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Masala Sauce

I love good Indian food and have eaten in some wonderful restaurants and have been cooked authentic dishes by Indian friends. However I have yet to visit India. It is on my wish list!

Below is a recipe for a Masala sauce, a classic tomato based sauce. The slow cooking style is typical of Northern India, and this is not a sauce to be rushed. The good news is is that you can easily double up the recipe and then freeze the sauce so that you have delicious, authentic and homemade Indian food on hand when you are too busy/ too lazy/ too depressed to cook!!! It is the type of sauce that will go well with pretty much everything – meat, fish, shellfish, vegetables and pulses. You can serve it with a rice accompaniment or one of the many delicious Indian breads to capture every last bit of sauce!

Ingredients:

1 tbsp vegetable oil (olive or coconut)

1 large onion finely chopped

3 – 4 garlic cloves finely minced

4 cm fresh ginger, grated

1 heaped tsp cumin powder

1 heaped tsp ground coriander

1 heaped tsp tumeric

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

400g tinned plum tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

chilli powder to taste (if there aren’t kids involved 1 tsp, if you have kids or are not keen on heat then you can do half and half chilli and paprika)

2 tsp garam masala spice mix *

I large handful of fresh coriander leaves (during lockdown this is a struggle to find, if you can, grow your own! Replace with parsley if you can’t get it. When the markets are running again look out for the North African stall holders they sell fabulous, huge bunches of fresh coriander for 1€!)

2 fresh green chilies (again this will depend on your heat tolerance and the heat of the chilies as they vary) I add these at the end when serving with the coriander leaves

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan with a lid, and add the diced onions. Stir to coat in oil.
  2. Lower the heat and add the garlic, and the salt and combine. Cook for roughly 10 minutes with the lid on ensuring that the onion, garlic mix doesn’t burn. You are looking for it to soften and begin to caramelise.
  3. Remove the lid and add the ginger, the cumin, the coriander powder, turmeric and black pepper. Combine and cook for a further 20 – 30 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the pan, gently crushing them with the back of your spoon.
  5. Stir in the garam masala, chilli powder and the sugar ( if you are using fresh tomatoes in season you won’t need to add sugar, but tinned tomatoes need a bit of sweetness to counteract the acidity).
  6. Cook for 5 – 10 until the spices start to thicken the masala.
  7. Check the seasoning and spice levels. Adjust to your palate.
  8. You can now add whatever meat/seafood/vegetable/pulse that you like. Or cool and freeze.

I made this the other day with fresh spinach and hard boiled eggs. We are three so I hard boiled 5 eggs for 6 minutes, let them cool and then peel. I washed and roughly shredded 500g of spinach and added to the masala sauce, stir thoroughly until it is wilted and then pop the eggs into the pan. Check the spice and seasoning levels again as you will find the addition of spinach and egg will weaken the sauce. I served it with a vegetable pilau.

Chana masala is an Indian classic. Chana = chickpeas, and it is worth using dried chickpeas here cooked with a teabag. It is usually served with a flat bread to soak up the sauce. Masala works very well with chicken or lamb, with prawns or with a firm white fish.

Be creative and take photos and tell me what you have made!

It is not true that Indian food doesn’t go well with wine, it does! But the rules to follow. When the lockdown is over I will host a ‘Wine and Spice Tasting’. I have done these before and they have been very popular – 8 ‘spice’ dishes from across the globe partnered with 8 Languedoc-Roussillon wines. A feast for your taste buds and senses! Let me know if you are interested.

*For the garam masala spice mix see my previous post, or buy already made from the spice stall

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