Monday, January 7, 2008

Curry Base Sauce - Indian Takeaway Recipe



The Indian Takeaway style curries we ate in Edinburgh were always bite-sized pieces of meat or vegetables in a thick, saucy gravy. After a lot of trial and error, we came up with the technique of starting with a "ubiquitous base sauce" and then adding different meats, pulses and seasonings to create a number of different curries all with that characteristic sauciness (such as our Chicken Pathia and Lamb Rogan Josh). Making up a big batch and freezing the extra is a great way to have a quick Indian meal at a later date.

The sauce is basically an aromatic, spice-infused onion and tomato puree.



First the spices (coriander, paprika and turmeric) get toasted in some oil along with plenty of crushed or grated ginger and garlic. This base sauce is one of the few times where I will happily use good quality crushed ginger or garlic from a jar. A little more of each will be added at the time of actual curry preparation - I add just-grated, fresh versions there.



After a minute or so, several diced onions get added to the mix and cooked down to soften. The smells at this point are pure Indian, just like we remember wafting from the Indian Takeaway shops.



Add canned tomatoes and some water, then simmer for about an hour for the flavors to deepen.



We use an immersion hand-blender dunked right into the pot to achieve a smooth puree. These hand-blenders are terrific. We initially learned about them from friends in Edinburgh. It seems that everyone there owned one, but it was new to us. The key selling point over using a regular blender is that you don't have to worry about transferring hot liquids and carefully blending several small batches.

After a quick blitz with the hand blender, you are ready to make your curry now and still have plenty of extra sauce left to freeze for a couple more meals later.

For curry recipes using this base sauce, be sure to check out our Indian Takeaway Recipes.



Ubiquitous Curry Base Sauce

This recipe makes enough for base sauce for three curries – make it ahead and freeze each portion in a ziptop bag for a quick, easy start to a great curry.

4 large onions, chopped
1/3 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons crushed garlic
4 tablespoons crushed fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground paprika
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 (28 ounce) can plum tomatoes (whole or diced)
3-4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil, garlic and ginger to medium-high. Add spices (coriander, paprika, turmeric) and stir to make a paste. Cook about 30 seconds.

Add onions and salt. Cook 5-7 minutes to soften onions. Stir frequently. If spices stick, add a tablespoon of water.

Add tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes, break them up by giving each a quick squeeze in your hand while adding to the pot.

Fill the tomato can with water. Stir the water into the sauce and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about an hour.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Puree to a smooth sauce using a blender or immersion hand-blender (our favorite).

Divide into three equal sized portions. Use within 8-10 days, or freeze.

62 comments:

  1. Making curry base is a great idea. Tomorrow I will be helping my Indian friends make dinner. I hope to learn lots.

    I also plugged you guys on the "what's cooking" thread at www.Atlantacuinsine.com

    Also, I think a boat motor is safer when working with hot liquids. I find nobody seems to agree, but I get better results with the blender... if I don't spill the hot liquid all over me.

    Cheers

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  2. Thanks for the plug!

    I can see getting better results with a blender, but then you lose the simple "one pot" cooking feel.

    I also think it depends how rustic the dish is. In this case, the odd chunk of onion or tomato isn't a problem.

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  3. Stumbled across this looking for a decent curry base sauce recipe, I'll give this one a whirl. Ta. Chris

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  4. Love my cooking and I have messed about with lots of different curries. This is a easy way to make a base sauce then add whatever you like to it. I fried some onions, sliced red pepper added extra chilli powder and a few sliced chilli pepers and a big handful of corriander leaves and hey presto! Added cream to the base sauce and the wife and kids loved it.

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  5. I just found your blog yesterday and I love it!

    I am going to try this curry base sauce out this weekend. Do you think I could add some crushed chili or dried chili for some heat? Or would you add that later?

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  6. Hi Becky, Glad you're enjoying the posts.

    We usually keep the base sauce simple (mild) and wait to add heat when using the sauce for a specific recipe.

    Once I've chosen a curry style to prepare, I'll adjust the standard base by adding more spices and chillies -- for instance I'll add ground chilli and a touch of cinnamon for Pathia, while Rogan Josh gets beef stock plus ground and fresh green chillies, and Dansak is mild and only gets about half the chilli.

    But you can always modify your version of base sauce and add some ground or crushed chilli up front if you prefer!

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  7. I use fresh tomatoes. It brings out the flavor. Also, add the cilantro and lemon juice in the blender.

    Then when you reheat it on the stove. Chop up some fresh ginger and add it. It tastes just like the restaurant.

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  8. I blend the onions, ginger, garlic first before cooking anything and then add it to a pot with oil, tin tomatoes, salt, pepper and mixed curry powder. Once this has simmered I then add the chicken, meat or veg depending on what dish it is.

    Water can be added to make it more runny if required. I find meat needs more water to cook compared to chicken and veg.

