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Rishidev Chaudhuri
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Hey Elatia, The frying is with oil, on medium high heat. The pastes and spices will start to brown some, but it really is the aroma that tells you when they're done. You could use the times (twenty minutes for the pastes; twenty minutes to a half hour for the spices) as proxies. And if you're patient, you could experiment. You really can tell the difference in the final curry: spices that haven't been well-cooked taste sharp and jagged rather than round and integrated. That's vague, but if you make a small amount where you deliberately leave the spices undercooked, you'll see what I mean and then be able to tune things accordingly. You want a neutral oil with a high smoke point. Coconut oil has too much flavor; this is desirable in a number of curries, especially in South India, but not here. Grapeseed oil is good (neutral, high smoke point). You could also use refined canola oil or something like that. If you're feeling festive, you could certainly substitute ghee for some / all of the oil, and you could add a garam masala (cardamom, clove and cinnamom powders in equal quantities is my mother's). Play around though - it's not an enhancement so much as a shift in register, and it makes everything richer, more fragrant and more baroque. This is sometimes desirable, but not always.
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Nov 14, 2010