Sunday, September 17, 2006

Base Curry Sauce

I've been meaning to do this for a while now, but it'll be lengthy and involve several posts so I've put it off a bit. But anyway, now is the time, so here we go. I ordered online a cookbook specific to replicating the curry dishes that can be had in English curry houses. Curry as we know it (Vindaloo, Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken and all that stuff) isn't really from India normally can't go there and just find it (unless they have some places now to keep the tourists happy). In the 1970's when "Indian" food really took off in England, it was actually restaurateurs from Bangladesh, mostly the city of Sylhet.

So, the book. It's not exactly a series of separate recipes, but more of a "system" that a restaurant would follow, as they have to put out a lot of food in a fairly short time, but the food benefits from long cooking. To solve this issues, they make a vast amount of a long-cooked basic sauce, and a basic stock. Pretty much every dish is created from this base, saving a lot of time. It's not unlike a typical Italian place which has many dishes coming forth from a gigantic pot of a basic tomato sauce. I've previously posted one finished dish from this system, Beef Bhuna, but note there is no recipe. I really appreciate this book and the author's intent, so I won't publish and recipes except for the few that he has available as "samples" and are publicly available from his website.

So, a day or two before you are going to cook your dishes for the guests, you make your sauce and stock and keep them on hand, this way when it's time to start cranking out dishes you're pretty much 1/2 done already.

Curry Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter)
  • 2 medium onions - finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic - peeled and sliced
  • 1.5 inch piece root ginger - peeled and thinly sliced (it should look about the same volume as the garlic)
  • teaspoon turmeric powder
  • teaspoon ground cumin seed
  • teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 small can of tomato paste mixed with 1 cup of water
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pan then add the chopped onion and stir for a few minutes with the heat on high.
  2. Add the ginger, garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then put the heat down to very low.
  3. Cook for 15 minutes stirring from time to time making sure nothing browns or burns.
  4. Add the turmeric, cumin and coriander and cook, still very gently, for a further 5 minutes. Don't burn the spices or the sauce will taste horrid - sprinkle on a few drops of water if you're worried.
  5. Take off the heat and cool a little. Put 4 fl oz cold water in a blender/food processor, add the contents of the pan and whizz until very smooth. Add the tomato paste mixture and stir. Even better, do this right in the pot and use a stick blender.
  6. Put the puréed mixture back into the pan and cook for 20 - 30 minutes (the longer the better) over very low heat stirring occasionally. You can add a little hot water if it starts to catch on the pan but the idea is to gently "fry" the sauce which will darken in colour to an orangy brown. The final texture should be something like good tomato ketchup. Keep in the fridge until needed.

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