarian before starting the low-FODMAP diet, and was slowly coming to terms with the fact that between an allergy to eggs, and not being able to tolerate legumes, I would need to reintroduce meat back into my diet.
I remember giving up on curry as something I could eat - most curries start with making a paste with any or all of: onions, shallots, garlic. How could a curry work without these? But over time I began to find ways to work with the things that I can eat, and I realised that there are ways to build layers of flavour without garlic and onions - it's a bit of a different experience, but of course now I don't notice the difference. And I've never heard anything but good things from my FODMAP eating friends when I make curry for them.
A few tricks (and this doesn't just apply to curry)
- Get a microplane: a little lemon or lime zest in a dish goes a long way. This is also an easy way of grating frozen from fresh lemongrass and ginger into your dishes.
- Toast your spices, it brings out a depth of flavour you don't get from adding them straight to liquid. Over a very gentle heat, sprinkle your spices into the pan and stir around just until you can smell them. Take it easy as they will heat very quickly and you really don't want to work with burnt spices.
- I'll often add a couple of tablespoons of almond meal to a curry or sauce because it has adds a lovely richness: either add it just before you toast the spices if you want a sort of deeper flavour, or towards the end for creaminess.
That's enough of my secrets (for now). Let's make curry.
Chicken Curry for 4
2 tsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp almond meal
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped - I find chillies in NZ supermarkets aren't that hot and so it's worth leaving the seeds in, but take them out if you're not into spice.
1 tsp fresh coriander roots, chopped finely
1 tbsp coriander stems
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp rice malt syrup or sugar
1x 400g tin coconut cream
400g chicken thighs - mine were boneless and skinless, but bone in would be better!
2-3 cups seasonal veggies - I used eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin, carrot and capsicum, roasted with olive oil and a little salt for 15-20 mins.
Over a gentle heat, toast the almond meal until it just starts to brown, then add the rest of the spices and toast until you can smell them. Quickly add the olive oil, lemon zest, coriander stems and roots, and ginger (you'll want to get them ready beforehand, or take the pan off the heat while you get them ready). Fry this paste together for a bit until it starts to brown and then pour in the coconut cream, rinsing out the tin with a little water (about 1/4 of a cup) and adding this to the pan as well. If you wanted to take this curry in a really South-East Asian direction, add a kaffir lime leaf and 1 tbsp grated lemongrass (micro-planed). This is also when you add salt and the sugar/rice malt syrup. Stir to combine, pop a lid on and let the curry sauce simmer for about 30 minutes.
While the sauce is cooking, you can roast your vegetables and prepare the chicken. I left the thighs whole, but if you want to speed up the end part of the cooking process, cut the thighs into slices. Once the sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, stir in the chicken, turn the heat up a notch and simmer for another 15 (if you sliced the chicken) to 25 minutes. Finally, stir in the roast vegetables (and more salt, to taste). I served mine with a mix of white and brown rice, and all those coriander leaves that are left once you've used the roots and stems in the curry. You won't miss the garlic and onions one bit, I promise.