British Indian Restaurant Curry And how to Make It!
Scroll down for a basic recipe for Curry Base Gravy and how to use it!
Just like any other food curry has it’s trends and opinions on how to make it. In this article we will find out what British Indian Restaurant Curry is and how to reproduce it in your own home.
I have been following the trend for British Indian Restaurant (BIR) style curries for many years, starting in the 90’s when Pat Chapman started his series of books. Recently Dan Toombs, Misty Ricardo and a handful of other curry aficionados have taken over the mantle.
The British Indian Restaurant style of cooking curry relies on the use of a basic curry powder and a special ‘mix powder’ as well as the use of a ‘base curry sauce’.
Base Curry Sauce
The base curry sauce is a thin type of stock/soup. Onions, garlic, and ginger are sautéed in a pan before a little spice is added. Carrot and peppers are often added along with fresh coriander stalks, and I’ve even seen cabbage added, in fact I’ve used it myself!
The problem I have with the British Indian Restaurant Curry method is that:
1, it usually relies on cooking base sauces and ingredients in bulk and then freezing in portions.
2, it’s best cooking one or two main dishes at a time as it relies on high heat to reduce the base sauce quickly and caramelise in the pan. this is difficult to achieve if like me you are cooking for a family of six (even more if I’m cooking extra for another day!). Also do you want to spend the rest of the night cleaning your cooker top after curry has spat everywhere. I mean it’s bad enough when I just normally cook!
If you’re cooking for just yourself or two people and you don’t have Kids to look after, the second point may not bother you too much, in fact, I remember those days! If that’s the case, you can find some great recipes online. Here’s a couple places to get started:
Romain at Glebe Kitchen has some amazing recipes. Easy to follow and explains every stage in detail but without the process sounding like you need a science degree to put some food on the table!
Misty Ricardo has some great recipes on his You Tube channel or check out his books on Amazon.
Dan Toombs also has some great recipes on his website and again he has a few terrific books out.
You could also check out my ‘Ome Made Group on Facebook. There are even more curry recipes from me in the files section. Or you can just ask the community for recipes, help and advice.
There is also the Facebook UK Curry Group which you can have a look at
However, If you are like me, sometimes you just can’t be bothered to follow a recipe, and personally I don’t think it’s necessary, if you remember the basics.
And the most important thing is that there is no right or wrong way of doing things providing you are getting great end results!
‘Ome Made Curry Masalas
‘Ome Made now have an extensive range of Curry Masalas, lovingly blended by hand.
These include a BIR Curry Masala which is a mix powder suitable for any BIR recipe you come across.
The complete range can be found here:
The BIR Curry Masala is a cheeky little thing. I’ve combined the ingredients you would normally find in a standard curry powder (minus the copious amounts of salt, flour and all the other fillers it would have) and added extra spices that would make up the Indian Restaurants ‘special mix’. Obviously, they would add more or less of the curry powder and mix depending on the dish, but I have found this is a happy medium and we’ve had fantastic results with it when I was trialling it at ‘ome.
Of course, there are plenty of standard curry powders out there for you to try and it’s easy to find out what the basics are of a BIR ‘special mix’ powder are if you want to make your own. Or you could just use a standard curry powder without the extra spice mix.
I now have going on for 40 curry masalas with more added frequently.
some newbies worth checking out are the East Indian Mumbai Masala, otherwise known as bottle masala. I have a Hotel Curry Gravy Masala and a Makhani Masala.
Back To Base!
Now on to the Base Curry Sauce.
If I have the time I do, nowadays, make one.
Do I follow a recipe? No. I don’t always have everything that ‘should’ go into it so sometimes you just have to go with what you have.
Oh, and here’s a tip. If you really can’t be bothered with making a base sauce, try using one of those fresh, chilled Carrot & Coriander soups you find at the supermarket. Never done it myself but I’ve read it gives acceptable results!
So, even though I don’t use a recipe myself, here’s two recipes for a base sauce! If you don’t have some of the ingredients leave them out or replace with something else. See this recipe as a starting point, adapt and customise it how you will and to your taste. It’s the best way!
The first recipe is a bit more complex. The second is about as basic as it gets, and you should be able to memorise it after a few goes. If I was honest, I use the second one more than the first!
Base curry sauce No. 1
Makes enough for approximately 12 portions of curry. It will keep in the fridge for 3 days or can be frozen. if you don’t want to make so much just halve the ingredients.
