The Indian Curry has made it’s debut internationally a long time back, with the British, now having their own version of Curry which has been adapted from the North Indian Curry. The spices, the myriad flavors & aroma of the curry, the texture of the variety of curry sauces & the immense versatility of it, makes it irresistible for the ones who have already learned to enjoy the Indian Food, & a thing of mystery for those who are in the zone who are yet to experience it!
Do not let the rich, complicated looks of the Curry intimidate you. Curries range from a few minutes of quick & easy to a few hours of cooking time. You do not need the so well known Curry Powder to make a simple homemade curry. So please do not rush to the store to get something which no Indian homes use. A basic curry is very very simple, is made with fresh ingredients & is easy to make. The mystery of Curry is kind of demystified in myCurry! All curries differ in their taste & content & the difference mostly roots to the use of different spices.
Some Common Curry Bases:
Some Curries are tomato based, (this is the easiest & most versatile & this is what I am going to present today), while others have a lot of cream/milk sometimes along with the tomatoes. Some have yogurt, again may be along with the tomato. In the Southern parts of India, tamarind & coconut is also used for the color, texture & the taste. Other than the basic Cooking Process & a Few Ingredients which need to be used, there are no mandatory rules to making a Curry.
Types of Curry:
I will name a few different kinds of Curries here, some common names you might hear:
The Famous Tikka Masala
Korma (Yogurt, cream, saffron, nuts/almonds/cashews)
Jalfrezi (Stir fried with spices)
Vindaloo (Vinegar, Chillies & Garlic – very Spicy)
Rogan Josh (Yogurt & Spices without tomatoes)
Do Piaza (Do=Two Piaz=Onion, double the amount of Onion than the main ingredient like meat, or sometimes it means the onion being cooked twice)
Achari (Hot with spices used for Indian pickles/achar)
Karahi/Balti (Wet/damp curry usually served in a Karahi or Balti)
There are a hundred (or more) variation with can be done with this simple sauce. Permute, combine & experiment with different spices. There are a few spices which I have added here (marked as Optional).. they add a wonderful warm aroma, but if you do not have them handy, it is alright to skip these.
2 parts of a Curry: First is making the curry sauce, second you have to decide what to make a curry of!
Some ideas for the things which are turned into a curry:
- Beans ( any dry beans: kidney, chickpeas, black eyed peas, lentils etc)
- Indian Cheese/Paneer
- Shrimp/Some Fishes
- Vegetables: Potatoes, Cauliflower, Peas, Squash, Zucchini… basically whatever you want to add
You see, a typical curry is not all that complicated – just some spices, an onion, garlic, & ginger that have been chopped, sauteed and fried, some tomatoes added to it & boiled down. Once the sauce is done.. you are more than half way done to making your curry.
Ingredients: (yields about 3/4 – 1 Cup of sauce)
- 2 Tablespoons Cooking/Vegetable oil
- 1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1″ Cinnamon stick (Optional)
- 2 Green Cardamom (Optional)
- 1 Clove (Optional)
- 1 medium red onion, chopped ( the yellow ones will do too)
- 1-2 Hot green chili (Like Thai Bird) – (Optional – use it if you want it spicy)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
- 1 Teaspoon Coriander powder (Optional)
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Chili Powder or cayenne (Optional)
- 1/2 Teaspoon turmeric
- 1 Cup of diced or crushed tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- Salt to taste
- 2 Tablespoon fresh, chopped cilantro/coriander (Optional)
To add to the sauce: ( I have demonstrated a simple Potato Curry here)
- 2 Medium Potatoes, peeled & cubed
Make a paste in the blender with the ginger & garlic. (alternatively they may be grated fine).
If you are using the cinnamon, cardamom & cloves, dry roast them at medium heat in the pan/pot/wok whatever you are using, till they are fragrant. You cannot miss the aroma. Make sure they do not burn.
( if you are not using the spices above, skip to the following step)
Add oil to the pot/pan.
Add the cumin seeds and fry until they start to brown.
Add the onion & the green chili and stir & toss well, occasionally. The onion will start getting soft and translucent & slightly brown on the edges.
(Below: Onions with spices & Green Chili.. getting cooked)
Add the garlic & ginger paste. Fry for about 5-8 minutes at low to medium heat. The paste might stick to the pan, but make sure to scrape it off. If you are cooking at low heat there is less chance to burn the stuffs while will turn them dark brown & bitter.
(Below: onions with the ginger, garlic paste added)
Add the tomatoes and combine well with the rest of the things in the pan.
Add the salt, turmeric, chili powder & the coriander powder. Stir occasionally to avoid the sticking to the pan. See the mushed up look?
You want to make the tomatoes’ water evaporate, so the sauce is thicker. Aim for something roughly as thick as tomato sauce; not too watery and not too thick and sticky. Below is the the sauce that i made….
Note: The sauce can be frozen & used later.
Add the potato ( as i have used here), or beans, or meat or any vegetable … whatever you have decided to use.
Toss & Stir well to combine, & to let it absorb the ingredients. Cook for another 5 minutes. If the sauce starts gets too dry, just add some water and mix well. Cover & Simmer till it is done. Garnish with fresh herbs like chopped cilantro/coriander.
Serve with rice (like basmati) or Indian Flatbreads like Naan, parathas, roti, some seasoned yogurt & may be a salad or a chutney?
If you are using meat, it is a good idea to brown the meat first before adding it to the sauce.
Once you are done with the basic curry sauce, you can go ahead & make it fancy. If you happen to visit an Indian Grocery store, you cannot miss those shelves full of variety of ready made spice boxes (not the “Curry Powder”). These are specific recipe/curry based spice mixes. (Korma/Vindaloo/Karahi.. & many more). You can use these in the basic curry sauce to enhance the taste & take it to another level or to be more specific, make a particular kind of Curry.