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Need help with korma sauce
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 4:07 am    Post subject: Need help with korma sauce Reply with quote

Anyone adept at Indian food? I'm wonderful at eating it but, even tho every time we go to the local Indian resto I say I'm going to get out a book and give it a whirl, I've never tried my hand at cooking.

I recently came across the recipe below and it didn't look too intimidating so I gave it a whirl tonight. I only had some of the ingredients I thought I did so I substituted quite a bit — like crushed corriander seeds for fresh cilantro. What I got was interesting but not at all the color of the illustration with the recipe or the korma I know from the resto.

Surely, the whole spices come out of the oil before the onioins and garlic go in, no? And I roughly chopped the garlic. Seemed to make more sense. This or another recipe said that cashews and almonds can be added. It wasn't specific about when. I chopped them fairly fine — cause I've never actually been able to identify pieces of nut when I eat out — and I toasted them in the oil with the chicken.

Any answers or suggestions? Thanks in advance.


Chicken Korma
Recipe By: Recipe*zaar/recipezaar.com
Serving Size: 2

• 1 tablespoon ghee
• 4 cinnamon sticks
• 4-8 cardamom pods
• 6-10 cloves
• 1 onion, sliced thin
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 2 chicken breast halves, cut into 4 pieces
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot peppers
• 1/2 cup tomato sauce
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 cup buttermilk
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Heat oil over medium-high heat, and add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.

When the aroma is released, reduce heat, and add the onion and garlic, cook until onion is softened.

Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, then add salt, ground cinnamom, ground cardamom, ground cloves and hot pepper.

Mix well so the spices cover the chicken.

Add tomato sauce and water, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Add buttermilk, ground cumin and coriander, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Serve with rice or naan bread.
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Rainey,

This looks like a very nice recipe.

Most Indian recipes, especially meat dishes, are developed in three stages. The first is the flavour base, like starting with a mirepoix or a sofrito in French and Spanish cooking. The base usually consists of oil, whole spices, and aromatic vegetables (onion, garlic and ginger). During the second stage of cooking, you add ground spices, the meat (or main vegetable if you are making something vegetarian) and some cooking liquid. Because most curries are really braises, you add only a modest amount of liquid, cover the dish and let it simmer for a long time. Then there is the final phase, when you uncover the dish, and add some finishing touches--things like nuts, coconut milk, lemon juice, cilantro, etc.

So you can see that general format replicated in your recipe. You heat the whole spices in oil so that they exude their flavour into the oil, and the oil can carry that flavour into the rest of the dish. Home cooks do not usually remove the spices from the oil, but you can do that if you prefer. You'll get a milder taste, but then don't have to bother with picking out the whole spices as you eat.

As for the onion and the garlic, I would stick to the recipe. Thin slices start to brown up faster, which is a good thing. For a korma, you don't want to brown your onions too much, but it's generally a good idea, when cooking a curry, to make sure you cook your onions until they are a lovely golden colour. The onions should almost disintegrate, by the end of the braising period, and that's a good thing--they add a hint of sweetness, to offset the spice.

Similarly, in this kind of dish you would not typically find chunks of garlic. Normally recipes ask you to pulverize the garlic (and ginger if you were using it) in a mortar and pestle until you got a fine paste. But crushing garlic in a press works just as well, and it's faster. The paste coats the outside of the meat as it cooks, and really suffuses the dish.

As for the nuts, grind them very quickly in a food processor. You don't want to overprocess and have nut butter, but you want the nuts really really finely chopped, almost powdered. Add them to your curry when you add the buttermilk. The nuts help to create a thick, creamy sauce--and you are right, you shouldn't see pieces of nuts in your final dish.

And I'm all for substitutions. But a word of caution. Many dishes will actually layer ingredients from different parts of the same plant (so you'll have coriander seeds and cilantro leaves in the same dishes, or fresh chilies and chili powder). These pairings play off of each other but do contribute in different ways to the dish. Which means they are not substitutable. You don't want to replace cilantro leaves with coriander seeds, because they don't really serve the same purpose. But if you don't have cilantro, it's fine to just leave it out altogether (it's generally not essential anyway). So what you want to do is substitute like for like--powders for powders, lemon juice for vinegar, coconut milk for buttermilk etc. For instance in the final stages, if you wanted to add garam masala powder instead of cumin, you could do that.