- 3 tablespoons oil (sunflower, rapeseed, vegetable)
- 4 medium onions, sliced
- 8 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1″ cube of ginger, chopped
- 2 heaped teaspoons mild/medium curry powder/masala
- 1 green pepper (or any other coloured pepper!)
- 1 medium sized carrot
- coriander stalks (if you have them, basically if you are using fresh coriander to finish your curry off cut off the stalks now to add to your base!)
- big dollop of tomato paste (you could use a squirt of tomato sauce if you don’t have any)
- 2 litre of water, ideally hot from the kettle.
- 1 heaped teaspoon of sugar/jaggery/palm sugar
- optional extras; few fresh tomatoes, white cabbage, extra peppers, a little coconut powder (or coconut milk or creamed coconut)
Heat the oil in a pan and add your onion. fry gently for 10 minutes before adding your garlic and ginger, fry for a couple minutes more. Add the curry masala/powder and fry for a minute or so. If it’s sticking add a splash of water. Now add your carrot and peppers and give a stir around. Add the tomato paste and cook for 20 seconds or so. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Now add the coriander stalks and cook gently for at least an hour (and up to 2 hours). If it’s starting to look a bit thick or the liquid is disappearing just add some more water.
Once all the veg is soft you need to puree the sauce. The best way to do that is with an immersion/stick blender. It can be done in a blender but let it cool a little and don’t overfill!
Once your sauce is blended it needs to cook for 30 – 60 minutes more. it should be the consistency of a thin soup.
Base Curry Sauce N0. 2
This is a handy one for us as it does enough for 6, exactly the number of people in our household! It can be doubled up and again it will keep in the fridge for three days or you can freeze it.
- 4tbsp of oil
- 3 large onions, sliced
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 inch cubed piece of fresh ginger
- 3 tsp ‘Ome Made B.I.R Curry Masala (or another curry masala or 1 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander & turmeric)
- 1.2 ltr water
- a handful of coriander stalks (if you have them)
- 1 x 400ml tin of tomatoes (chopped or whole as they get blitzed)
1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Once hot add the onions and salt and gently fry for 10 minutes or until
the onions are starting to soften.
2. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a couple more minutes
3. Add the curry Masala or spices, along with a splash of water. Give a quick stir and mix and then
pour in the water
4. Bring to the simmer and cook for 45 minutes, lid off
5. Add the tinned tomatoes and coriander stalks
6. Bring back to the simmer and cook for another 30 minutes
7. Take the pan off the heat and blitz with an immersion blender until you have a smooth sauce
8. Put back on a low heat ready for adding to your curry. If it looks a little thick add some water. It
should be slightly thicker than full fat milk.
9. Use in a curry recipe as directed.
I have made this sauce in less time than it says, giving it 30 minutes before adding the tomatoes and
coriander and then cooking for only another 20 minutes. It was still good!
Of course, you could fry your ingredients off and then add to a pressure cooker or soup maker along with all
the other ingredients and it will still be just as good. Just follow the cooking times for a soup.
This base works well in a curry when you use the method of adding diluted tomato paste to your cooked out spices. For 4 people use 2 tbsp of tomato puree diluted in 300ml of boiling water. Add this to
your curry when you have fried your onion, garlic, ginger and spices and let it reduce down, so you’re left
with a thick paste. Then you can start adding your base sauce as normal.
Basic Medium Curry British Indian Restaurant Style.
serves approximately 4
- 3 tablespoon of oil (not olive) or ghee
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped.
- 4 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
- small piece of ginger (to taste) finely chopped
- 4 heaped teaspoons curry masala/powder
- a half portion of Base sauce No. 1 or all or nearly all of base sauce No. 2
- 750g of your main ingredient (cooked chicken tikka, precooked lamb, vegetable, or raw prawns etc)
- 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
- fresh coriander, chopped
- a pinch of garam masala or grind of black pepper
- salt to taste
Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, fry the onion gently for a couple of minutes or so, add the garlic and ginger and fry for 30 – 40 seconds.
Add the curry masala/powder and cook gently, if it is sticking add a splash of water, a little at a time. You want the spices to ‘cook out’ the oil will start to split from the paste when this happens, and the mixture will spit in little eruptions.
