Curry Leaf Tree | Murraya koenigii
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I was first introduced to Curry leaves when I met Maria from Mudgeeraba Spices and Curry Blends . We both had a stall at the Mudgeeraba village market that was held on a Saturday about 20 years ago. I was selling herbs of course and Marie and Alan were selling spice blends, chutneys and jams that they made at their property at Mudgeeraba.
They had a few small plants of curry leaf for sale and filled me in on the uses. I remember taking a plant home and after a couple of months it had hardly grown at all and I wondered whether it was ever going to grow like Marie had described it would.
Well 20 years on we have this huge plant in our garden, which suckers from the base, it grows so profusely we could never even dream of using all the leaves.
Curry Leaf Tree Murraya koenigii grows to a height of around 4m, it prefers warm temperatures and grows well in sub-tropical and tropical areas. It likes well-drained, fertile moist soil, full sun to partial shade and needs protection from frost. In areas with colder winters it is best to grow them in a pot and move them to an indoor position over winter.
They grow well in pots and make great ornamental plants for both outdoors and indoors. If keeping indoors make sure it gets enough light. Keeping the curry leaf in a pot also restricts its vigorous growth in warm climates where they can tend to sucker up and invade the garden.
Curry Leaf Tree is popular in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Southern India. The leaves release a curry like fragrance when crushed and are used in many curry blends.
Curry leaves are best used fresh for the nicest flavour, however freezing the leaves is a good way to ensure a continuous supply with good flavour.
Since the cuisine of southern India is predominantly vegetarian, curry leaves are most often used to flavour lentil and vegetable dishes. However, they are also used in chutneys, pickles and samosa fillings, and in Sri Lanka are included in chicken or beef curries.
The leaves are most commonly fried first in a little oil or ghee, this creates quite a bit of carry on as they crackle when they hit the hot oil. Once fried and crispy they can be left in while continuing to cook the dish or removed and sprinkled on top of the meal when serving. The whole leaf stem can be added when cooking a stew or soup and be removed before serving.
The leaves can also be processed with a little water and onion in a blender or food processor and this can be either fried off at the start with other spices for a curry or added later to a soup or stew.
We also use the leaves on the BBQ to add a warm, smoky, spicy flavour to fish, meat and potatoes. Simply pile a large handful of leaves onto the BBQ plate and place the fish or meat on top and cook covered with a deep lid from a large pan.
Chickpea and Pumpkin Curry
• 2 tbsp oil
• 4 leaflets of curry leaf tree
• (60-80 leaves)
• 2 lge onion chopped
• 4 cloves garlic crushed
• 4 tsp coriander seed
• 4 tsp cumin seed
• 2 tsp turmeric powder
• ½ tsp chilli powder
• 1 tsp salt • 2 cans peeled chopped tomatoes
• 2 cans chickpeas, drained
• 800g pumpkin peeled and cut into small pieces
• 2 cups of shredded spinach leaves
• ½ cup of fresh coriander leaf chopped
1. Place coriander seed and cumin seed in a small heavy based saucepan over medium heat stir until fragrant, add turmeric powder and chilli powder and stir for a further 1-2 min. Remove from heat and scrape into mortar, pound into a powder with the salt.
2. Heat oil in a large heavy base pan add curry leaves and cook until crisp. Add onion to pan and cook until soft add powdered spices and garlic and stir through. Add tin tomatoes, chickpeas and pumpkin, bring to boil, turn heat down and simmer for 15-20min or until pumpkin is cooked. Turn off heat and stir through spinach or kale.
3. Top with fresh coriander leaves and serve with rice.