There are still a fair amount of people out there that think of that yellow curry powder as what constitutes a curry dish. While many a great dish can be whipped up with that type of curry powder the world of Indian cuisine is as vast and expansive as it is expansive and vast. Just the wide array of jarred and canned curry pastes and sauces is enough to expose you to a whole new universe of flavor explosions. But what if you want to bust out a curry dish completely from scratch? Is it for the pros only? Is it time consuming? Will you need to hire a bounty hunter to track down elusive ingredients? The answers are: So go ahead and bust one out. No. Not really. And hell no.
I had never gone through the trouble of making a curry paste from scratch because I always thought it was, well, trouble. I’ve always relied on jazzing up a jarred Tikka paste or a Rogan Josh and while those plates come out quite sexily if I may say so myself, I wanted to see how much of a difference a homemade paste would make. Would it be worth the extra time it takes to make it? Could it be done on a weeknight whilst I am doing the whole raising my children thing? Ok, enough questions for now. I had a Sunday afternoon to myself so I figured hey instead of just taking off my pants, drinking beer and watching olympic hockey why not throw some cooking in there too? Pay attention now cause there will be two recipes here: one for the paste and one for the actual Tikka Masala dish.
2 Cloves of garlic
A thumb sized piece of ginger
1 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
2 Teaspoons garam masala
1/2 Teaspoon sea salt
3 Tablespoons peanut oil(his calls for 2)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Chili pepper(his calls for 2)
Small bunch of fresh cilantro
1 Tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tablespoons flour(his calls for almond flour
Spices for toasting: 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds(I added this one)
Don’t let that long list fool you, this is pretty simple. First thing you want to do is toast the 3 spices in a dry pan on a medium high heat. Keep an eye on them and swish them around once in a while. The last thing you want is to burn the seeds. Is there any better smell than Indian spices toasting? No, there isn’t. Set aside the seeds once they’ve toasted for a few minutes. Give a rough cut to the garlic, ginger, and cilantro. Somehow, I do not yet have a food processer so I am using a blender for this paste. This is why I added the extra teaspoon of peanut oil. If you are allergic to nuts congratulations! You are not a Kardashian! Oh and maybe use vegetable oil instead. So if you have a food processer, lucky you. If you don’t, do what I did: when I tossed everything into the blender I also added the liquid from a 19 oz can of dice tomatoes to the mix. Whiz every with ruthless aggression until it is pasty, like a paste. SHANDANGO! You just made homemade curry paste! The only ingredient I didn’t find at my local grocery store was the almond flour and regular flourworked fine so this can be done pretty easily.
Chicken Tikka Masala
4 Chicken breasts cut into strips
2 Medium onions sliced
A thumb sized piece of ginger
Small bunch of cilantro(leaves picked for garnish, stalks chopped)
1/2 Cup of the above curry paste
1 Can of coconut milk
1 19 oz can of diced tomatoes(he calls for 14 oz but me I like my tomatoes)
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
A blob of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat up the oil and butter in a Dutch oven on medium heat. What’s a Dutch oven? Certainly not a bar in Amsterdam where you would go to get baked. It is those cast iron, ceramic coated pots that weigh 76 pounds. Once the oil and butter have a nice little sizzle going toss in the onions, ginger and cilantro stalks. Let them cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently(always counterclockwise!) to make sure nothing sticks or burns. Once that step is done throw in the chicken and the paste and mix everything really well so that the paste is covering it all evenly. Add the tomatoes and the coconut milk and season. Don’t use light coconut milk though. It is much too watery for this. At this stage I usually add about 1/2 cup of water too so that it doesn’t dry out. This is about the time that you can start weeping with joy as the smell of heaven permeates throughout your house. Now bring this all to a boil and then turn down low to a simmer and cover it. From here it only takes about 20 minutes of simmering and you are all set. Make sure to pop the lid open once in a while and give it a stir to make sure nothing is sticking at the bottom. If it looks like it is drying out add a bit more water.
The world of curry really is immense and the possibilities are endless when you start combining spices, meats, veggies, different rices and so on. This really wasn’t too tough to pull off and I think it can be done easily enough during the week too. Kids actually seem to love this. Oliver suggests serving it with a dollop of plain yogurt, some sliced almonds, some cilantro leaves and a nice squeeze from a lemon wedge. Basmati is my go to rice for Indian food and naan bread is an absolute must. If you don’t like naan bread I hope you know that means a part of you, likely your heart and soul, is dead inside.