Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for fresh curry leaves | Main course (2024)

Yotam Ottolenghi recipes

Fragrant and fabulous: once you’ve cooked with fresh curry leaves, you’ll never look back

Yotam Ottolenghi


Sat 18 Mar 2017 09.30 GMT

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Whenever I see a big bunch of fresh curry leaves, I buy them. If they’re not on your supermarket shelves (they’re sometimes there, but often not), you’ll find them in most Indian or south-east Asian grocers. They freeze well, so don’t worry about buying too many, not least because most recipes involving fresh leaves tend to ask for quite a lot of them. Despite the association with heat that the word “curry” brings to mind, curry leaves are all about their fresh citrus fragrance. Yes, they’re often used in a curry and feature in ingredients lists alongside “curry powder” (in reality, a blend of ground spices), but all have very different characteristics. Don’t be tempted by freeze-dried curry leaves, though: they may be widely available, but they lack the heady aroma that makes me seek (and sniff) out fresh ones.

Crisp prawns with oats, chilli and ginger

Get everything chopped and ready before you start cooking, and this will be on the table in minutes. The kaffir lime leaves need to be fresh, too; if you can’t get hold of them fresh, leave them out. Serve with stir-fried Asian greens. Serves four.

50g instant porridge oats
500g peeled raw king prawns, patted dry with kitchen paper
Salt and black pepper
40g cornflour
200ml vegetable oil
40g unsalted butter
3 red chillies, deseeded and julienned
4cm piece ginger, peeled and julienned
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1½ tsp black mustard seeds
5 stems fresh curry leaves (ie, about 50 leaves)
8 fresh kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
4 large spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp soft dark brown sugar
2 limes, halved, to serve

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Spread the oats out on a small oven tray, roast for six minutes, until golden-brown, then remove and leave to cool.

In a bowl, mix the prawns with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Put the cornflour in a separate bowl. Heat the oil in a medium-sized saute pan on a high flame and, once hot, dip four to five prawns one at a time into the cornflour and then drop them straight into the hot oil. Fry for a minute or two, turning halfway, until just cooked. Use a slotted spoon to lift out the prawns and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper while you flour and fry the rest.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan on a high heat and, once it starts to foam, fry the chilli, ginger and garlic for two minutes, stirring, until the garlic starts to brown. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves, fry for 30 seconds, stirring continuously, then add the oats and sesame oil and fry for one to two minutes, stirring, until the oats are golden-brown and crunchy. Add the spring onions, sesame seeds, sugar, prawns, a third of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Stir through for about 30 seconds, then serve hot, with half a lime alongside each portion.

Spiced root vegetable gratin

Again, if you can’t get fresh kaffir lime leaves, just leave them out. Serves eight.

40g unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp medium curry powder
10 fresh kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
4-5 stems fresh curry leaves (ie, about 40-50 leaves)
1½ tsp mustard seeds
300ml double cream
300ml vegetable stock
1 small celeriac, peeled, cut in half and then into 0.5cm-thick slices
1 swede, peeled, cut in half and then into 0.5cm-thick slices
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 0.5cm-thick slices
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 0.5cm-thick slices

For the topping
65g fresh white breadcrumbs (from 1-2 medium slices, crusts removed)
50g blanched peanuts, roughly chopped
100g cheddar, roughly grated
1½ tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds, gently crushed
¼ tsp turmeric
15g unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put all the topping ingredients in a medium bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and rub together with the tips of your fingers, until the mix is the texture of chunky breadcrumbs.

In a large saucepan for which you have a lid, heat the butter and oil on a medium-high flame. Once the butter starts to melt, fry the onion for eight to nine minutes, stirring a few times, until golden-brown and soft. Add the garlic and curry powder, stir constantly for a minute, then add the lime leaves, curry leaves, mustard seeds and a teaspoon of salt. Fry for another minute or two, until the curry leaves are aromatic and starting to turn crisp, then stir in the cream, stock and sliced vegetables. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium, cover and simmer for seven minutes, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables start to soften.

Transfer the vegetable mix to a high-sided, 22cm x 32cm baking dish, spreading out the veg so they are evenly distributed, then cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked but there is still quite a lot of liquid in the dish. Remove and discard the foil, then press down on the vegetables with a slotted spoon, so they’re submerged in the liquid. Sprinkle over the topping and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the topping is golden-brown and the gratin has thickened. Leave to rest and cool for 10 minutes before serving.


I love the ready-made crisp, fried shallots you can buy in jars from Asian food stores, but if you can’t find any, don’t worry: you’ll still have plenty of crunch from the peanuts. Red Camargue rice looks particularly good here, but other rice (brown or basmati, say) also works. Serves six as a main course.

550g skinless and boneless chicken thighs (halved if on the large side)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1½ tbsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp turmeric
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
40 fresh curry leaves (ie, from about 4 sprigs)
2 tsp black mustard seeds
100g red split lentils
1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 3cm cubes
3 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 litre chicken stock
400ml tinned coconut milk
100g red Camargue rice
10g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
60g roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
30g shop-bought crisp fried shallots (optional)
3 limes, halved, to serve

Mix the chicken in a medium bowl with two of the crushed garlic cloves, half a tablespoon of garam masala, the paprika, cayenne, and a quarter-teaspoon each of turmeric and salt, and set aside.

In a large saucepan, for which you have a lid, heat two tablespoons of coconut oil on a medium-high flame and, once hot, fry the onion for eight minutes, stirring a few times, until golden brown and soft. Add the remaining garlic, a tablespoon of garam masala, a quarter-teaspoon of turmeric, the ginger, curry leaves and mustard seeds, and fry for two minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the lentils, squash and tomatoes, then pour in the stock and coconut milk, and add a teaspoon and a quarter of salt. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until the squash and lentils are soft.

Using a hand blender, blitz the soup until it’s smooth and thick (or whizz it in a liquidiser, though you’ll need to do so in batches).

While the soup is simmering, put the rice in a separate saucepan filled with plenty of salted water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 30-35 minutes, until cooked. Drain and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large, nonstick frying pan on a high flame, then fry the chicken for 10-12 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through the cooking, until dark-golden and crisp on both sides. Remove from the heat, and shred the meat in long, 2cm-wide strips (I use my fingers, but a knife and fork will do).

To serve, divide the warm rice between six bowls and ladle over the soup. Top with the chicken strips and dribble any leftover oil from the pan on top. Sprinkle with the coriander, peanuts and the fried shallots, if using, squeeze half a lime on top of each portion and serve at once.

• Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

  • This article was edited on 20 March 2017. An earlier version included instructions to shred the chicken from the bone in the mulligatawny method, yet the ingredients list features skinless and boneless chicken thighs. This has been corrected.


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Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for fresh curry leaves | Main course (2024)


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