Add one ladle of base sauce and let it reduce to a thick paste on a high heat, stirring occasionally, just to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. Now add 2 ladles and repeat the process. Add your main ingredient, stir in and add three ladles of sauce, let reduce again and add any remainder of base sauce and cook until you have your desired consistency.
You can now add all the other ingredients and just let heat through for a couple of minutes.
And that’s it! not exactly BIR style but good enough to give your favourite Indian restaurant a run for their money!
Once you have the basics it’s easy to tweak a recipe to make a lot of different dishes.
There are some variations you can follow further down the page. Keep Checking Back as I will keep updating and adding recipes and ideas.
The ‘Ome Made Tandoori Masala can be used to make your favourite Tandoori and Tikka dishes.
If you just wanted something quick you can literally rub a little of the Masala in to some chicken, prawns or whatever you fancy before grilling, frying or barbecuing.
For a simple tandoori or tikka marinade just add some of the masala to plain yoghurt to coat your main ingredient.
If you want to go the whole hog, fry roughly 1 heaped teaspoon of Tandoori Masala per 200g of main ingredient (chicken, king prawn, lamb, paneer etc.) in a little oil. This then needs adding to some plain natural yoghurt (Greek yoghurt is fine).
For four people you want roughly 800g of main ingredient and 250g of yoghurt.
If you want a truly authentic flavour add a splash of lemon or lime juice, a teaspoon of grated garlic and ginger, some chopped chilli and coriander. You may want to season with salt and pepper or Garam Masala.
‘Ome Made Tandoori Masala has some beetroot powder in it to give it a slightly more reddish colour but it won’t be the vibrant, garish red that you get in an Indian restaurant. If you want that you need to add a small amount of red food colouring.
To cook I use the oven on a relatively high temperature. Once your chicken, lamb or whatever is cooked, you may want to just give it a blast under the grill to get those nice charred edges. I actually use a blowtorch. Of course if the weather is good Tandoori and Tikka is great cooked over charcoal on the BBQ!
Madras Curry British Indian Restaurant Style
This is as simple as it gets for a British Indian restaurant style Madras curry!
Follow the Basic Medium Curry above to frying the onion, garlic, ginger and spices. Once you have done this add the following;
400g chopped tinned tomatoes (blitz smooth in a blender or food processor if you want a restaurant style curry)
2 Tablespoons Tomato Puree
Cook this for a couple minutes then add your main ingredient. Add a little water or base sauce to thin the sauce a little then leave to cook.
Once your main ingredient is nearly cooked you need to add the coriander, garam masala, salt and the following;
1 tablespoon ground almonds
2 tablespoons of lemon juice, fresh is best but bottled will be fine
3 teaspoons of sugar
2 – 3 teaspoon of chilli powder.
Cook for another 15 – 20 minutes before serving. Simple!
Ceylon Curry British Indian Restaurant Style
Again follow the above Basic Medium Curry recipe. go easy on the base sauce as you are adding more liquid later.
once your main ingredient is nearly cooked add the following;
1/3 of a block of creamed coconut (i usually grate it straight in t the pan) or 3 tablespoons of coconut milk powder
150ml of milk
1 tablespoon of lemon juice, ideally fresh but bottled will work as well.
1 – 4 fresh green chillies chopped (or more or less to suit your taste)
cook for a couple of minutes before adding the garam masala, salt and fresh coriander and cooking for another 15 minutes or so before serving.
Again once you have mastered the basic recipe for a curry you should be seeing now how easy it is to tweak it and make lots of variations.
Ok, this is another easy adaptation to a basic medium curry.
To me Karahi is about the lovely fresh taste of ginger along with some nice fresh peppers and tomatoes. I usually add fresh chillies as well. To be fair when you add fresh chillies this dish is virtually indistinguishable from a Jalfrezi so this is almost a two in one curry!
So follow the recipe for medium chicken curry above EXCEPT add more fresh ginger. You want a piece roughly as big as your thumb. Also add a teaspoon of turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (more if you like it hotter) when you add your curry masala.
about 15 minutes before you’re ready to dish up add some chopped peppers (1 red, 1 green or whatever you have), 4 tomatoes cut in to quarters and some optional fresh chillies, and of course the chopped fresh coriander.
I’d love to see and hear about your own variations. Remember to post your creations on my Facebook page – www.facebook.com/omemade or Twitter account @Omemade
Remember to keep checking back here as I will add more recipes!