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I promised to make curry for 20 people, help!
Paul Edwards wrote :
Now for the big question; in a few months I'm off to a meeting and
boldly said that I'd make curry for 20 people, something I should have
put a little more thought into at the time.  Anyway, I was wondering
if you know how well the basic curry sauce will work for this amount?
Should I just multiply all the ingredients by 10 or might they vary
for large quantities?  I realise you only cook for yourself and
family, so this might be an awkward question, but any advice would be
most appreciated!


David replies :

Mmmm, there's a problem. In the book I have made it more clear than on the website but the recipes DO NOT scale up well beyond being doubled. That is because they are not scaled down versions of restaurant procedures but rather a method I devised to make domestic sized portions.

If you are making curries AND vegetable dishes then you WILL need the equivalent of 10 times the amount of basic curry sauce (BCS) to make a meal for 20.

Scaling up the curry recipes that much will NOT work either. What will happen is that you will get a kind of curried stew rather than the stir-fried effect of restaurant style curries. Also the spicing will be all wrong. You would certainly need to reduce the stronger spices, especially chilli powder, a fair amount. Getting the curries too wet will be a big problem and water should be added in very small amounts.

So, what to do?

You could hunt out some more traditional recipes where the curries are cooked for a long period of time and in larger quantities but that will not produce restaurant style curries which is what I expect you are after. Even a restaurant would probably make 10 x double portions of curry if you turned up and ordered the same curry for 20 (not the BCS, of course, that would have already been made in bulk earlier on in the day).

If you are committed to making restaurant-style curries then I can only suggest what I would do in the circumstances although, as you rightly point out, I avoid doing it like the plague and have never stretched to 20 (12 people is about my limit)!

Serve a substantial starter of, say, bought onion bhajis, samosas, poppadoms and chutneys. That gives you some time before people are hungry again if the curries etc. takes longer than expected.

I would avoid making curried vegetable dishes altogether.

Instead, I would make a large portion of the carrot salad (see website) Secondly, I would cover 2 large baking sheets with chopped onions, green peppers (both tossed in oil) and halved tomatoes (skin side up) then put them in the oven on a high heat (upper and middle shelves and swapped over at half time) to bake. That will all cook nicely, unattended, while the curries are cooking.

Get a third baking sheet of onions, peppers and tomatoes in the oven as you serve the first 2 trays so it is ready half way through the meal.

If you want pilau rice then buy supermarket pilau rice and microwave it. Alternatively serve plain boiled rice. If you are cooking plain boiled rice then cook it until only JUST done then drain off the water and place the rice in a large, covered dish on the bottom shelf of the oven to keep hot.

Use the grill of your oven to gently heat shop-bought nan breads which have been sprinkled with water. Heat the nans in 2 stages once just before serving the meal and once during the meal so they are nice and hot when served.

Now to the curries (the trickiest part).

The maths is like this....

1 curry recipe serves 2 people and most use ½ batch of BCS.

So, 1 person needs ¼ batch of BCS

So for 20 people you would need 20 x ¼'s or about 5 single batches of BCS. You'll probably want 6 single batches to be safe so that means cooking 3 x DOUBLE batches.

Make the 3 double batches of BCS in the days running up to the curry evening and refrigerate them.

For 20 people you should be making 5 x DOUBLED curry recipes. That's too much work and, in any case, most cookers only have 4 heating rings (also the reason why I make a point of never cooking for more than 12 people).

But 20 it is so here's what I suggest.

PLEASE NOTE: this is theory only - I DO NOT vouch for good results from this.

Make 4 curries each 2½ x the recipe giving 20 portions in total.
Make 2 chicken, 1 lamb and 1 Quorn curry

Buy enough lamb for 5 people. Fry off the lamb in batches and then simmer the lamb in a little curry base and water until just tender. Depending on the quality of the lamb this could take up to one hour.

Buy 10 chicken breasts and cut into cubes. Fry off the chicken in batches and set aside.

Buy enough Quorn for 5 people.

Note - to avoid getting unbearably wet curries :

1) Add any water called for in the recipe a little at a time.

2) Use the largest saucepans you can find. Preferably, each should be 22cm in diameter.

Make the 4 curries up to but not beyond the point where you add the chicken (or whatever you are using). N.B. this should be AFTER adding all the BCS and boiling it off for 5 minutes (this modifies some recipes slightly but avoids getting the curries too wet) Make them one after the other and a little ahead of time.

Then, when you are ready, get all 4 curries back up to temperature, add the chicken etc. and cook until the meat is completely cooked. A pinch or 2 of garam masala can be added towards the end of the cooking to revitalise the spicing and especially if the curries have taken too long to cook.

That's my best shot.

Good Luck!



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© 2004 David W Smith