Jen and El’s Indian masala

We love Indian food; I especially love a good mango lassie. In grad school, we used to go a to hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant called Kurry Xpress in Omaha (sadly, this restaurant is now closed). It’s name was a bit of a misnomer. The food was delicious, but it always took forever for the food to be made and served. It was always worth the wait.

One of the other grad students in my department taught us how to make Indian food, and her secret to making Indian food quickly included a stovetop pressure cooker and a good masala, or base sauce, for cooking all of the Indian food that you were making at the same time.

Over the years, we’ve adapted it for the Instant Pot (I am still scared of the stovetop pressure cooker) and adjusted the spices to our preferences.

Here’s how we make Indian food at our house:

1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
3 Tbsp minced garlic (we use the prechopped bottled garlic)
1 Tbsp minced ginger root (best if you can find the bottled ginger paste)
1 Tbsp coriander powder
3 Tbsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp garam masala powder
2 red onions, chopped
1/2 Tbsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp salt
2x 14.5 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp tomato paste
smallest pinch of asafoetida powder (aka hing) for lentils
2 cups of yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 cups of cauliflower florets
1 cup of frozen peas, rinsed
1 lb chicken, chopped
2 cups red lentils, thoroughly rinsed

What we make:
Aloo gobi matar (not a real dish you’ll find in restaurants; potatoes + cauliflower + peas)
Dal (red lentils – a thick creamy sauce)
Curry chicken

To make the masala (base sauce):
1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat.
2. Add the cumin seeds and heat until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).
3. Add the garlic, ginger root, coriander powder, cumin powder, and garam masala powder. Stir and heat for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add the onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
5. Add the turmeric powder, salt, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste.
6. Cook on medium-high until the sauce reduces by about half.
7. Divide the masala base equally into 2-3 different pans (in our case: 1 Instant Pot and 2 skillets)

For the Instant Pot: Add 1 cup of rinsed red lentils + 1/3 of the masala base + 2 cups of water + dash of hing to the Instant Pot, then cook on high pressure for 3 minutes with a 5-minute natural release — these lentils come out as a thick sauce.

For one of the large skillets: add 2 cups of chopped potatoes, 1/3 of the masala base, and 1 cup of water. Cover with a lid and boil on medium-high heat until the potatoes are almost fork tender. Remember to occasionally stir. When the potatoes are fork tender, add the 2 cups of cauliflower and 1 cup of frozen (rinsed) peas and cook for 2-3 minutes. Once the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked, remove the lid and cook down the sauce to the desired consistency.

For the other large skillet: add 4 chicken breasts (about 1 lb — chopped), 1/3 of the masala base, and 1 cup of water. Cover with lid and cook on medium heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. When the chicken is cooked, remove the lid and cook down the sauce to the desire consistency.

Obviously, this is not going to win any awards or be true Indian cuisine. However, this is the curry that we enjoy making at home and sharing with our kids. It is a crowd pleaser in our family.

We serve with basmati rice and naan that we pick up from the grocery store (packaged and heated up in the oven).

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