Categories
How To Indian Curry Vegetarian

Masala – Everyday Indian Curry Paste

Indian restaurants in the western world have brought about a drastic conceptual change in the way people decipher Indian recipes – particularly the “curry”. Curry has transformed from being healthy & brothy to oily and thick. How many of you avoid restaurant food on those days when you desire light dinner and don’t want to ogle at the pool of oil, which will welcome you when you order curry? As much as Indian food opens your appetite and makes you want to eat more, I m sure most of you would be eating the non traditional version of curry at restaurants,feeling sluggish, thereby putting it off on certain days. I do not intend to dismiss restaurant curry as devilish but it’s a far cry from what home-style Indian version is. Even though I love thick, creamy restaurant curries with all my heart, I will certainly not categorize it as something I want to cook in my home daily or healthy. So 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!

Onions Tomatoes & Garlic – The Veg Trio

Masala” is a very generic term used to describe any blend of spices in Indian cooking. Masala can be dry or wet, chunky or smooth, hot or mild, thick or brothy. In curry making it is a pasty, spice mixture, which 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.

Chili, Coriander & Turmeric Powder – The Spice Trio

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. The way onions, peppers & celery start any stew or soup in the western cuisine, the Indian masala has equivalent 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 to masala 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. As an example, I wont add both of these when making a fish curry, garam masala will overpower the mild taste of fish & citrus will be a better addition than amchoor. I hope you get an idea of what I m trying to say.

This masala has a lot of uses, you can whisk it in 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 which 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.



Please note that this recipe does not substitute the whole spices in Indian cooking.This recipe is to be used as a base in curry making.

Ingredients: – [Makes about 1 cup, can be doubled]

  • 4 tbsp mustard/olive/canola oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (We like masala more garlicky than usual, adjust as per liking)
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes (slightly sour)
  • 4 tsp coriander powder
  • 4 tsp red chili powder/cayenne  (We like masala hot , adjust quantity to tolerance depending on mild or hot you want the sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder, available in Indian stores)
  • 1tsp salt

Method: –

  • 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 6-8 minutes.
  • Next, add the cumin seeds, minced garlic & ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling the aroma.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with chilli, coriander, and turmeric powder. Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pan. About 10-12 minutes. If you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some water. Cook thoroughly to reduce water. 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 heat and mix in the salt, garam masala & amchoor.
  • Allow the masala to cool and transfer to jars for storing. The paste sits for up to 5 days refrigerated and 2 months in the freezer without losing flavor.
  • How to Use:– Whenever you want to use this masala for making curry, add the desired quantity of water to it,check the seasoning & bring to a boil. Next add the meats or vegetables, boiled beans, lentils and cook covered or in pressure cooker till tender.
Notes: –
  1. Although you can freeze this masala and save for later use, in Indian homes, it is prepared whenever needed. I recommend making a fresh batch everytime too.
  2. You can add anything and everything under the sun to the basic masala from coconut milk to cream to tamarind paste to yogurt to flavor it up depending on what you want to use it for.
Categories
Easy Recipes Lentils Side Dishes Vegetarian

Sukhi Urad Dal – Tempered Dry Lentils

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Ingredients: – (Serves 2-3) 

The recipe can be used to make any lentil variety you wish to. Just adjust the cooking time depending on the lentil type and whether it is split or whole.

  • 3/4 cup dhuli urad  (Split urad lentils, easily available in indian stores)
  • Water for Soaking (as a thumb rule, 1:3 ratio of lentils to water)
  • 1/2 cup water for cooking (or as required, depends on how old your lentils are, grain size etc)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • Fresh lime juice (as per taste)

For Tempering: –

  • 3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp sabut dhania (coriander seeds), crushed
  • 1/4 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger julians
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 3 Thai green chilies, chopped (adjust to tolerance)

Notes: Hing (asafoetida) is a pungent, unpleasant smelling indian spice but adds a lot of flavor to the tempering. Try getting it in powdered form in indian stores, trust me its worth the buy!

Method: –

Pick the urad dal and thoroughly wash it under a stream of water, 2-3 times. Let soak in enough water for at least 4-5 hours. Note: Soaking the dal is really important so that you don’t end up overcooking it on the stove. Once soaked, drain the water & discard. Spread the soaked lentils on a paper towel.