I hope that was helpful. Let me know how your next korma attempt goes.


Last edited by nima on Sat Nov 03, 2007 6:56 pm; edited 1 time in total
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nima--thank you for such a beautifully written introduction to Indian cooking! Very Happy Everything you wrote made perfect sense and I now have a much better understanding of the whole layering effect. I would never have figured out the substitution of like for like---and that is something i'm going to keep in mind when I next give Indian cuisine a whirl.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nima- Thanks so very much!

You really do make it very comprehensible and give me a new confidence to leave those whole spices in.

I have another recipe that does begin with a paste such as you describe. I'll give that one a try too.

Anything else you care to share in the way of techniques or ingredients? I'm all ears and appetite! Wink

How about the yogurt? I assume it should be a whole milk yogurt. What do you think of a thicker one like Greek style?

How do you simulate a tandoor? Or are you fortunate enough to have one?
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, I'm so glad that was helpful. I've been thinking of writing a cookbook for a long time, one that spends a lot of time on techniques, culinary histories, description of ingredients, etc. And so it's great fun to get ideas and share them on this forum.

Rainey, about yogurt. I use all kinds, even the low-fat or non-fat varieties, depending on the recipe. I've tried Greek yogurt, but the last time I used it, it curdled in a recipe where usually the yogurt is supposed to hold up under long, slow cooking. I have figure out why that happened. I frequently make my own yogurt because the kind you get in the store is not sour enough for my taste, but not everyone likes their yogurt to be tart. I find it works really well in Indian recipes, if the yogurt is a bit sour, because it adds a nice tang to the dish. You can add a squeeze of lemon juice to get the same effect--just be sure not to cook the dish again, after adding the lemon juice, or the yogurt will curdle.

No tandoors, I am afraid. I come from a part of India where we do no baking at all. We have bakery bread (a remnant of Portuguese and later British colonial influences) but this is never made at home, and always bought in a shop.

Finally, one last technique. There's a particular way you know when a dish is done: you generally allow the dish to simmer until the oil starts to separate out of the sauce, and you can see it accumulate at the edges of your cooking vessel. These days, unless you are cooking in a restaurant, people use only a small amount of oil, so you really have to watch for the separation. But it's a great sign, that it's all really come together, and that you are done.

So try these things out and let me know how it goes!
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope you will think seriously about a cookbook! You have a wonderful way of teaching the technique and making the all-important fundamentals clear and easy to grasp. You make the spirit of the food and cooking so available. Much more important, I think, than recipes — tho one can never get enough good recipes as well. ;>

In my area, Los Angeles, I have seen tremendous growth in interest in Indian food. When I first had Indian it was with English friends who helped us understand various dishes and pair them well. Invaluable advice! At the time there was one outrageously expensive resto in Beverly Hills — boy! were their breads to die for!, one moderately priced full-scale resto in the Valley and a handful of small neighborhood joints with the rare anglo patron.

Today, 30 years later, you can't get into our favorite spot on a weekend night. And there are 2 other wonderful restos within 5 miles of that. The clientele is ethnically varied and prepared Indian sauces and staples are showing up on our grocery store shelves.

I think, at least here, the time is right!
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

well nima---if you were offering classes in my 'hood I'd be signing up!
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Nicki



Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Posts: 106
Location: England

PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Absolutely - you've conveyed a lot of information in a really celar and understandable way

A friends mum oce told me about the garlic paste base, but I never could have figured about the "rules of substitution" but now it makes perfect sense! Thanks very much, keep us up to date with how the book goes...
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a recipe I've used (Marcella Hazan, Italian butter/onion/tomato sauce) that states it should be cooked "until the fat floats free from the tomato"--you've made it clear what that means, and why you should wait that long. Thank you, nima!

