The first recipe I wanted to make when I bought The Spice Bible: Essential Information and More Than 250 Recipes Using Spices, Spice Mixes, and Spice Pastes was my own curry powder. I just had to know if there was a significant difference between the flavours of what I buy from the store in plastic bags and what I could make at home.
From the cookbook I found out that what we call curry powder is basically loosely based on India’s madras powder. This blend was assimilated by the British during their colonial rule and is now a convenience ingredient in western pantries.
Well screw that! I wanted the real deal that was not associated with crappy history like that. Damn the man!
All-Purpose Curry Powder
I believe I made half the recipe but will write it in full for you. You will need 2 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp coriander seeds, 2 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp ground turmeric, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground cardamom.
You begin with dry-frying the whole spices in a frying pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes until they become fragrant.
I used a coffee bean grinder to grind the whole spices. Of course you could always use a mortar and pestle (I did not have my new one at the time).
You want to grind everything until it is a fine powder. This is as fine as I could get it.
Then mix all the spices together. I just added them to the grinder and whizzed them up.
I placed a mound of the store-bought curry powder (back) by the freshly made curry powder and it was clear there was a significant different in scent. The homemade was so much more interesting. The colours of the freshly made powder were also more pronounced.
Recipe Test: Classic 70s Chicken Divan
I do not make it often but Reg loves this chicken casserole recipe his mom used to make when he was growing up that uses curry powder. I figured that would be the fairest test.
Mix together (and yes, this is a truly retro dinner) 1 can of condensed chicken soup and 1 can of condensed mushroom soup (Lorraine just uses the chicken soup but it is too chicken-y for me). Add 1 cup of mayonnaise, 2 tsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp curry powder.
Cook some broccoli and add it to a casserole dish, along with 4 cups of cubed chicken. Arrange in a casserole dish and pour sauce on top. Garnish with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and some cubes of bread. Pour some melted margarine on top and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
Yup, that is a classic in Reg’s house! Now how would it compare with the exact same recipe but made with homemade curry powder?
Reg did not like it! Oh no! Poor guy, I ruined his dinner that night. Why? Because now it did not taste like the casserole he remembered, it was an Indian dish.
I say that despite Reg’s disappointment in dinner that night, this means the homemade curry really is more potent, powerful and flavourful than store-bought curry powder. I had my answer!
I also tested it after I came back from Toronto in a curried chicken salad. The curry had been sitting around for a couple of weeks and I could tell that it was not as strong as before so I can see why people make this regularly, to keep it at its peak.
I recommend making less but making it more often to really make the flavours worthwhile. I also conclude that it is absolutely worthwhile to make your own curry powder for those real East Indian dishes. It truly does make the world of foodie difference.