(Note: I promise ‘I is for…” will be soon, and it won’t be Indian. I’m stalling for time because I’m busy and poor and need to locate an Indonesian restaurant, unless something else pulls ahead- go vote!)
Indian food is hands-down my favorite food to cook. Actually, “hands-down” is a big commitment. It’s my favorite food to cook lately but that’s probably because no one has taught me how to make Ethiopian yet. It’s great because I can cook it on the stove, keep an eye on it constantly, play around with tons of spices, and, most importantly add basically as much garlic as I so please.
For my birthday, Pete got me a private cooking lesson. It was great because I had the chance to learn about all the spices and their effects and understand each part of the process to making delicious curries…and then eat them. One of the recipes I learned was a really versatile base for any type of curry. I like it best with lamb, but it could be done with many other things, or altered slightly to become a bunch of other types of curries. Without further ado, here’s a step by step process to that curry base.
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1 dried red chilli
- 5-8 black peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 1 cardamom pod, split
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 medium red onions, chopped
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 3 (or 9…) cloves of garlic, grated
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cumin and coriander powder (which I think is a 60/40 ratio of cumin to coriander, but I don’t remember and just make it up as I go)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- magic paste (we’ll come to that)
- 1 tsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp ketchup
- 1 tsp jaggery (or sugar, but jaggery is delicous)
- 1 tsp garam masala
- chopped cilantro to serve
- about 2 tbsp plain yogurt
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
Then make “magic paste.” Magic paste might be slightly over-named, as it consists of only two ingredients, but it’s definitely convenient. To make magic paste, just combine equal amounts of ginger and whole green chillies (snap the ends off) and blend them with an immersion blender. This paste is great because it can be added to curries at any stage to adjust the heat.
Heat up the oil and when it’s warm, add the ghee. Whole spices are always added at the beginning, so next add red chilli, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon (or, this stuff called cassia bark which is much cheaper and tastes exactly the same.) Wait for it to sizzle (and don’t get splashed by hot oil.) Then add the cumin- test a few to make sure it spatters before putting it all in. Put a lid over it and wait about 10 seconds until the fizzing stops.
When the onions are golden brown, add the chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, jaggery, salt, cumin and coriander powder, tumeric, magic paste, tomato puree, and ketchup. Cook this sauce for 10 minutes, stirring every three, on a low heat with the lid on.
Then the sauce should be ready for the meat, which will cook for about 45 minutes (if lamb or chicken on the bone, less if chicken breast) with the lid on. It may look too thick at this stage, but don’t add water for at least 15 minutes, as the meat will release some water and you don’t want to end up with a watery curry. Add water if it’s too thick, take the lid off if it’s too thin…just play around.
And that’s it! Pete loooooves this one. I’m starting to wonder who’s benefiting more from this birthday gift…