Let's be honest, curry isn't always the most photogenic of foods.
If done right, however, it's darn tasty, and the most you'll have to do is some serious chopping. Pictured above is a chicken korma I made this week, but if you master the basic paste that can be used for all varieties of curry, all you have to do is switch up the spices and the meat you use.
Getting Set Up
I use pre-mixed curry spices from Spice Mountain, which is based out of England. If you're on that side of the Atlantic, they have a lovely shop in the Borough Markets, but otherwise, they do ship internationally through their online store!
The recipe I started with was actually also from Spice Mountain, but I made a few tweaks here and there for ease of cooking and availability in the United States. The beauty of this recipe is that it doesn't use roux, meaning that if you use proper substitutes for meat and cream where applicable, it's perfectly suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Before you start shopping for the paste ingredients, decide what kind of curry you want to make and do some research as to what kind of meats will work best with the flavors. For example, rogan josh works best with lamb or beef. Also determine if the particular curry should be creamy -- korma and tikka masala are best if substituting heavy cream for water. If you're using a dairy-free substitute for the cream, try to avoid coconut milk, as it tends to overpower the rest of the flavors in the dish; especially if you're making korma, cashew or almond milk is really good.
Also, if you plan on doing curries regularly, you may want to invest in a good food processor or blender. I have the Nutri Ninja Professional BL450 and it works wonders for the paste part. Plus, it gives you an excuse to have smoothies and milkshakes whenever you want.
This recipe makes enough for two people to have very generous portions. If you have any remaining, put it in a Tupperware container and store it in the fridge for the next day, then heat it up in the microwave starting with 1 minute 30 seconds on the timer and using an additional 30 seconds as needed. It's still very tasty as leftovers!
Finally, I should note that I'm fairly certain this is more on the British colonial side of curry style versus what you might get in an Indian grandmother's kitchen (note the lack of roux above). It is still really, really delicious in its own right.
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 2 garlic cloves (or 1 tsp crushed garlic)
- 1-inch piece of ginger root (peeled if the skin is very papery, otherwise fine as-is)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 cup water or heavy cream, depending on the type of curry you're making
- 3 tsp curry spices
- Salt to taste
- Desired meat or meat substitute
- Roughly chop the onion and the ginger root and add them to the blender bowl.
- Chop the tomatoes as finely as you can, put them in another bowl, and set aside.
- Chop up whatever meat or meat substitute you're using into bite-sized chunks and set aside.
- Add the garlic to the blender bowl and blitz it until all chunks are gone.
- Use non-stick spray on a large sauté pan if it doesn't have a non-stick coating before adding the olive oil; if your pan has the coating, just add the oil straight away and heat it.
- VERY CAREFULLY pour in the paste from the blender bowl and fry for 10 minutes -- seriously, go slowly, I've nailed myself and the rest of the kitchen with splashback from this more than once. The texture of the fried paste should be similar to chunky applesauce.
- Add the water or cream, spices, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, salt, and meat or substitute. Stir it all up and simmer it for 10 to 15 minutes to thicken it.
- Research traditional preparations of the specific type of curry you're making and add nuts, sultanas, vegetables, potatoes, or anything else that might be recommended.
- Serve over basmati rice.
- Add a couple of scoops of mango chutney to the side.
- Serve with papadums or naan.