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More mild than normal curry powder, recipe or favorite blends

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mrssmithcooks Mar 24, 2013 11:32 AM

Ok, foodies, here's one for you. I love Indian food, my husband is a huge wimp about hot foods. I'm looking for a nice all purpose curry powder that has very little heat, but is still good. The milder the better as far as he's concerned. I've not had good luck with store bought varieties, but would be interested in a recommendation or a recipe... Thanks!

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  1. tim irvine RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 24, 2013 12:21 PM

    I am a huge fan of making your own in small quantities. The small quantity helps avoid having so much it goes stale and lets you tinker with the recipe. I will toss most any spice in the grinder, but the ones I use most of the time include cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, black mustard seed, tellicherry pepper, cumin, and fennel seed.

    5 Replies
    1. re: tim irvine
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      mrssmithcooks RE: tim irvine Mar 24, 2013 02:26 PM

      I would love a recipe with quantities... do you have one?

      1. re: mrssmithcooks
        tim irvine RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 24, 2013 03:48 PM

        Sorry, I don't, but if you "ask the Google" to direct you to garam masala recipes she will give you a good starting point. My only tip is only one star anise or it will overwhelm.

        1. re: tim irvine
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          chloebell RE: tim irvine Mar 24, 2013 04:19 PM

          Good timing......I recently found a recipe that looks great. I'm not big on "curry", but the ingredient listed calls for "a mild curry". Now, what the heck is that?

          Btw, I'd be curious what I could substitute. The recipe is for Curried Crab with watermelon & arugula. In the current F&Wine mag. Looks delish.

          1. re: chloebell
            greygarious RE: chloebell Mar 25, 2013 05:14 PM

            Just buy garam masala, which has typical curry spices, plus some sweeter ones like cinnamon, without the heat.

          2. re: tim irvine
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            pine time RE: tim irvine Mar 26, 2013 11:11 AM

            Like danged near all foods/spice blends, garam masala has many variations. Here are 2 that we like and find reliable (altho' I do tweak the proportions, depending on what I'm making):

            adapted from Madhur Jaffrey:
            25 seeds from cardamom pods
            1/2 c whole black peppercorns (I use Telecherry)
            1/3 c whole cumin seeds
            1/4 c whole coriander seeds
            3 sticks cinnamon
            4-6 whole cloves

            Combine all in a spice blender & grind very fine. Store tightly covered.

            You can decrease the heat by reducing the peppercorns and, of course, can scale down the amounts. I prefer to toast the whole spices prior to grinding. Buying large quantities of the whole spices is much cheaper from Indian stores.

            2nd one, adapted from Pranati Sen Gupta:
            5-6 pieces of cinnamon, about 1 inch each
            1/2 c whole cardamoms
            1/4 c whole black peppercorns
            1/4 c whole cloves
            1/4 c whole cumin seeds
            1/4 c whole coriander seeds.

            Roast in a baking dish at 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes, stiring often. Discard cardamom hulls.
            Grind at high speed 1-2 minutes, stir, blend again. Keeps well (in well-sealed jar) for up to 3 months.

      2. boogiebaby RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 24, 2013 02:50 PM

        Curry powder is an English invention. :)

        Every kind of Indian dish uses a different blend of spices. There is no "all purpose curry powder". You use different spices in different proportions to get the flavor you need for that particular dish. you are better off buying the individual spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red chilli powder... Those are basics. Then add in whole mustard seed, bay leaves, fennel seed, whole cardamom, etc for more complex flavors.

        3 Replies
        1. re: boogiebaby
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          lagatta RE: boogiebaby Mar 24, 2013 05:05 PM

          That's for sure, but they may well be looking for "English Indian" curry powder. Like many popular adaptations in different countries.

          1. re: lagatta
            boogiebaby RE: lagatta Mar 24, 2013 05:35 PM

            True, but the OP referenced loving Indian food, so I assumed she was looking for curry powder to make Indian dishes, not Curried Chicken Salad or whatnot. :)

            1. re: boogiebaby
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              pine time RE: boogiebaby Mar 26, 2013 11:02 AM

              I try to explain that most of us wouldn't buy a jar of French Cooking Spices and use it on all foods to create a French meal. Using a one-size/blend-fits-all approach to curry is the same thing.

