Food & Drink

Durban Curry, Revisited

Journalist Erica Platter and documentary photographer Clinton Friedman were finalists in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards with their previous work, celebrating KZN flavours. This month, they launch Durban Curry: Up 2 Date, a culinary storybook rooted in the people and places in and around Durban and the North Coast.

This is not a cookbook,” says Erica Platter emphatically, but with a twinkle in her eye. “It’s a story book,” she adds,
and it certainly tells a few familiar tales of KZN cuisine.
Although Durban Curry: Up 2 Date contains a host of delicious recipes, each entry has a story behind it, with considered portraiture from Clinton’s lens.
It’s a rich and engaging project, featuring familiar local faces and businesses such as Linda and Russell Burger from Spice restaurant (see their recipe extract), Shamen Reddi from Impulse by the Sea, Brett Michielin of Mo-Zam-Bik, caterer Solly Manjra, chef Jacqui Rey and Cindy Valayadam of Cindy’s Umhlali Fresh Produce. It’s a who’s who of KZN cuisine, with a grass-roots feel to the recipes and profiles.
“When people think South African food, they automatically go to the Cape; it’s all boboties and waterblommetjies,”
explains Erica, who first got the idea for writing books about KZN food when she and husband John were invited to China with the South African government. The tour was part of a celebration of diplomatic relations with China, but she noticed the South African showcase relied heavily on Cape and Cape Malay dishes, without a hint of KZN flavour. She resolved to do something about it.

“Durban curry is a national treasure,” adds Erica, but there isn’t one universally accepted Durban curry recipe, and the book draws on the complex and nuanced evolutions of the dish.

What followed was East Coast Tables in early 2011. It was such a hit, that it was followed by a series of similarly-themed books, all offering a different take on KZN flavours, and all collaborations between Erica and Clinton, who is responsible for the books’ visuals.
“Durban curry is a national treasure,” adds Erica, but there isn’t one universally accepted Durban curry recipe, and the book draws on the complex and nuanced evolutions of the dish.
With a foreward by Professor Ashwin Desai, placing the humble Durban curry both politically and historically, followed by an explanation of the “Up 2 Date” tag line, a reference to both how contemporary the book is, and the variety of potato most preferred by curry aficionados, it’s not only a great reference for recipes, but a fine read
too. If you live on the North Coast, this book feels like home.
Here is an extract for Life & Style readers, with a recipe from Westbrooks’s Spice restaurant (spicerestaurant.co.za).

Book Extract: SPICE Restaurant’s Curried Brinjal & Eggs

INGREDIENTS
2 eggs
50ml sunflower or olive oil
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp black mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbsp curry powder
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
2 medium, blanched, skinned,
chopped tomatoes
Salt to taste
2 large brinjals, diced, steeped in a
little salted cold water
1 medium brinjal, sliced lengthways,
steeped in milk and water
A little flour sprinkled with a few
cumin seeds
A few stems of fresh dhania, chopped

Boil eggs until firm. Set aside. Heat half oil in a medium pan or
pot. Add cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they begin to
pop, add onions and garlic, then all the dry spices. Gently braise for
about 2 mins on medium heat. Add tomatoes, and salt to taste. Cook
another 4 mins. Drain brinjals, add to pan. Stir gently. Add ¼ cup
fresh water. Allow curry to simmer gently until brinjals are cooked
soft.
Take the medium, sliced brinjal out of it’s milk-and-water bath,
pay dry with a paper towel, toss in flour and cumin seeds. Heat
remaining oil. Deep fry brinjal, drain on paper towel.
Shell and halve the boiled eggs. Add to curry. Scatter with dhania
leaves.
Serve with roti or rice, the deep-fried brinjal, and chilli-mint
yogurt or cucumber raita.”

‘Durban Curry: Up 2 Date’, R395, is available at all major bookstores, as well as most of
the restaurants and outlets mentioned in the book.