Indian restaurants in the western world have brought about a drastic conceptual change in the way people decipher Indian recipes - particularly the "curry".
For all of you who share curry love with me, I decided to post the basic Indian curry paste or masala in this post - the way we Indians make it in our homes - sans the calories & full of taste!
"Masala" is a very generic term used to describe any blend of spices or to refer to a thick sauce in Indian cooking.
Masala can be dry or wet, chunky or smooth, hot or mild. In curry making it is a pasty, spice mixture, that forms the base. You add water or broth to the masala and make a 'sauce' or 'curry". Curry is not a dish by itself in India, it is a sauce. You prefix the name of meat or vegetable before "curry" to derive the name of the dish...chicken curry, potato curry, cauliflower etc.
Traditional home-style north Indian masala is not cream laden, not made with curry powder, does not have cashew or almond pastes & is not silky smooth in texture.
It is chunky, healthy & light to eat. Indian masala has trio of onions, tomatoes & garlic or OTG. The basic trio of spices being coriander, turmeric & red chili powder which lend it the distinct consistency, color & heat.
The beautiful, deep orangish-red color is from the combination of red from chili & yellow from turmeric. This color depends on the quality of spices used and the slow cooking.
In everyday cooking,masala is not churned in food blenders or pureed through a sieve, it is cooked on low heat so that the onions & tomatoes soften but do not become mushy, and the natural sugars in them are caramelized.
Garam masala & amchoor (dry mango powder) are added as finishing spices to give it smoky and sour tastes respectively. Though rare, but sometimes, addition of both these items depends on what is it that you are making curry with.
This masala has a lot of uses, you can add it to boiling water while making rice for an instant curried flavor, use it as spread on tortillas, buns or wraps, mix it with some mayo & make a curried dip, beat with yogurt, mix some veggies & make a side to the main meal. I even use it as a pasta sauce sometimes ..I m weird 🙂 Another way I absolutely love this masala is on top of triangle paratha - absolute bliss! Or maybe devise your own way of eating it & let me know.
Pyaz Tamatar Masala - Everyday Indian Curry Paste
- ½ cup mustard oil or any cooking oil you use at home
- 1.5 cup onion finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 10 garlic cloves minced (we like masala more garlicky than usual, adjust quantity as per liking)
- 2 inch ginger minced
- 3 cup tomatoes finely chopped
- 1.5 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ tablespoon kashmiri chilli powder for color
- 1 tablespoon red chilli powder hot, adjust to taste
- 2 teaspoon salt
- In a heavy bottomed pan, add the oil and heat on high up till you see ripples on the surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat it till its smoking to do away the raw smell.
- Reduce heat to medium.Add the finely chopped onion and cook them till golden brown. About 8-12 minutes.
- Next, add the cumin seeds, minced garlic & ginger and cook for 1-2minutes till you start smelling the aroma.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with chilli, coriander, and turmeric powder. Also add salt.
- Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pot. About 10-15 minutes. If you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some water. Cook thoroughly to reduce liquid. This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, please do not rush. Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color.
- Remove the pan from stove and allow the masala to cool. Transfer to food safe containers for storing. The paste sits for up to 5 days refrigerated and 2 months in the freezer without losing flavor.