Making curry powder can be considered a form of culinary art. For those of you who are just beginning to learn about the world of herbs and spices, here are the basics: Curry powder usually ranges in color from bright yellow to warm amber. It is commonly found in the spice aisle between cumin and dill seed and most people associate it with Indian cuisine and spicy food.
BUT! If you want a truly mouthwatering curry experience, don’t settle for the store-bought stuff, make your own.
A short background
The variety of curry blends is so extensive that you may even consider it to be infinite. Each blend is associated with a different region of South Asia. Countries across Africa and the Caribbean also take credit for creating some of the most delectable curry blends around today.
Curry powder is made up of an exquisite combination of spices. Each mixture is fine-tuned to provide a particular taste and heat factor. By simply omitting or varying the amount of any given spice, you are able to completely alter the flavor and pungency of a curry mix. This is why making your own curry powder from scratch can be challenging yet fun.
For a hot curry, you’ll need a heavy hand when adding your chili powder. Read on for my method.
As I had mentioned earlier, the combinations are endless, so here are some spices that are commonly used to make the most basic curry powder:
- Turmeric powder
- Chili powder
- Coriander seeds
- Ground ginger
- Mustard seed
- Black pepper
In its whole form, turmeric is actually a root, resembling ginger. It gives curry powders that vibrant, yellow color and does not contribute much to the flavor. So if you accidentally add more than the recipe suggests, your slip up will go unnoticed.
The type of chili pepper you use and the amount will determine the heat of your curry powder. Considering there are almost as many chili peppers out there as curry blends, let’s keep it simple.
Cayenne pepper has several health benefits and will definitely give you that fiery kick! On days you want a mellower curry, you can always opt for a hot paprika instead. Some people choose to combine both. Just remember, too much heat can end up drowning out the delicate flavors of the curry.
Pre-ground or whole?
If you don’t have the time but you still want to make your own curry powder, you can use pre-ground spices. However, a spice always loses some aroma and intensity when ground and stored so by saving time you are also cutting your curry short of flavor.
For a rich, irresistible curry mix, you should choose whole seeds and chili peppers. This will allow you to toast them before crushing and grinding, thus bringing out the full flavor and aroma or each seed.
Hot curry powder recipe
The following recipe is for an hot Indian curry powder, which can be used to curry meat or vegetables. All ingredients except turmeric should be in their whole form. Keep in mind that you can also substitute any of the ingredients or add other ones to suit your taste buds.
- Dry red chili (whole) – 20 to 30 (more chili = more heat!)
- Coriander (seeds) – ½ cup
- Cinnamon (stick) – 4 sticks
- Cardamom (pods) – 15
- Cloves – 1 tbsp.
- Back pepper (whole) – 1 tbsp.
- Cumin seeds – 3 tbsp.
- Fennel seeds – 3 tbsp.
- Turmeric powder – 1.5 tbsp.
- Using a cast-iron pan, toast all of the above ingredients, except turmeric powder, on low-heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until you begin to see smoke.
- Remove spices from the pan and allow them to cool. Place all ingredients including turmeric powder into a grinder and grind into a fine powder. You may have to do this in batches, depending on your spice grinder.
- You may choose to sift the powder through a sieve to remove any unground pieces or leave it as is for an added crunch.
So what can you curry?
The beautiful thing about curry powder is that you can use it to enhance the flavor of practically anything. Chicken, vegetables and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas are probably the most commonly curried ingredients. Yet, it is just as easy to come across dishes that consist of curried beef, lamb, fish, shrimp and even eggs.
The thing to keep in mind with curry is that it’s all about variety. Try curry on new things. Use different proportions in your powder. Make it your own!
- NY Times Cooking – When Only a Curry Will Do
- Serious Eats – Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Curry Powder?