Slow-Stewed Tomato Sauce with Kidney Beans
2 T ghee or canola oil
2 black cardamom pods*
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
5 t fresh ginger, minced or grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 C water
3 T tomato paste
1 T sweet paprika
1/2 T salt
2 t coriander seeds, ground
1 t cumin seeds, ground
1/2 t cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 C fried onion paste (below)
3 C cooked kidney beans (if you cook them yourself, reserve 1 cup of the broth for step #4)
1 C water (or reserved kidney bean broth)
1/2 C heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 t Punjabi garam masala (below)
2 T finely chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, and cook until they sizzle and are aromatic. Immediately add the ginger and garlic, and stir-fry to a golden-brown color, about 1 minute. [Note: I find that the garlic spits and splatters violently when it touches the hot oil, so I recommend shielding yourself with the pan lid.]
2. Pour in 1/2 cup water and the tomato paste, paprika, salt, coriander, cumin, cayenne, and turmeric. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until a thin film of oil forms on the surface of the sauce, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in another 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer the sauce, covered, stirring occasionally, until the oil film reappears on the surface, about 5 minutes. Repeat the addition of water twice more to create a lush red sauce. Stir in the onion paste and simmer, covered, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the kidney beans and 1 cup water (or kidney bean broth). Stir the curry and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Continue to simmer it, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce starts to thicken, at least 15 minutes.
5. Pour in the cream and sprinkle in the garam masala. Cook until the cream has warmed through. Sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve. (Remove the cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves before serving, if you wish.)
Fried Onion Paste
1/4 C canola oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
[Note: I use Vidalia onions.]
1 C water
1. Preheat a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Pour in the oil and swish it around to coat the bottom of the pan. The oil will get hot and appear to shimmer. Add the onions and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are caramel brown, 25-30 minutes. Initially they will stew in the oil, but once they start to cook down in volume, you will need to stir them more often. Transfer the onions to a plate to cool.
2. Pour 1 cup water into a blender jar. Add the caramelized onions and puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a smooth paste. If you won't be using all of the onion paste, divide it into smaller batches and freeze for up to 2 months.
Punjabi Garam Masala
1 T coriander seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 t whole cloves
1/2 t black peppercorns
1/2 t cardamom seeds from black pods
3 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
1. Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the spices and the bay leaves and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until the coriander and cumin turn reddish brown, the cloves, peppercorns, and cardamom turn ash-black, the cinnamon and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly, and the mixture is highly fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Immediately transfer the spices to a plate to cool. Once they are cool to the touch, grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper.
3. Store in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity.
* Black cardamom has a completely different flavor from the type of ground cardamom sold in most supermarkets, which is made from green cardamom. Do not attempt to substitute the ground spice. It is better to omit the black cardamom entirely if it is not available.