With institutions like National Curry Week and the National Curry Awards now an established part of the industry, it is easier than ever to show some love for your favourite restaurant.
If you are a keen fan of Indian cuisine, you probably dine out fairly regularly. There are literally thousands of amazing Indian restaurants (somewhere in the range of 12,000) currently cooking up a storm all across the country and they rely on your passion and enthusiasm for great food.
Yet, a love for Indian food cannot be complete with a curiosity about what makes it tick. You might be an old pro at whipping up a balti. You might not know your bay leaves from your cardamom pods. You might have a little experience with basic recipes and want to try something new – no matter what your level of skill, there is a dish out there for you.
These top 5 industry secrets, from a range of culinary experts – including head chefs, food authors, and restaurant critics – will help you learn how to put together amazing Indian curries in no time.
Know Your Spices
National Curry Week Spices. One of the most common mistakes that amateur cooks make is to disregard the differences between Indian spices. There are finishing spices, which tend to be the more costly ingredients (nutmeg, cinnamon, garam masala, cardamom, and mace), and there are Indian cooking spices (turmeric, chilli powder, cumin, coriander). You should only add finishing spices at the very end of the cooking process, so that they do not lose their flavour.
Choose Cuts on the Bone
For carnivores, it is always best to opt for cuts of meat which are still on the bone. The fat and juices from the lamb, chicken, or beef are what give a homemade sauce real depth and flavour. If you really want to impress, buy a top quality cut of lamb and slow cook it in a rich balti sauce.
Always Caramelise the Onions
According to most professional chefs, it is a mistake to stop frying or sautéing onions before they are really brown in colour. It can often feel like onions are burning when they start to get that rich and crispy edge, but the experts disagree. They say, the key to a truly delicious Indian curry, is perfectly caramelised onions.
Be Brave with Your Spices
This is a very important piece of advice, because Indian curries are not supposed to be static entities. They are ever changing, ever developing dishes and every chef has their own unique version of each. You should feel free to experiment with your own version too – whilst it is fine to follow a recipe book, there is no harm in tweaking the spice combinations to suit your taste. You should never panic if you make a mistake. You only have to taste, assess, and make a judgement as to what the dish needs.
Add Chillies at the Right Time
There is more to chilli peppers than just heat, so it makes sense to learn how and when to add them to a curry so that they serve a range of different purposes. For example, chillies added quite early on in the cooking process will produce a fairly mild level of heat, but chillies introduced near the end of cooking will pack a fiery punch. You can cater to different tolerances, by adding whole chilli peppers and only serving them to brave diners.