Susmita Sharma is a Seattle cooking teacher who blogs at The Food We Eat. She is passionate about adapting the flavors of her native India using local ingredients.

Curry tonight

Try this one-hour recipe

February 20, 2009

Can you make aromatic curry that tastes like you’ve been simmering it all day within one hour? Sure you can! I don’t know about you, but one hour is just about as much time as I can devote to something on a weeknight. And who doesn’t love a good curry on a cold day?

Many of my friends have admitted that they are intimidated by the idea of making curry at home from scratch, because it seems like something you need to spend all day doing. Their solution? Take-out, eat-out, or use pre-made curry bases.

I think not!

Many off-the-shelf curry bases are available in grocery stores, but I find most of these “simmer sauces” quite off-putting. For one, they tend to be laden with fat. For another, they always seem to have a funky chemical aftertaste. And I’m not sure they quite qualify as “sustainable” eating.

But you can easily make yourself a great curry from scratch at home. The key is to use a combination of whole spices, some ground spices, good ingredients, and just a teensy-weensy bit of curry know-how.

Nope, it’s not as simple as throwing it all together in a large pot and waiting for the magic to happen. Rather, the key is building the right texture and flavor profile. That’s what sets a good curry apart from a mediocre one.

What spices do you need? Well, I would suggest these four: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, and black cardamom (this is different from the small green cardamom pods you’re likely familiar with). You can find these whole spices at any decent Indian grocery store.

Weeknight curry.

In addition to those whole spices, you’ll want to have on hand ground cumin and coriander powder. As I’ve said previously, please do yourself a favor and take a sniff. If the aroma doesn’t punch you in the face, please throw the stuff out and get yourself, or better grind yourself, some fresh powder.

(And no, this is not the time to be a value-buyer and load up on the 1-pound bag in the Indian grocery store. Big is not better. Trust me.)

I recommend using chicken thighs, but if you want, you could use chicken breasts. However, breast meat is very lean and tends to be a bit tough and dry in a curry. If you are vegetarian, or simply want another protein choice, you could easily substitute tofu or paneer for the chicken.

So if you want to give an absolutely delicious, velvety weeknight curry a try, test out this one. And I hope you never open another jar of “simmer sauce” again!

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1. by FoodRenegade on Feb 23, 2009 at 12:00 PM PST

I have made curry from scratch for years, and it is sooooo easy. My secret trick is this: use your nose! Add a spice or seasoning, take a whiff. Add another one, take a whiff. Keep blending until it smells scrumptious, then taste and adjust according to taste. This way, you’ll make a spice blend much more in tune with your personal preferences.

Cheers, and thanks for sharing,
KristenM (foodrenegade)

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