Curry tips and tricks

There’s a skill to making a proper curry. Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar gives us the insider tips…

The spice is right

The key to a good curry is knowing how to use your spices properly – everything from cooking to storing them, says Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar. Follow these rules and you can’t go wrong...

  1. Keep spices in an air-tight container (preferably stainless steel), away from direct sunlight.
  2. If stored properly, whole spices can last nine to 12 months, while powdered spices can last up to six months.
  3. Buy spices in small quantities and use them as often as you can. That way you don’t end up with a cupboard full of stale spices that won’t deliver on flavour.
  4. Pound whole spices first in a pestle and mortar to release their fragrant oils and flavour.
  5. Frying spices in hot oil means you get as much flavour out of them as possible. Check the oil is hot enough by dropping a little spice in. If it sizzles, you can add the rest of the spices.
  6. You only need to cook spices for about a minute - be careful not to burn them as they’ll turn bitter. Slow down the cooking process by adding onions, or whatever the next stage in your recipe is.
  7. Don’t be afraid to use the quantity of spices a recipe specifies. Trust the recipe and go for it. You won’t get an intense flavour with just a pinch of cumin, for example.

Common curry myths

Expert chef Atul Kochhar clears up our curry misconceptions

MYTH Curries take a long time to cook
FACT ‘You can make a really tasty curry in 10 minutes, as long as you cook the spices properly. Try jeera chicken, which simply translates to cumin-flavoured chicken: sauté some cumin, ginger, chilli and onions for a minute then add thin-cut chicken strips. Add some tomatoes then any powdered spices you like and just cook until the chicken is cooked through.’

MYTH Curries are unhealthy
FACT ‘It’s true that ghee [a type of clarified butter] is used in some Indian cuisine and that it’s not particularly good for you, but it’s not widely used. Ghee is used in North India, but they also use vegetable oil, which is much lighter. Coconut oil is used in South India, mustard oil in the East and peanut, cold pressed sesame and groundnut are used in the West.’

MYTH Curries are difficult to make
FACT ‘Once you learn the basics, (see Atul’s recipes here), cooking curry is quite simple. The rest is all down to you. I love the versatility of curry. You can take a dish in a whole new direction by playing around with the spices according to your own taste preference.’