        2. Veggo RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 24, 2013 04:23 PM

          Penzey's makes both a sweet and hot curry, you can dial up the heat you want.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Veggo
            westsidegal RE: Veggo Oct 20, 2013 01:08 PM

            also, Penzy's sells absolutely terrific cayenne to use for the person who wants to dial up the heat.
            doesn't taste at all like the store-bought stuff to my palate. it's in another, far better, league

            1. re: westsidegal
              Veggo RE: westsidegal Oct 20, 2013 01:11 PM

              Penzey's ground red Chipotle is good, also, although I would not combine it with curry.

          2. a
            aerofanatix RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 24, 2013 04:53 PM

            What you need is: "Ship Madras Curry Powder" in Tin. It comes in a green rectangular tin and is very popular at Indian or world food stores. It is intensely flavorful and aromatic and has very little heat if any.(My wife also dislike the heat but eats it if I make it without cayenne pepper) It is made that way to enable you to add your own cayenne pepper to taste or leave it out altogether. I normally add it in after I have dished up the first batch. The tin Comes with a small recipe book. I buy it from a local Indian store for $8 for 500g but it is also available from Amazon.com.in smaller tin for $4.99 http://www.amazon.com/Ship-Madras-Cur... I will haul out my favorite curry recipes and post some in the next few days.Here is a link to some Madras Curry recipes http://www.poonjiaji.com/receipes.htm Make sure when you buy the tin, that you empty the contents into a jar as it will keep longer. The following is a list of complimentary spices to Curry:
            Yellow mustard seed
            Small pinch of cinnamon (careful!
            )Garam masala (a recommended add)
            Turmeric (a recommended add)
            Bay leaves (a recommended add)
            Coconut Milk
            Cloves
            Star aniseed
            Cumin (also called Jeera - very popular additive)
            Nutmeg
            Ginger
            and of course served with Naan bread and or aged basmati rice
            Enjoy - MN

            1 Reply
            1. re: aerofanatix
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              pine time RE: aerofanatix Mar 26, 2013 11:01 AM

              I must begin by admitting that I don't know that particular product, but in general, any Madrasi curry (now called Chennai) is hotter than other types. I don't buy curry powder, preferring to customize my blends depending on the recipes.

            2. PHREDDY RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 24, 2013 05:07 PM

              Great question/post....first where do you live?....what products are available to you?..Would you buy items/spices/ingredients via mail?
              Do you want a curry to use with meat/poultry/fish or vegetables?....
              I love curries, but being in NYC, more specfically Jackson Heights, I have a wonderful source for curry....and if i have a question , I have great resources to ask what I should use...

              Give us a heads up!

              1. r
                Rasam RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 24, 2013 06:18 PM

                What specific Indian dishes do you like? Those may not call for "curry" powder at all. If you post the names of the dishes, you may find suggestions for recipes with the specific ingredients. You can then use those spices and turn down the hot elements.
                Indian food doesn't really use "curry" powder. Each dish has a specific name, and a specific spice combination unique to that dish. So an "all purpose curry powder" may not get you the results you want.

                1. s
                  sr44 RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 25, 2013 05:57 PM

                  What recipes/cookbooks are you using?

                  1. letsindulge RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 25, 2013 06:08 PM

                    My favorite store-bought blend is Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder. It comes in a 4oz. tin (silver w/ white scroll, and red circles with a black dot in the middle). To my palate it is nicely balanced, and certainly not spicy, or hot. I find it @ World Market in CA. It's available on-line as well

                    1. m
                      mrssmithcooks RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 26, 2013 01:25 PM

                      Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts on this. I appreciate the insight that it's a tough question to answer, as it depends on the recipe involved. Certainly an authentic Indian dish has spices particular to that dish. I would use different spices in a Matar Paneer than an Aloo Masala. For this question, though I was thinking of a general "keep it in the pantry for cooking up something quick" purpose. I know these types of recipes are more "fusion" of some sort as opposed to an authentic dish one might find in India. For weeknight meals, I'm fine with that. An example of such a recipe:

                      http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipe...

