The love of many Indian food enthusiasts, who lovingly call all Indian dishes ‘Curry’ is one of my pet hates! This post is going to be a bit of a rant, a vent and ultimately a revelation so hang in there for some bollywood melodrama kinda post :-)!
It was only after moving to the UK did I realise that I could buy something called a ‘Curry Powder’ from off the shelf of a small village supermarket. I was both ecstatic at the find, as well as intrigued! So I bought a bottle, as the nearest Indian store was about an hours drive from home and this was my easiest and quickest fix!
Opening the bottle and looking through the ingredient list I chanced upon the ingenious British invention of Indian flavour captured in a bottle. I have to say I was impressed by its practicality and ease of use but sadly could not say that about the taste or flavour. So the typical Indian in me had to make the hour long run to the Indian store after all!
What is Curry Powder and Where Does It Come From?
You may have guessed it by now that the term ‘Curry’ as well as the contributive ingredient that is ‘curry powder’ is a parting gift of the Brits to the Indian sub continent. It is believed that during the British rule, who loved the taste of Indian food wanted to make them at home as well. However Indian cuisine turned out to be a bit complex for our Fish & Chips lovers to cook because of the use of many spices.
And so to make it easier they simply came up with the idea of making a spice mix of their own.
What came across during the cooking process was the use of a magic spice blend called ‘Garam Masala’ in most Indian dishes. When asked about the different spices that went into a Garam Masala they realised that there was no set recipe for a Garam masala which was further confusing. Instead, they innovatively resorted to mixing most popular spices that came closest to tasting like spicy Indian food!
So there, Voila! You have your very own British Indian ‘Curry Powder’!
Curry Powder Ingredients
As I mentioned earlier, I am not a great lover of curry powder. In my personal opinion, it undermines the immensity and depth of Indian cuisine by simply branding it under one name such as ‘curry’!
Indian food is complex with the use of many different spices which give each dish its distinctive flavour. Hence each dish that you eat tastes different. By simply adding a generic spice to most Indian dishes and calling it an Indian curry takes the uniqueness of the cuisine away.
Having said that, I still keep a pack in my spice drawer (ahem, ahem) as its one of those mixes that can be used to lift the flavour in any cuisine and not just limited to Indian.
Like all spice blends, there is no set ingredient list for a curry powder. Each commercially bought curry powder blend has different constituents of spices as well as quantity! However, there are few ingredients that are a must have for making a curry powder at home.
A curry powder blend has a mix of pungent and sweet spices to balance the taste.
The must have spices that go into a curry powder are Cumin seeds, Coriander seeds, Turmeric and Black pepper (the pungent spices). While the sweet spices are Cloves and Cinnamon.
Why Use Curry Powder and Benefits of Curry Powder
Since curry powder is a blend of different spices, each spice contributes its own, apart from imparting a distinctive flavour and taste. Depending on the different kind of spices used to make the blend, each spice also has specific health benefits.
Black pepper, cumin and ginger powder used in the mix help to relieve digestive discomfort such as bloating, constipation, excess gas and abdominal cramps. It also helps to alleviate nausea and vomiting.
Reduces Inflammation and Body Pain:
Turmeric is the spice that gives Indian dishes its characteristic yellow colour. Past and recent studies show that the active compound in Turmeric, curcumin, blocks several inflammatory chemicals reducing inflammation throughout the body.
Turmeric also aids in bone regrowth, connectivity, and repair. This helps in reducing signs of bone loss and improve bone health.
The combination of spices makes curry powder rich in vitamin A, C, and B6. This helps to build up a healthy immune system and protects the body from viruses and bacteria.
Prevents Cancer and Alzheimers
Scientific studies conclude that the combined effect of cumin and turmeric helps to prevent cancer and protect against Alzheimer’s disease. The medicinal and antioxidant properties of both prove to be exceptionally beneficial to boost memory and assist to stop the progression of tumor cells.
Use of Curry Powder
Please do take note of this section if you think that curry powders can only be used for making Indian curries. You are so missing out on adding a whole depth of flavour plus the added health benefits in a pinch.
Apart from making Indian curries, here are few ideas for you to add a teaspoon or two of curry powder to your everyday cooking. I do this many a times and get away with compliments about the dish made in and with a dash:
- Add a teaspoon to stir fried vegetables.
- Add it to noodles to make Singapore styled fried noodles or curried flavoured noodles
- Make yummy soups by adding curry powder to broth
- Add to mayonnaise, ketchup and make curry flavour versions
- You can also use it to make dips, such as guacamole, sour cream or even salsa
- Use it for marinades and rubs for meats and fish.
- Add it to stews
- You can also make spicy chutneys and sauces.
- Use as a seasoning for salads especially potato salad and salad made with legumes.
- A teaspoon added to mince meat such as beef, lamb, pork makes great tasting burgers and pies.
- You can also add it to eggs made in any form boiled and mashed, scrabbled or omelet
- Have fun with curry powder and make curried olive oil. It tastes great for basting and as a salad oil
Here is an example of a Corned Beef Hash recipe I made with curry powder.
Curry Powder Recipe
There are many different recipes for making a curry powder at home. The choice of spices and its quantitative measurement depends on personal preference.
I make different combination of curry powders and experiment with their taste. Some prove to be better than others.
This particular recipe is the one when its not easy to get to an Indian store to pick specific ingredients such as fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds which add additional flavour to the mix.
However, it’s not always a necessity to add the above mentioned spices. I can also suggest experimenting with the different quantity of spices that you use. My personal preference is to use more coriander than cumin. You could choose to either keep the quantity same or increase cumin to coriander.
The recipe is just a guide on how you could make fresh curry powder at home. So please do feel free make your versions:
- Coriander seeds - 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - 1 tbsp
- Black pepper corn - 1 tsp
- Turmeric - 1 tsp
- Cardamon - 1/2 tsp
- Cinnamon - 1/2 inch stick
- Cloves - 6
- Ginger powder - 1 tsp
- Place a small dry pan over medium heat.
- When the pan becomes hot, add cumin, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorn, and cardamon.
- Toast them overmedium heat, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant--about 30 - 40 seconds.
- Remove pan from heat and allow seeds to cool completely.
- Once cooled,put it in a mortle and pestle or a spice grinder and gring into fine powder.
- Add the ground spice that is turmeric and stir well to combine.
- Store your curry powder in an air-tight glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keep in a cool, dry place.