Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Basic Curry

This is my basic tomato-based curry which gives pretty good results, better than something in a jar and better than just using some generic "curry powder". It's pretty flexible and can be the basis for several variations on the theme which are noted at the end.

  • 4 or so chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
  • Large sweet yellow onion
  • Garlic cloves -- 4 or more
  • Root ginger -- an inch or two
  • Chiles - Jalapenos and/or Serranos work well. Use your own judgment depending on how hot you like things. I would usually got with 2 x jalapenos for a middle of the road level of heat.
  • Prego tomato sauce or similar. I know that sounds weird and Italian but it's a great tomato based sauce. Just make sure you use a plain variation, not one full of oregano or mushrooms or something... 
  • Cumin seeds -- 0.5 tsp
  • Cumin/Coriander powder -- 1 tbsp. In Indian grocery stores they sell ground cumin/coriander premixed. If you have separate cumin and coriander powder then just mix them approx 50/50.
  • Garam Masala -- a spice mix. Best value is in Indian grocery stores but I have seen this in regular grocery stores too.
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • Lemon juice -- 1-2 tbsp
  • Cilantro -- about 8 stalks + leaves chopped

How to cook it
Chop the onion, garlic and ginger. Cut the chilies in half - I generally leave the seeds in.

Heat ~3-4 tbsp vegetable oil until hot. Drop in the cumin seeds and they should quickly darken as they sizzle in the oil. Now add the chopped onion and chilies. Fry for 5-10 minutes before adding the ginger and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes.

Add in the cumin/coriander powder, garam masala and turmeric. Stir in well and cook for a minute or so. Now add the chicken and cook until mostly sealed. Add the Prego, cilantro, lemon juice and salt. You'll probably want to add a bit of water to thin out the sauce -- I usually do this by rinsing out the Prego jar with some water and then tossing that in. Stir well and bring up to a simmer. It will probably take about 20 minutes or so for the chicken to be fully cooked.

Taste and adjust as necessary. Might need a bit more salt, lemon juice or cumin/coriander powder to bring things into balance.

You *should* serve this with white basmati rice, and if you do make sure it's not the Californian crap ;-) Get something from the Indian subcontinent. These days I quite often do it with brown rice which takes a little getting used to but is still very nice if not very authentic.

It's also nice to have some raita on the side with this which I make by combining some plain yoghurt, English (hothouse?) cucumber chunks and mint and letting sit in the fridge whilst cooking so the flavors blend. You can also stick some diced chili in that mix if you haven't got enough heat already.

This keeps and freezes pretty well in the event you can stop yourself from eating it all at once.

  • Consider adding in any of the following (all is nice) up front with the cumin seeds to create a richer flavor: half a dozen cloves, cardomom pods, a cinnamon stick, a star anise, 2 x bay leaves
  • Fenugreek seeds can be added in up front with the cumin seeds to create a very distinct flavor
  • Puree the onion/garlic/ginger and then very roughly cut up a second onion. Start by frying the whole spices then add the chilies and chunks of onion. Fry for a bit before adding the puree to create a "do piaza" (double onion) style curry
  • Cook some potatoes and add these in ~10 mins from the end
  • Substitute the Prego for diced tomatoes
  • Use fresh tomatoes cut up....they reduce down and make a nice sauce usually

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