How to use curry paste

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Curry pastes that you buy are often more authentic in flavour than the spice mixes you make yourself at home – years of experience go into making them. If you fry the curry paste in a spoon of water until it is fragrant before you add the other ingredients, it will taste better.

– Popular curry pastes that you find in the supermarket usually come in a jar with a long shelf-life (check the label) and can be hauled out of the cupboard at short notice when you feel like a curry. (They are not the same as the ‘use-once’ convenience curry sauces which are highly perishable and usually have a 3-day shelf-life once opened.)

– Curry pastes are handy to use as they last a long time, take up little space, can be kept in your store cupboard or fridge to use when you need them, and they are reasonably priced, given that you can usually make lots of curries from a jar. However, they can be quite acidic because of the ingredients used to give them a long-life – you may need to temper that by adding yogurt at the end of cooking to balance the dish.

– The ‘use-once’ convenience curry sauces can be expensive and wasteful – you don’t always need the whole pouch or jar and their fridge shelf-life is usually shorter. (It’s how food companies get you to buy them repeatedly.) However, if your family or guests clean their plates each time you cook with one of these sauces, they are worth the money.

Here’s how to make sure that your curry paste lasts as long as possible.

– Always use a clean spoon to take out the quantity of curry paste you need.

– Stir the curry paste in the jar with a clean spoon before you use it to redistribute the oil.

– Check the jar to see if you need to store an opened jar in the fridge. Even if you do, it will often last months but please check the label. The more acetic acid or vinegar in the sauce the longer it will last. (Meena Patak of Patak Sauces once told us that acetic acid is the reason why their curry pastes have such a long shelf-life.)

– Curry paste benefits when you add a little water to a pan and fry the paste before adding other ingredients. It brings the flavours to life again.

– You can add whole or ground spices to the paste to add a fresh kick or to vary the flavour. Toast the whole spice (whole coriander or crushed cumin seeds for example) in a frying pan over low heat, add the curry paste and the water and fry until it bubbles up.

– You can mix curry paste into yogurt for a quick dip to serve with tortilla chips and a cold craft beer.

– Add curry paste to tinned tomatoes and whizz in a blender for a quick curry sauce (just add the tomato mixture to a saucepan with fried onions; add cooked meat or cooked chicken and heat through). If you can’t be bothered to make rice in a separate saucepan, add basmati rice to the curry/tomato/onion mixture, add enough water to cook the rice, bring it to the boil, turn the heat to low, place a lid on the saucepan and cook for 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked. It won’t look elegant but it will taste good. Top with yogurt, toasted slivers of almonds, yogurt and coriander and no-one will notice.

– Fry the curry paste with sliced banana or drained tinned chopped pineapple and a few tablespoons of plain yogurt to make a spicy fruity side dish for a curry.


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