I grew up with Keens Madras Curry Powder, the Australian introduction to the flavours of India. It was used for all sorts of Western dishes that home cooks believed were enhanced by a bit of spice and heat. It is still used by many to provide a generic curry base to English style curries and in general to add colour and spice to any non-Indian dish. Thankfully those who do cook more traditional Indian food (at least in Australia) generally grind their own spice blends that are specific to the dish. For anyone interested, this recipe is similar to the Madras Curry Powder of old.
Actually, Madras curry powder is not a traditional Indian spice blend while it does use Indian ingredients. It was originally a selection of ingredients that were designed to suit English colonial tastes, and differs quite a bit from the spice blends used in Tamil Nadu and South India.
Madras Curry Powder gets its heat from Indian chillies and black pepper, and has a lot of turmeric which provides an intense yellow colour. Spices like fenugreek and cumin provide much of the flavour. Use in lentil and vegetable dishes, as well as soups, dips, and slow cooked bean dishes. Add it to coconut milk, pureed tomatoes or tamarind water, to form a base for any dish.
There are many different blends for Madras Curry Powder. Here is one that I particularly like.
Madras Curry Powder
0.5 Tblspn brown mustard seeds
1.5 Tblspn coriander seeds
1 Tblspn cumin seeds
12 whole cardamom pods
2 tspn fenugreek seeds
2 tspn black pepper
12 curry leaves
5 – 6 Indian dried red chillies, or to taste
2 Tblspn turmeric powder
In a dry pan over a low heat, toast the spices separately (except the turmeric) until they begin to change colour. Roast the curry leaves until they dry and crackle.
When cool, grind to a fine powder, then mix with the turmeric. Store in an airtight container away from the light.
recipe notes and alternatives
The coriander, cumin and mustard seeds can be toasted together if you wish, to save time. Likewise, the cardamom, fenugreek and pepper can be roasted together.
Other spices that can be added: ajwain seeds, cloves, dried fenugreek leaves, cinnamon or cassia bark, fennel seeds and/or ginger powder.