I’m always surprised when people say to me they’d love to make a curry from scratch – but are just not brave enough. For me, it’s one of the most satisfying things to make – and one of the most delicious things to eat (much better than buying a ready made sauce!!). And it really isn’t that difficult once you know how.
Cooking a curry from scratch is one of the skills people most wanted to learn in a recent questionnaire we sent out (feel free to complete the survey), and is why we’ve developed cookery classes around it – a simple curry making class or a full on curry banquet class.
This particular recipe works well with most meat and fish. But when possible, I go for mutton as the strong, gamey flavours of the mutton stand up beautifully to the spices in the curry. I’ve always found mutton a little tricky to get hold of so I turned to Turner & George (a London based butcher that also sell online) – as they’ve always got a great selection of good quality, ethically reared British meat. And they also sell the harder to get hold of meats like mutton or goat…along with a fantastic selection of offal.
The recipe (serves 4)
It sounds obvious, but the key to this recipe is creating your own paste – and, the key to that, is mincing. By mincing the onions and then the garlic and ginger, you create a lovely thick paste as a base for your sauce. To mince the veg, you can use a food processor or a stick blender – if you don’t have either, then graters and garlic presses also work.
There are a few stages to pulling this curry together, so my advice is to get everything prepped and lined up before you start.
1. Peel a large onion, roughly chop and pop into a food processor or use your stick blender. Add 3 tablespoons of water and mince until you have a thick paste. If you grate the onion, there’s no need to add any water. Put into a bowl and leave to one side.
2. Peel and roughly chop 6 garlic cloves and 50g of ginger, pop into a food processor or use your stick blender. Add 4 tablespoons of water and mince until you have another thick paste. Alternatively you can use garlic crushers or graters. Again, set to one side.
3. In a bowl, combine 2 teaspoons cumin seed, 1 teaspoon fennel seed, a cinnamon stick and 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes.
4. Heat some ghee or vegetable oil in a pan and add your spices in one go. Stir the spices in the pan for about 30 seconds then add the onion paste you prepared earlier. Fry over a medium heat for around 7 minutes until the water has evaporated and the onions are starting to colour.
5. Add the minced garlic and ginger and fry for another 2 minutes. Be careful to keep stirring so as to avoid anything burning.
6. Stir in 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon caster sugar, cook for about 30 seconds then add a 400g can of chopped tomatoes. Cook over a medium heat for around 10 minutes.
7. Add 500g mutton (cut into similar sized cubes) and cook for another 5 minutes so the meat is coated in the masala sauce, then add 250ml hot chicken, or even better, lamb stock (homemade if you have it). Put on the lid and simmer for 30 – 60 mins.
8. Serve with plenty of chopped coriander.
This makes a medium hot curry which pretty much anyone can cope with. But for those who like it hotter, I always have a little bowl of chopped chillies to one side so people can pep up as they wish. And, of course, if people prefer it a little milder, then some raita mixed in works very well.
If possible, make this a day ahead …or in the morning…as that will mean the mutton has plenty of time to absorb the flavours and tenderise in the juices. Just heat it up for a few minutes before serving.
As I mentioned before, it really helps if you prep your ingredients before you start. I end up having a lovely line of bowls for each step which I just grab and add as I work my way through cooking the curry.
I’d always recommend knocking up some pilau rice to go with this (recipe to follow soon), along with a tomato and onion salad and a minty cucumber raita.
What to drink
A quality cold lager, a good IPA (Meantime is particularly good here) or a fruity rosé wine (try Spanish, Portuguese or South American).