Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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.

Indian curry paste

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.

Ingredients for curry paste

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.

Dry masala mix

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.

Now before getting to the recipe I have to tell you about my friend Joy of Joylicious and this exciting project that has been working on. She is one of the most talented food photographers/bloggers I have come across and is one heck of a girl! Joy and her friends have been working hard at developing a new cooking show geared towards singles and couples. Main goal of this show would be to encourage people to get back in the kitchen and equip them with the confidence and skills to become an efficient home chef. You can learn more about the show by clicking on this link and watching the kickstarter. Joy is trying to raise some money that would help her and her friends get the episodes to gear. So I'd love for you to click on the link, checkout what Joy wants to say and maybe help her spread the word or raise some money.
Alright and now lets come back to the Curry Paste recipe. Here's my recipe for Indian Curry Paste, do you care to share yours?

Ingredients:- (Makes approx. 1.5 cups of curry paste)
(wet paste)
1 cup chopped onion
1 inch ginger
3-4 cloves of garlic
2-3 green chilis (or any chili pepper of your choice)

(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
3 tbsp coriander seeds (you can use 2/2.5 tbsp coriander powder if you don't have seeds) 

other ingredients:
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp ghee (optional)
Salt to taste
1 cup diced tomato

Method:
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 wet mix.
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.

42 comments:

  1. Hmm.....we never used any curry paste and nor do my relatives in Bombay(I'm never calling it anything but), Delhi or Aligarh.
    I always told my western friends that there's no such thing as a curry powder and would have told them the same had I known they were seeking curry paste too....but your post makes me wonder that perhaps there are Indian families out there who do use curry powders and pastes :-)

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    1. I agree that making and storing paste is probably a less authentic process (I am not Indian but I was always taught by my Indian friends to have pre-made masala to use in dishes as well as the fresher individual spices which go into the dish in different quantities depending on the dish), but having a simple premade pre portioned paste in freezer that lasts for several months with all the garlic and spices in it that you can just throw in the pan is so much easier, especially for someone who works a lot. I am planning to exclude the onion though because I still want to caramelize fresh onion at the beginning of the dish, then add the paste and fresh tomato puree to it. My plan is to make the paste with my own masala recipe and fresh garlic/ginger, a little tomato concentrate, a little water, and asfaetida/mustard seed/curry leaves briefly fried in hot oil, in the blender, then portion it out and freeze it. Trying to get everything into one paste so that my recipe will go like this, caramelize onions, add paste and sautee for a few seconds, add tomato puree and simmer for couple minutes, taste and adjust accordingly, add meat and cook for a while. eat.

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  2. Amazing flavors! That curry paste must taste soooo good. Stunning clicks, as always.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. wonderful paste,love the spices that u have added...luks so tempting...

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  4. It works for us too; and the base lends itself to so many variations. Looks delicious!

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  5. Thank you for sharing this! This may be the start of my freedom from bottled curry pastes and sauces! :)

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  6. This is a lovely idea to mix the two. I used to make something similar and freeze it in cubes to be used during the week.

    Has been a while since I made it in bulk. Yours looks fiery gorgeous :)

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  7. Its nice idea to have such curry paste at hand any time.. it saves a lot of time...
    Your version of the curry paste sounds very nice.. full of flavor!!

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  8. yummm and convenient! Good way to freeze Indian curry paste just like Thai curry paste :). Thanks Prerna!

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  9. This curry paste is a keeper!!!
    Prathima Rao
    Prats Corner

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  10. I've never heard of curry pastes before I started blogging and saw a version on Tanvi's blog. Heard of curry powder but never paste. Thanks for sharing another great recipe. Look forward to the birthday cake post :)

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  11. That sounds like an amazing combination of flavors. Wishing Abhishek a belated Happy Birthday.

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  12. So helpful! Thank you for sharing :D

    I have a few annoying questions for you! I'm having a party Saturday and would like to make some things ahead. I tried your homemade naan and palak paneer last week and loved it all and would like to make it again to serve as a dip. So, how long will the homemade paneer keep in the fridge? And how many days ahead could I do the palak paneer? And can naan be frozen or is it definitely better fresh? Thank you SO much :D

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  13. Incredible! What a terrific recipe and your pictures are so beautiful they jump off the screen! I'm glad you had a good time meeting with other bloggers!

