- a blog about food and value

Stock up your Indian Larder

indian-spiceIndian food is an intoxicating blend of delicious spices and herbs. Whether it’s blandoori or grandoori I’m planning on whipping up, these are the very basic Indian ingredients I need to have in my cupboard. I can get a lot of them in the supermarket, but for really good quality and value the best place is the local Asian food store. Not bad for between €20-30:

  • Garam masala (mixed spice)
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Coriander seeds/powder
  • Cayenne pepper or chili powder

These ingredients will allow you to make authentic dishes:

  • Cloves
  • Fenugreek
  • Cinnamon sticks (better), powder will do
  • Cardamon pods
  • Fennel seeds
  • Black mustard seeds
  • Bay leaves
  • Peppercorns (whole)
  • Gram Flour

If your Indian neighbour is coming over for dinner and you want to impress, these will give food that little extra:

  • Fresh curry leaves
  • Fresh coriander
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Tamarind paste

These crop up in a lot of Indian recipes:

  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Chili
  • Garlic
  • Coconut milk
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Lamb
  • Yogurt

Lamb Madraslamb-madras

Here’s a recipe to get you on your way. Although this dish is not traditionally made in India, this fiery curry is so so tasty that it has to be tried. If you want to taste it before you cook it, KonKan, on Upper Clanbrassil Street in Dublin, offer a great Madras for €9.90 takeout. Just tell them how hot you like it.


  • 3-4 tbsps vegetable or sunflower cooking oil
  • 1 kg lamb, chopped into cubes
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsps garlic, ground to a paste
  • 1 tsp ginger, ground to a paste
  • 3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 tbsps coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • Salt


1. On a medium heated dry pan, roast the fennel seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves and peppercorns until they are slightly dark and aromatic. Remove from heat and grind to a fine powder mix.

2. Place the mix with the garlic and ginger pastes, red chilli powder, cinnamon and 3-4 tbsps of water in a food processor and grind until it’s a smooth paste.

3. Heat the cooking oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat. Fry the onion until golden, add the above masala paste and bay leaf and reduce heat slightly. Stirring often, fry until the oil separates from the spice paste. If required, add water to keep the masala from sticking to the pan.

4. Add the meat and brown it, then add the tomatoes, coconut milk and 1 cup of hot water. Season with salt. Cook until the lamb is soft and the gravy is thick. If required add hot water to maintain the amount of gravy as you cook.

Remove bay leaf and serve with brown or pilau rice and naan bread.


  1. E9.90 for takeout isn’t cheap. Why can Chinese takeways offer meals for around E7, but Indians are more typically E10 (and often that doesn’t include rice)

  2. mmm, recipe sounds lovely – will have to try. back from india 2 weeks and missing my curries.

  3. is it blasphemy to ask this … can i use the pataks curry pastes instead ?? they are great value in the asian market and jamie oliver reccommends them! is the flavour far superior when you make your own paste ?

  4. Hi SJ. Of course it’s not blasphemy. I adore Indian food but I’ve never been so good at making it myself. I often marinade chicken for a few hours with some Patak’s and natural yogurt, pop it under a grill – voila! Being real Irish I eat it with baked potato and brocolli 🙂 So you probably shouldn’t listen to me…

    Patak’s is MUCH better than I am, but Rercy is MUCH MUCH better than Patak’s. Once you’ve tried the real deal, there’s no going back. That’s why I like to go to dinner in Rercy’s.

    It’s definitely worth making your own if you can. Hopefully she will teach me the true Aruvedic path…

  5. Peter … that yoghurt marinade sounds fabulous .. i love spuds and broccolli too 🙂

    When i have the kitchen to myself and some time i will try the real deal in the meantime i won’t feel guilty about feeding the natives on a ready made paste !

  6. SJ – Mr. Oliver has his own from-scratch curry sauce recipe which is super easy (lots of food processor action) and is usable for chicken, fish or veggies. My Indian cookery teacher recommended it as the best easy base she’d come across! You can check it out here.

  7. Hey SJ,

    I haven’t tried Pataks curry paste or any other ready-made in a good while. What I do remember from the ready-made pastes and sauces is that they are quite sweet which I don’t like but that’s just a matter of taste. I would encourage cooking from scratch though, it is very satisfying and you know exactly what has gone in but it does take time and patients!

  8. Hey Joanne,

    You’re right €9.90 is steep for an Indian without rice, €10 including rice is more like it. KonKan tempt me back because they deliver a quality madras with lamb that’s tender and have delicious vegetable pilau on offer too.

    In regards to Chinese costing less, I figure most Chinese food is often a bit cheaper to make and takes less time to cook so maybe that’s why they can charge less. To be honest, I don’t order Chinese takeaway often. To me Chinese food tastes best when it’s served straight from the pan to the plate and I have found that takeaways are often congealed by the time they get to my house. If I have a Chinese food hankering, I either head up to Parnell street in Dublin where there are some great Chinese restaurants or cook something up at home.

  9. Actually, looking at Rercy’s recipe, you could easily prepare this in 10-20 mins.
    It looks sumptuous: Rercy, you’ve inspired me to give it a go. Going shopping now so I’ll pick up what I need in Asia Market on Drury St.- gotta run as it closes at 7!

  10. The Lamb Madras in Wexford is €12.95 ! and thats without rice .