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Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

A "Quick Start" for members new to BIR style curry cooking - basic techniques and simple recipes to get you started on your BIR-style curry cooking adventures.
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Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:45 am

The following is an extract from our e-Book:

Fundamental Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Curry Cooking

There are several fundamental techniques that need to be mastered in order to replicate the taste, smell and texture of BIR curries at home. In a nutshell, a quality BIR style curry will only be produced if you have a quality curry base, a quality spice mix and good curry cooking technique. The most important of these techniques is as follows:

Preparation of the Curry Base:

Curry base is added to most curries. The quality of the curry base therefore has a fundamental bearing on the quality of the curries subsequently made from it. The main constituent of a curry base is onions (common-all-garden brown onions are perfectly fine to use although other onions may also be used). It is important that the onions are cooked until they are very soft and translucent to ensure that their natural sweetness develops and to ensure that they can be blended into a smooth puree (i.e. “sauce”, “gravy” or “garabi”). BIRs typically cook their curry base, for several hours, whereupon the oil separates and covers the surface of the curry base. A little of this (“spice infused”) oil is often used to make subsequent curries.

The curry base should also be of relatively thin (i.e. “soup-like”) consistency. An important aspect of developing the taste, smell and texture of a BIR curry is to reduce the curry base (i.e. by evaporating water) into a sauce of the desired consistency.

Preparation of the Curries:

BIRs typically take less than 10 minutes to produce a curry, assuming that all of the pre-prepared ingredients are to hand. It also assumes the use of high energy output gas burners that BIRs typically use. Domestic hobs are invariably of much lower energy output (and they may be electric, halogen, etc). Cooking times may therefore need to be extended accordingly. Similarly, smaller pans and smaller volumes of ingredients should undoubtedly be used when using lower energy output heat sources (i.e. to maintain consistently high temperatures and to minimise temperature drops when adding the various ingredients). BIRs generally produce a single portion of curry at a time. We recommend that you do likewise. However, provided your heat source is powerful enough, you may be able to comfortably produce a double portion of curry at a time. More than this, though, may prove difficult.

High temperatures should generally be used throughout the curry cooking process. If the temperatures are too low you will undoubtedly end up with a lacklustre curry. However, it is also important that you do not burn the spices (or any other ingredients in your curries). You will be able to see and smell if the spices (or any other ingredients) are burning. If you burn anything, ditch the curry and start again.

Cooking the spices correctly (i.e. “tempering”), to extract their essential oils, is fundamentally important to creating the taste, smell and texture of BIR curries (as indeed it is for any curry). When making curries, it is important to use sufficient oil to extract the essential oils (which are soluble in non-aqueous liquids) from the spices. A curry will be more likely to be ruined by using insufficient oil than by using too much oil. Any excess oil can be scooped from the surface of the finished curries and either disposed of or used to make subsequent curries (this “spiced infused” oil will smell deliciously of BIR curries!).

Although not normal BIR practice, burning powdered spices can be avoided by adding water (or tomato puree) to them to make a paste. This may be a useful technique to adopt if you are just starting your BIR curry cooking adventure. You may also wish to reduce the heat and take more time to ensure that you don’t burn anything. The paste should be fried, at the early stages of cooking the curry, until the water has evaporated and the oil separates. This gives a good indication that the spices are cooked sufficiently. For hotter curries, where a significant quantity of chilli powder is used, it is important to take extra time to ensure that the rawness is cooked out of the chilli powder. Otherwise, your curry will most likely taste bitter.
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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by alison g » Thu Jan 28, 2016 4:59 pm

hmmm - I think a few of the points raised here would answer why some of my curries kind of don't taste right. Firstly, I think I should be using an aluminium pan - I have stainless steel or non-stick and on a domestic halogen ring - so I don't necessarily get the caramalising that is mentioned. I possibly don't cook the spices long enough, so they potentially are slightly raw...and on top of that I am trying to cook for 5-6 of us in one go, as opposed to cooking a 1-2 portion size. All food for thought, and a great big learning curve. :happy:

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by curry mad » Thu Jan 28, 2016 6:04 pm

Ah we have lady on board! Welcome.

Follow this thread and you should be ok.

I use a non stick pan at the mo too, I find the caramelisation does happen with my pan, I made a restaurant worthy dish the other night using that pan.

Cooking the grounded spices and using a base gravy or curry base as I call it makes the world of difference believe me.

