If you need to fry powdered spices always mix them with a little water first (aim for the consistency of ketchup) as this will stop them burning as easily.
When using whole cardamom seeds in a curry always pop them open first so they release their flavours. Use the back of a spoon and press down gently. Remember, you only want open up the seed a bit, not crush it completely.
Garam masala produce a wonderful aroma. Always add it towards the end of the cooking process and not when you add the other spices to ensure you get the full benefit.
When cooing onions sprinkle a small bit of salt on them to speed up the browning process.
When a dish requires whole spices to be tempered in oil (tadka) you need the oil to be very hot to extract the full flavour from the spices. If you put the spices in too early you are wasting your time. To test if the oil is ready drop one cummin seed into the oil. If it fizzes and jumps straight away the oil is ready. If not, then patience, patience…
When a dish needs fresh coriander then mix the chopped stems into the sauce (because they have more flavour) and keep the leaves (broken, not chopped) to sprinkle on top at the end of the cooking.
Throw old, stale spices away. Sounds obvious but too many people still try to flog the last bit of flavour out of dried out spices. In. The. Rubbish. Bin.
Curries generally need seasoning with salt, like most dishes, so don’t be afraid to use it. If you do overdo it then lemon juice can neutralise the salty taste.
When a dish requires yoghurt, cream or coconut allow your base sauce (onions, tomatoes, spices etc) to cool down a bit before adding it. This allows it to absorb better and not split.
Don’t treat your order of rice as an afterthought. Choosing the right rice can enhance your meal. If you are ordering a special dish (or a really hot one) stick to plain boiled rice or plain pilau so you don’t have tastes competing with the flavours of your main dish.
Do you want a curry that’s cooked to perfection? Ask the waiter where the chef is from and what dish he would recommend from that country or region. Most chefs will have perfected the dishes from where they grew up.
Keema curry is often over-looked. I was once asked, by a waiter, why I was ordering a Keema, as they are for old men with no teeth. Yet, I reckon they deserve a better press. Top yours off with a couple of quail’s eggs halved or a nice big duck’s egg quartered.
If a curry recipe includes vinegar (eg. Vindaloo) but you find its taste a bit too tart, then use good old tomato ketchup instead, which contains vinegar. Ketchup is also a good replacement if a recipe includes tomato puree and you don’t have any.
Onion, particularly white onion, can sometimes produce a bitter taste. To remove this bitterness boil the onions in water for a couple of minutes after chopping.
If you’re cooking up a batch of curry to freeze or making a curry that you’ll reheat to eat later, always remember to under cook the dish(es) by a few minutes. The final bit of the cooking will be completed when you have defrosted and/or reheated the curry. This is especially true if cooking chicken which can go dry very easily.
Are you looking to achieve that bright, red appearance in Tikka and Tikka Masala dishes without resorting to using the colouring that’s still used in some restaurants? Paprika is your friend.
So you think Korma is just a mild, rather boring dish? Korma is actually a way of cooking and korma dishes aren’t just confined to the ones that have sadly just got associated with people who don’t like spice. Add some chopped fresh red chillies to your next Korma for a great balance of smoothness and heat. You’ll never think of a korma in the same way again.
For a really rich, vibrant colour in your Kormas use saffron (not turmeric). To extract the colour from the saffron put a few strands of it in warm milk and gently press with the back of a spoon. The same trick works to give a beautiful colour to your Biryanis too.
One of the great things about peas in a curry dish, like a great Mutter Paneer, are their bright colour. Ensure you add them at the right time and they are not over-cooked or they will lose that vibrant colour (think mushy peas at the fish ‘n’ chip shop).
For that little bit extra when cooking sweet and sour dishes such as Dhansak and Pathia, use jaggery instead of sugar for your sweetener. If you run out of jaggery then brown sugar is better than white sugar.