Mark's General Curry Protocol
Curry making is not so hard, it has a simple basis which is not unlike that for stews or pasta sauces.
That's it, but here is some detail to make it better:
1. Heat oil (not olive) and some curry leaves if you have them (they add fragrance more than anything else, & can be removed later or left in if chopped/crushed up small)
Add 1 finely chopped medium onion & saute till it starts to brown & moisture is driven off, then add finely chopped ginger (2 tsp of fresh or bottle) cook for a further 2 minutes. Finally add finely chopped garlic (2 tsp of fresh or bottle) cook for 2 more mins.
2. Add Rempah and fry for a few minutes until fragrant.
This is the big variable with curries i.e. what the rempah is composed of and how much to use. If you use a bad curry powder/paste or the wrong amount - too little or too much, the curry may be ordinary at best, or even awful!
You can do anything from using 1 or more good curry powders and/or bottled curry paste to making you own rempah from fresh ingredients (total of 10-14 tsp if using powders, less if using just paste - follow bottle recipe for ratios to meat amount). In the case of fresh ingredients, heat cumin and coriander seeds till fragrant in dry non-stick pan, add crushed chillies then grind with mortar and pestle (alt. can add in chilli powder to final product) Other ground spices to add depending on the style of curry you are doing are:
garam masala, cardamom seeds, fennel, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg.
A good alternative to this is to use 1 -4 good curry powders (Babas meat or fish style is best - but hot, so I often add a milder powder in to mix) and add 2-3 tsp of bought curry pastes also. I usually supplement with a tsp each of extra cumin & coriander, pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg & garam masala etc. What ever way you make it, add a little warm water to combined spices in a bowl & make the final mixture a paste to add to the onion mix in the saucepan.
3. Can now add fresh chopped tomato (1-2) and fry in till soft, or can add meat now and canned tomatoes or tomato paste later.
4. Add meat (300-500gm of any type) + water (1/2 -3/4 cup) bubble away till meat sealed ~ 5 mins.
5. Add vegies 2-4 cups -amount and type of your choice; common ones are: potato, carrot, beans, cauliflower. For lower GI use baby potatoes & reduced quantity (3-4) or use sweet potato instead. I par cook my vegies in the microwave, often because I do mostly chicken curries which cook quickly and because when I don't do this, I get never get my potatoes to soften!
Add a cup of water or water + 1/2 can of tinned tomatoes (according to your taste)
Add 1 tsp tamarind paste, 1/2 tsp salt & bring to boil, half cover (tilted lid) & fast simmer for 20-40mins until sauce thickens with frequent stirring to avoid sticking.
Leave in saucepan overnight & eat next day if you can!
Tamarind paste may not always be at hand so you can use lemon juice, or even vinegar (if you want a more Ceylon style)
Alternates, for Malaysian style after 10 minutes cooking add coconut cream/milk 1/2 cup (Ayam brand is best). Add yogurt 2-3 tblsp for Indian style. 2-3 tblsp tomato paste can be useful in curries too to add flavour.