I only make (but love) very American, Anglo "curry". When I buy jars of that delicious-smelling McCormick or Schilling curry powder am I cheating myself ? The label lists coriander, fenugreek, tumeric, cumin, black pepper, bay, celery seeds, nutmeg, cloves, onion red pepper, ginger. If these premixed spices are fresh are they OK? (Penzeys sells many mixes I think.)

I'm not sure why a korma is different from a curry, Rainey how'd it turn out? I like spicy, but without painful "heat" as the main flavor!
I also appreciate the substitution tip--celery and celery seed an example that I've tried.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was OK. If I hadn't been trying to duplicate something addictive I would have been happy with it on a basis of the flavor.

I'll let nima describe what differentiates a korma sauce, but in my experience it isn't hot like a vindaloo. It's rich and flavorful and so balanced that it's hard to describe it with words that only refer to one part like "tomato" or "creamy".
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friend



Joined: 25 Sep 2006
Posts: 13
Location: indy>via singapore, ireland, d.f.mexico

PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:50 pm    Post subject: this should help Reply with quote

http://www.quickindiancooking.com/2006/11/21/success-and-chicken-korma/
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Again, I'm thrilled that my explanations were helpful.

A korma is generally a curry with a rich creamy type of sauce. It typically contains some form of dairy (yogurt, buttermilk, cream, etc) and might have ground nuts too, to help thicken the sauce. Kormas are associated with Mughlai cuisine (from the Moghal royal court of North India), and show the influences of Persian and Central Asian cooking on India.

Vindaloo on the other hand is a legacy of Portuguese colonization and derives its names from the Portuguese for wine and garlic. It's a curry made in Goa (a former Portuguese colony) that is flavoured with vinegar, garlic and chili. For some reason, vindaloo has simply come to mean any fiery hot curry, in restaurants in the UK and the US, but actually a traditional vindaloo is not particularly spicy--it's dominated more by the tang of the vinegar, and might even contain some tamarind and sugar, to offset the chili.

Again, thanks for the encouragement. I see such interesting and dedicated treatments of other cuisines (Italian, Spanish, French, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) but most of the Indian cookbooks I see are really dumbed down and uninspiring. But there are some great blogs out there, which might already be changing that. Let's hope Very Happy
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh I forgot to add-- gingerpale, ready-mixed powders are fine, but if you have an electric coffee grinder at home, try making your own someday. You can't beat it. Plus it makes a good hostess gift, so you can make a large-ish batch and give it away to your friends.

That said, it's totally okay to use store-bought powder, but I think Penzey's is better than the grocery-store varieties (which bulk up on the cheaper ingredients). Buy the smallest sizes, and don't store it for too long, because powders can go off. Ground spices contain small amounts of oil, and don't keep well for more than a few months.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nima- Interesting that you use the term "dumbing down". Of course, you're in the best postion to judge that, being well-versed in that cuisine. And, as I was saying, interest in Indian cuisine has grown exponentially here in the Los Angeles area. And why not?! It's complex, delicious food. But I think the thing standing in the way of it breaking out to Americans cooking Indian at home is the intimidation factor.

As you've already demonstrated to us, it's not a matter of a shopping list and assembling ingredients. There's a specific method and objective that's different than traditional European/American methods. Having that elucidated helps a lot to feel more "ready" to give it a whirl.

We've already seen how capable you are of providing that sense of the food. I really hope you'll give it a whirl. And, meanwhile, if talking about areas that you think should be covered here helps your organization, I'm all ears and dry frying pan. ;>
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tried a simple but successful Indian dish tonight, from 1999 Bon Appetit. I'm sure it must have an exotic name, but at Epicurious it was just "Indian Potatoes, Peas, and Cauliflower". Spiced with ginger, turmeric, paprika, chili powder and salt, it turned that appetizing yellow-gold that turmeric causes. And smelled gorgeous. It isn't usual (in the cooking that I do) to put ginger and chili powder in the same dish-- this was good enough to make me fussier about the spices I buy.

Rich liked it fine & wants it again! We had it with a roasted chicken.
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