This is a sublime curry. Defined by its subtle layering of spices, this dish is perfect for a Saturday night in. Even better when there’s enough left to develop, savoured as a heartwarming Monday supper.
My husband first learnt this one on a cookery course with Prett Tejura back in England. (more on Prett’s cookery school). To achieve the carefully balanced layers it’s important to source good spices, measure the ingredients correctly and follow the method carefully.
We tend to make the sauce a day or so in advance. That’s not a must – but having tried both ways, I think there’s a greater depth of flavour when the curry is made in advance.
To make enough masala for 2 people (with lots of seconds for another day) or a generous meal for 4, you will need:
• 2 medium white onions finely chopped
• 4 tbsp sunflower oil (There are more notes about cooking oil at the bottom of this post)
• 5cm stick of cinnamon
• 8 cloves
• 1 tsp coriander powder
• 1 tsp cumin powder
• 2 tsp garam masala
• 1 tsp turmeric powder
• ½ tsp red chilli powder
• 3 tsp crushed garlic
• 2 tsp crushed fresh ginger
• 2 tsp chopped green chillies (the smaller ones pack a better punch)
• 1 can of chopped tomatoes
• 2 tsp salt (to your taste)
• Generous handful chopped coriander
• Meat or vegetables to add to the Masala sauce (see how we do it below)
Making the masala
1. Place the oil in a cooking pan and heat, add cloves and cinnamon until they sizzle.
2. Add the onions and cook until they turn golden on a medium heat, stirring occasionally. It’s important to take your time over this stage. It should take around 10 minutes for the onions to soften and cook.
3. Add the remaining dry spices. If the pan gets sticky just add a little water. Don’t rush, this is where the spices and onions gently mellow and infuse. It’s how the layering of flavours develop for the end dish.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, ginger and green chillies. Add more green chilli if you prefer it hotter (we do add another teaspoon).
5. Simmer for 5-10 minutes with the lid on. The masala will be ready when the oil appears on the surface.
Finishing the dish
This is a classic example of how we do things two ways here. We make the curry sauce then divide in half.
Version 1 – We add (around 350g) chopped shoulder of lamb and a little water to the sauce, before slowly cooking for around an hour. Chicken would work well too, reducing cooking time also.
Version 2 (my dish) – I add chickpeas (soaked overnight and cooked in water), spinach and a little water to the other half, before heating for 20 minutes. This half is mine to enjoy with brown basmati.
The optional (but pretty delicious) extras
Boiled brown basmati:
Make sure you wash your basmati thoroughly and cover in cold water for 30 minutes before you cook. Add boiling water and salt and cook without the rice soaking up all the water. It’s ready when you can squeeze the grains. Try adding a clove, a cinnamon stick and a wedge of lime to this rice to liven it up.
We just use simple natural yoghurt, then add chopped fresh mint and a squeeze of lime.
Have a look at my homemade clean eating mango chutney recipe. It’s fresh fruity flavour compliments, rather than overpowers the curry. It’s more natural than anything you can by in a jar.
This Magestic Masala is a sumptous weekend treat. I hope you get time to make this one soon.
Before I go, here’s a few words on cooking oils.
A mini guide to cooking oils
There is so much conflict on what oils are good/clean and what should be avoided. For every view in one direction, there’s a contradiction in the other. Here’s a little guide that might help you when choosing oils for cooking and salads.
First up, coconut oil
I use a lot of coconut oil on this blog. That isn’t a must, but it’s been highly advocated recently and I simply enjoying cooking with it.
Once coconut oil was a massive no no due to its high saturated fat content. However now there is recognition that some saturated fat is good for us. The composition of the medium fatty acids are broken down fast by our bodies and therefore rarely stored as fat, but burned off instead.
A guide to what oil and when
You need to consider what you’re making as to what oil you need. This means:
1. Consider the temperature you need it. High smoke point oils are best for cooking (olive oil is actually best used without heat or used at lower temperatures).
2. Consider the flavour. Please don’t use olive oil for Indian cooking. It’s derived from olives – not suitable for the delicate aromatic spices we lovingly add to our pan. Equally if using coconut oil, look for a mild flavour variety to avoid this overpowering your meal.
3. Source well. Typically the better the oil the less processing involved. You want to avoid any label that alludes to genetic engineering.
4. Use oil sparingly if at all. Don’t be afraid of just skipping the oil. Break the habit and try roasting vegetables on their own or having a salad without a dressing. I rarely use oil through the week – meaning a little sunflower oil on a Saturday night is no bad thing. Balance doesn’t just exist in one meal, it’s the whole 7 day week, the month, and onwards.
Great for cooking:
High smoke point oils – coconut oil, avocado oil and almond oil
Great for cold dishes:
Try cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, unrefined safflower oil, unrefined walnut oil and unrefined sunflower oil
Avoid cooking with anything with hydrogenated in the label. This includes palm oil (highly processed) and vegetable oil. The process to make this is so unnatural and so far from vegetables as we know them.
The most important final word on oils:
I hope this helps x