There is just so much to write about when it comes to the Indian cuisine (or any cuisine for that matter) that I’m having a difficult time deciding what to write about next :-P.
If you’re reading this and are really interested in authentic Indian food, what is the biggest issue you’ve ever had with cooking it? What are some things you wish you could learn about? I would love to hear what you think would be useful information. And if I can help, I will certainly do so.
Today, I thought I would share a very basic recipe for creating a curry base or sauce. It’s not hard at all. And you can use it for different vegetables or meats – it is really flexible. The recipe is very similar to the curry base for many North Indian dishes.
Some basic ingredients I always have around the kitchen are onions, tomatoes, cilantro and of course spices. (Check out the first blog post for must-have spices for Indian cooking.)
And with just the ingredients listed above, you can make a yummy curry! Here’s the recipe.
Onions >2 (about 1 cup finely diced)
Tomatoes > 2 (about 1 cup finely diced although I like having slightly more onion than tomato in my sauce)
Garlic > 1-3 cloves (peel and mince or purée)
Ginger > 1 inch (peel and grate or just extract the juice)
Cilantro > about 10 stems (remove the thick stems and chop)
Green chilies > 0-3 (remove stems and dice)
Bay leaf > optional
Butter > optional
Spices (Lightly roast the following whole spices in a skillet over medium low heat for 2 minutes and then grind them to a powder)
- coriander (1 tsp)
- cumin (1 tsp)
- cloves (2)
- cinnamon (1 inch) – optional
- cardamom (2) – optional
You can also just use 2-3 tsp of a good quality garam masala blend if you have it instead of making the mixture above.
Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. When the oil is hot enough a piece of onion added to the oil will sizzle. Throw in the diced onion and green chilies along with a bay leaf, add a pinch of salt and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir till the onion is golden brown. The constant stirring helps avoid burnt onion and ensure an even brownness that will add a rich, deep color to your curry. Add the spices and continue to be careful to stir for 2-3 minutes to prevent the spices from sticking to the skillet. Add tomatoes and another pinch of salt. When the tomatoes get mushy, add ½ a cup of water. Lower the heat to medium and cover the skillet. Check every few minutes that the sauce is not burning. If it is getting dry, add a bit more water.
You’ll know the sauce is cooked when you see a thin film of oil form on the top. You now have your sauce base. You can add a vegetable or meat to this sauce, or just make a big batch and refrigerate/freeze it for later use. I like to purée the sauce once it has cooled down a bit (and before I add vegetables). It makes for a smoother taste and look.
Adding vegetables to this sauce:
Chickpeas (1 can, drain and rinse well), potatoes (diced into 1 inch pieces) and peas are particularly well suited to this curry. Tofu might work well too. Once you try this curry, you’ll get a feel for what you think will work with the sauce. Unless it is a vegetable that cooks very easily, I would recommend that it be cooked when you add it to the sauce. When the sauce is simmering on low, add about a cup of the vegetable or vegetables of your choice. Let simmer for another 5 minutes (if using only vegetables) or till the meat is fork tender. If you’d like, add a tbsp or two of butter at the end. This will take any edge off the curry and help meld the flavors together. Check for salt. Squeeze some lime juice. Mix.
Adding meat to this sauce:
I’d recommend bone-in chicken for this recipe. Marinade the meat with a tsp or so of the same spice mixture as above and 2 tsps lime juice for about an hour. Heat up 2-3 tbsp oil, add the meat and cook till opaque or slightly brown before adding to the sauce. Simmer for another five to ten minutes or till the meat is fork tender. Similar to the vegetables, add butter if you like, check for salt, and if appropriate, squeeze a tsp or two of fresh lime juice.
There you have it, your very own Indian curry, vegetarian or with meat! Serve it hot over rice or with pita bread.