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Jan 20, 2014 07:20 AM

Indian curry in crock pot - anyone experienced?

I tried cooking lamb madras in a crock pot yesterday, but I'm only mildly enthusiastic about the result. The onions never cooked down - they even kept a bit of a bite - after 8 hours on low. I believe it's all in the onions when it comes to curry, so I missed the depth and complexity I usually get cooking curry traditionally. To boot, after 8 hours, the lamb was borderline too tender (small pieces were almost mushy.) My correction for next time would be to saute/cook down the onions before throwing them in the crock pot, and cook for less hours. Does anyone have experience cooking curry this way and can you share some other useful pointers? Thanks in advance!

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  1. I'm no expert but it seems to me curries are a bit like stir fries. A slow cooker doesn't seem like the right implement to me.

    For one thing, a characteristic feature of some Asian cuisines is cooking spices to develop their flavor. By the time you've done that and prepped your ingredients you might was well continue on to add them each in turn.

    I have a few recipes that I prepare for my family. I don't think I spend more than 20 minutes at the cooktop for any of them.

    Care to share your recipe? Maybe seeing it there would be ways to tweak it for the flavor you're hoping for.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rainey

      I've posted the recipe in my general reply. However, it really is about the onions, which I often cook down for 15-20 minutes. I should have known better than to think they would render the same intensity at a lower heat!

    2. We do curries in the slow cooker all the time. But you can't just plop everything in and expect some sort of magic to occur. As rainey mentioned you need to cook the spices, cook the onion (at least with most curry recipes I make), brown the meat, etc. THEN into the slow cooker for a long simmer.

      Beyond that, certain things in the slow cooker work well and certain things don't work at all. For example fish is completely out. Chicken breast yields very poor results. Chicken thighs, much better. Lamb works nicely, but after 8 hours most meats will start to shred themselves. Dairy can break and/or curdle after long simmer times. Etc, etc. Some flavors will become muddled -- we always make minor adjustments at the end of the process.

      So with all of this work, why bother with the slow cooker? For us it is NOT about making anything easier, but rather about two key qualities:

      A) It leaves the stove and/or oven free for other pursuits
      B) We can leave it on and walk away without worrying (much) about returning to a burnt out shell of a house :-)

      Aside from that, slow cooker, dutch oven, and maybe even some stovetop methods are virtually identical. There are, alas, no shortcuts.

      1. davis_sq_pro is right. I've made curryin a crock pot and quickly learned you can't chuck everything in and let it go. Frankly, I gave away my crock pot since I didn't really use it much and saw no real benefit to making curry (and other dishes) in a crock pot. However, it's just me and my husband so if you've got a bigger family it might be of value to you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Hobbert

          No, it's just me and hubby. I don't use it much, either. It was and usually is a time issue, more than anything.

        2. Well, this is what I did:
          Step 1: freshly ground spices (done with mortar and pestle) fennel seeds, coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, poppy seeds, cloves - Step 2: madras base paste (made in small food processor) 15 soaked, dried red chilis, paprika, garlic, ginger, coconut - Step 3: chopped 2 onions and 3 tomatoes - Step 4: mix it all in with 1.5 lbs. of lamb stew meat, add salt, put in crock pot with a cinnamon stick and two bay leaf. Add water. A bit before serving, I added a 5.6 oz. can of coconut milk.
          I actually cook very good curries the traditional way - in fact, I count myself to be quite experienced in Indian cuisine. In my Dutch oven, they always come out fabulous. I just thought, since it is essentially a stew, I could get away with doing it in the crock pot. I have made great beef stew in the crock pot before, for example.
          Rainey, I would like to get your 20 minute curry recipe! Most of mine take 1-2 hours, certainly if you include prepping!
          And I agree, I believe it's not about making things easier, but I had some time in the morning to prep stuff, just no time to cook it right before eating. I should have cooked it as per my usual method in the morning and heated it up! Lesson learnt.

          2 Replies
          1. re: musical_cook

            I was speaking loosely, of course, comparing the cooking time at the stove v in a slow cooker because you're going to be doing, roughly, the same prep either way.

            And, as I said, I'm no expert so I'm sure there are curries with lengthy methods I'm not aware of.

            Here's a typical one with chicken from my repertoire:

            Chicken Korma

            • 1 tablespoon ghee
            • 4 cinnamon sticks
            • 4-8 cardamom pods
            • 6-10 cloves
            • 1 onion, sliced thin
            • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
            • 2 chicken breast halves, cut into 4 pieces
            • 1/2 teaspoon salt
            • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
            • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
            • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
            • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot peppers
            • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
            • 1/2 cup water
            • 1/2 cup buttermilk
            • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
            • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

            1. Heat oil over medium-high heat, and add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.

            2. When the aroma is released, reduce heat, and add the onion and garlic, cook until onion is softened.

            3. Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, then add salt, ground cinnamom, ground cardamom, ground cloves and hot pepper.

            4. Mix well so the spices cover the chicken.

            5. Add tomato sauce and water, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

            6. Add buttermilk, ground cumin and coriander, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

            1. re: rainey

              thanks! that looks straight forward enough.

          2. I make curries in a crock pot frequently but I always saute everything first to develop flavor. Eight hours seem like a very long cooking time. Mine is usually ready after 2 1/2- 3 hours hours on low once everything comes to a simmer.

            2 Replies
            1. re: zackly

              Yep, my instinct tells me that's where I went wrong -- didn't saute anything beforehand.

              1. re: musical_cook

                I'd guess this was the issue. Most of my Indian recipes use 3 different preps of onions: one or two pureed with tomatoes, garlic and ginger & then fried, for a background sauce. More sliced onions, fried quite dark, for later garnish, then diced, nearly carmelized onions in the curry itself. Plus, I dry roast the whole spices, then grind them, then bloom in hot oil briefly. All this work gives a multi-layered texture and taste to the final product.

                For those who do have success with a crockpot method, how do you achieve those background nuances??