I love spice. And not in that ridiculous, faux-macho ‘Give me the spiciest thing on the menu, and then chuck in another pound of chillis’ way. I like the way that a bit of heat can really heighten a dish or the flavours the different varieties of chillis add to a recipe.
It’s a well-known fact in the UK that the most popular food type is curry, and yet most people resort to take-aways or ready-made sauces for their curry fix, which I’ve always found strange seeing as how simple making a curry is; plus it means you can make it exactly to your tastes!
I’ve decided to share the recipe for the basic curry sauce I make – this can be used straight up in curries, or as a base for more complex recipes. It keeps in the fridge for a few days and can be frozen too, so it’s a handy one to have in the event that you want to knock up a quick meal one evening.
Basic curry sauce:
– Makes 4 servings –
3 medium sized cooking onions – finely sliced
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil or ghee
3/4 cloves of garlic – finely chopped or crushed
1 inch piece of ginger – finely sliced
2/3 large tomatoes (chopped) or a tin of plum tomatoes
Half a teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup carrot – chopped
1/2 cup leek – chopped
1/2 cup cabbage – shredded
1/2 red pepper – chopped
1 chilli – sliced lengthways (it’s up to you if you want to keep the seeds in for extra spice!)
Heat the onions and whatever vegetables you have decided to use in a pan with the oil/ghee, cook for 15 mins and keep stirring to stop it from burning. Now add the garlic and ginger and all of the spices. After a few more minutes, add the tomatoes, and a little water if the mixture is looking too thick.
Now put a lid on the pan and leave it to simmer for another 20 minutes. At this stage, have a taste and see if there’s anything else you want to add – ie. more chilli, salt or a pinch of sugar if it is tasting a bit too sour. Once you’re happy, you can either blend the mix to make it smooth, or leave it chunky, then simmer for a further 15 minutes. Done!
My favourite curry, however, is a dhansak. It’s just the right level of heat, with some lovely sweet and sour tastes to it, plus the addition of lentils gives it a lovely texture and bulks it out so you don’t even really need to have it with rice. Once you have your basic curry sauce all you need to do is…
– Serves 4 –
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon garam masala or curry powder
1 tablespoon chilli powder (or half a tablespoon of chopped chillis)
1 cup of lentils (pre cooked – boil for 20mins in water)
4 cloves of garlic – finely chopped or crushed
1 inch piece of ginger – finely chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
3 cups of your basic curry sauce, as above
Plus whatever meat or veg you want to make the main event – I used prawns but chicken also works well. If you’re of the vegetarian/vegan persuasion you could use aubergine, green beans or maybe brocolli.
If you want to make this a meaty curry, cook your meat beforehand – so fry off some chicken cut in to chunks with a teaspoon of turmeric, or salt and fry some chunks of aubergine – you then set these aside for later.
Heat some oil in a pan, then chuck in the garlic, ginger and spices. After a few minutes, add the tomato puree and the pre-made curry sauce. After a couple of minutes add the lentils and meat or vegetables. I then like to add some slices of lemon for the final few minutes of cooking just to give it a bit more of a sour flourish, but this is optional and some people prefer to use pineapple. Taste the mixture, and if you’re happy with the flavour and the consistency, take it off the heat and plate it up.
You can also garnish with chopped fresh coriander, but I don’t because I think it tastes heinous. Serve on its own with naan or flatbread, or with salad and rice.