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  9. Been trying for years to achieve this taste

    Thank You

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  10. Hello, Ive just come across this, your recipe whilst looking for an authentic curry recipe , ive just cooked this one off and its delicious, i think it will taste even better tommorow

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  11. This was delicious used to make your pathia recipe! Do you have any more recipes for example chicken jalfrezi/madras/ceylon or similar that this base sauce could be used for?

    Thanks - great site :D

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  12. Hi Ross - the pathia, rogan josh and dhansak were the only ones we reverse-engineered while we were in the UK. Now, we unfortunately don't have access to takeaway dishes.

    Courier us a curry, and we'll try to make a recipe :-)

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  13. Another reason why this is such a great method is that - like in Italian restaurants, for exeample - the "base" saucees are usually matured for at least a day, preferrably two; so by freezing the batches they're undergoing a certain amount of maturation whilst in the freezer. I too have been obsevively trying to reproduce that certain flavour for years and I'm glad to see some other relieved obsessives :) ! Can anyone clarify - when you say "makes enough for three curries" How many portions does each currie serve? Mace Kurgan

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  14. Hi Mace, Our curry recipes serve four generously, maybe with a little left-over. Depends on how much rice and/or flat bread you eat with it.

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  15. made your base curry sauce it is perfect thank you for recipe just made a chicken korma using this base and it was the best we have ever had thank you again

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  16. A good cheat is to chop up the onions stick them in a big microwave jug with veg oil, salt, paprika, pepper, garam massala & powdered ginger - cover with water and nuke for 15 mins. Add tomato puree, garlic puree and nuke for another 5 mins. Liquidize. I know this might sound brutally terrible, but it works fine. Having used a similar method to that stated for years it is not that different.

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  17. Bobt - good tip. I can definitely see that working, since you basically end up frying the onions and spices in the oil.

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  18. Great base sauce recipe!

    i make a similar one and freeze in large quantaties.... a little time consuming initially but great when you fancy a mid-week curry!

    to some of the questions above:

    don't forget that this is a 'base sauce' rather than a full on curry sauce. To get the best out of this add other spices when cooking later on such as cumin and definately garam masala (this should go into every curry!)

    This base sauce should make any curry you can imagine... it's what you do in the later stages of cooking that determine what curry it will become! for example..... two teaspoon hot chilli powder and a teaspoon of salt in the first half of cooking and half teaspoon cumin / 1 teaspoon garam masala in the last 'simmer down' 5 mins of cooking will geive you a madras. Or. Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar, 1 extra teaspoon chilli powder and a teaspoon of tamrind pulp for a vindaloo.

    Experiment based on recipes you find!

    this base sauce could

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  19. my daughter loves to make a curry adding all the separate ingredients, pathia is my favourite so we will try this together, you have loads of great feed back so far.....ill let you know how we get on
    cheers

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  20. Great recipe. I now always have some of this base sauce in the freezer, ready to knock up a quick mid-week curry. Both your rogan josh and pathia recipes are great. In fact, we're having one tonight - I just can't decide which!
    That's the last of the base sauce, so I'll have to get in the kitchen over the weekend to make some more.
    Have served these curries for friends and everyone loves them! Thanks!

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  21. I call the base sauce the "Mother Sauce"
    More descriptive I think. I have been trying lots of different recipies to achieve the "perfect curry."
    Will try this one soon.
    Jim

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  22. absolutely superb, Pathia is my favourite...PLEASE add some more

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  23. Hi,

    When you say your base recipe makes enough for 2 curries, how many people do you base this on? We're big eaters in Scotland!

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  24. One curry should be plenty for four people - even Scottish people... :-)

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  25. Cheers Mike - planning to have a bash at the recipe tomorrow - will let you know!

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  26. Hi, looking forward to giving this curry a go! Just wondering about the tomatoes for the base sauce. 28oz - is that in "tomato juice" most cans I've seen in shops are weighed at 400g but their drained weight is about half that. I'm not too sure whether I'm meant to use one can or two and whether with "juice" or not :S

    Thanks!

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  27. Ah, good question. :) The 28oz includes the tomato juice in the can, so as an equivalent, you'd want to use two 400g cans of tomatoes with the juice.

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  28. Ive Been using this recipe for the last 3 years
    and never failed a great foundation for a good curry ( The Mother In Law Loves It } it must be good...!

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  29. Hi Richard - glad it passes the Mother-In-Law test!

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  30. This recipe was a roaring success and so have all the other indian dishes, thank you so much x

    We missed the takeaways when we moved from Glasgow and these just bring it all back.

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  31. Hi Zolita - glad to hear that the recipes brought back good memories for you!

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  32. Hi can't wait to try pathia + base sauce! What is canola oil and is it easy to get?

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  33. Hi Angie, Canola oil is simply a neutral flavored vegetable oil made from a plant called rapeseed. Canola is thought to be healthier than some other oils because it's high in monounsaturated fat, but you can use any standard vegetable oil instead: corn, peanut, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed etc. I hope you enjoy the pathia!

