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Curry powder is used mainly in the dishes of southern India. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a single spice but a mixture of spices. The Western-style curry powder that is stocked on supermarket shelves bears little similarity to the carefully blended, personalized mixtures that Indian cooks favor. The ingredients and their proportions vary between dishes, regions and individual cooks, but the following is a typical blend.

For recipes using curry powder, click on the links at right.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 8 to 12 dried red chilies, broken into pieces
     and seeds discarded
  • 2 Tbs. roasted chickpeas
  • 2 Tbs. turmeric

Directions:

In a dry fry pan over medium-high heat, combine the coriander, mustard, fenugreek, cumin, peppercorns, cloves and chilies. Dry-fry the spices, shaking the pan constantly to prevent them from burning, until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, add the chickpeas and turmeric and let cool.

When completely cool, transfer the spice mixture to a mortar, blender or coffee grinder reserved solely for spices and pound or process (in batches if necessary) until finely powdered. Use immediately, or store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. Makes 1/2 cup.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring India, by Julie Sahni (Time-Life Books, 2001).