Cooking the Dal (lentils) – In a heavy bottomed pot with a lid/kadhai, add the soaked lentils along with turmeric powder, salt to taste & 1/2 cup of water. Note: -This quantity of water may sound less, but if your lentils are soaked properly, this amount of water is sufficient to cook them. Transfer the pot to the stovetop, cover with a lid & let the water come to a boil on high heat. When boiling, you will see some scum/foam on top of the lentils.Using a spoon, remove it. Once boiling,reduce the heat to minimum and let the lentils cook on low for about 8-10 minutes. You may need to go and gently stir once or twice in between while cooking to prevent lentils from sticking to bottom. Also if you feel that water needs to be adjusted, do so but add very less quantity of water at a time. The whole idea is not to end up with mushy lentils. We want the grains to remain intact and al dente. After you see that all the water has been absorbed by the lentils (approx 12 minutes from start), remove from heat and let the lentils sit in their own steam for 5-8 minutes. Fluff up with the help of fork once done. Tip:-Once the lentils have cooked & are hot, avoid stirring or mixing too much- they will become mushy.

Tempering the Dal: In a saucepan, add the ghee and let heat on medium. Once heated, add the cumin & coriander seeds and let crackle for about 30 secs. Be careful while adding the spices to hot ghee, they splutter. Reduce the heat to low and add the hing powder, sauté for 10 seconds. Just take care that the spices don’t burn. Add the ginger julians and garlic next and cook for 1-2 minutes till you smell the aroma. Increase the heat to medium and add the sliced onions and let the onions cook till they turn golden brown.About 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat once the onions have browned and add the red chili powder.

Immediately add this tempering to the cooked lentils along with garam masala and chopped green chilies. Mix thoroughly, adjust the salt if required and squirt some fresh lime juice.A dollop of melted ghee on top tastes amazing too.

Serve warm with flatbreads or rice.

Categories
Indian Curry Non vegetarian Side Dishes

Keeme Ke Kofte-Mutton Meatballs Curry

Given a choice,I prefer brothy, spice laden curries over the thick,sweetish,creamy ones.I like to sip the spiced broth which hits the back of tongue.Spices which do a happy dance in your mouth and leave behind a “gimme me more” feeling.There is something really addictive about spice blends unadulterated by sugar & cream.You start eating, and you don’t want to stop.There’s a rush of signals to the brain wanting you to have more of it.I have experienced this kind of feeling especially with fiery curries as the one I m sharing in this post.With P,it’s the opposite.For him, the creamier the better.He prefers spices in a creamy base,preparations which give him a rich, full feeling after the meal.Not that he doesn’t like, in fact I have hardly seen him not enjoying any kind of indian food but he is little partial towards the creamy ones.At home,we have struck a deal now.We alternate “his” & “my” kind of curry preparations.Its a win win situation for both of us.

Anyhow,the very sound of this dish reminds me of the bylanes of Jama Masjid area in Old Delhi where they the little eateries run by muslims chefs by the road side serve it with tandoori roti, warm ghee cumin rice & pickled onions.The koftas keep on simmering in a big metal handi[pot] with aromatic steam trying to escape from the sides of the lid.Me and P used to throng that place quite often before marriage.That area in Old Delhi is house to the world-famous Moti Mahal & Karim restaurants.But the sheer joy of eating at those streets is unmatched in front of these decadent places.The hustle-bustle of people, the narrow lanes, the rattling of vendors, everyone seems to be in a hurry during evening hours.But you wanna stop to relish the foods there. The aroma of spices mixed with the incense burning in those eateries was enticing.Sitting on an old, depleted wooden bench, dunking roti into the warm, spicy gravy served in a plain china dish,eating with hands and licking the fingers thereafter.No cutlery,no napkins..simple yet blissful moments of life.Ah,I miss those times.

This is my mom’s recipe who recreates it closest to the Old Delhi taste.One of my dad’s favorite things to eat,this was our supper almost every Saturday.There are two things which give this curry the “fiery ” element.First of all is the use of mustard oil.Now, if you have been reading my blog, you would have noticed that I innately use it in my cooking.Mustard oil, of course produced from mustard seeds has a pungent taste & a sinus irritating aroma similar to wasabi or horseradish.Its an acquired taste and can be very addictive.I cant imagine my kitchen without it.The second thing is the green chilies which make their way into the balls and the red chilli powder in the gravy.Yes, its the double amount of chillies.Though you can drop the ones in the mince if you want.