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  34. I've made a few of the curry recipes here with the base sauce and really enjoyed them. My wife loves chicken tikka masala, and I found a decent recipe with a similar spice profile. All I did was add 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp garam masala, and 1/2 cup heavy cream to 2 cups base sauce, then cubed and grilled a chicken breast on skewers for 8 min, added them to the sauce and simmered 10 min. Made rice in the meantime, and bam, dinner in 30 minutes with about 10 min prep time. We liked it a lot, and that was before the champagne.

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  35. Hi Android - thanks for the info on your tikka masala. We've made it a few times, but never a version we were completely happy with. We should try it again!

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  36. How much is "1/3 of a cup" in metric terms?

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  37. Hi:

    The sauce exactly according to the recipe indicated is simmering as I write this...wow, the aroma already kicks butt and takes names!!!

    This might be just what I've been looking for. I do have 2 question though:

    In the ingredients it lists:

    "2 teaspoons of turmeric"

    Here in the states, a teaspoon is in fact 1/2 of a tablespoon, or at least real close.

    Are the two measures sufficiently different in the UK to not simply indicate 1 tablespoon?

    Or is there a chance it should have read 2 tablespoons for the turmeric as well?

    Secondly:

    What exactly is the chilli, or chilli powder many have spoken of in there posts? I am assuming chilli is the UK term for

    "red cayenne pepper"

    as chilli powder here in the states is a spice mixture, much like curry, used for Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking. Specifically for "Chilli" recipes.

    Any help greatly appreciated.

    Regards

    Marc

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    1. Hi Marc - the teaspoons are US teaspoons (we live in San Diego :-)

      As for "chili powder" - that is the spelling that has been used on the Indian brands we've purchased (even here in the states). It is definitely red, hot and not a blend. I'm not sure what variety the Indian powders use, but cayenne makes a good substitute.

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  38. Great curry base - thank you so much! I've been trying - fruitlessly - to make chicken korma; with this base, I was successful for the first time. Next up: vindaloo!

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  39. superb base curry..It is excately what it says it is a BASE curry sauce..You can just add what you like to make your favourite curry..Bring it on !!!

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  40. I used this with the Patia recipe and was as good as an Indian Restaurant one, but would recommend less water with it. Very very god, though.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! We've actually been using less water in the base lately - takes up less space in the freezer that way.

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  41. I have made this recipe a few times now and I find that a big splash of liquid cayenne pepper and a bigger splash of Encona west Indian pepper sauce give it a real kick. cooking it for 12 tonight. Love it. Kerry :)

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  42. A collegue of mine passed on this recipe, I tried it for the first time at the weekend it was absolutely fab, we used the base and pathia recipe. I was searching for other recipes to add to the base sauce when I stumbled across your website, could not believe my luck

    My only comment would be that I felt the Cinamon was slightly too overpowering but did not spoil the dish in any way, I would just suggest to adjust to taste. I am based in the UK so I am not sure if again this is due to slight differences in measurements.

    Looking forward to trying the other recipes - thanks

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  43. What can i say?
    this is fantastic easy to understand and simple instructions with pics.
    we love our currys and have tried many online before this one, if anything i would add a scotch bonnet with the onions just to give the base paste a hot flavour, after all it is a curry.
    will follow this for many a curry. thanx

    clayton
    ex Birmingham Now Worcester uk

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    1. Hi Clayton - we definitely like some heat, and most always add chile in some form when using using this base to make a curry.

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  44. hi what can i use for the base instead of canola oil as i cant get my hands on it x

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    1. Hi Paula - you can use any kind of vegetable oil.

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  45. im in uk. so do i use tablespoons where it says and teaspoons where it say .....as with the turmeric.............or do i have to use more. xxx

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    1. A teaspoon is about 5ml (or about half of a UK dessertspoon). A tablespoon is 3 teaspoons.

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  46. hi mike thanks for getting back to me. do you have any recipes for bombay potato and onion bhajis xx

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    1. Hi Paula - sorry, not yet. Onion Bhajis are definitely on our list of things to try to make, though!

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  47. hi curry is a hit........this is paula but for some reason forgot what profile im meant to do it as. cooking for in laws tonight. so where you say 4 tablespoons am i right that you are saying that is 12 teaspoons over here in england xxx

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  48. So would this base mix serve 12 people? I'm cooking for 8, just wondering if i should double the mixture?

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    1. Yes, this recipe makes enough base for three batches of our curry recipes (Pathia, Rogan Josh, etc.) - each of which serves four people.

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  49. We have been using your curry recipes for almost 3 years now. They are DELICIOUS! Thanks much.

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    1. Hi Shawn - glad you like the recipes. It is always nice to hear!

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  50. British expat in the USA here. This recipe has made exile palatable. God bless you, you sweet wonderful human beings. We've been making your curry base for years now, and every time I dig into a dish of the pathia a single tear rolls down my cheek. You truly are incredible wizards.

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