Make your own curry powder
What's in curry powder?
There's nothing more delicious than a curry, but have you ever wondered which herbs and curry spices actually go into one? Or how to make your own curry powder?
You can find out here what to do to make the tastiest curries ever. You can even invent your own combination of spices so you get a personal recipe that's just exactly right.
In other words, make your own curry powder, convert it into a wonderful paste and wow your family and friends with a 'ruby' they'll never forget.
For more info and recipes about curry visit my group page at The Curry Temple.
Spice Alchemy - Volume 1 - Dry Spice Combinations
This book is a fantastic mine of information about mixing different spice combinations, from Indian curries, to Chinese spice mixes; and even Cajun seasonings that you can create for yourself.
Each spice mix is then used in a real recipe, showing how to use it to get a deep and delicious tasty spicy meal.
I've just got my copy of this and recommend it to everyone!
What is curry powder?
A wonderful array of herbs and spices
When I started making curries as a teenager, like many people I reached for the readily available commercial curry powders. There are several varieties, but the ones most easily obtained are the Madras curry powders - they come in mild and hot strengths.
The mild and hot Madras curry powders differ in the amount of chili powder in the mix. But hey, if chili powder is all there is to it, then it would be called chili powder, not curry powder. So what else goes in to make the distinctively delicious flavor of a curry powder?
In a typical Madras curry powder, you will find a combination of spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, pepper, mustard, garlic, salt, fenugreek, fennel and cassia. When making your own, use cinnamon instead of cassia. Cassia bark is normally used instead of cinnamon commercially because it is cheaper.
It's fine to use curry powder - Don't think of it as cheating!
I still use curry powder because it's really convenient and quick. For special occasions and for special guests I like to make my own spice mixtures. If you want to try a ready-made curry powder, have a go with one of these:
Here come the spices!
Tuj or Dalchini
Cinnamon is a relatively expensive spice, and is commonly replaced by cassia bark in commercial powder mixes. If you use the raw spice and buy cinnamon sticks, there is a fairly easy way to tell whether you are buying genuine or the cheaper cassia. Cassia bark rolls up from both sides and forms a kind of 'scroll' whereas genuine cinnamon simply rolls all the way up in one direction. Often you'll find that stores will sell you 'cinnamon' but actually it isn't; it's cassia.
It is used in many meat recipes and has a strong impact on the flavor of a curry. It is not necessary to dry fry cinnamon for use in curries, but the flavor is somewhat enhanced by doing so, and then powdering into the curry mixture.
Cloves are an extremely strong spice, adding both flavor and aroma to a curry. Even just 2 or 3 added to a curry can produce a perceptible flavor.
Cloves can be added whole to a curry or used with other spices and ground to make a garam masala.
Stock up on cloves - Whole cloves and powdered cloves
Coriander seed is used in curry powders, and the plant itself, cilantro, is also very common in Asian cookery.
It gives the characteristic 'curry' flavor, and needs to be 'dry' fried - without oil - for a few minutes before use. Grind it in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar after frying.
It's best to keep a grinder especially for use with your curry spices.
Stock up on Corriander - Corriander seeds and powder
Cumin seeds can be used whole or ground in Indian cookery. As with many curry spices, dry fry briefly - for less than a minute - before using. Be careful not to burn the cumin seeds; this can happen very easily. Add other 'wet' ingredients (such as tomato etc) quickly after frying the seeds to disperse the pan's heat.
Cumin seeds are used commonly in dry vegetarian curries, and sometimes added as a seasoning to boiled rice, imparting flavor and fragrance.
Stock up on Cumin - Cumin seeds and powder
Fennel seed has an 'aniseed' type of flavor, and whenever aniseed is mentioned in Indian cookery, it is usually fennel that is actually the ingredient.
Fennel is often used in garam masala powder and is used in Kashmiri cuisine. It is one of the few spices that imparts its aroma and flavor without the need for prior dry frying.
Fenugreek is not used very often in Asian cuisine, but used mainly in Southern Indian cookery.
The seeds are fried quickly with mustard seeds, before the other spices are added. They are also used roasted and powdered with red chili as part of a condiment known as muligapuri.
Stock up on Fenugreek - Methi seeds and powder
Black mustard seed
Black mustard seeds are used whole in Southern Indian curries and vegetable recipes.
They are the first ingredient into the dry pan, and need to be dry fried for only 10-15 seconds - you will realise why when they start to 'pop' and jump about in the pan! When they start to crackle, add the next spice or ingredient according to the recipe.
Stock up on Mustard Seeds
Poppy seeds have a mild nutty taste and are generally ground to a paste with a little water after the initial dry frying.
They can be used as a coating for potatoes, or used in a curry to add the nutty taste, as well as thickening the curry.
Inside my 'Curry Cupboard'
Spice grinding - To make your own curry powder
After combining your selection of spices - it is best to use the whole seeds rather than pre-ground powders - dry fry them in a small pan (without cooking oil). When they start to crackle and 'pop' stop frying them, and let the mixture cool.
Then grind to a powder. Use the powder with onion, garlic, fresh ginger and fresh chilies, blending them all together in a food processor to make your curry paste.
But what do I do with these spices?
The Naked Chef to the Rescue
One of Jamie Oliver's curry recipes
I first got into making my own curry powders a few years ago when I bought one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks - he's an English chef who uses the word pukka, unlike the more US known chef Gordon Ramsay, who would probably use a word that rhymes with pukka.
Jamie's book The Return of the Naked Chef has this lovely curry spice combination (he calls it his 'Hot & Fragrant Rub'):
- fennel seeds - 2tbsp
- cumin seeds - 2tbsp
- coriander seeds - 2tbsp
- fenugreek seeds - 0.5tbsp
- black peppercorns - 0.5tbsp
- 1 clove
- half a cinnamon stick
- 2 cardamom pods
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
Dry fry the mixture of spices and then pound or grind into a powder for use in a delicious curry.
For a curry recipe so delicious - You'll become a curriholic!
More spicy ideas
If you don't want to grind your spices
Although you can buy hot and medium curry powders, you might want to vary the level of heat in your curry. A really great way of doing this is to mix some different powdered spices.
For example, a delicious tikka masala recipe can be made by cooking out some onion, garlic, ginger and fresh chilies. Then add commercially available garam masala powder, turmeric powder, chili powder (to suit your own taste) and a little sugar. This way, you are not constrained by the ratio of ingredients found in, say, Madras curry powder.
For a full recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala see below.