Discover Curry Paste

The introduction of Curry pastes to the supermarket shelves is a great boon for curry lovers. They cut the work out of preparing your own curry, with all that tiresome chopping and blending. But aren’t they just another form of ‘fast food’, offering a lazy short-cut for those who can’t be bothered to invest their time into cooking? Here we look at the pros and cons of curry pastes, and how you can make your own to give you the best of both worlds.

Curry in a Jar?

It sounds like a shortcut, and it is. However curry pastes themselves have been around for decades, and you are just as likely to find them in the cupboard of an Indian housewife as anyone else. Whilst cooking curry is a fine art form to some, for others it really is a daily chore, and becomes as routine as any other type of family meal cooking. In this situation there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a pre-prepared curry paste, most of which are actually extremely well made, with a good combination of ingredients. The secret is to fry the paste with a little water when you begin to cook, until the fragrance is released. It will melt the in the oil and get your dish off to a great start. You are free to add whole or ground spices to your instant curry to give it a little more depth and a handful of coriander leaves will never go amiss.

Making Your Own

For those who would never consider taking a short cut there is no need to reject the idea of curry paste at all. Restaurateurs, who usually have to take some short cuts to keep costs down so that they can pay shop insurance and overheads, will often prepare a big batch of curry paste at the beginning of the week. Curry paste is just a way of combining fresh ingredients in a base of oil or some other moist ingredient, such as tomatoes. Tomato based curry pastes are favoured in northern India, whilst in the south there is more of a tendency to use coconut, tamarind, curry leaves and lentils. Some families add a dairy product to the paste for a creamier curry. If you prefer, a ‘wet mix’ can be made from fresh onions, garlic, chilies and ginger, cooked and blended together. To your chosen ‘wet mix’ you add a mixture of dry spices, which combine to make a garam masala powder. Everyone has their own garam masala recipe, and the spice mixes are a jealously guarded secret for some. This is where the true art of spice combining comes into play. Experiment with your own ideas – start of with the basic dry spices, including cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cloves and black pepper, and then add or subtract as you wish. Some wonderful combinations can be achieved.

You can of course, throw the rule book out of the window and busk towards your own personal curry paste recipe, and this can be the best way for some real curry lovers to achieve what they are looking for. Experimentation is the key with all cooking, along with a fearlessness about failing and trying again. It’s quite difficult to fail at making a curry paste, however, and it is generally simply finding new combinations to improve on the last one you made. They keep well in a sealed container in the fridge, so you will have plenty of time-saving but freshly made curry paste to see you through the week. Get cooking curry lovers, and see what you can do with curry paste. Here is a southern Indian curry recipe with a bit of a kick.

Southern Indian Curry Paste

Ingredients

2  dessert  spoons  coriander  seeds

2  heaped  teaspoons  ground  turmeric

2  good  pinches  hot  paprika

2  teaspoons  fenugreek  whole

2  teaspoons  black  mustard  seeds

2-3  green  chillies

Large  handful  fresh  coriander,  stalks  & leaves  separated

Olive  oil

Sea  salt

Freshly  ground  black  pepper

2  dessert  spoons  tomato  puree

2  inch  piece  of  fresh  ginger  –  skin   removed

5-6  cloves  of  garlic,  skin  removed

Method

  • Heat  a  small  pan,  add  a  little  oil   on  a  low  to  medium  heat
  • add  in  the  coriander  seeds,   fenugreek  and  black  mustard  seeds.
  • Add  in  the  ground  paprika  and  turmeric  heat  for  1  minute  then  remove  from  the  heat,  allow   to  cool  down  a  little.
  • Clean  the  ginger  by  scraping  off  skin  with  a  teaspoon,  then  roughly  chopDo the  same   to  garlic  cloves
  • Add the garlic, ginger  and  green  chillies  to  the   pestle  and   along  with  the  cooled  spices  and  pound  down  well
  • Add chopped  coriander  stalks
  • Add  the  fresh  coriander,  tomato  paste  and  a  lug  of  olive  oil,  then whizz  up  again  until  you  have   a  smooth  paste.
  • Add salt  and  pepper  to  season.  If it’s too  thick  adjust  with  a  little  olive oil.
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