Nov 13, 2005

You CAN Make Your Own Curry Powder—and Authentic Curry

What's the best curry powder? Why, it's the one you can make from scratch at home! Don't settle for some store-bought version that's been sitting on a shelf for lord-knows-how-many years. And many of those are too salty or too spicy or both. Real curry powder is neither. 

To completely clarify, what Indians use when making curry is not actually curry powder (which is apparently a British adaptation), it's garam masala. Garam masala is a mixture of ground, dried spices that can be added to other dishes--a spice blend that gives a short-cut to curry. Most Indian families, I believe, make their own garam masala or at least add their own equivalent spices when making curries. But you can, by buying whole bulk spices and using a coffee grinder, make your own garam masalaand your own curry—easily. Remember--feel free to create your own variations. Enjoy!

The spice blend garam masala is such a beautifully fragrant and amazing thing to createand so easythat I have listed it here as one of the perfect "Homemade for the Holidays" gifts that you can create.

Gather your spices (you can buy bulk spices online cheaply, or, if you are lucky enough to live near an Indian grocery store, that's even better) and assemble them in a large bowl. Toast them in a non-stick or heavy iron pan (such as Le Creuset) by stirring them lightly over medium heat (with NO oil). Toast just until your kitchen becomes fragrant and the spices turn a slightly darker shade
not until everything is crisped! Let cool and grind in small batches. (See Storage below.)

Garam Masala Powder

  • 1/4 cup black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons cardamom pods
  • 1/2 cup coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup cumin seeds
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • A few cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds
  • Turmeric to taste (usually turmeric comes in pre-ground format. It's rare to find it fresh and even more rare to find it dried whole. So for this one ingredient, you'll probably be using it ground. Turmeric is an known anti-cancer agent, so I try to add turmeric as often as I can to many dishes!)
There are dozens of other spices you can add: fenugreek, curry leaves (I use this for fish curry only), asafetida, etc. But if you start with the most important ones: black pepper, cumin, and coriander--you won't go wrong.

Grind into a powder and store in glass jars or some other container that will not impart a flavor to your powder (better to avoid plastic if you can, as your spice blend will eventually taste like plastic). I like those glass jars with the rubber seals and the flip-top lids--you can get at Cost Plus World Markets, Michael's, or a gourmet store such as Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. Also, SKS Bottle & Packaging has the best selection of anywhere I have seen. Then, simply label and decorate your little jar of spices and present as a lovely homemade gift.

How to Turn Garam Masala into Curry
When making your actual curry, always start with the roux. Use butter or ghee, large quantities of grated ginger root and garlic and pureed onion (blend these in a blender with a small amount of water, if desired). Cook and stir until the mixture turns light caramel color, and then add your other ingredients (meat, veggies, garam masala that you made, etc.). Use several tablespoons of your garam masala in your curry roux mixture and ENJOY! Don't be stingy with your powder
it takes a lot of spices to make a good curry! Cook only until the mixture tastes melded (e.g., you don't detect raw onion flavor and the meat is cooked through). You cannot make an authentic curry without starting from a roux. Just throwing in garam masala does not a curry make (oh, how few Western chefs understand this point).


Homemade for the Holidays Series

Part 1: Pistachio Bark

Part 2: Curry Powder (Garam Masala)


Anonymous said...

brilliant and easy to read,follow,@understand.thank-you,ime now off to get my spices.

Carolyn Blount Brodersen said...

Thank you! So glad this was helpful. Good thing to have those spices on hand anyway--cumin goes into Mexican cooking (red sauce, taco seasoning, chili, etc.) and turmeric is an anti-cancer medicine that can be used in a paste applied to the skin, plus it's great in rice pilaf.