Author Topic: Bruce Edwards Curry Sauce & Basic Curry - From The Man Himself  (Read 60557 times)

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Online Yousef

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As you know I have been in discussion with Bruce Edwards and he has kindly provided with an article on the restaurant Curry Sauce and Basic Curry.  So here it is.......

Bruce Edwards
I discovered this forum about a year after it first came online, and have visited it from time to time since then. Initially progress seemed slow, then people started reporting on kitchen demos, and things started to get interesting. Very soon there was some good information, but also a lot that wasn't helpful, and some - well I wont say any more. The difficulty for many people was just what to believe Common problems are that when someone sees for the first time what goes on in a restaurant kitchen they're are in an unfamiliar environment, their observations are often unreliable and they often misinterpret what they have seen. They might see a pan on the cooker on a burner that resembles a rocket engine and so conclude that a high temperature and lots of heat are necessary, but they fail to notice that the contents of the pan are only simmering, because it is a small pan and most of the heat is going up the side. The chef then takes the opportunity to impress the visitor by producing a sheet of flame with a flick of his spoon and a shake of the pan, and the impression is reinforced.

Another example is quantities; the visitor sees a massive pot of sauce on the cooker and asks how much coriander/turmeric/cumin etc. he needs in his pot which is 'this' big. The chef, trying to be helpful, makes a guess. Now think about it. If your pot is 6 inches in diameter and the same in depth, and the restaurant one is three times this, [distinctly possible] then the restaurant one actually contains TWENTY SEVEN times the volume of yours, as simple   arithmetic will show, but a fact that might easily be overlooked.
People look for recipes with a definite result in mind. And while recipes are obviously important and have a part to play, what BIR cooking is really all about is using Traditional Indian methods and spices to cook dishes that are not typically 'Indian'.

When everything is right, the Restaurant Flavour/Smell is produced, almost as a by-product of the process as a whole. Of course the chef will have heard of this, but probably wont be too clear about what we actually mean by it. He will almost certainly assume that we are talking about general spiciness. Only a true British Curry Enthusiast can fully appreciate it.

Method and technique are everything. Master these and you will be able to produce restaurant style dishes from a whole range of ingredients. The bad news - for some ? is that the best starting point is an understanding of Traditional Indian Cookery. You need to be familiar with spices, know how to cook with them, know what dishes look like at various stages, and how to
achieve this. Daunting, maybe, but hopefully I can demystify it a little.

I'm going to try to explain what is actually happening rather than just giving recipes and instructions.
What I am presenting here is a fairly standard Curry Sauce, but to try and make it as repeatable and failsafe as possible, I am giving some precise quantities and instructions. I can't, of course, guarantee success for you, but I can tell you with confidence that it does work, and when everything is right, it can produce the sort of spectacular result that we are probably all familiar with.

If you follow these instructions, the result should be a dish that is robustly spiced and well seasoned, [Typical of the sort of dish that restaurants produced through the 1980's and into the '90's] that you stand a good chance of enjoying even after having been exposed to the cooking smells. And of course, once you are happy with it, you can always reduce the spicing to a level typical of what the average restaurant uses now. More on that later.

  • ONIONS.  3 Lb. prepared weight. [Peeled] Chop finely.
  • CARROTS. 4 Oz. prepared weight. Chop.
  • RED orGREEN PEPPER 3 Oz. Chop.
  • CORIANDER. 1 Oz. Chop.
  • GARLIC and GINGER. 1 Oz. of each. Prepared weight. Blend finely with some of the water.
  • TOMATO. 2 Rounded Tbsp. tinned chopped or 2 Med. fresh.
  • AJOWAN. 1 Quarter Tsp. Optional.
  • SALT. 1.5 Tsp.
  • OIL. 6 Fl. Oz.
  • WATER. 2.5 Pints
  • SPICE MIXTURE. 4.5 level Tbsp.
  • TOMATO PUREE.  1 Rounded Tbsp.

ONIONS. The quantity specified will give a fairly thick sauce [Recommended] but if you prefer you could reduce the amount to 2.5 Lbs.

GARLIC AND GINGER. These should always be blended if they are going to be boiled. If they are just chopped, the flavour will cook out. Sounds unlikely, I know, but there is a good [ in terms of chemistry ] explanation for this.

AJOWAN. Only a small amount needed. Unfortunately, far too much was specified in Curry House Cookery.

SPICE MIXTURE. Coriander / Turmeric / Cumin / Curry Powder 8:7:5:4 parts by volume. When I say level spoons, that's what I mean, so use the back of a knife to be sure that it is level.

OTHER INGREDIENTS. May be added, but aren't really needed. Restaurants typically do this to individualise their dishes. A segment of lemon or a stick of celery will make a noticable difference but care is needed as inconsistencies are easily introduced. Onions are bad enough, varying in strength and sugar content, without carelessly adding other variables.

