Home All Things Food In the kitchen with Durban’s Curry Queen

In the kitchen with Durban’s Curry Queen

Known as Durban’s Curry Queen, Shae Nair’s food and its flavours have made her the talk of the town. A primary school teacher who believes that curry is best made simply, she spends her weekends and evenings teaching keen cooks how to make authentic curries in a flash, and with loads of flavour.

“I have been cooking curries with my mom from the age of 16. My mom was an awesome curry cook and she passed her passion on to me. I noticed how often people on Facebook used to ask for recommendations for good curry take aways, and so I thought it would be a great idea to teach people how to make a simple, tasty curry, using basic spices.”

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In May last year, Shae began offering cooking classes from her home in Hillcrest, under the name, The Curry Queen (as she is dubbed by her husband who praises her cooking skills). The response to her classes was amazing, with people arriving from as far afield as Ballito and Amanzimtoti.

“I run my lessons on weekends and offer one evening weekday lesson, as I work full time. My students include moms and daughters, groups of friends and family, teenagers, corporate team building groups and many other individuals who love a good curry. The lessons are fun. They have opened the doorway to new cooking skills for most and even new friendships for some. I myself get a lot out of them. And of course the best part of my lessons is the tasting!”

Classes can take up to 12 people, and the lessons are in the form of live, informative cooking demos.  Shae sells all the relative spices too, so students can leave with both the experience and the ingredients needed to make their own crowd-pleasing curries. Popular curries on the cooking list are chicken curry, butter beans with brinjal and potatoes, butter chicken, naan and lamb curry, lamb vindaloo, various breyanis, crab and fish curry, prawn and chicken curry, and she does the most mouth-watering samosas too.

“You can have a good teacher and great recipes, but the real secret to a good curry is fresh ingredients. From the meat to the curry leaves, coriander and homemade masala, right down to your ground ginger and garlic. Believe me, it makes all the difference!”

Cheese and Sweetcorn Samoosas

Makes 24


250g sweetcorn

6 small green chillies, finely chopped

2 small, onion finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 cups of grated cheddar cheese

A handful of chopped mint leaves

A handful of chopped coriander


Oil for frying

A paste made from flour and water

Samoosa pastry


Roast cumin seeds, and once toasted add a little oil. Then add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, then add chillies. Add sweetcorn and chilli flakes, season with salt and allow it to fry for a few minutes. Remove from stovetop and allow to cool, then add cheese and mint. Add the other finely chopped onions for crunch. Fill into your samoosa pastry, seal using flour and water paste, then deep fry in hot oil until brown. Enjoy with sweet chilli dip

Chickpea and Butternut Curry


5 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 onion, chopped

One bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 green chillies

1 and a half tablespoon mild masala

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon each, coriander and cumin powder

1 teaspoon turmeric


1 teaspoon garlic ginger

2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Half medium butternut cubed

1 tomato, grated

1 can of chickpeas, drained

1 sprig of curry leaves

Chopped chives


Braise onion in a little oil with the bay leaf, mustard seeds and chillies, then add ginger and garlic paste and curry leaves. Add tomato, all the remaining spices, sugar and salt, and braise for a few minutes, adding a little water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add butternut, canned chickpeas and a cup of water, and cook till the butternut is soft. Garnish with chopped chives. Enjoy with home-made or freshly-made shop bought roti.

Chicken Curry


1 and a half chickens, cut up in pieces

1/4 cup sunflower oil

2 cinnamon sticks

2 bay leaves

2 green cardamoms

1 star anise

1 black cardamom, optional, or add 2 more green ones if you don’t have black

1 heaped teaspoon ginger and garlic paste

1 medium onion, chopped

Curry leaves

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 small tomato, chopped

1 level teaspoon turmeric powder

3 tablespoons masala, or more if you prefer

1 tablespoon chilli powder (optional)

1 teaspoon ground roasted fennel powder

2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

Salt to taste

Fresh coriander


Heat oil in a pot. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, star anise and cardamom. After 10 seconds add onions and curry leaves fry till transparent, do not brown. Add ginger and garlic paste, followed by the curry leaves. Then add the turmeric and masala, and stir in the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Remove the pot from heat so you don’t burn the spices. Add chicken and salt to taste, and toss gently, cover and then return to heat and allow to simmer for three minutes. Then add 1/4 cup hot water and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add potatoes and fennel powder and a little more hot water and cook on medium heat until potatoes are cooked through. Garnish with chopped coriander and enjoy with cumin rice and salads.


You can find Shae on Facebook and Instagram as The Curry Queen. To book a lesson, you can contact her on 083 721 1851 or e-mail [email protected]


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