For years I struggled with curries. I loved eating them at restaurants but was unable to create a decent one at home. My cookbooks gave me recipes with infinite lists of ingredients and multi-stage preparations that were too impractical for wherever I was living or whatever I was doing at the time. Then I found this technique from The Guardian. I’ve been making great curries ever since.
A summary of the method: Grind onions, aromatics, and a generous amount of curry powder into a paste with a food processor. Fry the paste in hot oil (or butter or ghee) until it loses it’s ‘raw’ smell. Then add a vegetable that will be the base of the curry (pre-cooked is best). Add coconut milk or canned tomato if you like. Cook for a half-hour or longer, until the flavors are blended.
I like to start the curry in the afternoon when working from home. It only takes me about 15 minutes to prepare, so I can do it on a short break. I let the curry simmer for an hour or so while I work, then turn it off until dinner time. At that point I simply turn on the burner to heat up the finished curry while I pull the rest of the meal together.
1. Make the Paste
You’ll need a food processor or blender. I use a small, hand-held food processor.
Roughly chop any combination of the following, enough to make about one or two cups, and put in the food processor:
- Onion: white, yellow or red
- Raw peppers of any kind: sweet, bell, jalapeño, banana, poblano, etc.
Add about 1-2 tablespoons of curry powder, garam masala, or any spice combination that you’d like.
Optionally, add a few tablespoons of almond flakes, a tablespoon of tomato paste, or any other flavorings that aren’t very wet.
Grind all of this into a paste.
2. Fry the paste
Heat a few tablespoons of neutral oil (or butter or ghee) in a large pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot enough to make something sizzle, pour in the paste and fry it, stirring often. Fry until the raw smell of onions is mellowed, 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn the paste, which will make the curry bitter. Turn the heat down if necessary.
3. Add vegetables and liquid
Add a cup or two of vegetables or beans, salt to taste, and stir. Pre-cooked vegetables work really well. I’ve successfully used roasted squash, mashed potatoes, roasted eggplant, stir-fried eggplant, canned chickpeas, canned black beans and cooked lentils. There are many possibilities!
Add coconut milk, canned or fresh tomatoes, water or stock to get the consistency and flavor that you want. Keep in mind that the liquid will cook down, so make it a bit runnier than you’d like. If using uncooked vegetables you will need to add enough liquid to allow them to simmer. Frozen peas or similar tidbits are nice to add at this point as well.
4. Simmer and adjust flavoring
Simmer the curry for at least half an hour, longer if you can afford it.
Before serving, add a bit of acid if you haven’t used tomatoes: lemon or lime juice works best. If using vinegar, use it lightly. Add more salt if necessary.
Garnish with cilantro, parsley or mint if you like. Serve with wedges of lime, flatbread, basmati rice, yogurt, cucumbers, sliced onion, etc.
Most curries freeze exceptionally well. I like to make a double patch and freeze whatever we haven’t eaten that day.