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How To Make A Curry Like A Pro

We ask home cooks how they approach making a curry.

As you can imagine - there are many ways to start your curry pot. Let’s find out...


“How do you start your curry pot? Over the weekend, I listened to two excellent curry makers about how they make their curries. Both excellent, but each with a different approach. The interesting bit was about getting the red colour without using any masala powder or curry powder – only fresh spices roasted together in a pan. Fresh chilli seems to be a vibe.

“We were enthralled, and I wish that I recorded the conversation – it was mesmerising. I’ve never seen this on any TV show I’ve ever watched. Two home cooks – two family chefs. Brilliant! The name Ramola Parbhoo was mentioned many times.” – Ingrid Jones

So Many Answers

Shihaam Domingo: “I infuse my whole spices in oil and then add the onions to brown. Add the fresh garlic and ginger, then the chilli powder, jeera, koljana (coriander) and turmeric. I allow this masala to roast for at least 10 minutes while adding bits of water. The key to a good curry is to roast the spices in layers, adding dashes of water in between, and allowing the oil to surface between stages.”

Rebecca Mohamed: “Depending on the type of curry, I first marinate my meat with garlic and ginger and my powdered spices (I do this for lamb curry). Then I infuse my whole spices in oil, add onions, then the tomatoes and lastly the meat. I let it cook for 30 minutes before adding the potatoes. Once done, I add dhania.”

Martha Nelson: “I believe in a good base, which consists of 4 chopped onions and some garlic. I let it simmer until soft and golden. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes; add curry leaves and spices of your choice. Add half a bunch of chopped fresh coriander and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Then add meat and cook until tender; add potatoes and salt and let it simmer until done. And here is my magic trick: just before serving, add freshly grated garlic and chopped fresh coriander and simmer for another 5 minutes. Enjoy.”

Rene Dennis: “Tempering the spices is key. I add sweet paprika for enhanced taste and deep red colour.”

Liesl Siljeur: “I add paprika for a deeper colour.”

Carmen Siologas: “I also love adding paprika, and I find that the smoked Spanish paprika just adds another dimension to curries. There are just so many variations and types of curries to make – so, for me there are no hard and fast rules. Everyone has their own special mojo and blend of spices. I am constantly learning about curries. I read somewhere that it is impossible to keep track of the countless variations of curries. I like making my own spice blends.”

Lynette Adams: “I roast the seeds in a dry pot until browned, then let it cool before crushing it finer – the aroma is enticing.”

Kharnita Mohamed: “Sauté onions in oil, add dry spices, curry leaves, garlic and ginger, and then powdered spices. Cook for about 10 minutes while adding bits of water. Add meat, then vegetables, and finish with coconut milk/cream or yoghurt.”

Natasha Sydow: “I didn’t have tomatoes on hand, so I’ve discovered that puréed red peppers also give curry a lovely colour. So I braise 2 onions and 2 red peppers that have been puréed for 10 minutes until the raw taste of the onions and peppers is gone. Then I add FLAVR Cape Malay Curry Mix, and then the chicken, meat or vegetables. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes. Yoghurt makes it deliciously creamy, but that’s optional. Salt to taste. Garnish with additional fresh coriander. Bismillah.”

Juanita van Sitters: “I make a jeera curry, and because it is one of the spices that takes time to cook, I add it first – after my chopped onions are cooked golden brown in the oil. Then I stir in the other dry spices (peppercorns, curry leaves, bay leaves, allspice, stick cinnamon, chilli powder, cloves, cardamom powder, koljana, star anise, and masala) and let it cook for a few minutes to release the flavour. At this point, I add the tomato paste, and make sure that the taste and consistency is what I would want at the end. I then cook the curry for about 10 minutes and add a little bit of turmeric (but not too much as it can turn the colour to yellow). Then I add the meat, then the potatoes. Lastly, I add the fresh garlic. Add the dhania just before serving.”

Surita Riffel: “It is possible to make curry without powdered masalas. This I discovered one evening when I thought I still had masala... Start by softening the onions in oil, then add bay leaves and other dry spices and fry until fragrant. Then add tomato paste or tomato sauce (I prefer tomato sauce as it is naturally sweet) and dry-fry. Add the meat, and then only the garlic and ginger – at this point I would add some turmeric if I feel like it. There are so many types of curries one can make. I love North Indian curries, with a slight heat but enough flavour. To achieve this, I love using dry whole spices. I made a few curries without masala and it tasted so good.”

Zelda Fisher Lategan: “I fry 2 finely chopped onions with star anise, crushed cardamom, two red chillies, fresh paprika, bay leaves, allspice berries and stick cinnamon. Once the onions are soft, I add grated tomato and red pepper. Cook for a bit, then add roasted masala, turmeric and curry powder. Let it cook for a bit, and then add coconut milk and meat. When the meat is halfway done, I add potatoes and salt. When the curry is done, I chop in the dhania.”

Michell van der Schyff: “For chicken, lamb or beef Malay curry,

I start by heating the oil and a bit of butter, then add curry leaves (fresh from my garden), stick cinnamon and cardamom. Then I add about 3-4 onions that I blended (not too fine) with garlic and ginger, and sometimes a chilli. I wait till this mixture is slightly brown, and then I add the meat and a can of chopped tomatoes. At this point I will add the potatoes if I make a chicken curry. With lamb or beef curry, I wait till the meat is almost tender before I add the potatoes. Only when I add the potatoes do I add the dry spices. I don’t add any water to my curries; the blended onions produce enough juice.”

More Curry Recipesa Closing Message

No that you have some tried-and-tested tips for your next pot of curry, try some of the recipes in the “Curries” section (listed under the “Recipes” drop-down menu).


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