Amrik Singh, owner of India Palace, made me very happy one evening by giving me his khurma recipe. Well, not so much a recipe, but a list of ingredients with some pointers. I've been trying to make decent khurma for years, so I had a lot of questions.
I had gone to India Palace to do a little research, mostly on samosas which I dissected to compare them to Manjula's (Indian cooking videos on web).
Watching me pick at my food, the waitress asked if it was too spicy. I said not likely as I had ordered it mild on purpose so I could taste each and every little bit surgically, which I explained to her. Then she informed me that Amrik would give me the recipe. I was incredulous: all these years and I had never presumed to ask.
I didn't ask Amrik about any excipient as I was still recovering from the surprise of his offering to tell me all of this. The first time through, I'd use a little low sodium chicken, vegetable stock or just water just to ensure things don't burn from getting too dry. I like a lot of extra sauce in my curries; therefore, I add more liquid ingredients and more spices too. Be conscious of this during the recipe. If you share my opinion, you'll add more liquid toward the end of the recipe.
There's a certain zen to this. Sit back and learn. Make this dish over and over again. It will improve with tries and it will stop seeming like a huge elephant in its complexity. It's not so complicated. It consists of:
|3 tbsp||vegetable oil|
|1 tsp||cumin seeds, finely powdered*|
|8 cloves||garlic, minced|
|1½"||ginger root, fresh minced|
|1 small can||crushed tomatoes|
||| chicken or lamb, par-boiled waxy potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, carrots,
for 8 persons (main ingredient)
|2 cans||chicken stock (or water). Important: add only as much as you want to increase amount of sauce; compensate by increasing the spices.|
|3 tsp||garam masala|
|1 stick||fresh-ground cannela|
|1 tsp||ground red chili|
|1 cup||coconut milk|
|—||fresh cilantro leaves, chopped|
Start with a little oil in a pan, add cumin seeds to crack and bloom. Then add lots of onion, garlic and ginger.
Simmer for a very long time without browning (though things will get darker as you go).
Add in some crushed tomatoes. Don't go overboard on these (I say because I don't like overly tomatoey khurma which becomes hard to distinguish from tikka masala and is too acidic for my taste).
Add in finely chopped serrano chilis. If you don't want hot, be sure to seed and devein them.
Simmer again. After a while, reduce the entire mixture using a hand blender or by running it through a blender to make it smooth. If you are using an upright blender, wait for it to cool first. Here's where you can save it for later if you want to break the cooking into two parts.
Add in lamb, chicken or cauliflower, carrots, peas and potatoes. Choose depending on what sort of khurma you're making. If making vegetable, hold back the peas and potatoes a little longer so they're not reduced to soup.
If you're using dark meat or lamb, simmer a long time, 20 minutes. If using white, hold off adding it in until 10 minutes before you stop simmering. Ditto if you're adding cut potatoes.
Simmer a long time.
Add in turmeric, garam masala and other spices you like. (Garam masala is a mixture of spices: it may already have coriander in it, so think twice before adding any more.) This is where you get creative and where you find the golden difference at India Palace (it's a business after all, eh?). Again, cook slowly. The length of time cooking modifies the taste too. Too little or too much and your spices won't give you the smooth, velvety flavor you're looking for.
The reason you've waited until now to add these aromates (spices) is so that they aren't altered by over-cooking and impart fresh flavor to the dish.
Add a little cream and cook just a few minutes. If adding cut tomatoes for effect (see illustration), add them now so they're warm.
Add in more cream, and also the cilantroi, cashews and raisins (maybe the peas here if you're doing vegetable khurma). Cook a couple of minutes. Add in more cream and warm it.