Raghavan’s Blend

Having written an authoritative book on Indian curries and having expounded on the benefi ts of tailoring blends for individual recipes, I hesitate to offer a panacean blend for all fl avors Indian. It’s like asking someone to gather the magic of Indian cuisine in a convenient bottle—after all, the British tried it more than four hundred years ago when they had their cooks in India create the phenomenon called curry powder. A sprinkle of that ubiquitous store-bought mixture to pepper your ho-hum meals seems like the easy way out of freshly grinding your own, but I offer you this version of mine for a bolder, zestier, more vibrant taste that may very well knock your socks off.

Raghavan’s Blend
Raghavan’s Blend

All you need is a spice grinder (a coffee grinder reserved for spices is the answer) and a few ingredients purchased from your neighborhood grocery store to make this mellifl uous medley that packs a punch in every recipe it touches. But, if you don’t have two minutes to put this together, by all means use a store-bought Madras- style curry powder as an alternative. (Yes, I am opinionated, can you tell?)

The recipes that use this blend often instruct you to add it when you are stir- frying something. If you were to sprinkle the ground mélange directly into hot oil or a preheated naked skillet, it would yield burnt fl avors and unappealing aromas. The cushion that vegetables provide is essential to safeguard the blend from burning on contact with the heat. This is not a masala (blend) that you can add as a fi nishing mix (see Garam Masala, page 41) since the spices need to cook for a smoother quality.

Makes 3⁄4 cup

2 tablespoons coriander seeds 1 tablespoon cumin seeds 2 teaspoons black or yellow mustard seeds 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1⁄2 teaspoon whole cloves 12 to 15 dried red cayenne chiles (like chiles de árbol), stems discarded 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Place the coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, and chiles in a spice grinder (you can also use a coffee grinder) and grind them to the consistency of fi nely ground black pepper. Stir in the turmeric, which will yellow the spice blend with its characteristic sunny bright disposition.

Store the spice blend in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to 3 months. (In my opin- ion, refrigerating the spice blend adversely affects its fl avors.)

Extra Credit

• Grinding whole spices prior to use is the best way to showcase their sensual fragrances and tastes. The aromatic oils within emerge when freshly ground, providing a greater depth of fl avors.

A spice grinder, essentially a coffee grinder, works well for pulverizing amounts greater than 1 or 2 teaspoons whole spices. If you double or triple the batch, a blender does a nice job of crushing them all at once. The narrower the base of the blender jar, the better the grind. Wide-mouthed jars are best reserved for shakes and blended cocktails.

• If you cannot procure whole dried red chiles, use 2 teaspoons ground red pepper (cayenne) instead.

For a less potent blend, you can use sweet paprika for half the amount of chiles; add 1 teaspoon paprika plus 1 teaspoon ground red pepper.

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