This sauce replaces the one described in the second series of Curry House Cookery. As it is quite well flavoured, it works well with plain cooked meat or chicken. It will produce a perfectly acceptable curry with supermarket bought cooked chicken. If, however, you want to seriously reduce the spicing, then consider pre-cooking the main ingredient with some whole spices.

Put all the ingredients except the spice mixture and tomato puree in a suitable pot. Make a note of the level of the water - the evaporation loss will be made up later.  Put it on the cooker and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer on the lowest possible heat for ONE HOUR.  It should be ONLY JUST bubbling. Five minutes before the end of cooking time, add the spice mix and tomato puree and return to the boil. When time is up, turn off heat and leave to stand for a
minute or two, then stand the pot in cold water to cool.

I always make curry sauce in late afternoon, and when I reach this point, I refrigerate it, then blend it the next morning. So you can follow exactly if you want, or fit it into your own schedule.  But I think it is probably best if you at least allow it to cool fully before blending.  When you are ready, top up the water to its' original level. Then blend until really smooth, and return to the fridge.

It is my opinion [but not proven] that curry sauce is at its' best on the third day after cooking. 
I normally make two pots per week ; the first on Monday for use on Wednesday / Thursday and often Friday as well. The second is made on Wednesday for a special meal with trimmings on Saturday. I don't normally freeze any - I think curries are far too important to use anything other than the best whenever possible. Okay, so it dosen't all get used, what's left gets fed to our chickens. At least it's not completely wasted.

It's a good idea to remove it from the fridge and allow to reach room temperature before re-heating.  If you wont be needing it all, transfer enough plus a little extra to another pot, then leave it to stand for an hour or two. Heat it over a medium flame until boiling, stirring often to stop it separating. Allow it to boil for a minute or so, then turn off the heat. 
It is now ready for use, but don't expect it to look the way it does in a restaurant kitchen.  There simply isn't sufficient volume of sauce here to produce the classic oil slick. You could force the issue by adding extra oil, but that would be for appearance only, it isn't necessary, and may even be counter productive ? the additional oil would take on flavour from the sauce, which would then be drained off. It is true that chefs will use oil from the pot to cook some dishes in, but that's because it is there. It will make a difference to some bland dishes, but is not necessary for the restaurant flavour. 

In the unlikely event that you are doing this for the first time, then before you start actually cooking, be sure that you know exactly what you have to do. There is a point of no return, and you simply can't stop to check the instructions.  This is a basic restaurant curry so most of it will be familiar, but it is my intention that you get it RIGHT.

  • OIL. 1 Fl. oz.
  • SPICE MIXTURE. 0.5 Tsp.
  • CHILLI POWDER. As required. 1 LEVEL tbsp. For fairly serious Vindaloo.
  • DRIED FENUGREEK LEAVES.   1 small pinch.
  • SALT. 2 pinches.
  • COOKED MEAT OR CHICKEN. 1 portion / as required.
  • CORIANDER LEAVES. Chopped / as required.

THINLY SLICED PEPPER OR ONION. As in Curry House Cookery, this is not
actually required ? its' purpose is to enable you to judge the temperature of the oil before adding the spices. This must be high enough to cook them, but not so high that they burn. Apart from that, it is not critical.
Hopefully, you have a 1 Oz. cooks' spoon and a 7 Oz. ladle. If not, I thoroughly recommend that you get them, as they really are the best tools for the job. Make sure that you know what your ladle looks like when it is half full, as this is a useful measure and reduces guesswork.

Put the oil, tomato puree and pepper / onion in a pan and on the heat.
When the contents of the pan are frying briskly, add the spices, and mix well with the oil. You can give the pan a good shake, stir with the spoon, or a combination of the two, it dosen't matter, as long as everything is well mixed.
The spices will fizzle and foam - this shows they are cooking properly.
The hotter the oil, the more they will foam and the quicker they will cook. [ Forget about smoking hot oil - yes it will work, but timing is crucial.] After a while, the sizzling will start to die down.  This indicates that the spices are cooked, and the process must be stopped NOW, but ideally just before this point. With practice, it is not difficult to judge the right moment.
[While all of this is going on, anyone downwind of your kitchen will be getting the full benefit of the Indian Restaurant Smell. What a shame that this is wasted on those in the kitchen.]

It is now time to add a ladleful of sauce. This reduces the temperature in the pan and stops the spices from cooking any more. [ And also from burning. ] But beware ; it is possible for the spices to carry on cooking in a bubble underneath the sauce. So make sure that this dosen't happen by stirring, swirling and generally mixing well. Allow the curry to simmer for a few minutes on a medium heat.  When the oil separates and floats on the surface, you can spoon off the excess and add the rest of the sauce along with the main ingredient. [ Which can be pre-heated by microwaving.] Carry on simmering until the oil again separates and the sauce turns a little darker in colour. If you want a thicker curry, allow to simmer for a little longer. Exact times can't be given ; it is really a matter of of waiting until it looks right. When you are happy with the result, add chopped coriander leaves and serve, or place on a serving dish.

