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A Step-by-Step Guide to Cooking an Authentic Indian Curry

I am Indian, and traditional Indian cooking was a big part of my upbringing. My mother shared a number of her recipes with me.

My mother's curry recipe.

My mother's curry recipe.

Before I explain my recipe for traditional Indian curry, let me introduce myself. I am 21 and studying at University. I am Indian, and traditional Indian cooking was a big part of my upbringing. Unlike some students, I hate fast food and love to cook fresh meals every day. I only realized how much I enjoy cooking once I moved out of my parents' home and moved away to study.

A few months before leaving, I asked my mother to teach me a few traditional Indian recipes to get me started. The recipe below is one that she gave me. Like the others, it was passed from generation to generation and has not changed.

In my family's Hindu tradition, we do not eat meat, so the recipe I provide below is vegetarian, but it is possible to add any meat you choose to this dish. If you would like to be able to prepare a traditional Indian dish, read on!

Turmeric, cumin, and other spices.

Turmeric, cumin, and other spices.

A Note About Spices

You will notice that I have not included exact quantities for the spices, ginger, or chillies in the ingredients list. This is because Indian cooking is very much based on taste. Start with a small quantity and taste the sauce as it simmers to see if it tastes sufficiently spiced to you.

Cook Time

Cook timeReady inYields

1 hour 30 min

1 hour 30 min

Serves four

Some of the other ingredients: lime, ginger, garlic, and chillies.

Some of the other ingredients: lime, ginger, garlic, and chillies.

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 4 or 5 medium-sized fresh garlic cloves
  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh chillies
  • 4 or 5 cloves
  • Star anise, whole
  • 2 cans peeled plum tomatoes
  • Garam masala
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground cumin
  • Turmeric powder
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • Fresh lemon
  • A few sticks whole cinnamon
  • Vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Start off by peeling and finely dicing the two onions. A tip to avoid tears: Slice the onion in half length-wise, leaving the root uncut. Chop off an inch or so opposite the root. This should prevent the aroma from stinging your eyes. Finely dice the onions.
  2. As an Indian, I love hot food. If you prefer your food mild, use two or three small red or green chillies. Note that the smaller the chillies, the hotter they are. Peel and slightly dice chillies. To decide how much ginger to use, place the ginger root next to the garlic and use slightly more ginger than garlic. Peel the garlic and cut into small chunks. Peel and slightly dice the whole chillies. Place garlic, ginger, and chillies into a blender and mix into a smooth paste.
  3. Drizzle 2 or 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a pot with cloves, whole star anise, bay leaves, and cinnamon. Once the cloves begins to lightly crackle, your oil is hot enough to fry the onions. Carefully place onions into the oil and wait for them to brown. The darker the onions are (as long as they are not burned!), the darker your curry will be. A darker curry is more authentic.
  4. Once the onions are ready, turn the heat way down and add 1 or 2 teaspoons of garlic, ginger, and chilli paste. Allow this to fry together.
  5. If you are cooking this dish with meat, dice the meat to the desired size and add it to the pot. Now add the rest of the garlic paste and slightly fry for 5 to 6 minutes at a high heat, stirring frequently.
  6. Notice the gorgeous smells that are filling your kitchen. Now it's time to add the tomatoes. Use fresh if you like, but canned tomatoes are much easier.
  7. It's time to add the spices. Begin with the coriander and stir the sauce after adding each spice. About 2 or 3 small teaspoons will be enough. Next add 3 or 4 teaspoons of garam masala, 2 or 3 teaspoons of cumin, and about 3 teaspoons of turmeric. Remember to stir between each additional spice.
  8. Cover the pot so that a small gap remains and allow the sauce to simmer for 60 to 90 minutes on a low heat.
  9. Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice according to taste and serve with rice, chapatis, or naan bread.

I hope you enjoy the preparation, smells, colours, and tastes of this truly authentic Indian dish!

Comments

Liza from USA on May 31, 2020:

Curry is one of my favorite dishes to cook. Your mother's recipe looks delicious. I would love to try to make this at home as I have all the ingredients. Thanks for sharing.

Mike on March 19, 2020:

I made this tonight and it was delicious. I improvised a little and added dream. Beside the cream that I added, I was mostly surprised by how healthy this dish is.

I think you were right to leave the spice quantities to the chefs taste.

Will be making again!

Will be making again.

Tracy on November 18, 2019:

Made this curry and I’m my humble opinion it needed less tomato than recommended and certainly needed more specific quantities of ingredients to be used ..

Ben on September 01, 2019:

Just cooked it tastes amazing i used chicken but better suited for lamb of beef thanks for recipe

Okasha on May 03, 2019:

I just made this curry but I didn't have any gram massala it tastes amazing I really enjoyed preparing all the ingredients my flat smells amazing this is the first time making curry without a packet or jar of sauce very grateful for this recipe and feel proud of myself can't wait for hubby to get home so we can tuck in

Johanna on January 02, 2019:

Best curry recipe ever. Thank you!

