The basic theory of Indian food mainly the curry or a semi liquid dish. I am breaking it down to phases such that the sequence and the expectations is understood.
Seasoning the oil. This is usually mustard seeds, jeera seeds, red chilli, curry leaves etc. This is the first step. This flavors the oil. The seasoning is always added to hot oil and they should pop, but not burn.
The onions. This is the base for the powdered spices to be added to. There can be other additional aspects to this base, like garlic and ginger. This is what gives body to the liquid/soup. The onions are usually cooked until it starts to brown at the edges
Adding the spices. This is key to the flavor. There are some basic types that are used everyday. The others are special spices that are either specific to certain dishes or added as additional flavors. The mix and match and changing the quantity of these spices change the flavor of the curry completely.
- Tumeric – The yellow spice and has a deep yellow stain. This has medicinal properties. It is an antiseptic and can be directly applied on wounds. The quantity is always 1 portion. For most curry or dish, about 1/8tsp or 1/4 tsp is all that should be required.
- Red Chilli/Paprika Powder – There is a huge variety of these available. Mainly concentrate of 2 types. One is for the color red and the other is for the spicy level. The red color one is usually called kashmiri chilli and is mild. When used, it gives the curry a bright red color. Use another variety of a spicy one. I sometimes mix 2 types to get the color and the spice level. The kashmiri one should be the staple Chilli powder.
The quantity of the chilli powdered is three times the spoon used for tumeric powder.
- Coriander Power – This is a powder of the coriander seed. It has a strange smell and has medicinal properties. The purpose is to add body the gravy and has a thicking effect. This is added in twice the quantity of the chilli powder.
- Jeera Powder – This is grind version of the jeera seeds. They have a distinct smell and is used in limited quantity. Something like 1/4 spoon. This has the capacity to overpower the dish. It is used in few dishes exclusively.
- Other special curry powder like chicken curry masala, sambar powder etc. These should be used sparingly. They add the special smell and taste to the dish. About 1 and 1/2 spoon along with the above spices. These special spices can be blended using a coffee grinder, but probably buying a good branch is so much easier.
Add the food that is being cooked like chicken or lentil. If it is lentil, pre cooked lentils is a faster option. After adding the lentil or chicken, it is cooked until it just boils. This makes sure every spice and the ingredients is blended for a well rounded taste.
Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.
The food should sit for a while. Atleast 15 minutes or more.
This is the format and the bases of most Indian curry cooking.