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Author Topic: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy  (Read 1945 times)

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Offline MonsieurBadgerCheese

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My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« on: April 12, 2017, 02:49 AM »
Bonsoir,

For what it's worth, here they are.

I’ve never been happy with the texture/sheen/mouth-feel/consistency of the sauce in my curries.

I have always thought that Base Gravy needn’t be complicated, but that it must be one of the major flaws in my curries. As I have said elsewhere before (elsewhere), I have been experimenting with a very simple Base, and (for me at least) have arrived at something which has improved my curries.

Hard to describe - but I’ve always thought in a BIR, that the sauce has an almost ‘plasticised’ look and feel to it, that none of my curries had. Also it is far more uniform and smooth that I can make. Seldom any perceptible ‘powdery feel’ that I have had in my dishes. Also, that when remains were left to cool on the plate, the restaurant sauce remained more ‘fluid’, and didn’t dry/harden to anything like the extent that mine did.

This got me thinking about oil quantities as well as emulsification, and that’s pretty much what I have been experimenting with.

I knocked up several batches of a very simple Base - the one I mentioned last week. Just onions, carrot, garlic-paste, oil, water, mixed powder and salt.

The first batch, I made with loads of oil. Result was - predictably - a base that barely reduced at all in the pan, and spat all over the cooker.

I then experimented with succesive small (750g onion) batches, with progressively less oil.

Here are my thoughts about using too little oil in the Base Gravy;

We have all been encouraged to cook on very high heat, and add the Base in small quantities. Using a Base with low oil/high water content (and very thin consistency) leads to the majority of the base immediately (or very quickly) evaporating - in turn leading to the necessity to either reduce the heat, or very quickly add more Base, or add larger quantities of Base in one go, or a combination of these things.

My theory is that this gives the powdered spices very little chance of cooking, without burning - so either burning or leaving an uncooked ‘powdery residue’ taste. Also, I believe that this gives the onion in the Base very little chance to caramelise properly, as it’s either threatening to stick to the pan, or we’re adding more Base (water = cooling) and effectively steaming it. Next - in order to adjust the consistency of our desired final sauce (I like mine quite ‘runny’), we add more Base Gravy. Previously, in order to achieve this, I have been adding more Base Gravy towards the end of the cook. Once again though, to stop it evaporating one has to remove the pan from the heat early (perhaps before the Base has ‘cooked’?)

So with more oil (properly emulsified) - we can add the base gradually (as briefed). It won’t evaporate at anything like the same rate - avoiding powdery or burnt spices, and allowing us to maintain a consistently high temperature in the pan whilst giving the onion in the base a chance to cook (caramelise) properly. This without having to continually ‘quench’ the pan. It is also much easier to adjust the consistency of the sauce towards the end of the cook by addition of extra Base which will have a chance to cook (caramelise) before evaporating again.

The second thing that I have considered is the blending of the Base. I believe it is important to blend it to within an inch of it's life! Then blend it some more........and one more time for the road. Then let your smoking blender cool down. Then do it all again. This is not only to achieve a smooth texture, but more importantly to create a true ‘emulsion’ of the water and oil.

If the Base isn’t truly emulsified then I believe we still have the same problem. Either the water evaporates, leaving oil in the pan, or we cool the pan and the base doesn't caramelise properly.

Further - it has always confused me why we have been encouraged to simmer after the blend until most of the oil that we have just emulsified has 'bled' back out of the gravy. I have pretty much eliminated this stage.

Using this technique, and the following (very simple) recipe, I have results with which I'm very pleased. This confirms (to me anyway) my long-standing belief that an awful lot of bollocks is talked about this subject.

Then again, maybe I'm talking bollocks!

Gravy

750g (peeled weight) Onion
2 Tblsp Garlic Paste (WELL blended - oil, no water)
100g Carrot
150ml Oil
1 (well heaped) Tblsp Mixed Powder
2 tsp Salt
Water to cover onions (approx 500ml)

Boil until veg is soft. Top up water until desired (final use) consistency is achieved, then BLEND, BLEND, BLEND. Then blend some more. Use.

