Years ago, when Sandy Gluck, a friend and talented cook was assisting me on some recipes, we hadn’t been able to find a great commercial curry powder: one as subtle and complexly flavored as those Indian cooks make themselves. So Sandy divined her way through an array of spices to make this marvelous curry powder, with a lovely balance of sweet pungent flavors. It’s a fine example of an improvisation fueled by desperation leading to a fine creation. I use Sandy’s Curry in any recipe that calls for curry powder, and to crust pan-fried shrimp, fish and scallops.
Occasionally I have stumbled across a good commercial curry powder at an Indian food market or at a fine spice store like Penzey’s in Wisconsin and learned a lesson from reading the ingredients. Invariably, the list of spices begins with either coriander or cumin seed. I’ve found that turmeric is usually the main ingredient in inferior curry powders. This inexpensive rather one dimensionally flavored spice with an appealing yellow color is often used to extend more expensive spices
Recipe: Sandy’s Curry Powder
Like chai, this should only be considered a basic guide, open to your own improvisations. For a more fiery curry powder, increase the peppercorns toabout 2 teaspoons and add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or a 1-inch piece of hot dried red pepper, crushed.
Makes about 1/3 cup
2 tablespoons coriander seed
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a small, heavy skillet combine the coriander, cumin seed and the peppercorns. Over moderate heat, toast the spices, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant. Stir in the remaining ground spices. Scrape the spices into the blender container or spice grinder. Blend at least 1 minute at high speed until you have the finest possible powder. Let the mixture settle for about 30 seconds before removing the blender cover, so the fine powder does not fly into the air. Use a dry pastry brush to brush the powder into a strainer set over a clean, dry container. Strain out the larger bits and blend them again.
Store in a tightly sealed jar away from light.
photo via Hina Gujral Fun Food Frolic