A Driving Instructor's Blog

If you want to make a decent curry in the restaurant style – and I mean the taste/appearance, not the minute detail of how you actually cook it – you need to do it in stages. You’ll have to make up a batch of basic curry gravy, and get hold of a suitable spice mix otherwise known as curry powder before you can actually make your curry.

Let me clarify again what I mean by restaurant-style: I do not mean that this is exactly how they make it – I mean that it tastes like one you’d buy from the restaurant. That’s not to say that some elements of the preparation aren’t similar to those they use in some takeaways, however.

Basic Curry Gravy (2012 Version)

This new gravy recipe (as of August 2012) is one I developed myself. I’ve now removed the old one, but this new one is a million times better. Don’t let the four stages put you off – that’s just to keep the process tidy. It really is quick and easy.

Stage 1

Onions 1.7-2.0kg
Red Pepper 1 large
Chicken Bouillon* 80g
Chicken Powder* 40g

Chop the onions and red pepper roughly and place in a large pot along with the chicken bouillon and chicken powder. Cover with water (approximately 2L) and bring to the boil. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent catching as the liquid reduces slightly.

Stage 2

Chopped Tomatoes 400g tin
Tomato puree 2 tbsp

Add the tomatoes and tomato puree and bring back to a simmer. Cook for a further 30 minutes, stirring more frequently as it will catch more easily now.

Stage 3

Salt 1 tsp
Curry Powder** 3 tbsp
Garam Masala 2 tsp
Turmeric 2 tbsp
Garlic (pureed) 4 tbsp
Ginger (pureed) 4 tbsp
Oil 200mls

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok and fry the garlic and ginger until slightly browned. Add the spices and cook for 30-60 seconds. You must keep stirring at this point as the spices will stick very easily. Pour the spice mixture directly on to the onion broth and stir in. Cook for a further 30 minutes, and stir frequently to prevent it catching too much.

Stage 4

Fresh Coriander 1 large bunch

Chop the coriander roughly and add it to the mixture. Simmer for a final 15 minutes.

Let the mixture cool slightly and then pass it through a sieve or puree it in a blender. Once completely cool, freeze it in portions (about 200-250g is enough for a large chicken breast).

* Anyone reading this is going to be wondering about those two items in Stage 1 – the chicken bouillon and powder. Well, they are both made by Knorr and I buy mine in bulk packs from my local cash & carry. They’re catering products, and I don’t think you can buy them in smaller sizes.

** The curry powder I use is my own blend of 20 parts Kashmiri Basaar Original (King of Spice brand) to 5 parts turmeric.

Even at the end of Stages 1 and 2 the broth tastes good – you could probably serve it as a soup, or use it as the basis of one. By the end of Stage 4 the smell will knock you out.

Curry Powder Blend

I mentioned in the new recipe, above, that I use a mixture of 20 parts Kashmiri Basaar Original (King of Spice brand) to 5 parts Turmeric. You can add 1 part chilli flakes if you like, but I prefer to adjust the heat using fresh chillis. Just mix it up by shaking in a bag or closed container and store in an airtight jar.

Chicken Curry Recipe (2012 Version)

This is the curry that I make most often now. It is MY recipe – not one from a restaurant. However, it uses Fenugreek (Methi) leaves and the final appearance and taste is very close to what I buy in some takeaways.

Cumin seeds ½ tsp
Chicken Breast (diced) 1 large
Onion (finely chopped) 1 medium
Red Pepper (chopped) ½ large
Garlic/Ginger paste 4 tbsp
Chilli to taste
Curry Powder 1-2 tbsp
Curry Gravy 1 portion
Methi Leaves (dry) 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Coriander (chopped) ½-1 bunch
Oil qs

NOTE: The trick is to have all your ingredients prepared and ready to use. That way, making the curry only takes about 15-20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok until very hot then add the Cumin seeds until they crackle.

Stirring all the time, add the garlic/ginger paste and cook until it starts to brown slightly. Still stirring, add the onion  and cook until just starting to turn golden. Add the chicken and cook for several minutes until completely sealed. Add the red pepper and cook for a few minutes. Finally, add the chilli (I use half a Scotch Bonnet, chopped finely, but you can use chilli flakes or powder, or any fresh chilli you like – or none at all).

Add the curry powder and Turmeric and allow to cook for 1 minute with constant stirring.

Add the curry gravy – you can relax a bit now, as it won’t catch so easily – and the Methi leaves. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring often and adding a little water if it gets too dry.

Taste it and add salt if necessary.

Finally, stir in the chopped Coriander and cook for a minute or two.

NOTE: I also like to add a handful of Chickpeas sometimes, just after the curry gravy.

This will easily serve two people, maybe even three. Or just me.

Pilau Rice

This is how I cook it now (based on an idea given me by a reader). I don’t care how it compares to the restaurant – it makes fluffy and separated rice with a great flavour.

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add a few Green Cardamoms, a few Cloves, a stick of Cassia Bark, a Bay Leaf, 1 tsp of salt, and the Basmati Rice. Simmer gently for about 7-9 minutes.

Pour the part-cooked rice and spices into a colander or suitable sieve. Rinse thoroughly with boiling water.

Place the sieve over (not in) a pan of boiling water and cover. Allow the rice to finish cooking by steaming.

Summary

I’ve updated the recipes and the results from these are absolutely delicious.

I’d suspected for a while that there was something a bit “soupy” about the gravy the restaurants used. I heard a story about using “chicken soup” to make curry, and then one of my ex-pupils (who was a chef, though not in an Indian restaurant) confirmed that they used chicken bouillon powder to make their curry. The old recipe used chicken stock cubes for this purpose, and that partly filled the “taste hole” that was always there when I made a curry.

But bouillon and chicken powder are light years ahead of that.

How much garam masala should I use in a curry?

It doesn’t matter if it’s East End brand or whatever (someone found the blog by asking that).

Personally, I don’t always use garam masala in my curries – it doesn’t make much difference if you’ve got a decent curry powder in the first place (see recipes above). Garam masala is usually more important in proper Indian recipes (as opposed to restaurant ones).

I use between ½ and 1 teaspoon for a normal curry (i.e. one using a whole chicken breast), and I put it in right at the end. I vary the amount depending on how much is in the wok.

How do I drain excess oil from curry?

Just let it stand while it’s hot and the oil will rise to the surface. Then you can either pour it off, or use a spoon to remove it a bit at a time.

My advice is not to remove too much – curry isn’t curry without some oil (ditto for salt).

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