As a resident, I am forever trying to find the fastest way to eat fresh and healthy food. When I am working long, exhausting winter days, salad just doesn’t cut it for me. I need comfort food! For the past few months, I have been stuck on the idea that it might be convenient to make large amounts of a curry base in bulk. This way, I can divvy it up in small portions, and then freeze them to be thawed and used to for flavoring in cooking, or as a base for a bean or vegetable dish. Some considerations when deciding whether a dish is freezer-friendly:
- Soups tend to freeze well
- In what form have I eaten this vegetable frozen and enjoyed it before?
- As water freezes, it expands, destroying the cell walls of plants which are hard. That is why thawed fresh vegetables are more limp than fresh ones, even though they have been not been cooked. For the same reason, pre-cooked vegetables tend to taste better than raw ones because you have already broken down the cell-walls in the cooking process.
- The flavor of herbs and spices intensifies in an already cooked dish once it is frozen because of the increased cell-wall breakdown. Keep this in mind when thawing an already spicy dish!
Tomato and onion curry base
My first successful attempt was a tomato-onion curry base. Tomatoes are the ultimate stew-friendly veggie and they absorb flavor well. Their tangy juice is wonderful for flavoring almost anything. The flavor becomes more concentrated as you cook them down, but they are delicious from the beginning so they are pretty idiot-proof.
- 6 small vine ripened tomatoes or 3 large beef-steak tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 onions chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
- Jalapenos, chopped into thin rounds
- 2-3 cloves of garlic chopped finely
- Olive oil or grape-seed oil
- Spices: 1/4 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp salt, chilli powder
- Heat olive oil in a fry-pan
- Add a piece of garlic to the heated oil to see if it starts to sputter/bubble. If it does, the oil is ready!
- Add the garlic to the pan
- Once it is slightly done, add the onion. Sautee until almost translucent. Try not to continually stir the onions but rather wait until they cook a little, then move the top onions to the bottom. Keep repeating this process until all the onions are mostly translucent.
- Once onions are cooked, add 1 tsp salt and turmeric. Adding turmeric too early makes it harder to tell if the onions are cooked. Adding salt too early releases the moisture from the onions into the rest of the dish too early. This makes them boil more than fry, which makes them more sweet and less pungent.
- Now, add the tomatoes. Cook them to your desired thickness and flavor. Add the other teaspoon of salt to help release the moisture from the tomatoes into the dish
And voila! You have a finished curry base. My favorite way to incorporate this dish is to add about 1/4 cup with 2 cans of refried beans and some water. This makes them a hundred times better than when they started.
Different ways to use the curry base:
- Sautee black mustard seeds, ginger-garlic paste, cumin and dried red chillis in olive oil and add it to the base with almost any bean or lentil, you get tomato daal.
- Add it to a cooked grain to make a tomato based rice or pilaaf.
- Add it to cooked cracked wheat along with black mustard seeds, cumin, ginger-garlic paste and curry leaves sauteed in oil, you get upma.