For people who care about their food

British Indian Restaurant Curry – III: Basic Curry Sauce

Having already made the onion paste and the spice mix (which you’ll need for the final step in the process), now we go on to make a basic curry sauce. This is a three-part process in itself:

1. Onions
2. Tomatoes
3. Combine the two


  • 4 large red onions, coarsely chopped
  • 60g/2 oz unpeeled fresh ginger, chopped
  • 90g/3 oz peeled fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp heaped salt

Sweat off the onion. Next add the garlic, ginger and salt and give it a good stir. Then add enough water to cover the ingredients.

Bring the mixture to boil the boil and then simmer, without covering, for about half an hour.



Once it’s done, blend it very finely.


  • Tin of plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 5 tbsp of oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp tomato ketchup
  • ½ tsp sugar

While the onion mixture is simmering, put the tomatoes, oil, puree, ketchup, sugar and spices into another saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Once it’s done, blend it very finely.

Combine the two

Now take both the finely blended onion mix and the tomato mix and combine the two in a suitable pan. Simmer for another 15 minutes to ensure they are both well cooked and blended together.

The blending is vital to the flavour and correct consistency. If the mixture becomes too dry during this stage, add water. The end result should be about 1.6 litres of gravy – if it’s not, add water to the mixture now.

At this stage you can measure out bags of 200ml/400ml and freeze this basic curry sauce for a quick curry whenever you fancy it.

400ml of this basic curry sauce will be enough for 2 main dishes, therefore one entire recipe should be enough for 8 main dishes and so on.

Phew! Are you still here? The next and final step is to customise your curry into the various different styles of restaurant curry.

9 Responses to “British Indian Restaurant Curry – III: Basic Curry Sauce”

  1. Jessica

    Yum. This is how we make our curries (when we have time). It’s been a while though, so you’ve inspired me to do it again. I wonder if I could can it instead of freezing?

  2. Not Delia

    Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for your comment and query. I don’t know anything about canning and can’t advise on something that could poison you if done wrongly. I don’t want you to die!

    But I know some people who might be able to answer you with some authority, so I’ll ask around amongst my foodie pals. Perhaps you already do canning yourself – maybe you’re the expert?

  3. Jessica

    Well, there’s a lot of tomatoes in it, so I guess it’s pretty acidic, in which case it should be pretty easy to can with the hot water bath method. Canning is pretty a pretty strange concept to me though – in England, I made jams and chutneys all the time just putting hot product in a hot jar and it “popped” down itself. Here in Canada it’s far more involved and you have to process the jar (not a “can”) in a hot water bath or pressure canning. Otherwise apparently, you run a high risk of botulism. Even jams! In Canada though, they seem to preserve far more than in England – peaches, pickles, vegetables, tomatoes and tomato products, sweet syrups and conserves, meat and meat products, even butter – maybe because the climate’s more extreme and you really cannot grow anything in winter – compared to England where you can survive “out of the ground” throughout the winter season. So a whole new world of preserving has been opened up to me – hence my question about canning curry sauce…….. very interesting site by the way and I like the you’ve arranged your recipes into sections.

  4. Not Delia

    Thanks, Jessica. Yes, it was botulism I had in mind when I mentioned the possibility of poisoning. Your info about Canada and preserving food there is really interesting. I’d love to find out more.

  5. Martin Potter


    This is similar to the basic sauce I’ve used for years at home, with some variation. I’d like to try it, but can’t see from the recipe where the spice mix is added, and what quantity.
    Maybe I’ve missed something – can you advise please?

    Kind regards,


  6. Not Delia

    Sorry, you don’t need either the onion paste or the spice mix at this stage – they come into the process at Stage 3. I’ve edited the posting to make that a bit clearer. Thanks for pointing it out and helping us to improve.

  7. garry

    will this actually make a proper BIR base sauce ? i will defo give it a go at the weekend

  8. donna

    How many ounces or millilitres of tomatoes? You say a tin of tomatoes, but what size is the tin?


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