Authentic Indian Curry

My husband and I, on many occasions, have shaken our heads at the “curry” powder they sell at stores. Curry isn’t something that is premixed in a bottle. The beauty of “curry” is that it is customized. It becomes a family legacy. You learn the way your mom makes her curry and try to replicate it and 9 times out of 10 it’s different. That’s because it becomes YOUR curry. Then over the years you perfect your curry, learning from errors to create the perfect curry that your kids come home from college for. And the cycle repeats.

My family was mostly vegetarian, we ate chicken on occasion and by occasion I mean it had to be Christmas, or someone important was coming over. When I got to college, I ate a bit more meat and diversified a little, but I hadn’t really gotten into seafood or anything besides chicken and beef. Still it was American style and mostly bland. I ran home to my mom’s food almost every weekend.

When I met Jayesh, I realized just how much I hadn’t experienced food and it’s complexities. He introduced me to flavors that blew my mind. We both really enjoy eating and cooking, most of all cooking together. Together we have perfected our curry and much like a relationship, it took time, it took work, but we got it right.

On our first date Jayesh cooked for me his famous steak and I was thrilled that his steak recipe would be in my life forever. Sounds silly doesn’t it? Probably because you haven’t tried it. Together we explored the Indian spices, we experimented and tried different things, we had many victories in the kitchen. It’s a delicious love story…we fell in love over curry.

Here is how I make a basic authentic Indian curry. You can add any meat to this and it will alter the flavor slightly with the flavor of the meat. But these are the steps you use before you make any curry dish.

There are no measurements because that’s not how Indians do it. It’s always ‘a little of this’ or ‘a palm full of that’ or better yet ‘just wait for the color to change’. It’s fun.

Here what you will need:

Fresh Ingredients:

Onion – this will make up the bulk of the gravy so do as little or lot as you want.

Tomato – I usually use a can of Hot Rotel, but fresh tomatoes are just fine.

Jalapeno – how hot do you want it? I usually use one whole one, but if you don’t want it too spicy use a half.

Ginger – Use equal amounts as garlic

Garlic – I like a lot of garlic, it tastes good, smells good, and it’s great for you. So probably 3-4 big cloves.

“Curry leaves” aka sweet neem leaves aka ‘limbdo’- one full “branch”. About 20 leaves, 10 if they’re really aromatic. These are optional.

Tomato Paste – for thickness and a bit of tart flavor

Dry Ingredients:

Cumin-Coriander powder

Red Chili Powder

Turmeric

Salt – to taste

Peppercorns – 6-7 for a nice kick

Dried Red Chili – one or two depending on how much heat you want.

Mustard seeds – black ones just a couple of pinches.

Cumin Seeds aka ‘jeeru’ – 4-5 pinches

Cinnamon stick – one broken up

Before I get into this recipe, I made this to slow cook chicken. So it’s concentrated curry. I’ll let you know through out the recipe what changes I made. If you’re slow cooking meat like beef, lamb, goat, chicken, do what I did so that there is enough flavor to get into the meat and enough flavor after the meat releases water. Here we go!

Start prepping by chopping up all the fresh ingredients. I like to make things easier so I use a vidalia chopper but you could course chop the onions in a food processor. They just need to be diced up. I use my magic bullet and make a paste out of the ginger, garlic, and jalapeno. If you’re using fresh tomatoes you can throw those into that ginger garlic paste as well. I like the tomato chunks from the rotel so I just pour the can in to the pan, liquid and all.

Heat up some oil and add in cumin seeds, peppercorn, mustard seeds, cinnamon, dried red chilis, and curry leaves. Add the curry leaves after the other ingredients are mostly fried up. The leaves fry faster and will start to burn.

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The mustard seeds will start to pop so be careful. Once that’s happening add in the onions. Stir the onions frequently, and cook until they are translucent.

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Once the onions are translucent, add in the ginger garlic jalapeno paste and stir. Let it cook for just a minute or two.

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Add in the tomatoes if you’re using canned tomatoes.

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Stir and cook for just a minute or two. Then start to add in your dry spices. The trifecta goes in first. I do about equal amounts of red, yellow, and brown. With perhaps a little less of the yellow because it can add too much bitter. The idea is to round out the flavor so you don’t taste too much of anything. I added heaping spoons to this. HEAPING.

Cumin Coriander Powder

Cumin Coriander Powder

Turmeric Powder

Turmeric Powder

Red Chili Powder

Red Chili Powder

I did about two-ish spoons. The color should turn a golden rust color. Add in some salt to taste. At this point you can add Garam Masala if you want and also ground pepper adds a nice heat. The thing with adding flavors…you want to build. I build layers of heat. So I season the oil, sauté jalapeno, add chili powder, and that creates a different kind of spicy than if you just add chili powder at the end. Its tasty and tolerable.

At this point you might notice the curry looks a bit dry.

I add in Swanson’s chicken broth. You could use vegetable broth if you’re vegetarian. It’s better than water which will completely dilute your flavor. I use the low sodium broth so it doesn’t throw off my salt proportions. If you’re slow cooking with this, you want to add a bit more salt than necessary. As you’re tasting it, if it seems like something is missing or it seems kind of bland, try adding a bit of salt. It really opens up the other flavors. Something else I do is add sugar to round out the flavor. It shouldn’t taste sweet though, just enhance.

After broth add in about a tablespoon or so of tomato paste. This will thicken up the gravy and add a tangy flavor. Don’t add too much. Just little by little until the consistency is right. This is the consistency you need if you’re slow cooking:

 

If you’re planning to finish up on the stove go ahead and add the meat in and watch the consistency. The meat will release water so in the end if it’s too watery just simmer until the water cooks off.