My Mixed Powder is equal quantities of;

Haldi
Ground Corriander Seed
Ground Cumin Seed
Garam Masala
Ground Methi Seed

Any feedback/criticism/ideas very welcome.

MBC :D

Offline Edwin Catflap

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Re: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2017, 12:49 PM »
Hi MBC, interesting, would you then use less oil in teh actual curry itself. If so how much oil per portion in total do you think it ends up with?

Cheers

Ed


Online Peripatetic Phil

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Re: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2017, 05:19 PM »
The second thing that I have considered is the blending of the Base. I believe it is important to blend it to within an inch of it's life! Then blend it some more........and one more time for the road. Then let your smoking blender cool down. Then do it all again. This is not only to achieve a smooth texture, but more importantly to create a true ‘emulsion’ of the water and oil.
Is not the need for a completely smooth texture, mon cher ami, the reason why some members advocate using a mouli after the liquidisation process ?
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Offline redman1212

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Re: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2017, 10:54 AM »
Personally I've never had good results with a stick blender, but find that a liquidiser for about 5 minutes per jug gives a pretty smooth, homogenous base sauce. I have tried sieving the final sauce and removed a very small about skins and bits but only tried it once. it didn't make all that much difference to the final dish and 'life is too short....'

Offline MonsieurBadgerCheese

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Re: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2017, 06:37 PM »
Hi MBC, interesting, would you then use less oil in teh actual curry itself. If so how much oil per portion in total do you think it ends up with?

Cheers

Ed

To be honest, I still use a good CHSP of oil for the cook. Hate to think how much oil we end up consuming, but this isn't health-food after all.

MBC :)

Offline MonsieurBadgerCheese

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Re: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2017, 06:42 PM »
The second thing that I have considered is the blending of the Base. I believe it is important to blend it to within an inch of it's life! Then blend it some more........and one more time for the road. Then let your smoking blender cool down. Then do it all again. This is not only to achieve a smooth texture, but more importantly to create a true ‘emulsion’ of the water and oil.
Is not the need for a completely smooth texture, mon cher ami, the reason why some members advocate using a mouli after the liquidisation process ?
** Phil.

I'm thinking that the texture is more a result of proper emulsification of the oil and water than the filtering out of residual particles.

A very basic recipe like mine (no whole spice etc) leaves very little that could be filtered anyway.

MBC :)

Offline MonsieurBadgerCheese

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Re: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2017, 06:45 PM »
Personally I've never had good results with a stick blender, but find that a liquidiser for about 5 minutes per jug gives a pretty smooth, homogenous base sauce. I have tried sieving the final sauce and removed a very small about skins and bits but only tried it once. it didn't make all that much difference to the final dish and 'life is too short....'

Bonsoir,

I intend to give the liquidiser a go soon. Also considering splashing-out on a proper 'industrial' stick blender

MBC :).

Offline pete

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Re: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2017, 05:39 PM »
I must admit that I've paid less attention to the blending stage, than all the other parts of the recipe
I will blend my next attempt really well and see what difference it makes
Because I'm still not totally satisfied with my results either
I've tasted the base at a takeaway after it's been blended (before the reboil)
and it really did taste very nice
Maybe the reboil isn't needed

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Re: My Recent Thoughts About Base Gravy
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2017, 10:41 AM »
Maybe the reboil isn't needed

I don't believe it is. I've made bases with and without a  reboil and there's no perceptible difference in the finished curry, so I don't bother now. If you're cooking the curry properly, it's going to get boiled/fried to within an inch of its life anyhow ... so why bother with a reboil at the base stage?

And the reason there's usually a slick of oil sitting on the curry houses' base sauce is because it's a huge pot that sits there simmering slowly for hours as it gradually gets used up in the making of the curries.
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