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A curry thread

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My range of culinary curries is badly limited. Basic curries and madrases are pretty much the extent of it. I'm rubbish. I could probably knoch up a korma, but I'm not a massive fan.

Now, my local curry house back in Swansea does a lovely Bhuna, and I'd like to make something similar. However, the way I've seen it described in other places doesn't sound all that similar (much dryer, I think), so perhaps it's a quirk of the backwards Welsh curry-scene. So what I'm after is quite a thick, coconut-based curry that's also fairly spicy. It's fairly reddish, but I think that's more to do with the spices used rather than tomato. Apologies for the slightly retarded description there, by the way.

I've had something similar (but a bit less spicy), that I think may have been called a shakuti. Does anyone have any recommended recipes for making dishes along these lines?


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Oh man! I've perfected the take away curry and I took photos of the last one I made (Chicken Dhansak) meaning to post them here. I'll do so when I get home!

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Ive got an amazing recipe for a chicken tikka masala, have pretty much perfected it over time, ill post it later on.

Same for a meat madras, ill post both.

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A proper Bhoona isn't red, nor does it contain coconut. The word Bhoona is the process of cooking the masala in hot oil so that the edge is taken off all the spices and instead you're left with a full rich flavour that's well balanced. A traditional Bhoona is by nature dry because it's fried for a long time (although the meat is tender). So yeah, you're not eating a Bhoona.

What you have basically eaten is a restaurant 'masala', which is a cross between a Bhoona and a Medium Curry (a staple from the earliest days of curry houses, a kind of base recipe from which others can be made or heat can be added - a kind of one-size-fits-all dish), which is often embellished by adding red/green peppers, tomato and sometimes coconut. Here's a recipe for an authentic Murgh Masala that you can add tomato and coconut milk to, if you desire. This is a long recipe because *everything* is made from scratch, but don't be put off!:

Serves 4

675g skinned chicken breast fillets

2 tablespoons ghee

6 fresh or dried red chillies, chopped

2 teaspoons chilli powder

450g medium curry gravy (see below)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

1 large boiled potato, quartered

salt to taste

1. Cut the chicken breast into bite-sized chunks

2. Heat the ghee in a large wok or karahi, and stir-fry the chillies and the chilli powder for 2 minutes

3. Add the chicken and the gravy and heat, stirring as required, until the contents are simmering

4. Lower the heat to achieve a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for about 12 minutes

5. Stir in the coriander and the potato and add a little water if the pan contents need loosening. Add salt to taste and cook for a couple of minutes more

6. Check that the chicken is cooked by cutting a piece in half. It should be white right through. If not continue until it is.

For the medium curry gravy:

2 tablespoons curry masala (see below)

2 tablespoons vegetable ghee

50g garlic cloves, finely chopped

250g Spanish onions, chopped

4 canned plum tomatoes, drained

200ml water

2 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper

aromatic salt to taste (100g coarse sea salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground allspice, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

For the curry masala (yes, 15 spices! Makes 250g):

60g coriander

30g cumin

20g fenugreek

25g gram flour (besan)

25g garlic powder

20g paprika

20g tumeric

20g garam masala (see below)

5g bay leaf

5g asafoetida

5g ginger

5g chilli powder

5g yellow mustard powder (English)

5g black pepper

5g cinnamon

For the garam masala (makes 250g):

60g coriander seeds

50g cumin seeds

40g fennel seeds

25g black peppercorns

15g cloves

15g brown cardamons

3 pieces mace

25g cassia bark pieces

4 bay leaves

5g ground ginger

Method for garam masala:

1. Omitting the ground ginger, mix the remaining nine whole spices together in your pan. Keeping it dry, stir the mixture continuously as it heats up.

2. Very soon the mixture will give off steam, rather than smoke. The process is called roasting. The volatile oils, or aromas, are now being released into the air. Stir for a few seconds more, then transfer the spices to a cold pan or bowl, to stop them cooking. The must not burn. If they do, your cooking will have a bitter, carbonised taste.

3. Allow the garam masala to go completely cold for two reasons. Firstly it will become brittle, so will grind easily. Secondly if the mixture is hot when you grind it in an electric grinder the blades could overheat the spices and burn off the very volatile oil you are striving to capture.

4. Regardless of what you use, do it in small batches.

5. Grind until all the clattering noises change to a softer similar sound, then grind on until the mix is as fine as you want it.

6. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together including the ground ginger. Store in an airtight jar in a dark dry place. Feel free to make in a much smaller batch than this.


What you might also like is a korma, i.e. an aromatic gravy dish that uses coconut milk or yoghurt (depends on the region of India). In a restaurant they use creamed coconut block and it ends up being quite different to an authentic korma, especially as the latter can be very hot with use of fresh chillis. There's a famous dish called a Mirchwangan Korma that's very spicy indeed (and red in colour). I can post up a recipe for a traditional lamb korma and the Mirchwangan if you want.

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Wonderful stuff Paradigm. I should have known not to trust them sneaky Swansea curry boys. That's a lovely overview because it shows how you can start off by buying certain 'sections' in to start with. For example, the masalas are usually available ready mixed, right? And you can sort of see how you make the base curry then add into it.

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Pat Chapman's Curry Bible. It has a history of all major curries as well as having authentic recipes as well as, for instance with Korma, the curry house recipe as well as the 'proper' one. Chosty: make it! It's honestly not that hard. And yeah you can buy ready-mixed masalas.

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A gentleman and a scholar, sir. If I've got time I'm going to have a go at this on the weekend. Although I'd be interested in the two korma recipes you mentioned as long as it's not too much trouble?

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Korma, according to my handy curry bible, is actually only the name of the way in which it's cooked, where only ghee or oil is used in the initial cooking. I'll post up three Korma recipes: the curry house version, the authentic version and the hot version:

Korma restaurant style - serves 4

675g skinless chicken breast

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1-3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

200g onions, finely chopped

150ml single cream

1/3 block (65g) creamed coconut

1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 teaspoons ground almonds

2-3 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon white sugar

salt to taste


2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons curry masala

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

Note: curry can be made in advance up to end of stagfe 5 or can be made in larger batches up to this stage and frozen

1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces

2. Mix the masala spices w3ith enough water to achieve an easily pourable paste

3. heat the oil in a karahi or wok until it is nearly smoking. Add the garlic and stir-fry briskly for 20-30 seconds. Add the spice paste and keep on stirring for about another minute

4. Add the onion, reduce the heat and stir-fry for at least 10 minutes, at most 20 minutes, until the mixture has thoroughly softened and caramelised

5. Take the pan off the heat and puree the mixture in the pan using a handheld blender

6. Add the cream and coconut. When melted, add the chicken and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding just enough water to keep a thickish texture

7. Add the remaining ingredients including salt to taste and continue cooking and stirring for a final 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. This is checked by cutting one of the largest pieces in half and ensuring it is white right through


Classic Lamb Korma - serves 4

675g fatless boned lamb, cubed

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

225g natural yoghurt

4 tablespoons butter ghee or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

8 tablespoons finely chopped onion

20-30 strands saffron

4 tablespoons ground almonds

2 teaspoons chopped fresh coriander leaves

175ml single cream

fragrant stock (see below) or water


15cm piece cassia bark

12 green cardamoms

10 cloves

8 bay leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Fragrant stock:

Makes 700ml

10-12 green cardamoms

10-12 cloves

5-6 bay leaves

6-8 pieces cassia bark

2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

1 tablespoon ghee

750ml water

Simply simmer all the ingredients together for about 20 minutes then strain the stock and discard the solids.


1. In a non-metallic bowl mix the sugar, salt, yoghurt, lamb and masala and leave to marinate for 6-48 hours

2. Preheat oven to 190c

3. Heat the ghee or oil in a karahi or wok and stir-fry the tumeric and coriander for 30 seconds. Add the garlic, ginger and onion and stir-fry for 10 minutes

4. Combine the fried mixture with the marinated lamb, place in casserole cover and cook in the oven for 25 minutes

5. Remove the casserole from the oven, inspect and stir, then mix in the saffron, ground almonds, coriander and cream. Return to oven for 20 more minutes.

6. Remove the casserole from the oven again, inspect and if it looks too dry add a little stock or water. Taste for tenderness and judge how much more cooking it needs to complete tenderness. It will probably need 10 minutes more at least. It can be served straight away garnished with flaked almonds and silver leaf or reheated next day (some people prefer it as it's 'more marinated').