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT. The only tricky part is the frying of the spices, but a little practice should make that second nature. Interestingly, it appears that some chefs are reluctant to fry chilli powder in any quantity [Phall or at least Vindaloo heat] because of the fumes given off. This is unfortunate, because it seems to be under-cooked chilli that is responsible for the next day effects often associated with hot currys. [FINDALOO syndrome.] I regularly eat currys
containing six or more tablespoons of chilli powder which is well fried, and never seem to suffer from this.

Now its' up to you you to try what I have described - I hope it works for you. Post your results and experiences, and I will keep an eye on how things are going. I hope to add to this, probably later this summer or early in the autumn, and I will try to help with any problems that occur. But if you alter the method beyond all recognition before you even try it, then tell me that it dosen't work, don't expect too much sympathy!

In my part of the world [I don't know what's happening further afield, I don't do much travelling around these days.] restaurants are producing food that is minimally spiced and often low salt. The low salt option seems to be taking blandness to a bit of an extreme, but minimal spicing can result in some interesting dishes, although the restaurant flavour/smell is missing. If you want to try this, try halving the quantity of spice mixture, garlic/ginger and coriander in the sauce. You could actually reduce the spice mixture to about a third of the amount specified and still produce very acceptable currys. The spicing of the actual curry could also be halved, and you would still have something typical of many restaurants, although obviously this is not for everyone, and I suspect not for most users of this forum. I have made perfectly satisfactory hot currys by using nothing but turmeric [ around 1.5 tsp ] to spice the sauce, relying on the flavour of a fairly large amount of chilli powder for the end result. Flavours such as coriander leaves then seem to come through very well. These, though, are purely experimental currys, but they may appeal to some.

29th. JUNE. 2008.

Copyright Bruce Edwards will pursue any copyright infringement of this article.

Offline Bobby Bhuna

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I notice that Bruce no longer lists radishes amongsts the base sauce ingredients. This interests me, since I have recently used a mooli radish in a base and feel that it improves the texture. Any ideas why the radishes have been omitted from his revised recipe?

Offline haldi

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Thanks Bruce
I will try this out soon
I see that although the base is quite heavily spiced, the curry isn't
One compensates the other
This is like we have been saying
You can't mix and match curry bases and curries from different places
It's very interesting what you say about the heat from these cookers
All flame and no heat

Offline SnS

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Thank you for your very informative post Bruce. Looks good.

I will try this one very soon.

I notice the 0.25 tsp pf Ajowan seeds are optional. I've never used these in a base before, although I know Bobby Bhuna has recently suggested it to me. Do you know if they make any noticable difference to the final base? Are they blended into the base or do they remain as seeds after blending?


Offline Bobby Bhuna

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I've never used these in a base before, although I know Bobby Bhuna has recently suggested it to me. Do you know if they make any noticable difference to the final base? Are they blended into the base or do they remain as seeds after blending?

I'm sure Bruce can better answer this question but in my most recent base (basically a fairly standard base with a mooli radish and 1/4 tsp ajwain seed). I can't really taste the ajwain seeds but I'm pretty sure they just blended into the base. I imagine they would have softened up a great deal during the cooking process. I certainly haven't come across any whole ones in my finshed dishes yet! :P
« Last Edit: July 10, 2008, 05:28 PM by Bobby Bhuna »

Offline Unclebuck

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This is definitely my next one to try!  :D
Fantastic post and a great read, Will try with the Ajowan seeds.

Thank you Bruce.

Ill will report back as soon as i get time with some results. UB.

Offline matt3333

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Really really interesting post many thanks, I also think the comments by Haldi on mixing and matching are very helpful.

Offline Bobby Bhuna

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I'm sold on the idea of the actual technique making all the difference. After all, if you gave Gordon Ramsay and I the same ingredients and recipe, I have a suspicion there may be somewhat of a difference in the end result. I found the part about cooking spices particularly informative and intend to try to get this right.

However, properly cooked or not, a 3 tbsp of chilli curry is definitley gonna hurt on the way out! Bruce Iron Bowels Edwards! ;D

Offline JerryM

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a fantastic post.

i really love the way Bruce has worded it.

i hope it is the start of a mutually beneficial relationship with CRO members.

very much looking fwd to trying the method word for word.

Offline joshallen2k

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This is a must-do. Really looking forward to my results as well as others on the site.

Let's see... if those trying it follow Bruce's advice to the letter, we won't have results posted until... Monday!

Some very interesting nuances in this one...


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