Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Masala (Tomato Curry Base)

Recently some friends and I were at one of my favourite restaurants in Vancouver (and probably the world) called Rangoli. My friends were astounded by the complex flavours in the curries that we sampled. There is always a discussion that ensues about how to create something so tasty at home.

Rangoli, and its older sibling next door, Vij's, are two of the only restaurants where my husband and I can both happily co-exist and eat wonderful food side by side, as carnivore and herbivore. We have been going there for all our special occasions (real or imagined!) for over 12 years now. If you ever get the chance to go there, you must take that opportunity.

If it is an impossibility to get to the restaurants, then you can always try a recipe from their cookbooks, Vij's and Vij's at Home. Every time I flip through them, my mouth is watering in anticipation of what I am going to make next. It is truly worth trying to recreate the flavourful experience of Vij's at home.

One of the most simple recipes in Vij's original cookbook is a masala recipe that has become the base for most of my curries. I think that the cookbook is worth investing in for this curry recipe alone! Over time, I have adapted it a bit- to suit the can of tomatoes I use, the spice level my family likes, decreasing the oil, using GMO-free oil (not canola), and increasing the recipe so that I can freeze little portions to use for last minute meal ideas.

It is wonderful with some red lentils or chickpeas for a legume dish, some sauteed eggplant or okra for a side of veg, and also wonderful with quick sauteed paneer and peas. But one of my favourites is a jackfruit and red bell pepper combo. Almost everything I have tried with it seems to compliment this curry.

This is the recipe that is inspired by reading their truly inspiring cookbooks and frequent visits to their restaurants. If you want the true Vij's masala, check out their cookbooks!
Don't ever buy curry in a glass jar again! It is so easy to make your own...

Okra and Paneer in Masala
Handy Masala/ Tomato Curry Base
This curry base can be packaged into smaller containers and frozen until use. You will probably want to thin it with water to get the consistency that you desire. For example, a red lentil dal would need 1-2 cups of water to 1 cup curry base, but a chickpea curry might not need much thinning at all, just a few tablespoons perhaps. One of my favourite combos for protein and veg is chickpeas and spinach tossed with this curry base. Rangoli also sells some of the most wonderful spices, roasted and freshly ground. You can't go wrong if you can get your hands on some of that goodness...

1/2 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil or another mild cooking oil
2 cups finely chopped onion, about 3 medium
3 tbsp minced garlic, about 8-9 cloves
1 tbsp minced ginger, about 2" piece
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp + 2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp coriander
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1- 796 ml can diced tomatoes
2 cups water

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 8 minutes, stirring often until beginning to turn golden. Add garlic and ginger and saute for another minute or two, do not let brown!
2. Add spices and salt and cook for another minute or two until fragrant.
3. Add tomatoes and cook for another minute and then add the water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Package into 3-4 glass containers for use later on.
To use: heat and add water until desired consistency. Use with sauteed vegetables or cooked legumes.