By GEOFF MIERS
The Curry Tree is fast becoming a must have plant for the gourmet chef especially when used fresh.
Murraya koenigii until recent times was rarely used in Western cooking. The leaves are almost unknown in the West because they lose most of their flavour when dried.
But the popularity of this plant has increased remarkably over the past decade as the Alice Springs populations has increasingly diversified.
The leaves have a distinct, spicy curry-like flavour and odour and a few leaves in a variety of meals will quickly add a freshing flavour to many meals.
The Curry Tree is a relatively quick growing plant and in favourable conditions can grow up to four metres high. A most attractive small tree with its shiny bright green foliage.
As one brushes past a Curry Tree the most heavenly, slightly spicy, citrus-like aroma fills the air, another charming feature of this tree.
The tree prefers warm temperatures with full sun to partial shade. It will grow under the protective canopy of larger trees.
The Curry Tree prefers a frost free location as it can get frosted when left to the full elements of a cold winter.
It is highly ornamental and is very successful as a potted specimen tree. When grown in a pot it can be left to grow near the back door or can be moved around to suit the climatic conditions.
It is quick growing, is a highly attractive plant with white flowers followed by bright red though to black seed pods.
Capable of growing three to four metres high it will be smaller if grown in a pot. It can seed prolifically and in warm, wet, tropical climates it can be considered a pest plant. Not so here in Central Australia.
While it is possible to dry and store curry leaves they do tend to quickly lose much of their flavour. Fresh leaves can be put into a plastic bag or container and will tend to stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week.
For this reason it’s best to have your own tree and a year round supply of fresh leaves ready for cooking.
Curry leaves are used to flavour Indian curries, especially the Madras style. For best results, the fresh or dried leaves can be fried in oil at the beginning of making a curry, as this extracts their full flavour potential.
Curry leaves are also used in making pickles and they compliment marinades for seafood particularly.
For a bit of holiday fun why not try this South Indian Seafood dish. This recipe combines simple freshness of flavour with tantalizing aromas and is so easy to prepare.
You need ½ an onion, one tablespoon oil, 20 curry leaves, one desert spoon garam masala, one tablespoon medium heat chilli powder and 500 grams of seafood (firm-fleshed fish, prawns or even a marinara mix).
Puree the above ingredients (excluding the seafood) in a blender, marinate the seafood for up to an hour and they grill, stir-fry or barbeque.
The Curry Tree should be planted in a warm location, preferably a spot that is protected from the frosts we can experience in Alice Springs.