The secret to a great home-made curry
Much as we’d all love to be able to replicate our favourite restaurant curry in our own kitchens, the simple fact is that few of us have the tools needed to be able to pull it off. Yes, we can make a curry, but the chances are we’ll never be able to truly make the curry.
Fantastic Indian food is only possible when you combine several key things: experience, the right equipment and the right ingredients.
That doesn’t mean you need to become a chef to make a great home-made curry, or spend a small fortune on pots, pans or utensils. But the quality of the ingredients you use will always have an impact on the flavours and depth of the food you cook.
Here are our tips to creating a taste experience in your own home on the nights when you can’t make it to the restaurant.
Let’s start with how you overcome a lack of cooking experience. The fact is that while having years of experience will make you more confident in the kitchen, enthusiasm and time also count for a lot.
In terms of the actual cooking process, the key to making food you and the people you cook for will love is really about the time you dedicate to it. Indian food is about flavour – and the flavour comes largely from the spices and fresh herbs we use in our dishes.
TOne of the reasons so many recipes – not just for Indian dishes, but other rich flavour-based cuisines – require you to marinate meat or sauces is to allow the spices and herbs to release flavour, and that takes time. So, be prepared to make the time for your food prep. Store-bought curry sauces exist for convenience, not for authenticity, which is why a curry out of a jar will never ever taste the way it does in a restaurant.
Use strong spices, such as garam masala, towards the end of the cooking process – heat reduces their flavour rather than enhances it – whilst lighter spices can be lightly heated at the start to trigger the release of their flavour.
Searching on Google for the best way to use any given spice or herb will give you the information you need, but the best dishes are often born from trial and error as you learn to navigate your way around the taste palate.
So, our first tip is to take your time and follow the recipe. As you begin to learn how the recipe tastes, you can experiment with the amounts and types of ingredients to create your own signature dishes.
Next, what equipment will you need? That’s a question with many possible answers. However, we think the very basic things you’ll need are as follows:
A good quality, sharp utility knife – a knife, or perhaps a small range of knives in different sizes – will allow you to prepare most food efficiently and quickly.
A good quality chopping board – the bigger the better, to allow you space to do what’s needed without your ingredients rolling over the side of the board.
A couple of good quality stainless steel sauté pans, one medium and one large – the basis of many Indian dishes is sautéed ingredients such as onions, ginger, peppers, chilli and, depending on the dish, garlic, whilst meat ingredients such as chicken and lamb are also lightly sautéed to seal in flavour.
A utility pan – this will be for non-fried ingredients and/or rice
Then add utensils like tongs, wooden spoons, colander and sieve. If you plan to extend your range of cooking then adding in pressure cookers, food processors, grinders and more traditional, specialist Indian equipment can come later (birthdays and Christmas are always a good option for the pricier items!)
With these basic pieces of equipment, most of the common Indian dishes will be easily within your repertoire.
Finally, ingredients. This is where you might have to go the extra mile in support of your ambition. The fact is that most supermarket herbs and spices are sold in very small quantities at a disproportionately high price. If you’ve ever bought saffron or a vanilla pod, you’ll know what we mean.
So, we’d recommend you find a reputable, authentic Asian food retailer. These smaller stores tend to sell good quality spices, rice and other ingredients in much bigger quantities and often at a much more reasonable price than their chain-store counterparts.
Finally, remember that most spices and herbs can be frozen at home to keep them fresh, so if you are buying in larger quantities, make space available in the freezer to get the most out of them.
More than anything else, though, enjoy your cooking! And we’d love you to share your recipes with us. You can follow us and share your recipes and photos on Facebook (search for @Codicote.S) and Instagram (@codicotespice).
And if you want some tips in person, just pop in and we’ll help if we can.