Mother Sauces That Can Lift Any Dish

Store these homemade versatile curry pastes to make your everyday cooking super-quick and your meals super-delicious

Mohini Mehrotra Updated: Apr 27, 2020 12:44:25 IST
Mother Sauces That Can Lift Any Dish

Onion-tomato Masala

One of the most popular curry bases for North and South Indian cuisines, this onion-tomato paste, also known as bhuna masala, has a wonderfully complex flavour.

Made with onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and green chillies, it can be used as a base for tens of curries of different varieties— be it pulses, paneer preparations or meat curry. You can store this mixture in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for up to a month. However, it’s best to freeze the masala in ice trays so that you can just pop the cubes and use as per your requirement instead of de-freezing the entire lot (which will spoil it).

Makes: About 6 cups

How to: Puree 800 grams of tomato. In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil or ghee and add 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds. Let it splutter, then add 700 grams of finely chopped onions, 2 tablespoons of ginger paste, 2 tablespoons of garlic paste, and 4 very finely chopped green chillies. Stir the mix occasionally so that the onions cook evenly, for about 15 minutes. Add tomato puree, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, 2 tablespoons of coriander powder, 1 teaspoon of garam masala and 1 teaspoon of cumin powder.

Stir fry on high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce the flame to low and let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes till the oil separates. Once it cools down, store it in the refrigerator or in small zip-lock bags or in ice trays in the freezer.

Brown Onion Paste

This caramelized onion paste, also called brown onion paste, is a Mughlai cuisine favourite for its wonderfully mellow flavour. It tastes exceptionally rich and delicious with the addition of a nut paste, such as cashew or melon seed paste, or yogurt and goes well as a base sauce in meat and chicken dishes, potato or egg curry, mushroom preparations and even vegetable preparations.

Makes: About 3 cups

How to: Heat enough oil in a pan to fry 1 kg sliced onion. Stir constantly to make sure the onions are brown evenly. Cool the fried onion, then blend in a mixer grinder with 1/2 cup of yogurt or cashew nut paste, and ¼ cup of water till it becomes a smooth paste. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or store in the freezer for up to a month.

Mustard Curry Paste

Sharp and tangy, this homemade mustard sauce can be made as hot as you like. Make a thick paste so that you can use it as a curry base or even as a dipping sauce (with a dash of lemon) to be had with delicious fried food. It goes well with okra, potatoes, all kinds of fish. You can use it to make a wonderful curry for a mixed vegetable preparation.

Makes: 1 cup mustard sauce

How to: Soak 1/2 cup of yellow mustard seeds and ¼ cup of black mustard seeds in warm water overnight. Drain well. In a mixer grinder, add the mustard seeds, 2-3 chopped green chillies, about an inch of chopped ginger, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Grind till it becomes a smooth paste and store in an air-tight jar. Use within 3 days as it might become bitter.

Coconut Curry Paste

Desiccated coconut and spices lend this sauce a depth in terms of flavour that pairs beautifully with mutton, chicken, fish, vegetables and legumes. Absolutely comforting and hugely versatile, this sauce can lift an otherwise less-popular vegetable such as aubergine.

Makes: 1 cup paste

How to: Heat a dry pan and add 1-inch cinnamon stick, ½ tablespoon of fennel seeds, 1 tbsp of coriander seeds, ½ tablespoon of cumin seeds, 3 dry red chillies, 2 cloves, 3 green cardamom pods and 5 black whole peppercorns. Gently roast the spices till fragrant.

Remove from the heat and set the spices aside. In the same pan, roast ¾ cup of desiccated coconut till it turns golden. Once cool, add the roasted coconut and spices to a mixer grinder, add ½ cup of water and grind it till it becomes a smooth paste. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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