                      Thanks for your suggestions.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mrssmithcooks
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                        ohmyyum RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 26, 2013 01:33 PM

                        I like trader joe's curry powder. Added bonus, it's only $1.99.

                        1. re: mrssmithcooks
                          Scrofula RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 26, 2013 10:20 PM

                          As a general purpose spice-mix for curries, just throw in equal parts of ground cumin and coriander, and small amounts of turmeric and powdered red chillies. Just throw them into a jar or spice shaker and add a spoonful to your onions as you sweat them.

                          You can also keep some store-bought garam masala around to add at the end of cooking, or just mix some ground cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and pepper, and keep them in another jar. For best results, toast the spices before grinding, and make small batches, rather than grinding up a large amount and keeping it for months. You can, of course, add whatever other spices sound good (dried ginger, bay leaves, star anise, mace, nutmeg...). A bit of Sichuan peppercorn might be interesting here, though it would be far from traditional.

                        2. i
                          INDIANRIVERFL RE: mrssmithcooks Mar 26, 2013 02:07 PM

                          My Church of England grandmother called this sweet curry and was the only type I had growing up. Other than it came in a tin, I can't help you out. She kept it next to the Coleman's mustard tin.

                          Possibly Harter or somebody else based in the U.K. or colonies can help.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
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                            lagatta RE: INDIANRIVERFL Oct 20, 2013 05:15 PM

                            There are several hits for this, here is one: http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/s...

                            Penzeys does carry it: http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...

                            I suspect Coronation Chicken was made from something like this.

                          2. w
                            Wino RE: mrssmithcooks Oct 20, 2013 11:11 AM

                            In the FWIW department. I bought the Sun Brand Curry Powder and am throwing it away because it is super salty. It's weird, caught me totally off guard. I added NO salt to the recipe and it tasted like a huge amount was added. Very perplexing to me.

                            I don't want ANY salt in my curry powder, if I want salt I can add salt.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Wino
                              greygarious RE: Wino Oct 20, 2013 11:37 AM

                              Yesterday I visited a vegetarian Indian buffet, which always has good food but the dishes are not typical Indian-American resto menu choices so I never know what to expect. One red
                              condiment was extremely salty. The owner explained it is an Indian pickle but that she finds it too salty. She went on to say that the food cooked in India has a much greater amount of salt than would fly with American palates. A globetrotting friend of mine takes cooking classes all over the world, and has commented that although Indian food does not usually taste very salty, it uses a lot more salt than your taste buds detect. This makes sense, certainly in the south of India, where extreme heat necessitates extra salt intake. My taste buds may not notice, but looking at my ankles a few hours later tells a different story.

                              1. re: greygarious
                                Scrofula RE: greygarious Oct 20, 2013 05:06 PM

                                Indian pickles are not supposed to be eaten on their own; the idea is, you take a small pinch with each mouthful of food, like wasabi.

                                Sometimes, in the south, people do the same with salt -- keep a small pile in the corner of your plate, and season each mouthful of yogurt-rice to taste.

                              2. re: Wino
                                westsidegal RE: Wino Oct 20, 2013 01:13 PM

                                salt is a very cheap ingredient that can be used to bring the production costs down.
                                disgusting practice, imho, but rationally, i understand it.

                                1. re: Wino
                                  Bada Bing RE: Wino Oct 21, 2013 04:41 AM

                                  I also almost always avoid spice blends with salt included, just because I like to be in control of salt levels. The lone exception is that I usually keep Old Bay around for quick fish dishes and boils.

                                  In American labeling, but I think that the word "seasoning" is usually part of a salt-included blend (for example, "Tandoori Seasoning" from Penzeys), whereas something labeled as "curry powder" or "garam masala" is likely to be salt-free. But I'm not sure that this distinction is rigorously observed.

                                2. westsidegal RE: mrssmithcooks Oct 20, 2013 01:01 PM

                                  get some from Penzey's.

                                  if you don't live in or around los angeles, get it online.

                                  if you make it yourself out of spices from the grocery store, the resulting product will be stale like all the spices that are sold in the grocery store, so what would be the point of that?

                                  also, making it yourself, unless you eat tremendous amounts of curry, will guarantee that you will have tremendous amounts of waste as the unused ingredients sit on your shelf for years getting stale and insipid waiting for you to make your next batch.

