Every cuisine has some basic ingredients that form the ‘foundation’ of many dishes. Punjabi Gravy is a rich, aromatic and versatile master curry sauce in north-Indian cuisine, that is the base for a variety of delicious north Indian curries.
As with most recipes in Indian cuisine, this one also starts off with fresh produce. All it is, is onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes, simmered with warm Indian spices like garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder and of course, salt, turmeric and cayenne, which is the inseparable trio in Indian cuisine!
You can make a variety of curries with this master sauce. Some popular examples are Chana Masala, Kidney Beans curry (Rajma), Paneer Mutter (Cottage cheese and peas), Everyday Chicken Curry, and believe it or not, even Butter Chicken! Wait…What? Yup! All you have to do is add chicken and heavy cream or Greek yogurt to this sauce, add a pinch sugar and cook everything till the chicken is tender. Garnish with cilantro and no one will ever know:-)
This Master Curry Sauce is a great make-ahead and freeze item. I always make a big batch of this sauce, cool it, and pour it in single-use mason jars, pop it in the freezer and pull it out on crazy weeknights. I add either lentils or canned chickpeas or Paneer & Frozen peas or even boneless chicken thighs, and we have a delicious dinner ready in minutes.
Party Planning: Whenever I am hosting a dinner party with an Indian menu, I always make this sauce a few days in advance. That makes cooking time so manageable and less exhausting for me, so I can enjoy my own party too:-)
Pressure Cooker: I find it very easy to make this in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot. But prior to owning an IP, I used to make it in my stove-top pressure cooker, Hawkins. I used to wait for 2 whistles, reduce the heat to medium, and cook it another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the cooker depressurize. That’s it!
Stove-top: It is also possible to make this great curry sauce on the stove-top. Take any deep sauce pot, that’ll prevent the tomato sauce from splashing all over your stove-top, or your hand. :-). Follow the recipe, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes on medium heat, stirring in between (probably every 5 minutes or so). If you double up the recipe, the cooking time will increase by a few minutes.
Tip: You know the Master Curry Sauce is done, when you can see a super-thin layer of oil coating the sauce/gravy. In other words, when the gravy starts oozing oil, it is done.
Freezer Storage Tip: When I’m making a ‘bigger’ batch of this curry sauce, to optimize freezer storage, I pour the curry in 1-inch Ice Cube Silicone Trays. Once its frozen, I pop the cubes out and store them in a gallon-size Ziploc Freezer Bag. This way, I take out only what I need. For example, if I’m cooking a very small quantity, say only for myself, I take out only 2 cubes of gravy.
Master Curry Sauce - Punjabi GravyPrint Recipe
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil/ ghee
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 inch ginger, peeled, fine chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and fine chopped
- 1 medium onion, fine chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes, pureed, OR, 1 cup Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala (or 2, depending on how strong it is)
- 2 teaspoons Coriander Powder
- 1 teaspoon Roasted Ground Cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Paprika (or Smoked Paprika) (optional)
- 1/2 cup water
Prep: Finely chop ginger, garlic, onions. I typically use a mini-food processor for this. I start pulsing ginger garlic, about 10 times, then add cubed onions and pulse another 6-10 times till everything is finely chopped. By adding the ginger-garlic first, I get a finer chop on those than the onions. Remove the mix. Add tomato cubes and puree them to a smooth consistency. If using canned diced tomatoes, you can add as-is, or puree, depending on your texture preference. I prefer this sauce to be smooth, so prefer pureeing.
Heat oil in Instant Pot on Saute mode. Wait 30 seconds and add cumin seeds. When cumin seeds begin to splutter, add chopped onions, ginger and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes till golden brown.
Add pureed or crushed tomatoes and use it to deglaze the pot. Scrape the brown bits at the bottom using a wooden spoon. Those brown bits contribute to the flavor, plus, if they remain stuck to the bottom of the pan, they'll eventually burn. Add spices and water and stir well. Turn off the Saute mode. Close lid. Vent to Sealing mode. Cook for 5 minutes on Manual/Pressure Cook. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes (NPR 10). Open lid and you're done!
Cool the gravy to room temperature before pouring it in mason jars or freezer safe plastic containers or bags.