Mirchwangan Korma - serves 4

Note: this is an extremely hot curry (Phall strength)

675g lean boned leg of lamb

4 tabespoons butter ghee

4-6 flakes alkanet root (natural food colouring if you're wondering)

2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

225g red onions, chopped

fragrant stock

1 teaspoon garam masala

aromatic salt to taste


1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 tablespoon paprika

110ml red wine

25ml bottled beetroot vinegar

1 bottled beetroot, about the size of a pingpong ball, drained and sliced

20 fresh red chillies, coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped


15cm piece cassia bark

12 green cardamoms

10 cloves

8 bay leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds


1. Cut the meat into cubes about 4cm in size, remembering that they will shrink during cooking as the liquid comes out

2. Put all the marinade ingredients in a blender and process to a loose paste

3. Place the paste in a large non metallic bowl with the meat and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 24-60 hours

4. Preheat oven to 190c

5. Heat the ghee in a karahi or wok and add the alkanet root which will colour the ghee red in a few seconds. Strain using a metal strainer and keep the oil. Discard the alkanet

6. Return the red ghee to the pan, reheat and stir-fry the garlic for 1 minute, then add the Masala and onions and stir-fry for about 5 minutes

7. Put the fried ingredients and the meat and marinade into a 2.25-2.75 litre lidded casserole dish, put the lid on and place it in the oven

8. After 20 minutes inspect and stir the korma adding stock or water if it's becoming too dry

9. Repeat 20 minutes later this time adding the garam masala and salt to taste

10. Cook for a further 20 minutes then serve with plain rice

You can of course use Scotch Bonnet chillies if you're fucking mental and use extra-hot chilli powder instead of paprika.


Every little helps!

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As promised ill post up the chicken tikka masala recipe i use, probably not as authentic as the recipes above (its chicken tikka masala afterall) but id urge you to try it.

Chicken 700g

full fat natural yoghurt 250g

2 onions

2 tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

2 green chillies

fresh ginger 1" cubed (i use ginger paste - cheat)

4 garlic cloves

coriander leaves (optional)



oil (5 tbsp)


tumeric (1 tsp)

ground cumin (1/2 tsp)

ground coriander (1/2 tsp)

paprika (1 tsp)

cardamons (5)

red chilli powder (1 tsp)


into a bowl, add yoghurt, tumeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, chillies (chopped), a little salt and chicken, mix well.

empty onto a baking sheet evenly, grill for 7 mins until chicken begins to brown

meanwhile heat oil on medium heat in large none stick pan, add cardomons until they sizzle

add chopped onions, ginger and garlic and fry to golden brown on med heat, then add cinamon and red chilli powder, keep stiring.

Next add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree, cover and cook for 5 mins on low heat.

add chicken from tray, stir well, cover and cook for 5 mins on low heat.

add cream (to taste - not sure how much i use in ml) and cook covered for further 5 mins.

Ill post up the other recipe if anyone wants it, as i have to type them out!

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Pat Chapman's Curry Bible. It has a history of all major curries as well as having authentic recipes as well as, for instance with Korma, the curry house recipe as well as the 'proper' one. Chosty: make it! It's honestly not that hard. And yeah you can buy ready-mixed masalas.

I've had some very mixed results using that book. I find it a great read with some intersting recipes, but the structure of the book leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion.

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Paradigm, I tried a version of the basic recipe you posted first, and it turned out much better than my previous attempts. I suppose I ended up with a bit of a mixed bag: really spicy chicken in a lovely coconutty sauce.

One thing I'd like to try next time is use of a blender in making the curry gravy (didn't have one to hand this time). As it was, it worked, though the sauce could have been a bit thicker (I suppose it was a bit more stew-like than I'm used to); getting the gravy down to a saucy consistancy would probably help.

WesT: that sounds good too. Might be next on my list!

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There would all be much appreciated. Marvellous! Only problem I'm having so far is that all the recipes I'm seeing suggest the use of a blender to make a paste. Hmm.

That's pretty much a given if you're going to make a curry from scratch I'm afraid. They're often rather arduous if done properly; you need a big spice rack and frequently a lot of time to marinade stuff etc.

I rarely cook curries for precisely those reasons; when I do, I most often start with a jar mix and add to it.

(indian curries, obviously - thai etc are much generally easier).

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If you don't want to use a blender for your paste, pick up a pestle and mortar. Cheap and a good way to relieve stress.

Also Paradigm, What part of India is that "authentic" korma recipe from? I' haven't seen to many Indian meals that use stock(The recipes I use are all in the main Punjabi)

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