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  14. Homemade curry paste is always best....looks so flavourful and yummy

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  15. Thanks so much guys for your encouragement as usual :-)
    Now Anna addressing your question-
    I make Paneer in bigger batches, wrap them in plastic wraps and store them inside air tight containers in my refrigerator for almost a month. So you can make it WAY ahead of time. If I am making palak paneer for bigger crowd what I do is prepare curry paste, store it. Boil, blend and store palak (spinach). Now on the day of party I take out a pot, heat a little oil (very little) throw in curry paste, boiled spinach and cream bring it to boil and then add paneer pieces. It will take you about 10 minutes to get it all ready. For naans, I knead & wrap dough in plastic wrap a day before the party. On the day of party roll out naans, spread them on a baking sheet or something, cover with damp cloth and put it in the refrigerator. Try to cook them right before serving but if that's a hassle just cook them before the guests arrive and reheat in a microwave before serving. I cook them and store in a container with lid and a trick to make them soft like fresh is to cover naans with damp paper towel and microwave for about 30 secs. They will come out hot and super soft. Hope that helps!

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  16. Thanks so much for this great recipe! I can't wait to make it. And your tips above to Anna are super helpful!

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  17. Thank you SO much for the very helpful advice, I really appreciate it! And I am so glad I decided to ask you - because this is way better than my original plan :D Thank you, also, for visiting my blog!!! Can't wait to keep reading yours and trying your recipes :D

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  18. Belated birthday wishes to big A! This is a perfect masala for meat or bean curries..love the use of black cardamom especially, something I m REALLY fond of :)

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  19. I hope you finally have settle in somewhat into your name place in CA. I have been reading your blog and just sounds like you had a very busy summer. I had indian food the other night and every time i do i go home and say i need to make this at home. Then i go to your blog and look for recipes and i have a few on my list to make but haven't made anything yet - so much easier just to go 10 minutes down the road to this fabulous restaurant :)

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  20. Love your cream & blue serving dish / pot. Would you recommend it beyond it's aesthetics, and if so where did you get it? Thanks.

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  21. I just got lost daydreaming in your beautiful blog for the past 15 minutes. Looking at the beautiful food and amazing scenery is always like taking a mini-vacation. Now I'm craving Indian food.

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  22. Prerna, this look incredible. I've always wondered how it's made. I may even try it myself. Do you know how long it lasts or the best way to store it? Thanks.

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  23. Ooo, looks delicious! Look forward to your future curry recipe also :)

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  24. I love Indian food so much and as a matter of fact, I just had one last night. I am so, so glad I found your blog. It is so inspiring, and will definitely visit very often from now on.

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  25. I haven't had a chance to visit your blog in a while...when I came back I saw your pictures were just as beautiful as ever! Always a pleasure to visit your blog!

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  26. Enjoyed reading your post on curries. This would surely help anybody, who would like to cook some north Indian curry. As usual the pictures look stunning.

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  27. Thanks for sharing the secret recipe with us. THe paste looks thick and flavorful with those lovely ingredients it has to be wonderful. Looking forward to hearing all about your Birthday Cake and menu:)

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  28. I did make this the other day,for your Rajma Masala recipe.:-)

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  29. Hi Prema, this paste is the reason we can have home cooked meals during week nights. The only difference is that I add the dry spices before the tomatoes!! Luv the post!

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  30. thank you for sharing. I'm from Indonesia and there are a lot of food that are influenced by india, and i love them.

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  31. How long can i keep this paste in a airtight container?

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  32. Very Nice & simple recipy & method that every one can make at home & helps wife on Sunday.........

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  33. It looks delicious, but I'm a little lost on the quantity of it that should be used when adding to a curry. I saw in your later Ramja Masala recipe that you used 3/4 cup curry paste to your kidney beans. Would that be an average amount to add to meats? I would love it if you could share a recipe using the paste so that beginners like me couldn't get it wrong! Thanks

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  34. Thanks for this recipe! I think I will try it out tonight!

    Also had a request...would you be able to add a "Pin It" button to your blogs? I tried pinning from this post, but for some reason it could not detect the correct image. I would really like to share this recipe :)

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  35. I don't have the whole spices or a grinder, but have many of these spices in a ground version. Do you know what the conversion would be for those? (ie, as you did for the coriander?) Thanks!

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    1. I can't comment on quantity of pre ground spices because they are weak and I wouldn't use them, but I would highly recommend having fresh whole coriander seed. Coriander seriously tastes like saw dust within just a few days of grinding it. Do yourself a a favor and grind it when you cook with it! you'll find it actually has an amazing flavor. Many other spices are passable pre ground but not coriander seeds!

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  36. Hey Prerna, check this link - http://gulzkitchen.blogspot.in/2013/02/curry-paste.html

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  37. Made this, it was DELISH!!!!

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