There are two things that I always say. One is that I come from a long line of practical people (Hi Mama!) and the other that I come from a long line of lovable nerds (Hi Abu!). My entire life my mother has batch cooked her curry masala, portioned it off and frozen it for the next few months. Last Ramadan I remember standing there, wearily staring at my onion masala willing them to dissolve and thought this is the part of cooking I don't like.
So this year I have decided to take a page out of my mothers book and prep some Salan Masala. I make mine in the Instant Pot because it is so much faster and have tried it a few times in different dishes and am SO pleased with the results.
Is Instant Pot Salan Masala the Same as Making it Fresh?
Short answer: no. As any Pakistani cook knows flavour starts with the onions. The translucent onion is the perfect base for a cleaner curry, the slightly golden one provides the caramelly undertones in another and the deep brown ones give richness to Kormas and Pulaos alike. When you batch cook a masala it won't have all those subtleties but it is such a huge time saver that it is totally worth it!
When you make an Instant Pot Salan Masala you are picking one style. My suggestion: stick to the one you use the post. In my case I have made two batches - one darker Korma style for pulaos and deeper curries and a second milder one for every day chicken curries and Aaloo Gosht.
How Do I Customize the Masala?
Think hard about the food you eat the most. If you never ever make a curry without tomatoes, add a few in when putting the Instant Pot on Manual. If your curries always have coriander powder go ahead and put it in, but if they do not then skip it or just put a little.
Want the handy mixer? Wondering what Instant Pot I use? Check out my Amazon page! It doesn't cost you anything extra, but I will get a small (very small) percentage of sales.
How do I use the Salan Masala?
In a nutshell - depending on how much curry you like - for one pound of beef/chicken heat ¾-1 cup of the salan masala on the stove. Add the meat, saute, add water, bring to a boil and cook till tender. For my Aaloo Gosht I tossed in two tomatoes, the salan masala and the meat in the IP and cooked on manual for 20 then quick released. For a Pulao you would use a similar approach.
As with any curry what you add towards the end is key. A pinch of methi gives a sweeter flavour, garam masala adds depth, cilantro freshness, cumin powder a more rounded taste.
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How to batch cook a curry base that will save you time!
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp whole black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 lb onions - roughly ⅞
- 3 tbsp garlic paste
- 3 tbsp ginger paste
- 1.5 tbsp salt
- 1 - 1.5 tbsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder (optional)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
Slice or dice your onions. Use a food processor or a mandolin if you have one handy.
Heat a generous amount of oil in your IP on saute mode.
When it is hot add the whole spices and saute for 30 seconds
Add the onions, keep stirring and cook for about 10 minutes until the edges/tips of most of the onions are slightly golden. For a darker curry base keep cooking (and stirring) for 15-20 minutes - usually it is safer to go for a light golden.
Now add your ginger and garlic pastes and saute for 2 minutes
Once they pastes are incorporated add the remaining dry masala and salt and saute until the mix starts to come together and form a cohesive paste. If it starts to burn add a small splash of water. When it is done the oil will rise to the top.
Pour 2.5 cups of hot water into the Instant Pot, give it a stir and put it on manual (pressure) for 20 minutes.
Let it naturally release and saute to reduce the liquid for a more concentrated base. If you want you can use an immersion blender to puree it at this point.
When it is cool enough to handle then drain the extra oil out of the masala
This mix will keep in the coldest part of your fridge for 10 days or you can freeze it into roughly one cup servings for 3 months.
This recipe yields enough for 4 curries with generous gravy, you can double it if you want to make a bigger batch.
Please do read the blog posts for tips on flavour and customization!
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