Did you know it’s National Curry Week?! That’s right, from Monday October 9th until Sunday October 15th, the UK will be celebrating its love of all things curry. There’ll be bhaji rolling, korma wrestling, guess how many cumin seeds in the jar contests … we’re making this up, but it’s a lovely excuse for a celebration – and a curry!
But before you reach for the menu for your local Indian takeaway to join in the party, think about taking the celebrations one step further by going all out and making your own curry. And we don’t mean just opening a jar and adding some chicken – no, we mean doing everything from scratch, even your own curry paste. It’s really not as complex as you might think.
Making a basic curry paste
Every different type of curry has its own unique paste at its base; korma, tikka masala, balti, bhuna, madras, jalfrezi, vindaloo – you name it, it has its own curry paste. But every paste contains a few key ingredients as a base, which can then be tweaked for each different dish, or to make up your own.
To start with, you’ll need an onion, some garlic, ginger and fresh chilli. These will need frying until soft, before being blended in your food processor. And there you have it, a base curry paste that you can add whichever spices you like to – you can follow My Dainty Soul Curry’s recipe to make sure you get your quantities right. We told you it was easy!
Tweaking your curry paste for your dish
This basic curry paste will form the basis of every Indian dish you cook, so make it in large batches and freeze in small pots or sandwich bags until you need it.
To turn your base into the paste of a specific curry, you’ll now need to add herbs and spices; fresh ones will add a slightly sharper taste compared to dried, but both work just fine.
Korma is one of the mildest types of curry, so to turn your paste into a korma base, add tomato puree, cumin seeds, coriander, garam masala, turmeric and ground cashews to your onion and garlic mix, blending everything together.
We know that’s a lot of spices for a mild dish, but that’s what Indian cooking is all about! If you really don’t think you can handle the heat, leave out the garam masala and turmeric for a very mild, creamier tasting sauce.
Next up on the spice-o-meter is one of the UK’s favourite dishes, tikka masala. Although every Indian family has their own closely-guarded recipe for these different pastes, this one typically contains cayenne pepper, garam masala, paprika, tomato puree and coriander. Check out Proper Foodie’s recipe if you want clear instructions to follow.
Madras is definitely a hot curry; not quite the hottest, but hot all the same. It gets this heat from chilli powder and mustard powder, and you might want to add an extra chilli to your paste base too. An Edible Mosaic has a simple ten-minute recipe for homemade madras paste that’s bursting with flavour and spice.
Now we’re really turning up the heat. A vindaloo is the hottest curry you’ll find on most restaurant menus. To make your own vindaloo paste, you’ll need to add a lot more chilli to the basic recipe, as well as mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, hot chilli powder and a whole host of other herbs and spices. Titli’s Busy Kitchen has a good, authentic recipe to follow to get you started.
Turning your paste into a curry
Once you’ve nailed your curry paste, you can turn it into an actual curry. We’d recommend frying your chosen meat or fish first – chicken, beef, lamb, pork, prawns and salmon are all great in a curry – along with an onion, some more crushed garlic and a generous tablespoon of your homemade paste.
Once the meat is cooked, you’ll need to add a liquid element to create your sauce. For a creamy curry like korma, use coconut milk; for a tomato-based curry like madras, use a tin of chopped tomatoes, or a carton of passata for a smoother end result; for a dish that’s both creamy and tomato-y like tikka masala, use chopped tomatoes and stir in some natural yoghurt once you’ve removed the pan from the heat. It gets pretty exciting as it all comes together and starts to look like a proper curry!
If you’re making a vegetarian curry, add your vegetables or chickpeas to the pan at the same time as the liquid, after you’ve infused your onion and garlic with those gorgeous flavours from your homemade curry paste. Your kitchen will smell wonderfully fragrant while it’s cooking.
Once cooked, serve with rice and a refreshing side salad, or go one step further by creating some delicious curry side dishes all for yourself. You’ll be amazed how east chapatis are to make!
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even make every night curry night to celebrate National Curry Week. That one basic paste will taste mind-blowingly different in each dish you cook – just ensure you don’t blow your mouth off too!