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Do you add the aromatic yellow blend of spices whenever you make an Indian curry? What is Curry powder and do you know the truth about the use in cooking
What Is Curry Powder and Why Is It NOT An Indian Spice
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 hour’s 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?
The word ‘Curry’ as well as the contributive ingredient that is ‘curry powder’ is a parting gift of the Brits to the Indian subcontinent.
If you have been confused about the use of curry leaves, curry powder in making a curry, then let me clarify the different curry concoctions.
Curry leaves, curry powder and curry are all different ingredients and terms.
Let’s simplify the various curry phrases;
It’s an Indian aromatic herb, leaves of curry plant that is used to impart a distinctive flavour to dishes.
Extensively used in Western and Southern Indian cuisine it is a herb that instantly changes the taste of a dish giving it an earthy fresh flavour.
Fresh curry leaves are preferred compared to dry curry leaves for a strong robust flavour and added to many Indian dishes.
‘Curry’ in culinary terms means any dish which is gravy based.
In India, the word curry is pronounced and referred to as ‘kari’ in Hindi meaning gravy or sauce.
Curry is not just limited to Indian food but a variety of cuisines have curries such as the Thai curry, Korean curry, Indonesian Curry and many others.
Curry powder is a spice blend made by using different types of spices.
Although primarily used to make Indian dishes, is it not limited to Indian cuisine.
Read the section on ‘How to use Curry powder’ below for more ideas on cooking with curry powder.
It is believed that during the British rule, who loved the taste of Indian food wanted to cook the dishes 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 came up with the idea of making a spice mix of their own.
The one ingredient used for making most Indian dishes is the magic spice blend called ‘Garam Masala’.
When questioned about the different spices that goes into a Garam Masala blend they realised that there was no set recipe for a Garam masala which was further confusing.
Their solution was to innovatively mix most popular spices that came closest to tasting like spicy Indian food!
So there, Voila! You have your very own British Indian ‘Curry Powder’!
What Is Curry Powder Made Of?
Although curry powder was a replacement for Garam Masala Powder, there is a difference between Curry powder and Garam Masala powder.
The difference between the two Indian spice blends is explained in detail so that you know how to use both the spices correctly for cooking.
You may have gathered that 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 making 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.
A basic curry powder spice ingredients are:
- cumin powder
- coriander powder
- turmeric Powder
- chilli powder
In addition to this, curry powder masala spice blends can include any or many of the below spices:
- ginger powder
- black pepper
- bay leaf
- black cardamom
The type of spices and quantity of spices used to make a curry masala spice blend is varied and brand dependant.
Health 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.
What Is Curry Powder Used For – Cooking Ideas
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 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 mincemeat such as beef, lamb, pork makes great tasting burgers and pies.
- You can also add it to eggs made in any form boiled, mashed, scrabbled or omelette
- 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.
Homemade Curry Powder Recipe
There are many different recipes for making 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 I make with limited spices in hand.
Specific ingredients such as fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds add additional flavour to the mix.
However, it’s not always a necessity to add all spices as long as you have the basic once.
I can also suggest experimenting with 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 by choosing few spices from the recipe below:
- Cumin seeds – 2 tbsp
- Coriander seeds – 3 tbsp
- Black peppercorn- 10
- Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
- Cinnamon – 1/2 inch stick
- Cardamon – 3 pods
- Cloves – 5
- Turmeric powder – 2 tbsp
- Chilli powder/ whole chillies – 2 – 3 tsp or whole
- Heat pan, add all the whole spices that are cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorn, mustard seeds, cinnamon and whole chillies and lightly roast it for about 1 minute.
2. Remove from heat once the seeds start to emit fragrance.
3. Cool and grind into powder.
4. Now add the powdered spices that is turmeric powder and chilli powder ( if not using whole chillies) to the roast, ground spices and mix the spices well together.
5. Store the spice blend in an airtight jar and keep away from sunlight.
6. Homemade curry powder will last for 4 months.
Over to you
What are your favourite spices that you like the flavour of in a curry powder?
Or are there any brands you would like to recommend that you have enjoyed using their curry powder.