D143275982 on August 19, 2018:

Thank you, that worked really well for me, followed your plan exactly, added 400gm diced chicken at the point you suggested and then cooked for 90 mins stirring occasionally so it didn’t stick. Used exactly the spices and quantities you said, ground the spices from seed in a pestle & mortar.

Really fragrant, light fresh feel and taste, far better than most things I’ve had in UK Indian resaurants.

It looked like a good recipe and I wasn’t disappointed, I’ll cook it for some friends next.

Thanks again.

Heath on June 12, 2018:

I'm so sorry but this was the worst curry. We had to throw it away.

Jessica on February 10, 2018:

Ibrar, maybe you didn’t follow the recipe properly because it doesn’t take that long to cook and it definitely far from a disappointing curry

Ibrar ali on February 06, 2018:

Just spend nearly 2 hrs making this and it was a very disappointing curry!!!

Total waste of time

Avoid !!!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 01, 2018:

That sound delicious. I might just try this and not always go out to an Indian restaurant when hanker for Indian food.

Jessica on December 26, 2017:

This recipe is absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for posting

jin on December 11, 2017:

she, if you read it properly, he states that he is a vegetarian, he says you can add meat if you wish, so i doubt he is going to give you meat quanities

She on October 27, 2017:

So how much lamb do you actually put in? You haven't actually stated how much should go in with the sauce.

George w on October 15, 2017:

Sounds delicious

I don't have all the ngredients but have most of them so I'm going to cook this for my sons

Thank you

Trisha on August 15, 2017:

It's still looking and tasting very much like tomatoes, I've put all the spices in but flavour is very faint, what am I doing wrong?

Conradcoetc on May 28, 2017:

Most tasteful and fragrant curry I've ever made. Thank you very much for posting.

Regards

C

Dave,Worcestershire. on March 03, 2017:

This is probably one of the best curries Ive made,cooked it with chicken thighs,the nearest you'll get to restaurant chicken curry,Ive added 2 tsp chilli powder if you like it hot, cracking.!!!!!

Nicola on January 10, 2017:

I know this was done quite a while back now but I want to add potatoes to the dish and just wondered when I should be putting them in please?

My Dad used to make the most beautiful Indian curries and sadly he passed away before I could ask him to teach me how to make them.

Any help would be appreciated.

I am making this tomorrow for the first time and can't wait as it sounds lovely.

I'm making it with beef and potatoes, my Dad used to make it with cauliflower and that was lovely too.

Lou on November 01, 2016:

It came out lovely, it tastes beautiful, just needed to add a bit of salt at the end

Barbara on November 01, 2016:

I tried your recipe yesterday , so delicious, full of flavour ... far away the best curry recipe EVER ! Thank you soooo much ! we love it !

Lou on October 31, 2016:

I've got a pot of it simmering on the stove right now, it's smelling beautiful, I diced fresh tomatoes myself. Hopefully It comes out a nice consistency. Also I diced the onions by hand, but I used a blender for the paste and I added 3 whole chicken breasts diced into fairly small rough cube shapes.

kaapo on March 30, 2015:

For how many person this recepie is

Ryan on December 29, 2014:

I used canned diced tomatoes - didn't come out like a curry... I'm guessing I should have used pureed?

Ryan on December 27, 2014:

No salt?

leedsdale on November 25, 2014:

just cooked this and mmmmmmmmmmm yummy scrummy :)

brea on September 24, 2014:

thankyou so much, its the best the curry ever :)

Jim on September 20, 2014:

I just made this dish for the wife and I and found it to be very nice , will be certainly doing it again , yum yum in my tum tum

Pete on July 26, 2014:

Came out far too sweet :(

Craigy on July 21, 2014:

Thanks a lot for Sharing this recipe, I have often in the past been confused while reading cooking instructions, but you explained it so well, that it is a simply understood, will be 100% trying this dish!! Thank you Craig.

nobbysue@gmail.com on May 30, 2014:

One of the best curries I have ever made, absolutely superb.

Andy from Guildford on November 25, 2013:

Looks great, tastes great, I added a little salt to bring out the flavour of the tomatoes. Thanks for posting....now waiting for the next one.

Daniella Lopez on December 08, 2011:

This sounds delicious! I'll have to try it out. Thanks for sharing a family recipe! Voted up. :D

medor from Michigan, USA on December 08, 2011:

you are making me so hungry... love the photos and the step by step instructions... thanks...

Mitch Bolen from Midwest USA on December 08, 2011:

I will have to give this a shot. An Indian grocery recently opened in our city, so the spices should now be available.

eye say from Canada on December 08, 2011:

thank you!!!!

steveamy from Florida on December 07, 2011:

Will be trying this soon....

rjsadowski on December 07, 2011:

I love authentic recipes and Indian cooking Facinates me because of the many spices that are blended and used. I hopre to hear more recipes from you.