The longer you simmer curry the better the flavors get. So if you’re using seafood that cooks pretty fast, let your curry simmer for a while before adding in fish or shrimp.

If you’re using a tough meat like lamb or goat, use a pressure cooker or slow cooker to get the meat tender. I do this with chicken sometimes, but mostly we do chicken on the stovetop.

If you want the meat to be tasty, do not cook it before you add it to the curry.

I didn’t get a picture of the end result, but I used about 3-ish pounds of boneless skinless thigh and it was AMAZING.

Like I said at the start, curry is customized for you. So you can follow my recipe and make modifications. Maybe you don’t like it too spicy, maybe you don’t like the mustardy heat. Just change up the proportions and make your own. Let me know if you have questions!

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Slow Cooker Butter Chicken – Vegetarian Substitute Tofu

 

If you’ve never tried Indian food, this is a good place to start.  Butter chicken is one of my favorite dishes.  It is so decadent and really very bad for you, but so so delicious.  There’s ways you can cut back on the fat and calories, but it just won’t taste as good!

My crock pot broke 😦 so I wasn’t able to make this with step by step pictures as per usual.  If you don’t have a crock pot you can make this on the stove and just simmer for a while.  The flavor really matures over time, but it will still taste good either way you do it.
This isn’t entirely from scratch, but it is the easiest way to do it at home.

Here’s what you need:

4-6 boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil

Stir fry these ingredients on medium heat until the chicken has some color and the onion is translucent. Then pour entire contents of pan into crock pot.

Then add:

15 cardamom pods (we just eat these, but if you don’t just put them in some cheesecloth)
2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp curry paste (like Patak’s hot curry paste)
1 tsp red chili powder (optional)
2 tsp tandoori masala
1 tsp garam masala
8 oz (?) of heavy cream or milk (you can use coconut milk, but that makes it Thai!)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 5.5 fl oz can of tomato paste
Salt/Pepper to taste

Throw all of that into your crock pot and mix gently.  Set it to high for 4-6hours or medium for 6-8 hours.
Serve it with some rice or naan.  I have a good recipe for home made naan without a tandoor!  Ours tastes just like the restaurant kind!  I’ll give you that recipe soon.

 

A couple of notes from the chef 🙂

If you have Indian spices at home use those to customize this dish.  If you like more of certain flavors.  The ingredients I listed make this dish less complicated and more user friendly.  If you aren’t used to cooking with Indian spices, it can be intimidating until you learn them and figure out what each one adds to the dish.  You should be able to find the things I listed here in the international aisle.

Also feel free to increase the amounts of curry powder or curry paste.  2 tsp is really very little, usually I am putting spices in by the tablespoons.

Another thing that really adds to the flavor is using bone in chicken and getting it cut so that the marrow is exposed.  The marrow darkens the gravy and just adds a nice flavor to it.

For vegetarians just add in tofu where there’s chicken!  Simple!  You should probably saute the onion and garlic before you add in the tofu because tofu doesn’t take long to brown.

If you have any questions, feel free to write me.  If you end up making it please tell me about your experience!

 

 

Not Egg-zactly Your Average Scramble…

This morning my husband and I made our version of scrambled eggs.  I’m going to share this top secret recipe with you in hopes that you’ll love this flavor explosion just as much as we do.  I apologize in advance for the lack of measurement information.  You see we pretty much eyeball everything and don’t measure anything.  A general rule with the indian spices is to keep them even.  We call them the trifecta – cumin-coriander powder, red chilli powder, and turmeric.  So anyway here we go!

You will need (in no apparent order):

Eggs – As many as you would like

Salt – For taste

Cumin-Coriander powder

Red Chilli Powder

Turmeric

Chillies (green or red)

Onion

Tomato

Cilantro

Garlic

Milk

Cumin Seeds

Olive Oil

Chop up the fresh ingredients (onion, tomato, garlic, chilies, cilantro) and have them ready.  You will keep the tomato and cilantro till the end.

Crack the eggs and add a little milk for fluffiness.  Whisk away!

Heat up a little olive oil and add the cumin seeds.  Once they start crackling they’re ready.
Add in the garlic and onion and saute until the onion is translucent and starting to brown a bit.
 
Now the fun part!!  Add in the powdered seasoning to the eggs.  If you’re making 6 eggs like we did, add about a teaspoon of chili powder and turmeric and a bit more of the cumin-coriander powder.  Add in a bit of salt and whisk.  Once the spices are incorporated add  the eggs to the skillet.
Slowly rake the spatula through it every so often so that it will move away the cooked part and let more liquid on the skillet.  So basically-scramble it.
Remember that tomato and cilantro?
Throw it on top!  We also like to add cheese.  I add salsa and my husband likes to add Chipotle Tabasco.  Dress it whatever way you like!  We had some mashed potatoes from the night before so we just had that….
If you don’t eat a lot of Indian food, this will blow your mind.  It’s just a matter of balancing spices.  That trifecta I was talking about is what makes curry.  There’s no “curry” seasoning.  It’s a mixture of things, mainly the trifecta.  Here’s a breakdown of the spices:
Center: Cumin seeds
Top left: salt
top right: mustard seeds
right: pepper
bottom right: red chili powder
bottom left: turmeric
left: cumin-coriander powder
I also use cinnamon sticks, cloves, and curry leaves, but they’re in bigger jars and the leaves are in the fridge.  You’ll find that most dishes from Western India start in pretty much the same way, but somehow in the end…it’s always different!
You can find these types of containers at Indian stores.   Fill it with what you use the most of.  It’s very handy to keep out, the container isn’t ugly and you don’t have to dig for your key ingredients.  I love mine!
I plan on posting an Indian recipe- curry of some kind, daal, etc.  What would you like to see?  I’m open to suggestions.  Enjoy!