A Guardian article claimed to make cooking the perfect curry easy, with just three simple steps – spicing, foundation and body. According to the piece, these are the only key steps. If you get them right, you will be rewarded with a delicious Indian dish every time.
It is great to see people being encouraged to get in the kitchen and experiment with Indian cuisine, because more often than not, non-Indian cooks look at these recipes (with their long lists of ingredients and precise instructions) as simply being too complicated to conquer without help.
This is why Indian takeaways are so popular – people in Britain love this cuisine, but they know that it can be a tricky one to get right. For adventurous cooks, there is surely less fear in a homemade chicken balti or a lamb madras, but it can still be the case that getting it right is a real chore.
For all of these reasons, we are glad to see the Guardian tackling Indian recipes with a fresh eye. It is not wrong to suggest that wonderful dishes can be built on three simple steps. There is nothing more important to a homemade Indian curry than the mix of spices that you choose, the way that you cook your garlic and onion base, and your choice of body.
Yet, these are not the only important steps. In many ways, cooking a great Indian dish is just as much about instinct as it is precision. The very best curries are those with a healthy splash of personality, the ones that are not a carbon copy of a recipe that you found in a dog-eared cookbook.
This is a cuisine that is all about personality – flavour, colour and vibrancy are everything to an Indian dish. In fact, there is no better excuse to get every spice out of the rack, empty the fridge, and make a mess, whilst you are making a masterpiece. You might not get it perfectly right the first, or even the second time, but keep tasting, keep experimenting, and you will end up with the perfect curry.
These are the three steps that you need to get right, but after that, the dish is yours to play with.
Rule One – it is okay to be generous with your spices. It is their job to provide flavour and colour, so do not be afraid to dip into vibrant bags and boxes of ingredients with a table spoon, rather than with an often misleadingly small supermarket container.
As each Indian curry requires its own mix of spices, it is a good idea to consult a recipe for a basic foundation, but there is no harm in altering or adjusting the quantities to your tastes. Once you have the basic flavours in place, you are free to experiment.
For a range of freshly packaged, beautifully presented and easy to use ground and whole spices, visit the spice section of the SpiceWala online store.
Rule Two – it is important to decide how you are going to cook your garlic, onion and ginger. Yes, inexperienced cooks, there is more than one way in which this can be done. In fact, if you are worried about bad breath, it is okay to leave the garlic out altogether.
For lighter curries, like korma or murgh masala, soften the ingredients on a low heat, but do not allow them to caramelise or colour. For darker curries, like vindaloo or madras, it is okay to let your onions, ginger and garlic turn brown and start to provide a deep, rich flavour.
Rule Three – next, it is time to decide what will form the body of your curry sauce. Once again, this will depend on the type of dish that you are hoping to create. The three most common bases are tomatoes and peppers; yoghurt cream, or coconut milk; and spinach and onion.
There is room for experimentation here, but keep in mind the fact that rich, earthy dishes like madras must sit on a similarly rich tomato sauce, whilst lighter, creamier dishes tend to eschew the tomato base altogether, in favour of yogurt of coconut. A spinach base is great for dishes like Bombay potatoes and saag aloo, and curries consisting of paneer.
Once you have these three steps mastered, we recommend a strict regime of frequent taste tests, heat changes, and a lot of love and attention. It can take a long time to finish a quality Indian dish, and these recipes very often do require a long list of ingredients, but they are always deeply satisfying.
It is time to conquer your fear of Indian cuisine, and start experimenting with the greatest dishes in the world – give it a little time and patience, and you will be throwing together a tasty keema kofta masala, or murgh kari, in no time.