What is curry powder?
Curry powder is a mixture of sweet, pungent and spicy spices, the predominant taste being given by the proportion of spices used. The spices can literally be mixed in hundreds of different combinations with distinctive flavours.
The spice blend used in curry powder is dictated by the type of food. For example, beef might require a stronger flavouring mix than fish or lentils.
Is curry powder a derivative of curry leaf? Simple answer, it is not! Curry powder is a mixture of spices, while curry leaf is from a tree, both of which have distinct flavours.
Where does curry powder come from?
The concept of curry powder or curry powder originated in India, where the locals called it "masala", which means mixture (of spices).
After curry powder was adopted on the mainland, the colonialists simplified these masalas into what we now call curry powder.
Keeping curry powder
Whether you choose to make your own at home or buy it ready-made, powders should be mixed well and stored in airtight containers away from heat, light and moisture.
Under these conditions, the mixture will retain its properties for up to one year.
Use of curry powder
The versatility of curry powders can be surprising. For example, mayonnaise mixed with a little curry powder makes a delicious salad dressing. A teaspoon of curry powder can make a trivial vegetable soup (about 1 litre) delicious.
We tend to associate the word "curry" with stews made from chunks of meat and vegetables, but mixing curry powder with a little salt and then rubbing a piece of meat can make a dry marinade. That way, the moisture in the meat will make the powder adhere better, and a squeeze of lemon juice before putting the meat on the grill will intensify the flavour of the meat and keep the seasoning from burning if the grill temperature is high.
A Madras-style Indian curry blend combines sweet spices like cinnamon, juniper and nutmeg. A slightly spicier blend combines spices such as cloves, cardamom and cumin, which will add more depth and character to the mix. Both of these variants harmonise better when mixed with other spices such as fennel, coriander seed and turmeric.
Curry powder - preparation
Create your own blend at home using the following spices:
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp dry mustard
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- Potato salad
- Fried vegetables
- Grilled chicken
- Tomato sauce
Recipe | Chicken breast in curry sauce
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp freshly grated ginger root
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 chicken breast halves cut into cubes of about 2-3 cm
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- ½ lemon juice
- half a red chilli pepper, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat then sauté the onion until lightly browned.
Add garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaf, ginger, sugar and salt. Continue stirring for 2 minutes then add the chicken pieces, tomato paste, yogurt and coconut milk. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf, add the lemon juice and chilli then cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the parsley before serving.
Pair with Jasmine rice cooked in salted water.