Want to know how to cook a curry like a pro? Twice Michelin-starred chef, Atul Kochhar, shares the basic principals of Indian cooking
There's more to Indian food than naan bread and chicken tikka masala. We caught up with twice Michelin-starred chef, Atul Kochhar, to demystify the nation's cuisine and get the lowdown on cooking Indian food at home …
Indian cuisine differs vastly between north and south
And if you're wondering why, it's because the geography and climate are so different. This naturally means that produce varies and people have developed their own style of dishes to suit.
In the north, you'll find more meat dishes …
… as well as lots of cooking with cream and butter. In the south, lots of dishes use squash, coconut, shallots, tamarind and curry leaves, which are widely available.
For a basic spice kit, you'll need:
- coriander seeds
- cumin seeds
- turmeric root (or ground turmeric)
- freshly ground black pepper
- garam masala
Buy whole spices – they keep their flavour for longer – and grind them in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Garlic, fresh chilli and limes are handy to have in your cupboard, too.
5 steps to a simple curry are:
1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry a finely chopped onion for 5-10 minutes until soft. Fry until deep brown for a richer flavour.
2. Add whole spices (if using) as well as aromatics such as garlic and chilli, then sauté for a minute or so until they crackle and give off their aroma.
3. Go in with your diced meat, fish or veggies and cook for a couple of minutes – this is the time to stir in a curry paste if you're not using whole spices. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant, adding a little stock if your aromatics look like they might burn.
4. Add whatever you're using for a sauce – chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, puréed peppers, yogurt or chicken stock – and bring to the boil and simmer until your meat, fish or veggies are tender.
5. Pile into bowls and top with chopped cashews or coriander if using coconut milk. You can even add a drizzle of single cream to balance the acidity of tomatoes or peppers.
You can freeze homemade curry paste in an ice cube tray ...
… then grate a curry-paste cube into a quick curry to give it a wonderful flavour. To store in the freezer, cover the ice cube tray in cling film or pop in a plastic sandwich bag.
Veggie curries are the best place to start for beginners ...
Fish curries are the quickest of all …
… but you need to understand the character of the fish you're putting in. For example, chunky fish such as monkfish take longer than rainbow trout, which can be flopped into a simmering curry sauce and ready in 3-5 minutes. Remember to taste as you're cooking and you'll have more chance of catching the fish when it's just cooked and still nice and juicy.
Eat with your hands
Use your hands instead of a knife and fork as it makes eating your dinner a much more sensory experience.
And remember, every curry tastes better the next day ...
… so hold off eating it if you can!
Liked this? Want more? Try these:
- Curries for people who don't like curry
- Meanwhile in Japan: a 'curry dam' that floods your plate
- It's time to pair Indian food and wine. Oh yes
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