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Curry Powders and Paste

Curry Powders and Paste

Curry powder, as it is sold commercially, is almost never used in India or other countries where curry is made and eaten every day. Rather, the individual spices are freshly ground each day on a masala stone and added to the food in many different combinations and proportions.

There are many good curry mixtures sold commercially, but there are also many that lack good flavor because of a skimping on the more expensive spices and a reliance on 'fillers' such as rice flour to make up the bulk. If using curry powder, make sure it is fresh by buying from a store where the turnover is quick - preferably a store specializing in spices. Buy in small quantities so it does not stay on your shelf for too long. And look for a brand in a bottle or tin, because cardboard containers absorb a lot of the essential oils of the spices.

In most of the recipes in this website, we have used the individual spices to allow for as much variation as possible. Spicing is an art you can learn, and eventually you can tailor your curries to your own taste and not rely on a ready-mixed formula.

However, if you cannot obtain the spices mentioned or have a liking for a particular curry mixture, substitute a similar quantity of the blend for the combined amount of turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili, fennel and fenugreek used in the recipe. Curry powder does not include the fragrant spices such as cardamom, clove and cinnamon, so these must be added separately.

A curry paste like green masala paste is made based on fresh herbs. Because these are not always in season, it is a good idea to make a batch when they are plentiful and preserve them in oil for use later on. It can take the place of fresh ginger and coriander leaves and even part of the garlic in a recipe, or it can be used as an extra flavor accent.

Spices are the soul of Indian cooking. Another important ingredient and time-saver is garam masala, a mixture of ground spices, which is added to many types of Indian dishes. Sometimes it is added with other spices at the frying stage, but more often it is sprinkled on during the last few minutes of cooking. If stored airtight and away from heat and light, garam masala will keep for six months or longer and amply repay the effort of making it. Here again, if you find a good commercial garam masala, by all means use it - but if you are a real enthusiast about spice cookery, you owe it to yourself to try a homemade blend or two. They are so marvelously adaptable to your own taste. The recipes from our website will give you a good selection to choose from.

Roasting the spices brings out their flavor and also makes them easier to grind. If a blender is not available, use a mortar and pestle to pound spices to a powder. If spices are still warm and crisp after roasting this process is made much easier.

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