I’d guess that most people have a jar of ‘curry powder’ lurking about in the back of their kitchen cupboard somewhere – a good standby for adding a quick bit of spice to a dish, whether that be a quick stove-top curry, some stir-fried noodles or a mayonnaise dip. Or is it? Shop-bought curry powders are often bulked out with the cheaper spices, and skimp on the more interesting but expensive spices. And then these jars of cheap powder are all too often kept well beyond their ability to impart any real flavour – once ground, spices diminish in quality very quickly. Keep them for too long, and you may as well just add a tablespoon of sawdust to your meals.
There is a much better way of spicing up your meals though, and that is to make your own curry powder. It really is very simple, and will produce results that are far superior that any commercial product ever will. You’ll need to keep a few whole spices to hand, but they are much cheaper to buy than ready-ground, and have a far longer shelf life. You’ll also need a grinder of some sort. Electric grinders are inexpensive and useful for very many things in the kitchen – if you don’t have one, they are well worth considering. You can even use a coffee grinder if you like, or if you’re a glutton for punishment, a good pounding in a mortar and pestle will do the trick.
You should make your curry powder in small quantities – what that means is really up to you – it all depends on how much you use it. Once ground, it should keep just fine in an air-tight container for a couple of weeks, but to enjoy it at its best, I wouldn’t keep it much longer than that.
So, what goes into curry powder? Well, in truth, anything that you like. I don’t have a standard recipe, but vary it according to my mood. A typical spice mix would look something like this though:
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1″ cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
- Small piece of nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Simply place all the spices into your grinder and push the button. Grind until the spices are reasonably fine, and then transfer into a small, air-tight pot. As you do so, be sure to savour the aroma of the freshly ground spice – none of the tubs of generic curry powder you find in your local supermarket will smell anything like this.
Once you’ve tried the basics, feel free to experiment. Try varying the ratios of the different spices. Try adding a few fenugreek seeds, some mustard seeds, black peppercorns, some ground ginger, a bay leaf. You’ll soon develop your own favourite blends. Just be sure to not make more than you are likely to use over the next week or so – it’s always easy to make more if you need it. Remember, fresh is best!