Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Essence of Curry - Curries in a Jiffy: Recipes to get you started

I have been meaning to pen this post for a while - I have spoken about "pyaaz ka masala or sauted onion paste" before! But suddenly I see more of a flurry around the "curry" and especially trying the make it yourself kind and mine being a typical north indian household I have to have "A CURRY" made for dinner aat least 3 days a week! So I thought why not I try to simplify it as much as I can for all our readers.

Firstly, dear readers let me tell you that I couldn't cook to save my life before marriage - especially Indian food. Give me a Pav Bhaji or Pasta Dish and I could whip it up in no time but Indian food always seemed way to time consuming for me to even try my hand on. Until I got married and realised that I can live on "chawal (rice)" but my hubby needs his "curry" so I decided to get some tips from the ever dependable mother and tried to turn my cooking skills around bit by bit...

I feel the essence of the curry is to get a flavorful gravy together without it being too full of oil and spices. The base of 90% of the curries in India is a good "pyaaz ka masala or sauted onion paste". So once in a week, I have my help make it and I shall tell you how useful it is and then give you the recipe for it.

To get together any curry in my house, I just have to use a tablespoon of my sauted onion paste to a tablespoon of oil and crackling cumin, add a little tomato puree or freshly grated tomatoes - saute it some more. Add any spices, vegetables or meat to this basic paste - add water - give this a whistle in the pressure cooker or slow cook it in a heavy bottom pan and voila the curry is ready!!!! Yes, it's that simple. 

The only thing you need to add or subtract from the above is the kind of spices used, the amount of tomato puree or onion paste used etc - you get the drift. Now let me give you the recipe for my sauted onion paste.

I use about 1kg red onions, 10 big cloves of fresh garlic and the same amount of chopped ginger. I half the onions and add the onions, ginger and garlic mixture to my food processer and blitz it all together till it forms a paste. don't feel hesitant to add a couple of teaspoons of water to this to get it together. Once this is done - take a heavy bottom pan and put the paste in this, sprinkle a little bit of salt on this and let it cook on low heat. The original color of the paste is more towards lilac but after being cooked for almost 20 minutes it starts browning and that is what you to patiently wait for since this is what adds the flavor and color to your curry. If you think the paste is sticking to your pan too much - add a couple of teaspoons of water to this - enough to scrape the stuck onions paste from the bottom of the pan - the darker it - the better you curry is going to look and taste - just be careful not to burn it but making this paste is going to take a good 20-30 minutes. This can be stored in the fridge for a week or two in an airtight container but that container will probably have to be dedicated to onions after that 'coz it's going to get a strong smell.

Now here are a few basic curry recipes to get you started:

Aloo Matar ki Sabzi (Curried Potatoes 'N Peas) Recipe:

2 potatoes cut into small cubes
Half the amount of frozen peas
Spices: 1 bay leaf, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste, 11/2 teaspoon coriander powder (dhaniya powder), salt and red chilli powder to taste, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 small grated tomatoes or about 11/2 tablespoon of tomatoe puree
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sauted onion paste that you have prepared
1 cup water

1. Take a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed pan -> Add the oil and let it heat a bit - add the bay leaves and cumin seeds and wait till cumin splutters.
2. Then add the ginger-garlic paste, onion paste and tomatoes and saute it. Add the coriander powder, turmeric powder, salt and chilli powder to this and saute this till you can see it sticking to the bottom of the pan and oil leaving this mixture. Add about a tablespoon of water to this so that the mixture doesn't burn. 3.Add the potatoes and peas and saute it in the mixture till well coated. Now add the cup of water to this and let it cook till the potatoes are cooked. If you are using a pressure cooker - this will cook in two whistles.

For easy variations :
1. You can use a mix vegetables like beans, carrots and peas instead of potatoes = Mixed Vegetable Curry
2. You can make the curry only with peas and add hard-boiled eggs (w/o the shells) to the curry = Egg Curry
3. You can make the curry only with peas and add sauted cottage cheese cubes/paneer to the curry = Paneer Matar or Curried Cottage Cheese and Peas

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