Kofta” is a term used for balls made out of minced vegetables or meat.If you like spicy, curries, this is just the one for you.It will take you to a virtual trip to those bylanes of Old Delhi.Succulent balls of mutton in a onion-sour yogurt base curry.I normally do not like to add tomatoes to red meat preparations,you can if you want.Try the recipe with minced lamb,beef or chicken and keep on adjusting the cooking time accordingly.Another thing I highly recommend is making this curry at least 4-5 hours in advance of your eating time, the longer the balls sit in the gravy, the tastier they get.Make sure to prepare extra because left overs taste AMAZING!Below goes the recipe, see the notes at the end:-

Mutton Kofta Curry [Serves 3-4]

Printable Recipe

For the Koftas or Meatballs: [Makes about 25 balls of the size shown]

  • 1 lb ground mutton/lamb/beef/chicken [I use lean mince]
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, grated
  • 1″ fresh ginger shoot, grated
  • 2 Thai green chillies, chopped finely
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold plain yogurt [slightly sour] to dip the koftas
For the Curry Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup thick onion paste
  • 1 fat garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder [If available else substitute with cayenne]
  • 1.5 tsp red chilli powder /cayenne [Adjust to taste]
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp mustard oil [substitute with any oil of choice]
Whole Spices:-
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1″ cinnamon stick
  • 4 pods green cardamom, break open
Required – A wide, heavy bottomed pot with lid big enough to layer the koftas in a single layer without having to stack on top of each other.

Method:-
Making the Koftas/Meatballs:-
  • Mix all the ingredients listed for the koftas except yogurt.Grease your palms & make medium balls of the mixture.I prefer to keep the size little.Do not make very big balls because the koftas swell while cooking.
  • Line the Koftas on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours[Very imp step, do not miss]
  • Add 3-4 tbsp of water to the yogurt and thin it out if required.Keep refrigerated until you begin cooking.
Making the curry sauce:
  • In the pot, heat the oil on high heat.Once the oil is smoking, reduce the heat to medium.It is important to cook mustard oil to smoky point at the start of cooking to do away with the raw smell.
  • Add the onion paste along with the whole spices and cook on medium heat till golden brown in color.
  • Next,add the grated garlic and saute for about 2 minutes.Next add coriander, turmeric , chilli powders, salt and cook the spice mix on medium heat till you see oil separating at the sides of the pot.About 8-10 minutes.
  • At this point add 1.5 -2 cups of water to the pot, stir well cover with lid and let the gravy come to a boil on high heat.
  • Once the gravy is boiling,lower the heat to the minimum possible on your stove.Take out the refrigerated koftas, dip them in cold ,thinned out yogurt one at a time and start tipping to the pot.Do not stack the koftas on top of each other, and do not overcrowd the pot because they will swell up as they cook.
  • After you have added all the koftas to the pot, add the yogurt [if remaining] to the pot too.Check the seasoning of the gravy at this point and adjust salt.
  • Cover the pot and let simmer.It takes about 20-25 minutes for the koftas to be fully cooked.Do not increase the flame/heat else the yogurt will cuddle.While they are simmering, you will need to come in between and gently stir the contents for even cooking,either stir using the handle of the pot or cover with lid,lift the pot wearing gloves in your hands and move the pot.Preferably, do not use spatula or spoon.
  • To check the doneness of the koftas- Take one out and cut it into half, if you see pink inside,more cooking is required.I usually cook the koftas totally, if you like rare or medium rare, adjust the cooking time.
  • At the end of cooking, you will see that the oil is floating on top of the pot & the gravy has thickened slightly.Adjust the consistency of the gravy at this point.If you are adding water, you will have to simmer the diluted gravy for extra 5 minutes.
  • Let the koftas rest for about 2-3 hours in the gravy for them to absorb flavors.I make them in the early to be eaten for dinner.The more they rest the more the flavor.
  • Serve warm with roti or cumin rice.

Notes:

  1. Test a single kofta first in the boiling gravy to make sure that it’s not spreading or crumbling away..In that case u need to add a binder [egg or cornstarch or flour] to the mix.I didnt need any.
  2. Take care not to overcook the koftas, they become hard.

Sending to Hearth n Soul #48