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RECIPES: If you don’t know how to use curry leaves, here are 3 delicious ways to cook with them

Squash and wild mushroom curry. Picture: Karsten Moran

Squash and wild mushroom curry. Picture: Karsten Moran

Published Jun 23, 2022


If there is one ingredient synonymous with the region it is from, it is the curry leaf.

This herb is a signature flavour from South India and an essential ingredient in southeast Asian cuisine like curries and soups.

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Curry leaves are not a dominant taste in cooking, but their subtle flavour is unmistakable, giving meals a richer, robust flavour.

They're simple to cook with, taking a few minutes to sauté with oil. You will be adding them to your weekly grocery list in no time. If you are unsure of how to use them, here are recipes that will help you.

Oil-free vegan biryani. Picture: Supplied

Oil-free vegan biryani


1 electric pressure cooker

1 medium onion, finely sliced

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2-star anise

2 small pieces of cinnamon sticks

2 cloves

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3 cardamom pods

1 tender sprig of curry leaves

2 bay leaves

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¼ tsp fennel seeds

¼ tsp cumin seeds

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium potatoes, washed, peeled, and quartered

⅓ cup sliced green beans

⅓ cup sliced carrots

⅓ cup peas (fresh or frozen)

1 tbsp coriander powder

½ tsp cumin powder

2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 tbsp mild chilli powder or mixed masala

1-2 tsp salt

¼ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped

1 large gem tomato, finely diced

1 cup par-boiled basmati rice

2 ½ cup boiling water


Place the sliced onion on an oven tray and grill for 10 minutes in a hot oven, until golden brown. Keep an eye on this as it does have a tendency to burn quickly. Once done, remove and keep aside.

Turn on the pressure cooker and set it on manual cooking for 20 minutes. Add the dry condiments – star anise, cloves, cardamoms, curry leaves, bay leaves, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds. Let them roast for about a minute, until the curry leaves start to dry.

Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds. Add all the vegetables – potatoes, green beans, carrots, and peas, followed by the coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, chilli powder, salt, and grilled onions. Mix it well.

Cook this for about a minute or two, stirring continuously. Add the mint leaves and the tomatoes. Cook for another two minutes.

Add the rice then pour in the boiling water. Mix it. Place the lid on the pressure cooker and pressure cook for 15 minutes.

Serve with vegan raitha or dhal and salad.

Picture: Supplied

Battered fish in curry sauce

Serves: 4-6


2 onions, peeled

3 tomatoes

60ml cooking oil

10ml mustard seeds

5ml fenugreek seeds

1 fresh chilli, seeds removed and thinly sliced

A handful of curry leaves ripped into small pieces

2.5cm ginger root, grated

5ml turmeric

5ml chilli powder

1 can of coconut milk


15ml tamarind paste

1kg white fish fillets, cut into 3cm chunks

250ml flour

2 eggs

Oil for deep frying.


Use a food processor to chop the onions. Use the same food processor to chop the tomatoes. Set both aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot and add the mustard seeds. Cook them until they start to pop.

Add the fenugreek, chilli, curry leaves, and ginger. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onions and cook until they are golden brown.

Add the turmeric and the chilli powder. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the coconut milk and the tomatoes.

Bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce is thick. Season lightly.

Add the tamarind paste and simmer until time to serve.

Dip the fish cubes into flour, then into the egg, and then again into the flour. Place a few pieces at a time into the cooking oil, cook until golden brown and drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, place the fish on a platter and pour over the sauce. Serve with Jasmine rice.

Picture: Karsten Moran

Squash and wild mushroom curry

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


3 tbsp vegetable oil

283g butternut or other winter squash, peeled and diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 or 2 small whole green chilies, such as jalapeño or serrano

3 medium shallots or 1 small onion, finely diced

½ tsp black mustard seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

A handful of fresh or frozen curry leaves, optional

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp ground coriander

Pinch of cayenne

½ tsp turmeric

450g mushrooms, preferably a mix of cultivated and wild, trimmed and sliced 1/8-inch thick

¾ cup coconut milk

2 tbsp lime juice

Coriander sprigs, for garnish


In a wide skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add squash cubes in one layer.

Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, letting cubes brown slightly, then flip and cook for 2 minutes more.

Use a slotted spoon to lift the squash out, and set it aside.

Cut a lengthwise slit in each pepper to open it, but leave it whole. (This allows the heat and flavour of the chilies to release into the sauce without making it too spicy.)

Add shallots to the skillet, salt lightly, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves and let sizzle for 30 seconds, then add garlic, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, and chilies.

Stir well and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add mushrooms to the pan, season with salt, and toss to coat.

Continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Return squash cubes to the pan, stir in coconut milk, and bring to a simmer.

Lower heat to medium and simmer for another 5 minutes. If the mixture looks dry, thin it with a little water. Taste and season with salt.

Just before serving, stir in lime juice. Transfer to a warm serving dish and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Recipes: IOL Archives.