If Karen Paly’s husband ever got tired of eating curry five nights a week, he never let on. It was all part of her strategy to create a business to make it easy for others to cook awesome dishes in a short amount of time.
Originally from South Africa, Paly visited her dad in Australia and friends invited them to dinner. The friend said she was going to prepare a curry dish and Paly knew from her own cooking experience that dinner probably wouldn’t be served for a couple of hours. When dinner was ready to serve 45 minutes later, Paly was amazed and wanted to know the secret. She found out it was prepared using a pre-blended spice packet created by an Australian company. She and her husband bought dozens of their blends and then inquired about being the U.S. distributor—they were now living in Asheville, N.C. The company declined, but invited Karen to develop her own, so that’s exactly what she did.
After months of developing recipes, grinding spices, and using her husband and friends as taste testers, she debuted Karen’s Spice Kitchen in January 2016. She works out of her own production facility and hand packs the spices herself, including putting the mixes in bags and pasting the labels on the front. It’s labor intensive, but necessary as she grows her business to the next level, which she hopes will include machine-automation that can perform many of these tedious steps for her.
She currently sells 12 varieties online and in several retail stores in North Carolina. They include Butter Chicken, Mango Chicken Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken and Chickpea Curry, Lamb Korma, Lamb Rogan Josh, Thai Chicken Satay, Beef Madras, Indian Shrimp Curry, South Indian Veggie Curry, Bobotie (South African Curried Meatloaf), and Massaman Chicken/Beef Curry. Each retails for $5.99. All recipes serves four to six people.
Paly encourages at-home cooks to be creative and customize the recipes. “It may call for chicken or beef, but you can also use fish, tofu, or just vegetables,” she said. “Or, if it calls for heavy cream, you can exchange with coconut milk.”
Here’s how it works: Each packet of pre-blended spices features a specific recipe on the back. Prep time is around 20 minutes and involves dicing an onion and cooking the ingredients in a pan until they turn translucent, add garlic and cook for another minute, and then add the contents of the large spice packet (there’s a smaller hot chili pepper packet included, if you want to make your dish spicier). Cook for a few seconds, stirring constantly. Then add the other ingredients of the specific recipe you are preparing (listed on the back of the package). It takes about 40 minutes total (less for the shrimp recipe) to put a home cooked meal on the table. It’s also a great to wow friends or unexpected dinner guests.
Here’s the recipe for the Chicken Tikka Masala. You can also see the step-by-step process on Karen’s Spice Kitchen’s YouTube Channel.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp butter or cooking oil of your choice
- 2-3 pounds of boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 or 2-inch pieces
- 2 tbsp lime or lemon juice
- 1 cup heavy cream (substitute with yogurt or coconut milk)
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (plus extra sprigs for garnish, if desired)
Three easy steps:
- Chop and saute onion, garlic and spices
- Add protein and other ingredients
- Simmer (cook time on front of each package)