The many uses of curry powder,
November 13, 2007
and how to make your own.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself, if you consider yourself to be in the know, “But David! Curry powder is the product of an old imperial system! There isn’t such a thing as real curry powder!”
Well. You’d be right, fine: as I understand it, British soldiers in Victorian-era India essentially catalyzed the invention of curry powder – many Indians had (and certainly many, many people still do) ground one-time-use powder for each meal or each dish prepared. So a fairly standardized recipe was decided upon, industrialized, and shipped back to the United Kingdom.
And I’ve seen curry powder in every grocery store I’ve ever been to, no matter where; curry powder is by no means groundbreaking and novel – I’m not claiming any great revelations here.
Except. There’s a reason millions of people still grind their own curry mixes, and it’s David’s Kitchen Corollary Number One: Control is directly proportional to Enjoyment, flavor-wise. The more power you exert over your food, the better it’s going to taste; home-grown tomatoes and self-caught fish invariably taste (or give the illusion of tasting) better than their store-bought equivalents.
If they aren’t delicious tomatoes, the fault hopefully (for my sake) lies in the gardener and I’m still right.
But you see my purpose, here, and it is to at least give it a try. Home-made curry powder tastes better because it’s fresher, it tastes better because you made it (and thus control the proportions, and it tastes better because whole spices are cheaper in bulk.
So, you’ll need, in descending order of prominence (and of course this is mutable):
* Coriander seeds (about 3 tablespoons)
* Cumin seeds (about 2 tablespoons)
* Black peppercorns (2 teaspoons)
* Cardamom pods (ten to fifteen)
* Fennel (1 to 2 teaspoons)
* Turmeric powder (1/2 teaspoon)
I know I just said Control is Delicious, but little is hard and fast when it comes to spices. Except the cardamom pods. Take your time with those or you’ll have fibrous, woody bits in your karahi lamb. Cardamom pods are hell in a jar. Pry them open, remove the little flavorful seeds within, and thank heaven that you don’t need more.
Take all of your seeds, your podless cardamom, your fennel – everything except the turmeric – and throw it in a frying pan over low heat. Those spices will start to release their fabulous aromatics, and their essential oils will gently seep out. Once you can smell that, remove everything to a mortar and pestle, and get to grinding. Add the turmeric. And don’t pronounce it without the first ‘r’; that bugs me.
Keep at your grinding vigorously, Baba Yaga, and eventually you’ll have a relatively fine powder, suitable for usage in about anything.
Seriously, though. Anything.
Isn’t it nice?