I always have a jar of homemade Indian curry paste in the fridge. On those days I really can't be bothered to cook, and yes even I, a food blogger, have them, it just opens up a whole world of wonderfully quick, tasty dinner options.
We eat a lot of curry dishes at home, particularly over the weekends when less recipe development is going on, that's not to say I won't develop these dishes for the blog. My 15-minute Spinach + Chickpea Curry uses this exact spice paste.
How is Curry Paste Made?
Indian curry paste is a whole bunch of spices and herbs smashed together in a pestle and mortar (or blender). Ordinarily, you'll start with as many whole spices as possible. For this recipe, I use whole cumin, coriander, mustard and fenugreek seeds. Start by toasting the seeds, toasting the spices releases the aromatic oils and adds a depth of flavour to the dishes that wouldn't occur if you just added them straight to the pestle and mortar.
It only takes 3 - 5 minutes to toast up the spices, in a dry frying pan. Once the spices are all nice and toasty add them to a pestle and mortar and add any ready ground ingredients, whole ingredients and any pastes that are being used. Then grind them all together using the pestle. Et voila, one curry paste.
There are of course many variations to Indian curry paste, depending on the dish you're aiming for. Today's is just a simple paste that can be used whenever you fancy a quick curry.
How long does homemade Curry Paste keep?
I would recommend using the paste within 4 weeks. Although I have kept a larger batch in the fridge for up to 6 - 8 weeks before now and it was absolutely fine.
When to add curry paste?
You should add your paste to your dish before you add any of the sauce ingredients to allow it to cook out, and release its oils, flavours and toastiness to the pan. For a meat curry, add the paste after the chicken is coloured and you see now pinker. If you were making a fish curry, add the paste first, as the fish cooks much quicker. Finally for a vegetable curry, add the paste after the root vegetables are browned and slightly tender.
Homemade Curry Paste Ingredients
The beauty of making your own Indian curry paste is that you can fix it to your own tastes. I've added a massive wallop of ginger and garlic to this one, but if that's not your taste, reduce it. There are also two whole red chillis in my recipe. If you prefer something milder, you can remove the seeds, or omit one of the chillis.
The core ingredients in almost every curry paste though are Coriander and Cumin seeds, garlic and ginger. You'll also nearly always find Garam Masala too. Garam Masala is a mix of coriander, cumin, cardamom pods, peppercorns and mace, toasted whole and then ground.
Make-ahead Curry Paste
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- ½ tbsp fenugreek seeds
- ½ tbsp mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons ginger paste
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 red chillies
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Add cumin, coriander, fenugreek and mustard seeds to a dry frying pan. Toast over medium heat until fragrant (3 - 4 minutes).
- Finely chop the red chillies.
- Add the toasted seeds to your mortar, along with the rest of the ingredients.
- Grind into a smooth paste using the pestle.
- If you're not using immediately, pop the curry paste into an airtight container and refrigerate. The paste will keep for up to a month in the fridge.