Mamta Gupta has honed and refined a simple curry recipe that has been passed down through the generations. Now she's sharing it with you
National Curry Week was started in 1998 to promote the cuisine and to raise funds for charities concentrating on hunger, malnourishment and poverty. During the week, curry-lovers can get out and visit their local curry houses, some of which will be staging special events and 'fun challenges'.
Mamta Gupta and her daughter Kavita Favelle run the website Mamta's Kitchen. They are setting you a different challenge this National Curry Week: make your own delicious curry using a family recipe handed down through the generations and recently chosen to by Leon Restaurants to feature on their lunchtime menus...
Basic curry sauce can be prepared in advance, in large quantities and kept in jars in the fridge or freezer. If you are a busy person, it is always a good idea to make a few different curry sauces a couple of days before a party or on the weekends, when you have more time. Even if you have time to make only one type of basic curry sauce, you can change flavours by adding other ingredients, as suggested below. The curry sauce should be thick enough to coat the meat/vegetables well, although you can make it quite runny if you prefer it that way.
This quantity is enough for approximately 500g of vegetables or meat or chicken. Multiply according to how much you need.
2 medium size onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
2-3 cloves of garlic (optional), peeled
2 medium tomatoes, chopped finely or 200g tinned tomatoes
2-3 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp cumin seeds *See note 1
Small pinch of asafoetida (don't worry, if you don't have this)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (too much makes the curry bitter)
1/4 tsp chilli powder (adjust to taste)
1 1/2 tsp of coriander powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1. Wash and grind onions, ginger and garlic together in a food processor or chop finely by hand or grate.
2. Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and a pinch of asafoetida powder. Let the seeds splutter.
3. Add onion, ginger and garlic and fry until golden to medium-dark brown (not burnt).
4. Add all powdered spices, except garam masala and stir for ten seconds, to release all the flavours.
5. Add tomatoes and stir fry until oil separates from the mass. For a more professional taste, add a tsp water and stir-fry again until oil separates. Repeat once more.
6. Stir in garam masala. This should be ideally added to the finished dish, at the end of cooking.
7. Salt and chillies should be adjusted to your own taste, remembering that this curry sauce has to be added to the main curry ingredient, so it has to be stronger at this stage than the finished curry.
8. Cool, bottle or place in another airtight container, and chill or freeze. It must be defrosted and heated before adding the meat or vegetables.
9. Heat the required amount until oil comes off the mass again, add meat/chicken/vegetables of choice and stir-fry for a few minutes. In case of meat, stir-fry until it is sealed and in case of vegetables until they are well coated.
10. Add water if you require a gravy. If cooked on medium heat, most meats, chicken and green vegetables will release some water of their own. So add a little water at a time, if you don’t want to make your curry too runny.
11. When the meat/vegetables is cooked, turn heat off, sprinkle garam masala and chopped coriander leaves. Close the lid and leave the flavours of garam masala ingredients to infuse.
1. To improve the flavour of the curry sauce, you can add the following whole spices along with the cumin seeds at step two: 1 inch piece of cinnamon stick or cassia bark; 1-2 bay leaves; 2 large cardamoms-slightly cracked open; 4-5 cloves; 5-6 black peppers. These are the ingredients of Garam Masala. In it’s powdered form, it is usually added at the end of cooking.
2. Tinned tomatoes are cheaper and easier to use, and give better colour to the finished curry. Fresh ones taste better. Select ripe ones for better flavour.
3. If tomatoes are not available, 1/2 cup of thick natural yoghurt can be added instead, but this will give you a different flavour and the colour of the curry will be more yellowish. Make sure that it is not skimmed milk yoghurt, as this is more likely to curdle during cooking.
4. To give a redder colour to the curry, you can add 1 tsp of sweet paprika powder.
5. Sour cream, red wine or creamy yoghurt can be added towards the end of the cooking process, to makes the curry richer.
6. To give different flavours to a meat curry, you can add any one of the following ingredients while the meat is cooking: 1 tbsp dry fenugreek leaves, called kasoori/kasuri methi or 100-200g of fresh fenugreek leaves, or 100-200g chopped spinach or half a tin of pureed spinach, or a few diced potatoes or carrots, or half a cup of urad/urid dal or chana dal (varieties of Indian lentils), or 450g of tinned chickpeas, after draining out the brine. You can experiment with other additions too. That is how new dishes are born.
7. Always garnish with chopped green coriander leaves. If coriander is not available, finely chopped spring onion greens also look nice and taste good.
8. You can add a few nuts like almonds or cashews at the end of the cooking process. They taste better if you soak and grind them first, adding creaminess to the dish. As far as I am concerned, sultanas and raisins are a definite no, except in very few select curries. But if you like them, go ahead and add them.
1. Reduce the amount of fat during cooking.
2. Use only lean meat.
3. Add vegetables to meat during cooking, so that less meat is eaten.
4. Skim the fat off the top, after you have finished cooking.
This recipe is Copyright Mamta's Kitchen
Kavita Favelle also runs a highly regarded food blog called Kavey Eats.