Mild, Indian curry paste made from delicate blend of fragrant whole spices like cardamom, cumin and coriander seeds, pureed fresh aromatics and cashew nuts.
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01. What is korma curry?
Korma is a mildly-spiced Indian curry that has a thick, creamy consistency and a bright ochre colour. The body of the sauce comes from a pureed onion and a cashew nut paste, while the colour comes from ground turmeric. The characteristic creaminess comes from the addition of yoghurt, although some recipes use cream or coconut milk instead. However, because cashew nuts that have been softened and then pureed to a paste provide a naturally thick and creamy base, it is very easy to create an authentic dairy-free version. You can replace yoghurt with water without compromising on the texture or taste, as long as you add a squirt of lemon juice at the end of cooking to replicate the tanginess. In fact, it is the liberal use of cream that has given korma a bad reputation as a bland and boring curry, as the cloying richness tends to overpower the delicate spices.
02. How do you cook a curry?
Curries are liquid or semi-liquid dishes in which chopped vegetables or meats are braised in a smooth sauce that has been flavoured with spices and aromatics, and thickened without the use of flour. Although Indian cuisine enjoys fantastic regional diversity, the cooking method is remarkably similar for most curries. Most curries start with the aromatic flavour base of onion, ginger and garlic – in much the same way as most European dishes start with onion, carrot and celery.
- aromatics: chopped onions are added to the pot first, and fried until their juices have been released and evaporated. Minced ginger and garlic are then added and fried only briefly, to avoid burning them and developing bitter flavours.
- spices: next, ground or whole or whole spices are added to the hot oil in order to release the flavour compounds. These are added in a particular sequence, as some spices need longer to cook out the raw flavour, while others burn very quickly.
- liquids: once the spices are fragrant, some form of liquid is added in order to stop the spices from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. This could take the form of chopped tomatoes, stock, coconut milk, cream, yoghurt, or just plain water.
- thickeners: a thin sauce will pool at the bottom of the plate, rather than clinging to the meat and vegetable pieces. Some liquids act as natural thickening agents, but, if a thin liquid like water is used, then pureed onion, peppers, ground nuts, or lentils will be added.
- main ingredient: now the main ingredient can be added. This could be chopped mixed vegetables, fish, diced meat, meat on the bone or pulses. If meat is used, it is common to tenderise it before cooking by massaging it with lemon juice and salt for 30 minutes, or to marinade it for several hours in a spice paste. Once the main ingredient has been added, the sauce is kept at a gentle simmer until the ingredients are tender and cooked.
- acids: adding a souring agent helps to brighten the dish and balance the flavours of sweet onions and creamy fats. They are usually added towards the end of cooking, as heating destroys the flavour of acids. Examples include lime juice, yoghurt, vinegar, tamarind, fruit or tomatoes.
03. What is a curry paste?
Making a curry from scratch can be time consuming. It is one of those kitchen tasks that benefits from economies of scale – that is, it is actually easier to puree a whole head of garlic in the small bowl of a food processor than it is to fiddle around mincing a couple of cloves on a chopping board. So you can save yourself lots of time by pre-blending a bulk lot of aromatics and spices into a paste and storing away for future use. When you want to make a curry, simply fry up a chopped onion, stir the paste into the hot oil and fry until the oil starts to separate out, add the liquid and main ingredient, and then simmer until cooked.
04. How do I store curry pastes?
Curry pastes are best stored in the fridge, where they will keep well for several months provided they are kept in a sealed jar and not contaminated with dirty spoons. However, the flavours will naturally degrade over time, so they are best eaten within 1-2 months if you really want to maximise the flavours. Curry pastes are not suited to freezing, as strong flavours intensify and change during frozen storage. This korma paste is not suited to home canning, as it does not have high-acid ingredients, and is very dense. This means that heating the paste in a water bath will not kill botulism spores, and I don’t want anyone to getting horribly ill for the sake of a convenient curry!
05. What dishes can I use a korma curry paste in?
Korma curry is usually made with diced chicken breasts, but you can also use this paste with lamb, beef or firm vegetables such as cauliflower and sweet potato.