If you are starting out I would use Cory Anders simple curry base, along side one of his simple recipes (madras / korma) - the madras along with the simple curry base was the first one I used and came out great.

Also I would not have the heat too high, (I use medium heat or half way, on the biggest gas hob), better to cook the spices a bit slower than to have the heat real high only to burn those spices, (I did this and the curry was inedible).

Lastly, a sprinkling of fresh garam masala at the end of cooking some dishes also works wonders.

Cooking seperatly will also give you some practice.

Bit of advise for you there alison, show 'em how its done, when you get it right you'l wanna do cart wheels around the kitchen, you wait and see

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by JalfreziT » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:11 am

alison_g wrote:on top of that I am trying to cook for 5-6 of us in one go
I think this is your main problem and a different pan won't solve it.

You can get excellent results with steel pan and electric.
They've been cooking on Blue Peter, now they're sampling the dishes,
I don't normally like tomatoes John but this is delicious.

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Burinkiwi » Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:20 pm

Having read through the tips and recipes on this page I’m getting the idea that BIR involves only cooking small portions i.e., for 1 or 2 people. What’s the deal if you have a bigger crowd I’m basically cooking for my family 2 adults and 2 teenage boys so one dis is not going to cut it given the sizes. Comments suggest that you shouldn’t just double the recipe. I don’t think I’m skilled enough to have multiple curries on the go at once on the stove top.

How do people get around this ~ make one keep it warm in the oven while cooking more ?

cheers

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Westy » Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:24 pm

Take a look here BK - there's a fair bit of discussion on this very subject scaling recipes

The search facility is always a good start too :D
A curry can never be ‘too garlicky’ or ‘too hot’ .....

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Alchemist » Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:57 pm

Just cook a single portion at a time and pop each one into a larger pan or container, which can then be served or warmed up later on. Better to stick with single portions when starting out, you will get better results.

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by alison g » Thu Mar 31, 2016 1:19 pm

Burinkiwi - thats what I did last night - cooked one lot of tikka masala and put in a warm oven and then cooked a second lot and tossed the first lot back in the original pan, gave and stir and served up. Got some big ali pans on order though. Yeah, I cook for 5 men - husband and four boys ranging 14-21! All gannets the lot of them. Trouble is by the time I come to eat - I don't feel hungry - can't work that one out!

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by platen » Thu Aug 25, 2016 8:55 am

Slow cooker is my way of getting round this. Just pop it in there when ready and carry on cooking!

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by stevec » Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:09 pm

curious as to why you only cok single prtions do the flavours change by upping the measures

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Mon Sep 05, 2016 11:19 am

British Indian Restaurants (BIRs) generally cook one portion at a time (on relatively high output gas burners). It gets more difficult to replicate BIR curries if you try to scale up too far.
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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Sun Sep 11, 2016 12:48 am

Discussions on reheating curries moved to existing Freezing & Reheating Curries thread
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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Therps » Mon Sep 19, 2016 11:15 am

Brilliant info, Thanks a lot :):

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by ShaneTexAvery » Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:11 pm

Even the techmiques are going to make ahuge difference to my curries. looking forward to Saturday !

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by JRWhittaker » Sat Nov 12, 2016 4:35 pm

Only just found these techniques, great reading!

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Tannerm » Sat Nov 19, 2016 9:46 am

This explains a lot!! I always cook for 3/4 at a time, can't wait to try now. Great advice, thank you

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by TiptonNick » Sat Nov 19, 2016 11:22 am

Tannerm - I made the mistake of cooking large batches a year or so ago - it doesn't work as, in my opinion, you can't get the reduction and thus the flavour right. If you're cooking for a large party then you'd be best cooking them all beforehand and reheating.

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by chillibob » Wed Dec 21, 2016 3:00 pm

Cooking for one or two and up scaling for larger groups sounds like a good plan to me. Has anyone found that curries improve further by reheating or continuing to heat further in an oven? Also it seems to me that a cooked curry often improves over night through marination. Has anyone noticed this or is it just my imagination I wonder?

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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:19 am

Check out the scaling recipes and curry the day after threads, chllibob.
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Re: Techniques of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Quennevais149 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:24 pm

Yeh!
Lots of reasons why my curries have not turned out they way I wished.
Very happy I joined this forum. Thanks for the advice keep it coming.

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