Many people think chilli is a spice; many in fact think it is the only spice! I don't; I think it is a wrecker of flavour and destroyer of taste buds. Many years ago a friend of mine at university showed me how to make curry powder. Like me, she didn't like chilli. It isn't necessary - recipe is nice and spicy, and has some heat, but allows the subtle, complex depth and combination of curry flavours to come through. It is worth the time and effort to mix your own blend for this reason alone. Because the blend keeps well, especially when kept in an airtight jar, the time exerted will repay you many times over!
Step 1: Ingredients List
As you will see from this first photograph you need a selection of spices ...yes, proper spices, and as you will see, there is no chilli amongst them!
What you need:
- Cloves (I buy whole cloves and grind them myself)
- Nutmeg (again, whole ones, I grate them myself)
- Fenugreek *
- Cardamon *
- Ginger (dried and ground - it keeps well so that's how I buy it)
- Cinnamon (again dried and ground)
- Garlic powder
- Cumin (dried and ground)
- Coriander (dried and ground)
Those marked with an *asterisk may be left out if you can't get hold of them - but do try to, as they help to create a good, well rounded flavour.
Step 2: Cloves
As I said earlier, I grind my cloves as I need them. I've re-purposed an old pepper mill, so that I can grind them without any fuss any time I need them.
You will need about a teaspoonful of cloves.
Step 3: The Essential Oils
The next spices we are going to add are valued for their essential oils.
You need to grate about one teaspoon of nutmeg. Use a small grater and try to scrape all the spice from the grater. You do not want to waste any. Empires have been built and wars waged over this little spice. It deserves respect!
Half a teaspoon of fenugreek is enough, and about the same of cardamon. These are both slightly peppery and add interesting flavours when mixed into the curry powder.
A good teaspoon of fennel completes this section.
Gently mix the five spices together, pulling them from the edges to ensure that everything is mixed thoroughly.
Step 4: The Flavour Ravers
Ginger add a gentle warmth to the mix. Dried ground root ginger does not have the fire and zing of fresh root ginger, but I am not aiming for a Chinese or Thai style curry here. Use one teaspoon of ginger.
Cinnamon comes in many grades of quality. I have found that cheap supermarket brands are inferior. As you can see, I use a well heaped teaspoon of this brand of cinnamon. If you are using a superior quality of cinnamon, you can reduce this to a level teaspoon.
Chopped garlic powder is used for convenience, as it saves having to prepare fresh each time we cook. Add one teaspoon.
Step 5: The Earthy Notes
Curry is usually a nice cheerful golden yellow colour. That's because is has turmeric in it. Use three teaspoons of turmeric.
I also add three teaspoons of cumin. Cumin is used a lot in Indian cookery, but also in a lot of Mexican foods like enchiladas.
Coriander adds a lemony zest to the mix. Again, add three teaspoons.
I try not to add too much salt, 1/4 to half a tea-spoon is more than enough to enhance the spice flavours while maintaining one's blood pressure!
Step 6: ...having Said That...
As you can see, my arsenal does include some peppers! I have black pepper, paprika and cayenne. To add warmth you can add any of these to your taste. I add 1/4 teaspoon of paprika to the mix.
When I was 40 one of my Cousins bough me a really great spice rack with 18 jars of herbs and spices. One of those was ground bay leaves. That has long been used, fortunately bay grows readily in my back garden (...and my front garden!!!) so I occasionally harvest, dry and rough-ground my own bay leaves. Accordingly, I only need about 1/2 a spoon-full. Purists may argue that Bay is not part of the mix, but hey, I think it add a certain something.
Step 7: Finishing Off
Carefully mix all the spices (and herbs) on the saucer then carefully pour them into a dry jar. Replace the lid then gently tumble the ingredients together for a few minutes.
Then put it into a cool, dark, dry cupboard for at least a day to allow all the essential oils and flavours to combine.
Most dishes will need only about 4 teaspoons of powder to add flavour and colour, but if your taste-buds are lacking, you may need to use up to six. Add after browning off meat and/or vegetables, turn the heat well down, add the curry powder and gently roast it for about two minutes before adding stock and simmering for a couple of hours. Add some coconut milk and simmer for a half-hour or more before serving.