Cook the puree ingredients properly
In nearly all cases, your base ingredients will include onions and/or tomatoes; but did you know that the onions we get in Australia are bigger and have a higher water content than their Indian counterparts? This means that more cooking time is required, but you can speed up the process by slicing the onion, which can then be boiled and pureed, or deep fried till golden brown then pureed.
Now you have the perfect puree ready to use in your Indian curry.
Sauté your paste
If you’re using a blanched or fried paste in your curry, make sure you sauté it in order to extract the maximum FLAVOR. At this stage ginger and garlic can be added to taste.
Mixing the right spices
Now this is the tricky part – and it requires a hell lot of experience to blend spices from scratch – to overcome this you can easily buy dry masala for Indian curries and follow the instruction about how much to use. Otherwise, it can take months if not years of trial and error to get the mix right.
Adjust the sweet or sourness
Balancing a curry’s taste is very important. If you like your curries sweet then use a brown onion paste, as caramelised onion gives it that sweet taste. A word of warning: be careful when frying your onion. It has to be a golden brown – even the slightest change in color can make your curry bitter. Adding sugar is another option; and if you’re making a tomato-based curry, honey can also be used.
Use nuts and seeds
All commercial cooks use some sort of nuts in their gravy. Firstly, nuts and/or seeds give your curry a nice texture as they can work as a thickening agent. Secondly, they are essential if you’re after a nutty taste.
Some of the most common nuts and seeds used in curries are:
Poppy seed paste
Sesame seed paste
Melon seed paste
Adjust the texture
Before you begin making your curry, you will need to decide what sort of texture you want your curry to have. If you’re after a soft, smooth and silky curry you should allow your gravy to cool and then blend it in a blender to make a fine paste. To make your gravy super fine, you can strain it through a sieve. On the other hand, if you want your curry to be on the coarse side, then use chopped onion, garlic and tomato to make the gravy, and DO NOT BLEND.
Final “tardka” or the final touch
This step is required to add the final aromatic spices to the curry. These spices should NOT be cooked for a long time as they all have a very bitter taste and we add them at the last moment. Heat up some “desi ghee” (clarified butter). Whilst this is being heated, sprinkle a very small quantity of spices over your finished curry. Then pour the hot “desi ghee” on top. Cover immediately with a lid to trap all the flavours.
The most commonly used finishing spices are:
Nutmeg (for lamb)
Mace (for chicken)
Garam Masala (for all types of onion and tomato-based gravy)
Asafetida powder (for yellow lentils)
Fennel powder (for kormas)
Don’t forget to garnish
Various types of garnish can be used to decorate your curry depending upon the texture and color of, and can add to the presentation.
Commonly used garnishes include:
Fresh cream or butter
Selecting a serving dish
Presentation is an important aspect of your curry. A good choice in dishware can set off the colors and texture of your curry – a bad choice can leave it looking flat and unappealing. If you’re after an authentic feel, then you can follow the following guidelines:
Copper and brass dishware are universal and can be used with any Indian dishes.
Clay or earthenware pots work well with all non-vegetarian curries.
Steel looks great with lentil-based dishes.
Enjoy it with your hands!
Preparing curries requires lot of time and effort, so after all this hard work it should be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere, preferably with a glass of your favorite wine.
And remember: always use your hands to mop up your favorite curry using any spare rice or bread – and don’t forget to lick your fingers; you don’t want to waste any!