Monday, July 6, 2009

Cooking: Curry Powder

I love curry. My sweetie likes it, too, so we enjoy making both Indian and Thai curries at home. I have always just purchased curry powder, albeit good ones, like this one from Penzey's Spices, usually supplementing it with additional cumin and/or coriander. I also use Madras curry powder in the green tin, as well as Balti seasoning (also from Penzey's).

When planning a lamb and vegetable curry for my sweetie's birthday dinner, I decided to go the extra step and blend my own. Off we went to an island purveyor of herbs, spices, coffees, teas and other good things, where we bought whole cumin seed, whole coriander seed, white peppercorns, and black peppercorns (not for the curry, but hey, you have to have black peppercorns in your arsenal).

Back at home, I put 2 tablespoons of cumin seed, 3 tablespoons of coriander seed, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (because this was to be a mild curry; increase for more heat), 2 teaspoons of black mustard seed, and about 10 white peppercorns in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. I kept a close eye (and nose) on the spices as they roasted in the pan. Every now and then, I gave the pan a swirl, to keep things toasting evenly, as well as to take in the luscious aroma (be careful sniffing it, though, if you have added a lot of hot pepper flakes, as the essential oils of the peppers are volatilized by heating). When the mixture was toasty brown, and the mustard seeds were just starting to pop, and the smell was heavenly, I poured it all into a bowl to cool.

When cooled, I put it all in my spice grinder (which is just a normal coffee grinder that we reserve for spices) and ground it to a medium-fine powder. After pouring it back into the bowl, I stirred in 1 tablespoon of ground termeric and a teaspoon of ground ginger.

The result was stunning. The curry powder has a wonderful, lively freshness to it, and is slightly nutty from the toasting. I used about 2/3 of it in all in making the curry, which had lamb, cauliflower, green and wax beans, carrots, cubed yam, lots of onion, ginger and garlic. Because we're not currently consuming dairy, I added coconut milk. The finished dish was so fresh and delicious, packed with vegetables and little bits of browned lamb sirloin, and redolent of exotic spices.

I was hoping for leftovers, but we ate every single bite.

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