250 g/8 oz large garlic cloves
8 shallots, purple or golden
8 large, mild chillies or banana peppers
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
walnut-sized piece of tamarind pulp
Choose the largest cloves of garlic for cooking as a vegetable. Peel them but leave them whole. (For this recipe, don't try the quick method of peeling by splitting the skin with pressure, as this causes the garlic clove to split also, and it is better they be kept whole. If the garlic is particularly tight- skinned, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 2 minutes, then drain. Skins will then come away more easily.) Peel shallots and leave them whole. Discard chilli stalks.
Heat oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic, shallots and peppers over medium-low heat until they start to caramelise. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Add fenugreek seeds and fry gently until golden brown. Add chilli powder and turmeric, stir for a few seconds. Add coconut milk mixed with 1/2 cup water and stir while bringing to a simmer. Return the garlic, shallots and peppers to the pan, add salt to taste and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until garlic and shallots are soft.
Soak tamarind in 1/3 cup hot water until soft, dissolve tamarind in the water and strain into the curry, stirring gently, during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve with steamed rice.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)