Curry, with all its contradictions and complexity, is celebrated around the globes. In India, the spice blend dates back to 4,000 years B.C.The black peppercorn catapulted curry to global popularity and became a coveted item among traders.
Born in Mumbai, Raghavan Iyer moved at age 21 to Minnesota, where he spent the last few decades exploring and sharing the cuisine of his homeland. His brilliant career features six critically acclaimed cookbooks and a James Beard award. He joined Good Food last fall in anticipation of his newest book, "On the Curry Trail: Chasing the Flavor That Seduced the World," which he wrote between chemotherapy and surgeries.
Iyer passed away in San Francisco on March 31, leaving behind a legacy of lessons in Indian cooking. With his erudition and gentle wit, he was one of our favorite guests. We were lucky to speak with him about what turned out to be his final book.
The Mother Blend
Madras curry powder
Makes 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 8 to 10 dried red chiles (like chile de arbol), stems discarded
- 2 sticks cinnamon, broken up into smaller pieces
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pile all the ingredients except the turmeric, ginger, and nutmeg in a spice grinder (or a clean coffee grinder). You may have to grind the whole spices in batches if your grinder is unable to accommodate that voluminous pile in one swoop. Grind the ingredients to the consistency of finely ground black pepper, tapping the lid to release any of the intoxicating blend back into the grinder’s cavity. Transfer to a medium bowl. Repeat with the remaining whole spices.
Stir in the turmeric, ginger, and nutmeg to fashion a blend that may very well draw the word “wowee” from your lips (after the nose does the talking).
Store this spice blend in an airtight jar (preferably glass) in your cool, dry pantry, away from sunlight. In my opinion, refrigerating the blend will adversely affect its flavors (because of the moisture in the cooling unit). This blend will keep for up to 6 months.
Excerpted from "On the Curry Trail: Chasing the Flavor That Seduced the World" by Raghavan Iyer. Workman Publishing © 2023.