Masala pastes are used regularly in Indian cuisine for their colour, flavour, and texture. But making a fresh paste every day can be a time-consuming process. Instead, weekends can be put to good use by making these pastes ahead of time and storing them well so they stay fresh and packed with flavour. Here are some tips on how to make and store masala pastes to be used while preparing quick meals.
Masala pastes make every day's cooking a smooth process. Stored in the fridge, they can be brought out while preparing lunches and dinners on those extra hectic weekdays to save time without compromising on the taste and flavour of the meal. Grinding masalas just before cooking becomes time-consuming, but on weekends, making some common masala pastes used in gravies and subzis can go a long way in reducing the time spent in the kitchen on busy weekdays. Stocking up on these masalas and storing them right can make sure they remain fresh for at least a week and ready to use whenever required.
There are some masala pastes that are staples in Indian cuisines, like ginger and garlic pastes, green chilli paste, tomato puree, onion paste, and red chilli paste. Some simple hacks to store masala pastes include using dry, airtight containers to preserve the pastes and keeping the lids tightly closed to prevent any moisture from setting in. Particularly during monsoons, an open container might quickly attract bacterial and fungal growth. A well-stored paste, however, will retain its colour, aroma, and texture, enhancing the deliciousness of the dish. Read on below for some easy ways to make and store masala pastes to ensure week-long freshness:
Ginger and garlic pastes are used very often in Indian cooking. While most home cooks grind them together, it is best to prepare them separately when storing them for a longer duration. To make garlic paste, peel the garlic bulbs and wash them thoroughly. Pat dry and grind into a fine mix. Avoid adding water while grinding, if the paste feels too coarse, add some olive oil to make it into a fine mix.
Storing Tip: Use small glass bottles to store the garlic paste. Keep the lid tightly closed to prevent the entire fridge from smelling of garlic.
To make this paste full of aroma and a flavour almost as strong as garlic, buy good quality ginger from the market and wash it thoroughly to get rid of all the mud and grime. Peel off the washed skin and roughly chop the ginger into medium chunks. Add the pieces to a blender and grind them into a coarse paste.
Storing Tip: Before storing the ginger paste, take a bit of salt, roast it in a pan, and add it to the ginger in the blender. Pulse this mixture and remove the paste to be stored in a small glass bottle. The salt ensures lasting freshness in the ginger paste.
For a smooth onion paste, peel the onions off and chop them into medium chunks. Add a bit of oil to the frying pan and toss the onions in, cooking till they are golden brown, right before they start sweating. Grind into a fine paste after they cool.
Storing Tip: A good way to store onion paste is to first freeze it into cubes on an ice tray. Coat the inside of the tray with oil before freezing the paste. Put the frozen cubes of paste into a ziplock bag to be used in measured proportions whenever required.
A smooth tomato puree enhances the flavour of a dish with its colour, texture, and tang. To make this puree, pick some ripe tomatoes and chop them roughly. Toss the chunks in a pan until they turn soft and start expelling water. Put this mixture into a grinder once it has cooled, and blend well.
Storing Tip: Using a sieve to remove bits of seeds and skin from the puree can make it a smoother paste. This can then be stored in an airtight jar for lasting freshness without the risk of the seeds rotting due to excess moisture.
Green Chilli Paste:
For making chilli pastes, it is essential to choose the right chillies based on the level of their spiciness. After de-stemming green chillies, wash and dry them. Break into small pieces before grinding.
Storage Tip: Avoid using large containers to store chilli pastes to minimise the risk of attracting bacteria when they are opened for use. Use a dry spoon while extracting paste from the jar every time.
Red Chilli Paste:
For red chilli paste, take a bowl of warm water and soak the chillies in it for a while before shocking them in an ice bowl. This retains the red colour of the chillies when it is blended and made into a smooth paste. While handling chillies, be careful not to let your palms and fingers touch your eyes!
Storing Tip: Make sure the red chilli paste is stored in small jars. Do not refrigerate in the freezer; instead, store the paste in the coldest part of the fridge, away from fresh produce.