                                  i disagree with the garam masala recommendation unless you are a fan of having pronounced cinnamon and clove flavors in your curries.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                    Scrofula RE: westsidegal Oct 20, 2013 05:11 PM

                                    Garam masala and curry powder are not interchangeable; they are used very differently. Curry powder is a British one-stop-shop for curry making; if you use it, you needn't add much else to your curry.

                                    In Indian cooking, garam masala powder is used in small quantities at the end of cooking, to add some spicy aroma. You aren't going to get pronounced cinnamon and clove flavors unless you over-use it. What we think of as the main curry spices -- cumin, turmeric, coriander -- are used in addition to garam masala, near the start of cooking. Whole garam masala may be added at the beginning as well, to flavor the oil.

                                    1. re: Scrofula
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                                      Harters RE: Scrofula Oct 21, 2013 01:26 AM

                                      I usually make my own mixes so have little need of curry powder - although I do use jars of curry paste from time to time. I have recently been using a basaar mix in soem allegedly "authentic" Kashmiri dishes - effectvely it's a complete mix curry powder (and not one I'd recommend to the OP as the mix is particularly hot)

                                      As a general indicator, British made (or imported to here) curry powder is basically garam masala, plus chilli. Specific spices differ between brands, as do relative quantities (I genrally use the Rajah brand for asian spices). So, as a general rule, I think using garam masala, instead of curry pwoder, is going to be the easiest route for the OP (unless she wants to start making her own mix) - it's going to give the spicing without the heat.

                                  2. f
                                    fpunky RE: mrssmithcooks Jan 10, 2014 10:10 PM

                                    While it's true that Northern cooks tend to spice each dish individually, a number of blends are common in South Indian cooking. Author Julie Sahni gives a curry powder recipe in "Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking." The recipe does contain red chili pods but I never add them. The blend also includes coriander seeds, cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns curry leaves (optional) and turmeric powder. I have access to the curry leaves, but to my taste buds they have very little flavor. Ms. Sahni says they are not essential to the blend. I much prefer this blend to any I've bought in a shop. If you want a fresh tasting blend buy your spices at an Indian grocery or through Penzey online. I'm sure there are equally good spice stores online, but this is the only one I've ever used and they really are excellent.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: fpunky
                                      Scrofula RE: fpunky Jan 10, 2014 11:23 PM

                                      I grew up in South India. Never saw anyone use any sort of curry powder. Which isn't to say that you shouldn't keep some around if it's convenient, but I don't think it's common anywhere in South India.

                                      As for curry leaves, you can certainly skip them in a general-purpose spice mixture, but fresh curry leaves are absolutely essential in certain South Indian dishes, and greatly affect the final dish.

                                      1. re: Scrofula
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                                        fpunky RE: Scrofula Jan 10, 2014 11:46 PM

                                        I was actually thinking more along the lines of sambaar powder and podis. Ms. Sahni says that homemade blends similar to the curry powder recipe is used in vegetarian "stir-fries". But the closest I've been to India is an Indian restaurant and defer to your knowledge on the subject. Concerning curry leaves, I was so excited when I finally found fresh curry leaves and disappointed at how little flavor that had. That's why I added the "to my taste" comment. I have a friend who can't abide cilantro and says it taste like soap and saffron tastes like mercurochrome to me. When I looked up how to spell mercurochrome I found out it hasn't been on the drug shelves for 30 years! I actually never tasted mercurochrome but just the smell activated the taste buds and it had an unpleasent metallic flavor.

                                        1. re: fpunky
                                          Scrofula RE: fpunky Jan 11, 2014 12:10 AM

                                          Oh, yeah, we do use sambar and rasam powder. They do also sell spice mixes for specific dishes, but that's a convenience product rather than a traditional way of cooking those things. (I have nothing against convenience products.)

                                          Podis are used mostly tableside (maybe with ghee) rather than as a cooking ingredient.

                                          Curry leaves: might just be a familiarity thing; some dishes just don't taste right when you leave them out. Or it could just be the quality of the leaves; sometimes you get pretty sorry-looking (and tasting) curry leaves in the US. I rarely have any around, which may be why I rarely cook real South Indian food at home.

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