Spicy dish can be made from scratch or with shortcuts

Whether you prefer spicy cuisine or mild dishes, there's nothing quite like curry. While curry dishes can vary greatly, depending on the region where the recipe originated, all of them feature rich flavors.

If you're short on time, we've provided a recipe for a simple Thai curry dish. Companies such as a Taste of Thai and Thai Kitchen make products like red curry paste and fish sauce that can help you save time in the kitchen.

For those of you who are up to the challenge, we've included a recipe for an Indian curry dish made completely from scratch, with a variety of ingredients that can be found at an international supermarket.

The four-part recipe comes from "Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Food" by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala (Douglas & McIntyre, $29.95), a detailed guide to preparing authentic Indian dishes. The author is the owner of Vij's, a renowned Indian restaurant located in Vancouver, Canada.

Eggplant and Papaya Curry with Black Chickpeas

2 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds)

3 medium-to-large, semi-ripe papayas (about 21⁄4 pounds)

1⁄2 cup canola oil

2 very large onions (about 11⁄2 pounds) in 11⁄2-inch dice

3 large ripened tomatoes (1 pound), in 11⁄2-inch dice

11⁄2 tablespoons ground cumin

1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds

1 large jalapeno pepper, chopped

11⁄2 tablespoons salt

2 cups black chickpea curry (see recipe below)

1 cup chopped cilantro

11⁄2 teaspoon dried mint leaves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Wrap the eggplants and papayas individually in aluminum foil. Place them on a baking tray. Since the papayas will cook faster, place them in the front, so you can easily remove them from the oven. Bake papayas for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow them to cool. Continue baking eggplants for 1 hour more, or until they are very soft. The eggplants will become mushy and deflated. Remove eggplants from the oven and cool so you can unwrap the aluminum foil.

Using a paring knife or a potato peeler, peel papayas and discard the skin. Cut papayas in half. Using a spoon, scoop out seeds and discard. Puree papaya flesh in a food processor or finely mash papayas with your hands.

Using a paring knife, peel skins off eggplant. Using a spoon, scrape off any eggplant stuck to the skins. Discard skins. Coarsely chop eggplant into a mixing bowl, then, using your hands, roughly mash the eggplant. (You can also place the whole eggplants on a large cutting board and dice them into 1⁄4- to 1⁄2-inch pieces with a knife).

Add the papaya puree to the eggplants and mix well. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large heavy frying pan on medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add onions and saute until brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in tomatoes. Add cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, jalapeno pepper and salt. Cook for 10 minutes. Pour the eggplant and papaya mixture into the masala and stir well. Combine the eggplant and papaya curry with the black chickpea curry and heat on medium for 5 to 10 minutes or until the mixture is gently boiling. Stir in the chopped cilantro just as you turn off the heat.

Serve this curry on six plates and sprinkle dried mint on top of the curry on each plate.

Source: "Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Food" by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala (Douglas & McIntyre, $29.95)

Black Chickpea Curry

1 cup dried black chickpeas

3 cups water for soaking

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

9 cups water for boiling

1⁄2 cup ghee (clarified butter, see recipe below)

11⁄2 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 pound (2 medium) onions, chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

1 large juicy tomato, finely chopped

1 large jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

1 tablespoon garam masala (see recipe below)

1⁄2 tablespoon mango powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds

1⁄2 tablespoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

2 cups water

1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro

Chickpeas: Wash and drain black chickpeas. Place chickpeas and the 3 cups of water in a bowl and soak overnight or for at least 6 hours. Note that black chickpeas don't expand in size the way other beans do after soaking.

Drain chickpeas. Place chickpeas in a large pot with salt and the 9 cups of water. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for 1 hour or until chickpeas are cooked through. The outer skin of black chickpeas is thicker than the skin of regular yellow chickpeas, so taste one or mash one between your fingers to be sure they are fully cooked. Do not drain.

Masala: In a separate large pot, heat ghee on medium-high for 1 minute. Add cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 30 seconds. Add onions and saute for 8 minutes, stirring regularly, until golden brown. Add garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, then add jalapeno pepper, garam masala, mango powder, turmeric, fenugreek, salt and cayenne. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the masala for 5 to 8 minutes, until ghee glistens on top. Stir in water.

Add boiled chickpeas and their water to the masala. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then cover. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. (This ensures that the spicing has gone into the chickpeas.) Stir in cilantro.

Source: "Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Food" by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala (Douglas & McIntyre, $29.95)

Ghee (Clarified Butter)

1 pound unsalted butter

Melt butter in a small, heavy pot on medium heat. Once melted, reduce the heat slightly and boil gently for 5 minutes. Using a small sieve, scoop out the solids that are floating on top. Continue gently boiling the butter and scooping out the floating solids every 3 minutes. Scoop carefully so you remove only the solids and not the actual ghee that is forming. You will notice the butter change slowly from a creamy light yellow to a clear golden liquid with fewer solids. After 10 to 13 minutes, the ghee will start to foam. Using the sieve, scoop through the foam to make sure you have removed all the solids. Once the foam reduces, you will have a clear golden liquid. This is ghee. Turn off the heat and allow ghee to cool for about 20 minutes.

Pour ghee into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Once it is completely cool, refrigerate ghee. Can be used right away. Will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 months or longer.

Source: "Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Food" by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala (Douglas & McIntyre, $29.95)

Garam Masala

1 heaping teaspoon whole cloves

11⁄2 teaspoon black cardamom seeds (about 10 whole cardamom pods)

6 heaping tablespoons cumin seeds

1 tablespoon pounded cinnamon sticks

1⁄4 teaspoon ground mace

1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Turn on your stovetop exhaust fan. In a heavy-bottom frying pan, heat cloves, black cardamom seeds, cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks on medium to high heat, stirring constantly. When the cumin seeds become a darker shade of brown, remove from the stove. Transfer the roasted spices to a bowl and cool for 20 minutes.

Place roasted spices, mace and nutmeg in a spice (or coffee) grinder and grind until the mixture has the consistency of store-bought ground pepper. Can be used right away. Will also keep in a airtight container in an dark cupboard or door for up to 6 months.

Source: "Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Food" by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala (Douglas & McIntyre, $29.95)

Turkey and Mushroom Curry

2 tablespoons oil

2 small onions, (about 12-14 ounces) peeled and cut into crescents

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

10 ounces of sliced Baby Bellas (or mushrooms of choice), rinsed

2 teaspoons fish sauce, or salt to taste

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon A Taste of Thai (or other) panang curry paste

1 can coconut milk

3 cups cooked turkey meat, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 cup frozen peas

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon brown sugar

In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add onions and carrots. Saute until vegetables begin to soften.

Add mushrooms and fish sauce. Saute 2-3 minutes and add curry. Cook until curry is dissolved and fragrant.

Pour in coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add turkey, peas, lime juice and sugar. Stir to combine. Cook until heated through and serve over jasmine rice or rice noodles.

Note: Red or yellow curry paste may be substituted for the panang. Soy sauce can be used in place of fish sauce.

Source: A Taste of Thai, www.atasteofthai.com