Your Essential Indian Curry Recipe | The Range
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Colourful Curry Spices

Your Essential Indian Curry Recipe

This simple curry recipe can be used as a base for any meat or vegetable curry and added to lentils to make tarka dhal. Preparation takes a while, mainly because you make your own curry powder. But relax, it’s not complicated.


  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds

  • 1½ tbsp coriander seeds

  • 2 tsp chilli powder or dried chillies, or fresh chillies (add/subtract to taste)

  • 2-3 inches ginger (Hint: you can peel and freeze fresh ginger)

  • 1 medium head garlic

  • 1 medium onion

  • 1 kg chicken or beef, cut into bigger than bite-size pieces

  • 1 tin tomatoes (or 5 fresh and peeled)

  • 1 tbsp turmeric

  • 6-8 cardamom pods

  • Salt & pepper

  • Fresh coriander to garnish

Making Tasty Curry Recipe


  1. Dry fry (no oil) the cumin and coriander, separately, over a low heat. Do not burn the seeds, keep them moving and you’ll smell that gorgeous spice aroma and see them browning. This is the secret of curry; fresh spices home roasted. Crush the roasted seeds in a pestle and mortar and add to a large saucepan.
  2. Chop the garlic and grate the (frozen) ginger into the saucepan and add the chilli powder. If you have ghee use it, if not add a mixture of olive and vegetable oil. Add oil sparingly to make sure your mix doesn’t stick and burn while cooking. Cook on a medium heat for about five minutes, stirring continuously.
  3. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Sear the chicken/beef in your fragrant curry mix. Add splashes of water if it looks like the meat might stick or burn. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, top off with boiling water then sprinkle over the turmeric (mostly just for colour, add less to a beef curry) and throw in the cardamom pods. Count them in then count them out before you serve as they are a little eye popping to eat whole. Do not add cardamom to beef curry, add cinnamon bark if you have it and again, remove before serving.
  5. Add salt to taste and a little pepper, then simmer for as long as possible. Leaving the lid on will seal in flavour, taking it off will thicken the sauce.
  6. Garnish with the fresh coriander and serve with dhal (see below) over basmati rice.
indian curry recipes guide


Dhal is an excellent accompaniment to curry either with the curry mix added for tarka dhal, or left simply seasoned with salt for plain dhal – which is a good antidote to super hot curry!

  1. Rinse 250g red lentils until the water clears. Put into a saucepan and cover by about 1cm with boiling water. Add turmeric (to colour) then simmer slowly for about 30 minutes with the lid on. Watch closely as it thickens and add water to the consistency you prefer and keep stirring so it doesn’t stick and burn.
  2. Add salt gradually, because once over-salted there’s nothing you can do. This is plain dhal.
  3. For tarkha dhal, make the curry mix (cumin, coriander, garlic, ginger, chilli) in a frying pan while the lentils are cooking, and add to almost finished dhal. Stir well and simmer for five minutes to get the flavours well in before serving.

Top Tips

  • If you don’t know the hotness of your chillies, hold your head over the frying spices and breathe. If your eyes water, it’s probably hot enough. Remember that adding water kicks the chillies into action. This is why you should never drink water to quell a fiery mouth – dairy is your only solution.

  • Keep your spices in the freezer, they stay fresher longer.

  • Curry and tarka dhal taste even better the next day and better still if they've been frozen. Water galvanizes the chilli and ice crystals forming within the curry boosts the whole taste sensation.

  • Poppadums can be made in seconds and fat free in a microwave.

  • For perfect basmati rice, measure then rinse the rice. Add double the amount of boiling water, a pat of butter and a pinch of salt then simmer with the lid on. Check in 10-20 minutes, depending on the amount of rice cooking.

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