Masala Base for Curries

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I have shared the curry base that I use regularly in most of my curries. This is a versatile recipe that can be adapted to suit your palate. It is best served with rice, chappathi , Roti , naan or pulao. The dry version can be used in your wraps for a lunch on the move!


Cumin – a pinch (optional)

Fennel – a pinch ( optional)

Slit Green chilly – 1 (optional)

Finely chopped Onion – 1. 5 ( you could replace 1/2 the onion with 3 shallots )

Ground Ginger – 1 tsp ( can be replaced with chopped or ginger paste based on your preference)

Ground Garlic – 1 tsp ( can be replaced with chopped or garlic paste based on your preference)

Coriander Powder – 1.5 tsp

Chilly Powder – 3/4 tsp ( replace with Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika to reduce the heat)

Turmeric – 1/4 tsp

Chopped Tomato – 1 ( Cannned chopped tomatoes – 1/3 a tin)

Cooked Meat /Raw Chicken – 1 kg or Mixed Vegetables ( chopped cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, beans, peas) – 3-4 cups

Garam Masala – to taste ( a pinch or 1tsp)

Chopped Coriander – for garnishing

Oil – 1- 2 tbsp

For gravy

Thin Coconut Milk – 1.5 – 2 cups

Thick coconut milk – 1/4 – 1/2 cup

Hot Water can also be used for meat based gravies


Heat the oil on a medium flame in a deep dish or wok.

Add the cumin and fennel seeds and let it get fragrant. It takes roughly 10-15 second in hot oil. if you do not like biting into cumin or fennel, please skip this step.

Add the green chilly with a slit and let blisters form on it. You could skip this if you want to reduce the heat of the chilly in the onion -tomato masala.

Saute the the chopped onion till it start to caramelise on the edges.

Add the ginger garlic and sauce further till it caramelises to a golden brown colour. ( If you are not making a gravy, this step can be stopped when the raw smell of ginger and garlic is removed)

Now add the powders. Coriander powder is added first as it takes the longest to cook.

Then add chilly powder. I use a ratio of 2:1 – Kashmiri chilly powder-hot chilly powder. In this way the heat levels of the masala is maintained without compromising on the colour.

After this, add the turmeric and sauté.

You could add the Garam Masala at this stage or the end depending on your preference. As it is a mix of already cooked spices, it can be added at any stage.

Now add the tomatoes and sauté till it blends into the mix and oil starts to separate.

Now add the cooked meat/ raw chicken / chopped vegetables, depending on your preference. Cover and cook till done .

If you prefer a dry version, check in between to make sure that it doesn’t get burnt. You could add a 1/2 cup of hot water to avoid it.

For the gravy version, you could use hot water or thin coconut milk depending on your preference.

Bring it to a boil and add thick coconut milk to thicken the gravy.

If you have not added the garam masala, you could add it at this stage. This helps in the gravies being more fragrant with the spices.

Garnish with chopped coriander. Chopped mint can also be used.

This onion-tomato masala can be made and set aside for cooking later by refrigerating in an airtight container for use during the week.

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