Indian Curry Paste
Saturday was fun and interesting. It was Abhishek’s birthday but he had to go to school so he left early leaving me and the little monster with enough time to plan something nice for him. I took this as a good opportunity to go meet a few blogger friends of mine. Spent a lovely afternoon with them talking about food, food blogging and the rest of the world while watching the kids play. All of that was so much fun that I almost forgot that there is a party at my house in the evening and a birthday cake needs to be made. There needs to be a whole post to tell you the story about that birthday and the birthday cake which probably I will do later! But while deciding his birthday menu I realized one thing. One of the most common masala mixture (spice mix) that is used in Indian curries is a curry paste and I never shared a post on it. So I thought before sharing what I cooked for his birthday I should share this basic recipe for curry paste whose variation is present in almost all Indian curries. That might make the next post and many other curry posts easier.
Like I have said before every Indian household has its own recipe for any Indian dish and same goes with the curry paste. I come from the northern part of India where curry paste is mostly tomato based. In South Indian kitchens use of curry leaves, coconut, some kind of lentil or tamarind will be prominent. Mughlai cuisine is comprised of whole or ground spices and an addition of cream or a dairy product to make the sauce rich and creamy. Then what you are going to use the curry paste for also makes a difference. If you are going to add meat to your curry, making a rice dish like biryani or tahiri or using it to make a vegetable curry. There are several variations and several ingredients that you can add or remove but I do not want to confuse you with all that. Lets take it a little slow and today talk about the basic Indian Curry Paste recipe which can be used to make almost all kinds of Indian curries. This is a tomato based curry paste recipe which you can also use to make Mughlai curries by adding some extra ingredients. You can add curry leaves too and a few more ingredients and make a South Indian curry with this too.
To make an Indian curry paste you need two kinds of masala or mix. One is a wet mix and the other is dry mix. Wet mix is made of fresh ingredients from your pantry which you blend together to make a paste and then later cook with the dry ingredients. The four main ingredients for the wet mix are onions, garlic, ginger and chilis. You can use thai green chili, jalapeno peppers, any other kind of hot peppers or even dried red chili peppers all you want is some heat. If you don’t want it hot you can completely omit this ingredient.
Now the dry spices used here are basically the spices used to make a garam masala powder. Again many cooks use a few extra spices and some might use a few lesser spices for their garam masala, this is how my family does it. The spices I use to make a garam masala powder are black cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander seeds, cloves, black pepper and bay leaves. Grind all the spices mentioned into a powder and mix it with the wet mix and then cook together. Then finally tomato puree or diced tomatoes are added and cooked until it looses all its water.
Here’s my recipe for Indian Curry Paste, do you care to share yours?
Ingredients:- (Makes approx. 1.5 cups of curry paste)
1 cup chopped onion
1 inch ginger
3-4 cloves of garlic
2-3 green chilis (or any chili pepper of your choice)
Garam Masala (dry spice powder)- Only half of it will be used in this recipe for curry paste. You can store the rest in an air tight container for later.
2-3 bay leaves
2 tsp cloves
2 tsp peppercorn
3-4 black cardamom
1/2 Cinnamon stick
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
Whole Spices: (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 black cardamom (smashed)
1 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp coriander seeds (you can use 2/2.5 tbsp coriander powder if you don’t have seeds)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp ghee (optional)
Salt to taste
1 cup diced tomato (pureed)
See 10 amazing curries you can make from this curry paste
Grind together ingredients for the wet mix in a food processor or blender/grinder. Use about 3-4 tbsp of water if necessary for the blades to rotate. Set aside.
Grind together all the dry ingredients in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside.
Heat oil in a thick bottom pan, add whole spices. Once they sputter add the wet paste.
Cook it on medium high heat until all the water has evaporated. Once the paste starts getting thicker reduce the heat to medium low, add salt and turmeric.
Cook until the paste starts changing color and gets golden brown in color.
Add ghee. Very soon oil will start to separate.
Add diced tomato. First the tomatoes begin to melt then slowly all the liquid will evaporate. Cook until the mixture has no liquid left.
Now add dry ingredients. Mix everything well together.
Your curry paste is ready.
Now you can add vegetables if you are making a vegetable curry. Add browned, baked, stir fried or deep fried meat to make a meat curry. You can also add it to rice with a few vegetables and make a tahiri (spicy rice pilaf)This curry paste can be stored in a refrigerator for weeks. All you have to do is let the paste cool down completely and then transfer it to an air tight container and freeze.