Onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger are the base ingredients you’ll start to notice in the recipes for curries I share (minus the spices for this post) and so I just wanted to expand on these a little.
Onions: for most curries and Pakistani dishes, you’ll begin with frying onions till golden brown to bring color and flavor to the rest of the dish. Be careful not to burn them once they reach the golden brown stage! Make sure the oil is hot enough before frying, you can test this by adding a small piece of onion, if it starts sizzling you’re good to go. If you are in a hurry, there is the option to use pre-fried onions and can add these in at the same time as the tomatoes. I don’t use pre-fried onions in curries to be honest and slice the onions as finely as I can to fry them a bit quicker. I’d say use as many fresh ingredients as you can!
Tomatoes: these can be fresh or canned tomatoes for the curry base. This gives color, flavor, acidity and bulk to the sauce, and is added in once the onions have browned. Canned tomatoes have such an intense flavor that you only need a third to half a can for a curry serving 4-6 people, which makes storing the rest a little awkward. Unlike other cuisines, like Italian food, the tomato flavor is not prominent in Pakistani food. Fresh tomatoes are wonderful, but don’t give the intense red color that canned tomatoes do. Depending how much color or flavor I want, I either use one fresh tomato or half a can when cooking, and store the rest in the freezer for another time.
Garlic/Ginger: I love the flavors that garlic and ginger bring! I use a premixed garlic and ginger paste that I get from South Asian stores, but there are so many forms available, minced, pastes, frozen cubes and fresh is always wonderful! I normally add the paste at the same time as the tomatoes to prevent the oil spitting but otherwise brown just after the onions if in a larger form (minced/chopped).
And those are your base ingredients for a curry! Simply fry these in oil, add your spices and then any vegetables or legumes! As always, feel free to ask any question or add anything I missed in the comments!