Do you sometimes wonder what authentic curry recipes from India actually are? I do! Most Indian restaurants in the UK seem to serve curries which have a film of molten ghee floating on top of the meat and vegetables – are these really authentic curry recipes?
My local curry restaurant here in Spain is actually run by Nepalese people and they certainly serve a few genuine Nepali dishes which seem to use herbs rather than spices. However, the standard Indian dishes which they serve, while delicious all seem very similar. A Madras, a Jalfrezi, a Bhuna and a Karahi all contain tomatoes, onions and peppers and as you can order any of them with a mild, medium or hot sauce, the difference, to an uneducated palate, is negligible. Are these authentic curry recipes?
I have been to Northern India quite a few times now and a few things have struck me about the curries served there. Firstly, they are not oily; while I’m sure they do use ghee in the cooking process, they obviously don’t overdo it. Secondly, the curries aren’t hot; they are certainly spicy and they do use chillies, just not to excess.
On one trip, I was fortunate enough to be invited to eat at the home of an Indian family. The father of the household was a meat eater and an alcohol drinker but the wife, the children and the wife’s mother were all vegetarian and teetotal.
The wife and her mother were banished to the kitchen while the husband and kids chatted. To our surprise, the meal began with a knock on the door and an arm reaching in bearing a paper carrier bag. The first course, chicken tikka and sheekh kebab, had arrived by way of a delivery service. There was so much that we wondered if this was the whole meal, but we were summoned to the table.
There was only room for four of us at the table so the kids sat down in armchairs and the wife’s mother stood at the gas stove slapping chappatis from hand to hand, cooking them and bringing an endless supply to the table piping hot.
The rest of the meal was rice and vegetable dishes but one that stood out for me was chickpea dhal sometimes known as channa masala (which is also the name of the spice blend used) or chole masala. Apparently this recipe varies from house to house as every one has their own family one which has been handed down but this is the one I was given.
You will need 400g prepared chickpeas (you can use dried (150g) but canned are fine)
Heat some oil in a saucepan, add Â½ tsp cumin seeds and cook briefly. Stir in 1 tsp freshly chopped ginger, Â½ tsp ground turmeric, and Â½ tsp ground coriander and cook for a further few seconds. Add a ground tomato, the chickpeas 1Â½ tsp channa masala spice mix and a large pinch of garam masala, chilli powder, ground black pepper, roasted ground cumin seeds and salt to taste.
Add some water if there isn’t enough liquid, bring to the boil then simmer gently for ten minutes. Mash some of the chickpeas to thicken. Serve with chappati or naan bread and plain yoghurt.
Now that’s what I call authentic!