Saturday, March 22, 2008

Curry Powder

A few years ago, my sister Hannah gave me this book for my birthday:

It is an unassuming, square volume, entirely black and white on the inside with no pictures. The gem of this book is in the text. Not only does it contain good, solid recipes, but it also gives you the tools to experiment and create your own curry dishes.

Although the author assures the reader that using store-bought curry powders and paste will be fine in any of the dishes, she includes several curry powder recipes, as well as curry pastes and Garam Masala.

I've been wanting to try out the curry powder recipe for a while now. Two weeks ago I ran out of my store-bought McCormicks blend, so after a quick run to the Asian food store, I was ready.

All of this only cost me about 10 Euro -- I don't know why anyone would buy their spices anywhere else!

One benefit of making your own is that you can tailor it perfectly to your own taste -- and even if you follow the recipe exactly, there's nothing like the freshness of a newly ground spice blend.

Here are the toasted whole and untoasted ground spices all together in a bowl:

Curry Powder
(from The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott)
You can vary any of these proportions, omit a few, or add any of the following: fennel seeds, start anise, ground nutmeg, mace, dried curry leaves, brown or black mustard seeds. You can substitute ground spices, but keep in mind that they burn quickly and need to be toasted separately from any whole ones you may be using (which will take longer to darken)

1/4 cup coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
1 T white or black peppercorns
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 cinnamon sticks, approx 3 inches long each
1 T ground turmeric
2 tsp whole cardamom (about 3 or 4 pods) or ground
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 dried red chili pepper, stemmed a broken in pieces (or 2 tsp crushed red pepper, or 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper)

Preheat oven to 300 deg F.

In pie tin (I used a large jelly-roll pan), combine coriander, cumin, peppercorns and fenugreek. Wrap cinnamon sticks in a kitchen towel (preferably a smooth one rather than one with a nap, like terrycloth) and bash them with a rolling pin or the side of an unopened can. Add crushed cinnamon to pan of spices and put in oven.

Toast spices for 15 minutes, stirring once, until they darken a little and release their flavors. Remove from the oven and spread out on a plate to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, combine turmeric, cardamom, cloves, ginger and chili pepper or cayenne. When the toasted spices have cooled, combine with untoasted spices and grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder (I have a coffee grinder that I use only for spices), or a mortar and pestle. Pour all into an airtight jar (I taped a piece of paper into a funnel), and store away from heat and light. For maximum freshness and flavor, use within 3 months.

Fragrant, fresh curry powder, all ground up and ready to use.

Have a great Easter, everyone!

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