Indian curries are traditional dishes from India with almost endless variations. The concoction of vegetables or meat and spices is flavorful and unusual, like a highly spiced stew or thick gravy. Despite the complicated ingredients, a simple curry is easy to make and is sure to be a crowd pleaser far different than the usual lunch and dinner staples.
For a basic curry, choose what you want to be the main component of the dish. For an extremely fast version, use a bag or two of frozen mixed vegetables or stir-fry mix. Chicken, lamb, and fish are all common ingredients, as are vegetables like potatoes, peas, garbanzo beans, spinach, and okra. Choose your favorite vegetables and meat for the dish; the flavors of the curry will blend well with most basic ingredients.
A simple Indian curry will require small amounts of some spices you may not have readily available, so be prepared to visit a grocery store with bulk spices or an Indian food store. Most curries use a variety of spices, including turmeric, coriander, cumin, curry powder, and a spice blend called garam masala. You may also want to add fresh ginger and garlic, and a few hot chilies.
To make the dish, heat oil in a large wok or skillet. Add two or three chopped onions and stir with cumin and ginger until soft and translucent. Throw in your garlic and chilies, adding a pinch of each spice and stirring until the garlic begins to brown. At this point, add a couple of medium sized tomatoes that have been chopped and seasoned. It is important to get most of the tomato liquid out before you add them, as it will water down the sauce. Once this mixture has thickened, add your vegetables or meat ingredients and continue to stir until the desired temperature and thickness is reached.
If your curry is too watery, increase the heat slightly and allow it to continue cooking, as more water will evaporate the longer you allow it to cook. On the other hand, if the sauce is too thick, add another tomato, and the additional moisture will help even out the sauce. Adding additional tomatoes can also help if you have made the curry too spicy, as the water and mild flavor will help balance out the heat of the dish.
You can easily make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the freezer, using an airtight container. Simply add everything except the final vegetables and meat, and you will have an all-purpose mixture to use at a moments notice. As you experiment more with Indian curry, you will begin to understand the amounts and interdependence of ingredients, and learn to adjust flavors for your preferences.