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Base Gravy Cooked in the Embers

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This has to be the best curry base gravy (sauce) I’ve ever made!

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard over the years since starting my blog is that you have to make the curry base gravy before starting to cook an authentic curry house style curry.

Really?  It only takes about an hour and most of the work is passive cooking so it isn’t a lot of fuss.

That said, this delicious base sauce recipe might be more convenient for those who like to cook on the barbecue.

You wouldn’t find the following method of cooking curry base gravy in any restaurants but it works magnificently well!

curry base gravy

Base sauce almost ready. Just need to dilute with stock or water for use in curries.

This curry base gravy is so convenient.

You can make this curry base sauce anytime you light up your barbecue. You don’t even have to be cooking a curry though they are better when cooked over hot coals.

Just place the onions and other veggies in the embers while you cook up whatever it is you’re cooking and then add water or stock, the spices and blend. Easy!

The idea behind this curry base gravy recipe…

I’m currently writing a barbecue cookbook which will be our in April 2022. So I have been grilling and barbecuing a lot in order to test recipes.

The reason the base sauce ingredients are normally simmered in water or stock for a long period of time is to bring out the natural sweetness of the vegetables. This you can only achieve with a long, slow cook.

Onions and vegetables cooked in the embers of your fire get the perfect flavour. In fact, they are slightly smoky, just like the sauces you get at restaurants that cook over coals or in a charcoal fuelled tandoor.

When you go to blend these ember cooked ingredients, they are already cooked to perfection.

That’s not the only benefit of cooking outdoors.

Normally when you make a curry house style curry, you need to prepare not only the base gravy but also cook up some pre-cooked meat.

When you cook your curries outside, you can grill your tandoori meats and/or vegetables at the same time you are making your different curry sauces.

Then just add these grilled ingredients to your sauce and it’s ready to serve. The cooking heat over fire is much closer to those at restaurants than you can normally achieve on your stove too.

Which fuel?

Please don’t use quick light charcoal or petroleum fire starters for this curry base gravy recipe!

Yes it’s convenient but it will ruin the flavour. Think of your charcoal or wood as an ingredients. Only the best will do.

I use restaurant grade lumpwood and natural wood charcoal briquettes from Big K. Build the fire using natural fire starters and you will be amazed at the superior results.

Step by step photos.

Firing up the barbecue

The charcoal you use is hugely important. No quick light petroleum briquettes!

Roasting onions in the bbq embers

Once your coals have ashed over and are very hot, add the onions in their skins.

hobo pack of vegetables

Meanwhile, get your hobo pack of veggies together and mix with oil. I ended up breaking the garlic heads into cloves.

hobo pack of vegetables in the embers

Place the foil wrapped veggies in the embers too and move them from time to time for even cooking.

Onions cooking in embers

Cook the onions until fork tender soft and black on the exterior. About 50 minutes. The hobo pack veggies take about 40 minutes.

Cooked vegetables.

After about 40 minutes, the veggies will be super soft and perfect for blending.

Blackened onions.

A fork should slide right into these! Very soft and juicy.

Cooked onions.

Cooked and peeled onions. Really sweet. I like some of the black bits in my base gravy but if you don’t, just wash them. 


Other uses for these cooked onions…

Even if you’re not making curry base gravy, these fall part soft, sweet and buttery onions are great served as a side dish too. Fry them whole in a little butter and herbs and serve them with whatever you’re cooking.

cooking base gravy

Add the remaining oil to a pan and stir in the veggies. Place right on the coals.

Cooking curry base gravy

Add about a litre of water or stock and bring to a simmer. Blend and then dilute with water or stock as needed to thin.

Here are curry house curry favourites you might like to try with this curry base gravy!

Chicken Korma
Chicken Madras
Chicken Dhansak
Lamb Rogan Josh
Lamb Vindaloo
Chicken Chilli Garlic
Chicken Patia
Lamb Bhuna

Yield: 3 litres

Base Sauce Cooked in the Embers

curry base gravy
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 4 large onions
  • 15 garlic cloves in their skin
  • 1 x 5cm (2 inch) ginger, sliced thinly
  • ½ carrot, sliced thinly
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • ½ red bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) rapeseed (canola) oil or ghee
  • 1 tbsp each, paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric


  1. Build a fire for direct heat cooking. When the coals have ashed over and are really hot, place the onions, in their skins directly on the coals. They will take about 40 to 60 minutes to cook and you will need to turn them from time to time.
  2. The onions are ready when they are totally black on the exterior and so soft you can stick a fork in without any resistance.
  3. Meanwhile, place the remaining vegetables on a large piece of foil and mix them with half of the oil/melted ghee and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Wrap tightly with the foil and then wrap it all up again with two pieces of foil so that it is three sheets thick. Place the vegetable pack right down in the embers with the onions. It is important that you watch this and put out any big flames as these will penetrate and burn the vegetables.
  5. These vegetable will take about 40 minutes to cook and yes, you can cook other things while the onions and packet vegetables are cooking.
  6. When the onions and vegetables are soft and cooked through, remove the onion skins and shop the onions up some.
  7. I like a bit of smoky char in my sauce but you can always wash the cooked onions if you don’t.
  8. Pour the remaining oil into a large saucepan and add the cooked onions and veggies along with the ground spices and kasoori methi and stir well.
  9. If using immediately, add a litre of water and bring to a rolling simmer right over the fire. Blend it all until smooth with a stick or countertop blender.
  10. It will probably still be quite thick. To add to your curries, it needs to be thin like full fat milk so add more water or stock as required.
  11. This sauce will keep in the fridge for about 3 days and it can be frozen in small portions for 6 months.

Did you like this recipe?

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Be sure to check back. I am going to be cooking all of the curry house favourites using this curry base gravy on the barbecue.

Steven Reilly

Friday 6th of January 2023

Notice the recipe says to use unpeeled garlic.

Do you remove the skin after cooking? Wondered if it might be quite papery if you leave it on?

Dan Toombs

Friday 6th of January 2023

I leave the skin on as it adds a lot of flavour and is edible. It disintegrates anyway so you won’t find it to be like paper. Dan

Kevin Herridge

Sunday 9th of May 2021

In your BBQ veggie sauce recipe, how garam masala do you put in

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 11th of May 2021

Use 1 tablespoon. Thanks Dan

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