Chili, Ginger and garlic, are a trio that come together in all sorts of dishes and, in Indian cookery especially, many cooks pre-make their own pastes from the ingredients and keep it on hand as a convenient time-saver. It is tremendously versatile, being used as-is or as the base for more complex Masalas, and it keeps very well indeed. Most recipes you come across suggest that it will keep anywhere from a week to a month (or longer frozen, of course) but, if a little salt (or sometimes vinegar) is added, it will last for ages. I actually have some in my fridge right now that is pushing six or eight months in age and, although the color has faded just a little it still tastes great. Still, the original fresh taste of the chili has diminished a bit and I thought it time that I made a new batch and share the process with my readers…
- 1 cup green Chili, de-seeded and chopped (about 8 or 10 Jalapenos)
- ½ cup Garlic cloves chopped (1 full head, or so)
- ½ cup fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped (a 4 – 5 inch chunk)
- 1 level tablespoon of salt (non-iodized, preferably)
- ½ teaspoon Sugar (optional)
- 3-4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
The amounts of the main ingredients are not ‘carved in stone’ and you can vary the ratios as you see fit. I tend to use a ratio of 2 parts chili to one part each of the garlic and ginger as I think of this as more of a Chili paste that just happens to have garlic and ginger added. I always have garlic and ginger paste on hand anyway, so, if necessary, I can add a little more of these to the basic blend depending on the intended use.
As for the salt, a good rule of thumb is to add from ½ to 1 teaspoon for each cup of the combined main ingredients. A little more is better from the point of view of extending the ‘shelf’ life, but this will make it quite salty and you will need to bear this in mind and adjust for salt in any preparations that use the paste. Many recipes add a little vinegar for preservation but I prefer to avoid this as it limits the versatility a little.
The oil called for above is about right for the quantity of main ingredients used, but all you really need to remember is to just add enough to the mix while you are processing it so that a nice smooth paste is obtained. The sugar can be omitted, if you prefer, but a small amount works nicely I find, and it helps cut any bitterness from the chilli.
First, add the chopped ginger, the salt, and the sugar (if using) into your food processor and give it a good ‘whizzing’. The ginger needs a bit of a head start over the other main ingredients and the salt and sugar will provide a bit of an abrasive quality to help it process smoothly.
Now add the Chili and Ginger and continue to blend. Add the oil, a tablespoon or so at a time, until the paste is nice and smooth.
Unless you have a recipe that calls for the entire amount, then transfer the paste to a jar and pop it into the fridge. Basically, it will keep for many months but you may wish to make a fresh batch once you can tell that the green bits on top are not flecks of chilli…
To be honest, this paste is so versatile that it would be just about impossible to try and list all the possible uses. In Indian cookery, the paste is often the starting point for complex blends and it is useful as a marinade, sauce base and a rub for meat or seafood prior to grilling. In fact, if you would like to see what this paste is like in a very simple preparation, try rubbing just a little into chicken drumsticks (slashing the skin first to help the flavors penetrate), and then let them sit for several hours before popping them on the grill. The result will be delicious.
I will be using the paste I just made many times in the next few months and I will tray and post a good range of different dishes to illustrate the versatility of this useful and handy blend…