Anna Jones’ aromatic curry pastes perfect for freezing | The Modern Cook

Anna Jones recipes: Learning how to pack aromatics and spices into a pungent paste for freezing is a perfect way of adding an instant hit of peppery heat and punchy flavors to your wintertime curries

There is something intimate about fridges and freezers. Bear with me here, but peering into someone elses is a window into their life or lives, and the first thing I want to know about when I walk into their home. A quick look will tell you a bit about who sits all over the table, the places and things they might love.

This week, however, I turned my attention to my own freezer for a wintertime stocktake, which revealed a fair bit about my family. I saw: half of the double batch of cider and roasted vegetable gravy I built on Christmas day, small bags of cooked butterbeans prepared for stews and soups, a couple of rounds of tart, a packet of filo sheets, frozen blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, bananas chopped into bits for smoothies, an array of homemade newborn food( with differing approving rates with my son ), an experimental bottle of bergamot vodka, half a bag of frozen peas, a punnet of cranberries, two tubs of ice-cream, a party pack of ice, a pouch of sweetcorn and some frozen spinach.

The bottom drawer is another world wholly. Its packed with aromatics, chillies of all colours and sizes( which are brilliant grated straight-out from frozen ), curry and lime leaves, lemongrass, and grated turmeric and ginger destined for mugs of tea( the frozen stuff doesnt work so well in cooking ). I reach into this drawer for flavours that transport me to places where the air is warmer. Its also where I stash away a few flavour-packed preparations too.

Little packages of paste make a rapid and easy flavour base for soups, stews and curries. Inducing them has become a huge part of how I cook in wintertime, turning out doubled batches, then freezing one so that I am only moments away from something really tasty when I want it. If that voices a bit too Martha Stewart for your liking, dont worry: all these paste recipes can be used right away too.

I learned the discipline of attaining pastes this way from the mother of a friend, a brilliant Indian home cook who has a frozen curry paste or chutney ready for any occasion. Her freezer tells a quite different narrative from mine, with an army of neatly labelled Tupperware receptacles in every tint from emerald to rust, curries in all iterations and stages of readiness, for household dinners and society parties alike.

I have adapted four of my favourite curries and one tagine to construct them work as pastes that can be frozen. Some those that arent traditionally induced employing a paste do departed from the classic versions of these recipes, but I can forgive myself that for the ease and smiles they bring.

Try Try one element from each column in this easy-to-use flavour map. Photograph: Sara Ramsbottom/ Sara Ramsbotom

Follow the basic method below for each of the pastes:

1 Set the aromatics and chillies into a blender and pulsation until you have a fine paste, add the spices and pulsing again. Ultimately add the petroleum and the top note and blitz to an even, finely textured paste. The paste can be frozen for later use.

2 Heat a large pan on a medium heat and add the paste( defrosted if necessary ). Fry for 3-5 minutes until the paste has lost its rawness and fragrances amazing.

3 Add the specified liquid along with 400 ml of stock and bring to the boil. If you are interested in more of a soupy consistency, add a little more stock.

4 Add whatever vegetables, tofu, potatoes etc you like and simmer until cooked, constructing sure you put in the root veggies first( as they take longer ), followed by the quicker-cooking veggies towards the end. Chopping everything to a similar sizing will help it to cook evenly.

5 Top up with a little extra hot stock if it seems too thick.

6 If you like, add more freshly chopped herbs and some crunch. Peanuts, crispy shallots or cashew nuts will add extra texture.

7 Serve with rice , noodles or chapatis, as appropriate.

Now try this: Emily Ezekiels massaman curry

This is a recipe my kitchen has inherited from one of my favourite ever cooks, Emily Ezekiel, a dear friend with whom Ive been luck to work for a long time, on lots of projects one of them being the photos for this column. This curry would be a frontrunner for my favourite of all time: its so deeply layered with flavor and interest.

Emily Emily Ezekiels massaman curry. Photo: Issy Croker for the Guardian

Serves 4
1 portion massaman curry paste( see below)
500g new potatoes
300g green beans
2 x 400 ml tins of coconut milk
300g purple budding broccoli
100g unsalted peanuts
200g firm tofu

To serve
Cooked brown rice

1 First make your curry paste again, see the flavour formula below ensure the instructions above. If its frozen, allow it to defrost a little.

2 Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F/ gas mark 6. Get a large roasting tray and add the potatoes along with about 2 tbsp massaman paste, toss well and roast in the hot oven for 40 minutes until almost cooked.

3 After 40 minutes, throw in the green beans, toss well and put the tray back into the oven for a further 15 minutes.

4 Put a large pan on to a medium heat. Add the remaining massaman paste to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes until the paste has turned dark and smells a little smoky. Add the coconut milk and then fill one emptied can with simmering water from the kettle; add this and bring to the boil.

5 Add the roasted potatoes, the beans and the purple sprout broccoli and cook for 10 minutes to bring everything together. Put a griddle pan on to a high heat and leave to warm up.

6 Put the peanuts on to a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes until golden. Slice the tofu into 1cm slices and griddle on both sides until charred and warmed through, then add to the large pan.

7 Serve the curry on top of warm brown rice and finish with a sprinkling of the peanuts.

Anna Jones is a cook, writer and author of A Modern Way to Eatand A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate );; @we_are_food


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