Do your curries turn out a bland or watery mess? Chances are you’ve been making one of these common cooking mistakes. With some tweaking and a little more knowledge about how to make it all comes together, you are guaranteed to have flavourful curries every time.
Most curries start with frying off your onions. You want to dice them finely, and cook them to the point specified in your recipe. If the recipe says translucent, cook them low and slow, until they are soft but have no colour. However, if you’re looking for a more pronounced flavour, cook them until they’re golden, taking care to ensure they don’t burn. Try adding a small pinch of salt to the pan to help prevent the onions from sticking and burning.
Ground spices quickly lose their flavour and aroma, making your curry taste flat and insipid. If anything’s been sitting in your cupboard for more than six months, it’s time to get rid of it. Visit spice stores with a high stock turnover, such as Asian supermarkets and bulk whole foods stores. For the best results try grinding up your own spices in small quantities using an electric grinder or pestle and mortar.
No matter what type of spice you’re using, from powders to whole pods, they need to be fully cooked to extract their flavour and prevent the curry from tasting raw. For whole spices such as cardamom pods, peppercorns and cloves, this can mean frying them in oil before adding the rest of your ingredients. If you’re using a spice blend, you’ll know when they’re done when the oil separates from the spices and rises to the top.
Unlike most spices, which benefit from being fried in the pan at the start of the cooking process, garam masala is best kept for the end. This is because this spice blend is largely aromatic, so it’s effect is dulled by a long, slow cooking time. Instead, stir a little into the dish just before serving to get the most from it.
Curries are a labour of love, and need a long, slow cooking time to ensure the full flavour is extracted from the spices. Fry your spices in plenty of oil, and then let the curry gently simmer away until the meat, vegetables and legumes are perfectly cooked. Once done, your curry should have a light film of oil on the top, which you can remove or leave for flavour.
When you’re ready to add your stock, water or coconut milk, add a little at a time, stirring it well to ensure you get the perfect thickness. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat at this point to thicken the curry, or you risk it spoiling. Instead, take your time and let it cook to the perfect consistency.
Don’t think that just because you’re using plenty of spices that you don’t need to season the final dish. It’s important to taste your final curry and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to create the perfect balance.