Some of you may have read my Chinese Fakeaway post from earlier this year. I'm a firm believer that it is possible to make takeaway tasting food at home. I'm not talking about picking up a recipe book and making a nice curry from it. Yes, it will be nice. But. What I'm talking about is a dish that you can believe is from an Indian or Chinese takeaway - simply because - you make it the same way as they do. It will never be exactly the same, these chefs guard their recipes with their lives. At the end of the day, it's their livelihoods so I can't blame them.
Today I've made two curries - a Chicken tikka Masala and a Chicken Jalfrezi. From start to finish it took me six hours. Which is a long time. In between I have make coffees, breakfast, lunch and washed up as I went along (no room for a dishwasher!) In a restaurant kitchen things are done on a larger scale, there are more people helping out chopping, prepping etc.
I have a friend who is married to an Indian takeaway chef, and years ago, she would talk about him making his 'curry gravy'. I thought she was bonkers. She tried to explain it to me but the concept wouldn't sink in about this magical gravy that would be used for all manner of different dishes. When - a few years later - I went on a mission to find out how to replicate BIR (British Indian Restaurant) takeaway at home, I found out that what she was referring to was what is more commonly known as a curry base sauce. The word 'gravy' threw me, I was thinking of thick dark beefy stuff!
If you're going to make a BIR Style Indian Curry - you have to start with a base sauce. Have to. There are so many out there to choose from. There are probably nicer ones than the one I use, there are probably inferior ones. They will all probably make a good curry. I've found a good one but will keep trying different ones. It's a case of trying them and seeing how you get on. The beauty of a base sauce is that you can make it in a large batch and it freezes well, being pretty much vegetables. Also, from this one sauce - you can make any curry, from a Korma to a Phal, simply by adding additional spices and vegetables.
So - this is how I made my curry, in the steps I took. Yes, it's long winded. Yes, you could just open a jar and be done with in 30 minutes. Yes, I do that myself at least once a week! But it won't taste like this.
STEP ONE: Marinating your meat (if necessary)
If you're going to be making a Chicken Tikka Masala you'll need to marinate your chicken first in a yogurt based paste.
500g Chicken, cut into large chunks and put in a large non metallic dish or bowl.
For the marinade:
80g Fat Free Natural Yogurt
1 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 tbsp Lemon juice
2 cloves Garlic
½ tbsp Tomato Puree
¼ tsp Mint sauce
1 tbsp Tandoori Masala
½ tsp Curry powder
½ tsp ground Cumin
½ tsp Garam Masala
¼ tsp Salt
1 red chilli, seeds removed
60 ml Milk
Put all the above ingredients in a food processor and blend.
Pour the blended marinade over the chicken. Cover with a lid and place in the refridgerator for (supposedly) a minimum of 12 hours. The longer the better. Overnight if possible. Overnight if you don't forget like I did.
Onwards. Now the meat is sorted, you need to make a start on your curry base or gravy. Find a large heavy duty pan.
Ingredients for Base Sauce:
6 small to medium onions, chopped coarsely
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, chopped
40g Tomato puree
450g fresh Tomatoes, chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
¼ of a red pepper, chopped
1 tsp salt
60 ml vegetable oil
1500 ml water.
|Base Sauce ingredients pre water and oil|
Place all of the above in your saucepan, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about an hour. While this is doing, make your spice mix. If it's too much put it in an empty spice jar or clean dry jar with a lid.
2 tbsp Turmeric
1½ tbsp ground Coriander
1½ tbsp Paprika
1 tbsp Cumin
½ tbsp Garlic powder
¼ tsp ground Ginger
½ tsp ground Fenugreek
1 chicken Stock cube, crumbled
Additionally - 1 tsp curry powder
After the sauce has cooked for an hour, stir in 3 heaped tablespoons of the above spice mix, and the curry powder. Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool enough, blend with a hand blender until smooth.
At this point, I began to make my Jalfrezi.
500g Chicken breast, diced
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped into chunks
1 green pepper, chopped into chunks
½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 large tomato, chopped (I only had cherry tomatoes left!)
1 tsp Garlic, minced
½ tsp Ginger, chopped
1 tbsp Tomato puree, diluted with 3 tbsp water
3 ladles of Base Sauce (approx)
1 tsp Spice Mix
1 tsp Curry powder
1 tsp Chilli powder
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp granulated Sugar
Heat a little oil in a pan and add the chicken breast. Fry for about 10 minutes until no longer pink.
Add the onions, peppers, chillies and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few more minutes.
Remove from the heat, add the Spice mix, curry and chilli powder. Stir in, and return to the heat.
|Add the spices L-R Chilli, Spice mix and Curry|
Add the tomato puree mixture and fry for a further 30 seconds. Add three ladles of the curry base sauce. Add the salt and the sugar - if using. The end result is the first picture in this post. A beautiful pan of Chicken Jalfrezi.
Assuming your chicken has been absorbing the wonderful flavours from the marinade for at least twelve hours *cough - four* - now we get to work on the second curry, the Chicken Tikka Masala.
1 tbsp grated or crumbled cream of coconut
1 tbsp ground almonds
100 ml double cream
1 tsp garlic, minced
½ tsp ginger
1 tbsp Tandoori Masala
1 tsp Spice Mix
1 tbsp Tomato Puree, mixed with 3 tbsp water
3 ladles of Curry Base sauce
½ tsp salt
1 tsp Lemon juice
Place a wire rack or old grill pan over a foil lined baking sheet and place your chunks of meat onto the rack like below. (Trust me on the foil - baked on yogurt can be a b*tch to get off).
Put the meat into a preheated oven, Gas Mark 5, 190°C for about 25 minutes.
While the meat is cooking, mix the creamed coconut and almonds into the double cream.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok, and add the garlic and ginger. Remove from the heat and add the Tandoori Masala and Spice Mix. Put back on the heat and fry over a low heat for a few seconds.
Add the Tomato puree mixture and stir in.
|Add the tomato puree|
Add a ladle of the curry base sauce and stir in. The sauce should now be a deep rich red colour. At this point add the cooked chicken.
|Add a ladle of the curry base|
|The cooked meat|
|Add to the pan or wok|
Add another two ladles of the base sauce to the meat, and then the cream and coconut mixture. Stir in well and the resulting curry should look a little something like this...
And there we have it. Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Jalfrezi - from scratch - and, if you're prepared, like I wasn't - reasonably simple. Believe me, if I can make this, anyone can. It's firmly passed the taste test from Mr G and three of the four children (I have one curry hater).
Sheesh - nearly took me as long to write the blog post as it did to make the curries!