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Author Topic: Lowest Common Denominator  (Read 1430 times)

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Online livo

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Lowest Common Denominator
« on: February 26, 2018, 12:01 AM »
Curry base gravies have been done to death. Nevertheless, they do invoke a lot of passion and as the fundamental principle of the BIR method they will always be the topic of discussion.  There are several reasons for performing my own personal analysis but mainly I was searching for a very neutral base.  I didn’t find a specific gravy but I should now be able to concoct one.

There is an Acronym in the Definitions / Acronyms area of the forum, FOAM :- Fixated On Accurate Measurement. This discussion is not, and in fact many of my observations and subsequent non-empirical analysis is based on nothing better than best guess in judging quantity of ingredients from paused video images and a whole lot of rounding and approximation.

I took 8 well-practised and well-known base gravy instruction / recipes, broke them all down and standardised them to a Lowest Common Denominator based roughly on a standardised quantity of onion.  I’ve ignored water and actual method. This is a quantitative analysis only and I usually use the pressure cooker method.

The gravies studied are, in no specific order, Kris Dhillon, Chewytikka, JB’s Takeaway, Dipuraja, Misty Ricardo, 100 Best Balti Everyday and Rolls Royce and finally Julian Voight.

The result here is not the ULTIMATE base gravy, as a member recently promised on a different thread, but it would be an AVERAGE base gravy with most things considered.  I haven’t made it.  It is food for thought.  Some ingredients are found in only 1 or 2 gravies from the study sample.  Some are not mentioned like the single use of Tej Patta, Brown Cardamom or Potato. This ingredient list is scaled to the use of approximately 1 kg of onion and there are explanatory notes following.

Main Ingredients
Onions 1kg (2 lb)
Garlic and Ginger 2 TBSP
Tomato (as either puree, passata, tinned or fresh) 240 ml (1 cup) see Note [1]
Tomato Paste (Concentrate) 1 TBSP see Note [1]
Vegetable Oil 150 ml (5 fl oz) see Note [2]
Salt 2 tsp see Note [3]

Other Vegetables  see Note [4]
Carrot 30 g (½ a small carrot)
Capsicum / Pepper 60 g (2 oz) (approx. ¼ average sized fruit red, green or mixed)
Cabbage 60 g (2 oz) (1 cup chopped)
Coriander 30 g (1 oz) (1 ½ - 2 TBSP chopped Stalks, leaf or both)
Green chili 5 g (1/2 TBSP chopped) (Mild)

Spices (Alphabetical order) see Note [5]
Chili Powder 1 Pinch to ¼ tsp see Note [6]
Coriander Powder 1 tsp
Cumin Powder 1 tsp
Curry Powder 1 tsp see Note [7]
Garam Masala 1 Pinch to ¼ tsp
Dried Methi  ½ tsp Optional see Note [8]
Mixed Powder 2 tsp
Paprika 1 tsp
Turmeric 1 tsp

Miscellaneous  see Note [9]
Coconut  20 g  block or 1 ½ TBSP milk
Sugar / Jaggery 1 tsp

Notes:
[1] Tomato content was obtained by the use of various forms. Fresh, tinned, concentrate or a combination in the case of KD but was present in all.  JB’s had the lowest tomato content while 100BB Rolls Royce had the most.

[2] The 150 ml oil content here is the averaged quantity. Minimum of 60 ml for CT and JB with maximum of 250 ml for Dipuraja.

[3] Salt content of 2 tsp is again averaged. Minimum was CT at ½ tsp and maximum JV at 1 TBSP or 4 tsp.

[4] KD and 100 BB Rolls Royce used no additional vegetables. 100BB Everyday used only Coriander stalks.  All others had some additional vegetables.

[5] The use of Curry Powder, Mixed Powder and Garam Masala obviously introduces various single spices. Dipuraja used only Mixed Powder, while Julian used 4 single spices + mild curry powder in large equal quantity. Others were somewhere in between.

[6] Chili powder or not.  Adding heat to the base gravy is subject to further discussion.

[7] Curry powder is same as  Note [6] above, chili powder regarding heat. CT used hot while JV used and stipulated mild.

[8] Dried Methi was only used in the 100BB Rolls Royce. I have seen other base gravies, not in this study, that include it for that genuine BIR aroma.

[9] Coconut only included by JB and MR. Jaggery only included as optional in MR’s base.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 08:23 PM by livo »
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Online Peripatetic Phil

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Re: Lowest Common Denominator
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2018, 06:28 AM »
An interesting scientific analysis, Livo (and I always admire a scientific approach), but could you explain what exactly you mean by "[7] Curry powder is same as chili powder", please ?

