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Friday, July 29, 2005

Make Your Own Curry Powder

Curry powder is one of those ingredients that every East Indian family has their own recipe for, and which some treasure like a family heirloom. The fact is, curry powder can have up to 22 different components. It is used in many countries besides India, and the ratios of various components changes by geography. In some countries such as Thailand where cuisine tends towards the "oriental", curries usually are in paste form and might have galangal, a cousin of ginger. In countries in Northern Africa, curry powders may have higher concentrations of ingredients such as cinnamon, cardamom or cloves. What I am presenting here is my own personal version of curry powder, which I made up completely from scratch. Now I really do not measure, so it's very difficult for me to give you an exact recipe, but I'll try. Note that this is a recipe for curry powder. A recipe for curry paste will be provided in some future posting.

Mini electric coffee/spice grinder. Most department stores will have these for $10-20. Or, you can use a mortar and pestle, in which case you will need to add some coarse salt to the ingredients list. Because I like to make between 2-5 tbsp of curry powder at a time, I use the grinder. Using a mortar and pestle is tiresome and you cannot get a fine ground powder. If you do use a mortar and pestle, make smaller quantities and cut back on the amount of whole black pepper. Too much partially cracked black pepper is usually too hot and unpalatable for most western tastes.

+1 tbsp whole black pepper - this is really what makes curry hot, along with crushed red pepper flake, if you use it. Reduce this to 1/2 tsp if you want a mild curry powder.
+1 tsp crushed red pepper flake [optional]
+2-3 tbsp whole cumin seeds - Because ground cumin is a common ingredient of Mexican food, some Indian dishes smell and taste like Mexican food. This is what gives basic curry powders their flavour.
+2-3 tbsp of coriander seeds - Fresh ground coriander adds incredible flavour.
+2-5 tbsp haldi, more commonly called turmeric. Turmeric adds a yellowish colour to curry. Some people prefer to add it separately to a dish, but I prefer to mix it into my curry powder. Turmeric has preservative properties which allow curry dishes to last a few days longer in the fridge than most meals. In fact, because of turmeric, you can leave meat curries outside of the fridge for a few hours longer than any non-curry meat dish. [But I still don't recommend it.] Turmeric does not really add much in the way of taste. Besides the preservative properties, I use it for color. You can also use it for filler to cut the flavour of cumin and coriander if you want a really mild curry.

The above ingredients make a very basic curry powder, which is a good starting point. For richer curry flavours, add cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and other ingredients as listed below. There are other ingredients you can add, but I usually add them to my dishes at a later point. Be warned that turmeric stains everything it touches yellow, including your spice grinder, pots and pans, plates, and clothes, if you spill any. I've ruined many shirts due to curries with lots of turmeric. If you don't want to stain your grinder, you can add turmeric while you are making your curry dishes instead of now.

Additional ingredients:
+Cardamom seed, with the leathery skin removed [optional]
+Cloves - just two or three [optional]
+Cinnamon [optional]
+Dried garlic [optional] - I buy this from Oriental groceries. But you can add garlic later. See the posting "Mom's Secret Garlic Ginger Paste".
+Sesame seeds [optional] - This is not normally a part of curry powder, but I like to add it.

If you are making a curry powder, do not add any wet ingredients. However, if you prefer a curry paste, one way to make it is to combine this recipe, after grinding, with that of "Mom's Secret Garlic Ginger Paste".

Put all the ingredients into your spice/coffee grinder until you get your desired texture. I prefer a fine grind. If you've never made curry before, I recommend you do this, too. If you make more powder than you need, store the excess in an air-tight bottle or other container. As with all powdered spices, use them within 3-6 months, preferably much sooner.

Just as there are many ways to make curry powder, there are different ways to use it. If you want dry curry dishes, known as "bhaji" or "bhaja" in Indian restaurants, you would typically add curry powder early in the cooking process. For wet curry dishes, I like to the curry powder after I've added the liquid (water or stock).

(c) Copyright 2005 Raj Kumar Dash,

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  • I'm blogslinger
  • From Canada
  • Writer, author, former magazine editor and publisher, amateur photog, amateur composer, online writer/ blogger, online publisher, freelancer

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