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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!