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Online livo

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Re: Lowest Common Denominator
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2018, 09:55 AM »
The same as Note [6] for Chili in relation to the addition of heat. Chewytikka used a Hot curry powder where Julian Voight specifically says to use mild. Other recipes stipulate not to add Chili heat to the base.
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Online Peripatetic Phil

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Re: Lowest Common Denominator
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2018, 10:21 AM »
The same as Note [6] for Chili in relation to the addition of heat. Chewytikka used a Hot curry powder where Julian Voight specifically says to use mild. Other recipes stipulate not to add Chili heat to the base.
Ah, thank you, now understood.  Yes, I would tend to agree that no general-purpose base should have significant chilli heat, any more than it should have other dish-specific ingredients such as almond or coconut powder, etc.  My suspicion is that the most basic and universal base requires no more than water, oil, onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric, and I might be inclined to try that on a future occasion, using fresh turmeric just as one already uses fresh ginger and fresh garlic.

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Offline George

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Re: Lowest Common Denominator
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2018, 10:34 AM »
mainly I was searching for a very neutral base.  I didn’t find a specific gravy but I should now be able to concoct one..

Why would you want to do that? i.e. unless you aim to open your own BIR and need to cut corners, as in achieving your 'lowest common denominator'. I'm fairly sure many Indian restaurants (worldwide) use more than one base sauce, and so do I. Horses for courses.

Online Peripatetic Phil

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Re: Lowest Common Denominator
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2018, 10:40 AM »
Why would you want to do that [search for a very neutral base] ?  i.e. unless you aim to open your own BIR and need to cut corners, as in achieving your 'lowest common denominator'. I'm fairly sure many Indian restaurants (worldwide) use more than one base sauce, and so do I.
Not answering for Livo (of course) but from my own perspective I can see one very good reason for doing this, and that is practicality.  In general, one makes bases in bulk (for my recent Taz base, e.g., over 3 litres of finished product) and these require storage after preparation.  Bases should be chilled, if not frozen, if kept for more than a few days, so to keep (for example) 3 different dish-specific bases would require chilled storage space for 9 litres.  I certainly don't have space for 9 litres, and I imagine that the same is true for other members.

** Phil.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 10:58 AM by Peripatetic Phil »
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Online livo

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Re: Lowest Common Denominator
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2018, 10:45 AM »
In answer to your question George, I'm after a very neutral base for a very mild specific dish.

The lowest common denominator terminology here is not intended to reflect a down-grading or reduction in any way. It is more so used to describe the process of applying the rule of averages across the most commonly found ingredients expressed in terms of their proportional relationship to a lowest common denominator, being a constant fixed quantity of onions.

It is important to note that I'm not suggesting this list as a recipe.  It may or may not be suitable to prepare this ingredient list as a useful gravy, most particularly in relation to spicing.  It could end up over-spiced, unbalanced or both or it may actually work. I don't know.  The 8 recipes examined use differing combinations in relation to mixed or bought curry powders and single spice powders. Clearly the use of all of the averaged quantities as listed would not reflect any of the actual spice levels from the original recipes due to doubling up of single spices also present in the mixed powders.  The use of the main ingredients and other vegetables as listed would not cause the same level of distortion.

Last night I was sorting through pages and pages of old printed recipes from years ago and I found a few other Curry Base Gravy recipes. Abdul's Method, Curried Away Adey Payne, Dan Toombs, The Body Base, and a couple without accreditation, all of which I have used in the past  They are all very similar and I feel that their inclusion in the analysis wouldn't really change much. It's pouring rain again today so I might add them to my study and see.  It would appear that while Base Gravies are mostly quite subtly different, they are all inherently very similar.  Specialty gravies  like the "100 Best Baltis Rolls Royce" aside of course. 

The reason for my study is because I wish to create a Specialty Gravy which is noticeably neutral and mild and for specific use in a single dish.  I know this is completely opposite to the intended use of a universally central base gravy for use in multiple curries.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 09:23 PM by livo »
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Online livo

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Re: Lowest Common Denominator
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2018, 08:09 PM »
Well my first attempt at a concocted base using this analysis data has proved quite successful. Not only did it produce better than hoped for results in the dish I wanted it for, but it also made a pretty good base for 4 other recipes as well. I'll give the spicing levels used when I go back to my notes but everything else was used at around 50% of the listed quantity with the omission of both fresh Chili and Coconut block. The half batch based on 450 -:500g of onion made a good quantity for a home cook. I made 5 double serve sized curries and used just over half of the batch.

I'm still experimenting with the additional water content after the gravy is blended. I like a thicker gravy in the finished dish but the cooking process certainly seems to require the higher water content, as expressed by all key players.
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Online livo

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Re: Lowest Common Denominator
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2018, 02:55 AM »
I've gone back to my notes from making the lowest common denominator base gravy. As previously stated, I used half listed average quantity in the OP for all ingredients with the complete exclusion of any Chili.  I also omitted any coconut block or milk but I did use a 50/50 mix of coconut oil and ghee instead of vegetable oil to the 75 ml (50%) level.

Looking back over my notes, as it turns out I actually did just use 50 % of all the spices as well, including both Mixed and Curry Powders, again with the exclusion of Chili Powder.  This produced a very usable base gravy.  It has worked really well for my intended purpose actually.

My pressure cooker is a multifunction unit with saute mode so I was able to utilise it for the whole process.
Whiskey is the answer, but what was the question?


 


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