Is it all about the paste…
Being a true Indian of course my first post was going to be about curry. Every good curry has three distinct characteristics. The intricately rich flavour, the rich yet rustic texture and the aromas that evoke the past. In my case bringing back deeply cherished childhood memories.
Where lies the soul of the curry you ask? In its spices? NO! In its herbs? NO! In the vegetables or meat being used? NO! It lies in the paste, yes it is all about the ‘CURRY PASTE’. Ask any Mother or Grandmother and the answer will unequivocally be, it is all about the paste
Now you will ask well what goes in making this oh so special paste? And the answer is well it depends! Ha ha ha I know it is such a typically Indian response *Insert Head Waggle here*. It depends on the uniqueness and origin of each curry, after all you can’t make a chicken tikka masala with the same paste that you make vindaloo.
Without further ado let’s learn about curry basics and take the Indian cuisine as a starting point. Indian curries are so unique and intricate, I don’t even know where to begin. Wait, did you just roll your eyes at me? Lets just say your local Indian restaurant should not be the baseline for judging Indian food, because in all my time in India and Australia I find the Indian curries served in restaurants do not bolster their uniqueness. Instead they just hide behind one another in that same old red or green curry paste. The true Indian curry is what is cooked in each household by a loving grandmother, mother, sister, wife and in the modern day by their male counterparts too.
In many countries the staple diet is so different in the North than the South and Indian food is no different. North Indian curries are rich, creamy, smooth and topped with dollops of ghee. South Indian curries are light, delicate, rustic and tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves.
So lets start the journey of making the true Indian curry but starting with baby steps and make the North Indian curry paste.
- Two tablespoons ghee or olive oil
- Two red onions sliced
- One crushed tinned tomato can or fresh tomato paste (using three to four depending on size)
- One table spoon grated ginger
- Two pods of garlic
- One or two green chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
- One cinnamon stick
- My top secret ingredient, fresh coriander stem (about 4 to 5 stems chopped)
- 1.5 tea spoon cumin seeds (Jeera)
- 1.5 tea spoon coriander powder (Dhaniya)
- 1 tea spoon turmeric powder (Haldi)
- 1.5 tea spoon garam masala
- 1/2 tea spoon sugar
- 1/2 cup skim milk (can be avoided if vegan or lactose intolerant)
- Salt to taste
Lets roll. In a pan add two table spoons of ghee (Sorry this recipe is notfor the faint hearted). Alright two table spoons of olive oil for my health conscious friends. Once you can smell the aroma of ghee (or olive oil), add the cumin seeds and wait until they start tempering. Now add the sliced onions and cook until translucent.
Once the onions are cooked add ginger, garlic, green chillies, cinnamon stick and coriander stems. Mix it all and wait until the onion mix has carmelised.
Bring on the colour and add the tomato paste, followed by adding coriander powder, turmeric powder and garam masala. Let the mixture simmer until the oil surfaces to the top. Add salt, sugar and skim milk. Add water if you wish to dilute the paste.
Let the mix cool slightly and blend it all up. TADA!!! Curry paste is ready.
You can add boiled potatoes and peas to it to make the Indian classic Aloo (Potato) Mutter (Peas) or even add boiled black lentils to make another the Indian classic Kaali (Black) Dal (Lentils). We will work together on how to make the perfectaloo mutter orkaali dal. This was just to give you examples of some of the dishes you use the North Indian red curry paste for.