A masala paste is simply the dry ingredients with the combination of onions, ginger and garlic cooked together in oil then blended together with vinegar. This combination oil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt act as preservatives for the masala paste. Pastes are nice because they maintain their flavor over time unlike dry spices and they are convenient to use as they can be tailored for your families individual tastes. While not necessarily used in India, Masala pastes such as Patak's, Kitchens of India, Bombay Authentics, and Sharwood's line the stores of Indian, American and British groceries. While these are all good, do yourself a favor and make your own, your taste buds will thank you for it.
Once made, this curry paste will last for about 2 months in your refrigerator, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays for up to 6 months. Another option is can your paste as I have done the the following picture. I put my masala paste in 4 ounce canning jars and process them in a water bath to make them shelf stable so that I have plenty of masala paste on hand when the need arises. They also make nice gifts to give to other curry lovers. I have included variations to make seven of the most common curry pastes that I make for your dining pleasure.
Basic Masala Spice Mix (Curry Powder)
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon Indian chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon sugar
6 whole cloves
- Heat cast iron skillet over medium high heat until hot. Remove from heat and place dried whole spices in pan stir for 60 to 90 seconds or until they become fragrant. Once you can smell the aroma of the spices pour them on to a plate and allow to cool. Do not leave them in the pan as they burn rather quickly, and once burned are no good.
- Once cooled, place the whole spices in a spice mill and process them into a fine powder and place in a bowl. Add the remaining powdered spices to the bowl and set aside and begin the second part of the recipe, making the paste.
- Balti Paste – 1 2-inch piece cinnamon (broken into small pieces), 5 whole cloves, 1 dried bay leaf, 2 tablespoons tomato puree, 2 teaspoon Indian chile powder, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon each cumin and brown mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon each black peppercorns and nigella and fennel seeds, ½ teaspoon each salt and ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon sugar.
- Bhuna Paste – 2 tablespoons tomato puree, 1 tablespoon tamarind juice, 2 teaspoons each coriander and cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon each turmeric, paprika and Indian chile powder, ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, ¼ black cardamom seeds, ¼ teaspoon sugar.
- Korma Paste – 3 tablespoons desiccated coconut, 1 tablespoon tomato puree, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon garam masala, ½ teaspoon each Indian chili powder and salt, ¼ teaspoon each turmeric and sugar. One small bunch fresh coriander.
- Jalfrezi Paste – 1 diced red bell pepper (saute with onions), 2 tablespoons tomato puree, 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon each turmeric, 1 teaspoon each coriander seeds, brown mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds; ½ teaspoon salt, and one small bunch fresh coriander.
- Rogan josh Paste – ½ cup roasted red peppers, 2 tablespoons tomato puree, 4 teaspoons paprika, 2 teaspoons garam masala, 2 teaspoons each Indian chile powder, cumin and coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon salt. One small bunch fresh coriander.
- Tikka Paste – 2 tablespoons tomato puree, 1 tablespoon desiccated coconut,1 tablespoon paprika, 2 teaspoons garam masala, 1 teaspoon each cumin and coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon Indian chile powder, ½ teaspoon each turmeric, salt and dried mint, 3 drops each red and yellow food coloring. One small bunch fresh coriander.
- Vindaloo Paste – 2 dried red chilies, 2 tablespoons tomato puree, 1 tablespoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons Indian Chile powder, 2 teaspoons each coriander and fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon each black peppercorns and fenugreek seeds, ½ teaspoon salt. One small bunch fresh coriander.
½ cup canola oil
1 large onion, diced
8 to 10 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Heat ½ cup canola oil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium high heat and saute the onion until they are soft and just and translucent; then add the garlic and saute for another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the dry spices (masala spice mixture) and saute for another 2 minutes to cook the spices, then remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool. Once cooled add the mixture to a blender or food processor with the vinegar and lemon juice and process until it becomes a coarse paste.
- Place in a jar and store in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 months or it can be place in 3 to 4 teaspoons portions sealed in plastic in the freezer for up to 3 months, almost indefinitely if you have a vacuum sealer.
- To use the 'curry' paste when making a curry, use 2 to 3 tablespoons for a recipe that yields 4 individual servings depending on personal preference. If you are using a recipe that calls for a commercial curry paste, simply substitute your won. Makes about 1 ¼ cup masala paste.
Note: Indian chile powder is equivalent to cayenne pepper, do not use a southwest style chile powder, rather use cayenne or red pepper powder. You could also substitute 1 dried red chile for each ½ teaspoon Indian chile powder, or simply use red pepper flakes. Desiccated coconut is dried unsweetened shaved coconut. I may be found in powder or flake form. Personally . I substitute unsweetened coconut flakes that you can by at any supermarket. I Place them on a sheet pan the night before I am going to make my curry paste and cover with a paper towel and allow them to air dry. Process the dried coconut flakes in the spice mill with the rest of the dried spices.