Want to give your curries real depth of flavour? Try this versatile masala sauce. The secret to the rich taste is cooking the onions slowly until they are very dark. Add pan-fried chicken, meat, prawns or vegetables for a delicious quick curry.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 black cardamom
10 black peppercorns
4 green cardamom
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf
500g/1lb 2oz onions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste (from above)
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
salt, to taste
2 tbsp tomato purée
First prepare the ginger garlic paste. Blend the ginger and garlic with a teaspoon of water in a blender. Store any you don’t use for this recipe in the fridge.
To make the masala sauce, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the whole spices (black cardamom, peppercorns, cloves, green cardamom, cumin seeds, cinnamon and bay leaf) and fry until they start to crackle, then add the onions.
Cook the onions gently and slowly until caramelised and very dark brown.
Add a tablespoon of the ginger garlic paste and fry gently for 3-4 minutes. Taste to make sure the ginger and garlic are well cooked otherwise their flavour will be too strong.
Add all the powdered spices and mix well.
Add 100-150ml/3½-5fl oz water if the sauce is too thick.
Finally add the tomato purée and cook until the oil comes to the surface of the sauce.
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James Martin presents with help from chefs Niklas Ekstedt and Francesco Mazzei.