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CURRY POWDER

You’re more likely to find a tin of curry powder on a kitchen shelf in good old Blighty than over in India. Yet there’s still good reason to reach for this stalwart of the Empire, says Debbie Major, who uses her trusty blend of roasted spices to pep up recipes old and new

THE HERITAGE INGREDIENT

“The British love of curry isn’t a new thing. I have a dog-eared copy of Mrs Beeton’s Cookery Book, printed in 1892, that belonged to my late grandmother. It contains numerous recipes for curry and other savoury Indian-inspired dishes, all of which call for curry powder. How times have changed. I cook a lot of curry but I’d never dream of reaching for a jar of ready-mixed powder. I prefer the mix of whole and ground spices that most recipes call for these days.

Pre-mixed commercial curry powder is rarely used in India and even then only for convenience rather than as a preference. In the south of India, the closest you’ll get to a curry powder or masala (a combination of spices) is sambhar powder, a dried spice blend containing ground turmeric, which gives the food a yellow tinge. Cooks in the north use the aromatic spice blend garam masala – and, of course, Indian cooks make their own household spice blends.

British manufacturers in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries are credited with the invention of commercial, ready-prepared curry powder to imitate the sambhar powder of southern India used in Anglo-Indian cooking of the time.

These days brands of commercial powder will vary and can be mild, medium or hot, but they’re all likely to contain coriander, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, mustard seed, fennel seed, ginger, fenugreek, cayenne and cinnamon, all of which are generally roasted before being ground.

I still think curry powder has a place in the kitchen and I have numerous recipes that call for a teaspoon or two, but they’re rarely traditional Indian curries. Nevertheless the flavour works beautifully. „

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About Delicious Magazine

The July issue of delicious. is all about reinventing summer cooking with new sticky BBQ recipes and brilliant picnic ideas. You’ll also find a seaside menu from Cornwall, seasonal courgette dishes and the 10 most useful recipes for summer. Debbie Major works her magic with curry powder, Natasha Corrett rustles up fast, healthy meals, plus there’s a guide to baking fennel-seed buns and a stunning 16-page Collector’s Edition Pastry Special.
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