Herbs & Spices: Curries, v3

Cat’s spice rack

By Cat, Dec 8, 2017, a redo of Aug 2007 posting  (Photo, right, by Cat; photo below from Wikimedia Commons) 

NOTE: This posting is a redo to fix an error. See also the redo for “Blends.”

“Curry” gets its name from the curry tree, native to India and Sri Lanka. It can be used alone, or more typically mixed with other spices. In India, these mixes are ground right before using, to provide maximum health and flavor benefits, as the spices used in curries have amazing anti-inflammatory (e.g., turmeric) and anti-oxidant activity (e.g., cinnamon, garlic and rosemary). see GreenMedInfo articles (24) for more on this.

Curry leaves & fruits

For ground spices, I highly recommend grinding your own for each recipe, because they lose much of their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity with time, once they are ground. This practice is dominant in East-Indian kitchens; I use my Revel electric spice grinder (made in India), as in photo, below, from Amazon.

Advantages of Curries and Blends

Revel spice grinder

Curries originated in India. For the best, richest flavor and for maximum nutritional benefits, the individual spices in a curry are ground from the seeds and leaves just before using. I follow their example, using my Revel spice grinder (from India), as pictured Left, from Amazon  (25).

To learn about the health benefits of the individual spices (remember, the whole is more beneficial than the sum of its parts), see Individual Herbs & Spices: A – F and  G – Z. Curries that include turmeric are especially beneficial as a person ages, relieving arthritis, clogged arteries and as new evidence indicates, lowers the risk of dementia. Researchers suggest eating a curry dish at least once a week.  See Mercola’s article on turmeric and dementia (1) for more, and GreenMedInfo articles on curry and turmeric benefits (24).

What distinguishes a curry from a blend? For me, it is the presence of turmeric and/or cumin, combined with the “sweet” spices, cinnamon and/or allspice.

Mercola (2) also recommends using a spice or spice/herb blend to mix in ground meats or rub on cuts before cooking, to provide antioxidants that minimize harmful chemicals that form when meat is cooked, especially over high heat. He suggests using at least some of the following in your mix; you may also find that you prefer a different mix for different meats (beef, lamb, chicken, etc.):

  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Garlic powder
  • Ginger
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Pepper (Black)
  • Rosemary

Blueberries and cherries are another great addition to ground meats, to reduce harmful toxins from high-heat cooking.

Common curry powder 

This may contain:

  • leaves of curry tree
  • cardamom
  • chili or cayenne
  • cinnamon
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • fennel seeds
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • mustard
  • turmeric
  • black pepper

Here’s an example from chow.com (13): Combine the following in the list below to make about ¾ cup curry powder. See also “NOTE” below.

  • 5 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
  • 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground chile peppers

NOTE: you can combine whole coriander, cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, and mustard seeds, whole cloves, and 1-inch sections of cinnamon sticks together in a grinder, then grind. Transfer to a bowl and add pre-ground ginger, turmeric, black pepper and chile peppers. Mix well and transfer to an airtight container for storage in a cool place or at room temperature.

Garam Masala

This is a popular curry from India (3);  it is best when made with whole spices that have been roasted and then ground just before using in a recipe (see instructions, below). I was taught that it contains the ‘C’ spices:

    • cardamom seeds (released from the pod)
    • cinnamon
    • clove
    • coriander
    • cumin

to which may be added any of the following:

    • cayenne
    • black pepper
    • ginger
    • nutmeg or mace
    • crushed bay leaves.

Recipe Using Roasted Seeds and Spices

If you wish to roast the seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick sections, whole cloves and ground spices, the following instructions are from The Vegetarian Epicure, Book 2, by Anna Thomas (see Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book):

  1. Spread them out on a large metal pan and roast them in a 200°F oven for about 20 minutes, stirring them often and making sure they don’t scorch.
  2. Remove from oven; shell the cardamom seeds (discarding the pods), crush the cinnamon sticks be wrapping them in a towel and pounding them with a wooden market or other blunt instrument.
  3. Combine all spices and grind them until they are a powder.
  4. Store in an airtight container, in a cool place or at room temperature.

Quick Garam Masala Recipe

The following list, using pre-ground spices and crushed, dried bay leaves, is adapted from All Recipes (9d); makes about 2 Tbsp.

    • 1½ tsp ground cumin
    • ¾ tsp ground black peppercorns
    • ¾ tsp ground cardamom
    • ¾ tsp ground coriander
    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground ginger
    • ½ tsp crushed bay leaves (optional)
    • ¼ tsp ground cloves
    • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg or mace (optional)
    • ¼ tsp or more ground cayenne, to taste (optional)

Combine all in small jar or bowl and mix thoroughly. Place mix in an airtight container, and store in a cool, dry place if not using right away. Best to use within a week of grinding.

In-a-Pinch Substitute for Garam Masala

This is from Spiceography (26):

Just mix 1 part cumin with ¼ part allspice.

Advieh (Persian)

Grind the following together until a fine-grind is reached. (Sorry, I lost my source for this recipe, but you can check out reference 27 below for related recipes).

  • 2 parts dried rose petals or buds (optional)
  • 2 parts cardamom seeds
  • 2 parts cinnamon sticks
  • 2 parts nutmeg seeds (which includes nutmeg and mace if you use the whole seed)
  • 1 part cumin seeds
  • Optional spices:
  • 1 – 2 parts coriander
  • ½ part saffron
  • sesame


  1. Mercola (articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/06/23/This-Potent-Spice-Taken-as-Little-as-Once-a-Week-Can-Fight-Dementia.aspx)
  2. Mercola (articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/08/adding-spices-to-meat-helps-decrease-damage-when-you-cook-it.aspx)
  3. Indian Food on garam masala (indianfood.about.com/od/masalarecipes/r/garammasala.htm)
  4. Chinese food about.com on five-spice powder (chinesefood.about.com/cs/sauces/ht/fivespicepowder.htm)
  5. Wikipeda, on five-spice powder (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five-spice_powder
  6. The Epicenter Encyclopedia of Spices (theepicentre.com/Spices/raselhanout.html)
  7. OChef recipe (ochef.com/587.htm)
  8. Wikipedia on Jamaican Jerk seasoning (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_jerk_spice)
  9. All Recipes.com
    1. (9) Jerk seasoning: allrecipes.com/Recipe/jerk-seasoning/Detail.aspx
    2. (21) Pickling spice: allrecipes.com/recipe/231256/homemade-pickling-spice
    3. (19) Creole blend: (allrecipes.com/recipe/38214/creole-seasoning-blend)
    4. Garam masala: allrecipes.com/recipe/142967/easy-garam-masala/
  10. Wise Geek.com recipe (wisegeek.com/what-is-jerk-seasoning.htm)
  11. Fine Cooking: (11a) Herbes de Provence (finecooking.com/item/5420/herbes-de-provence); (11b) Harissa (finecooking.com/recipe/harissa)
  12. Wikipedia on Herbes de Provence (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbes_de_Provence)
  13. Chow.com curry powder (chow.com/recipes/10576-curry-powder)
  14. WikiHow on toasting sesame seeds (wikihow.com/Toast-Sesame-Seeds)
  15. Dr. Gourmet on toasted sesame seed oil (drgourmet.com/askdrgourmet/foods/sesameseedssub.shtml#.VZiBS2BUNjE)
  16. Wellness Mama’s Chili Seasoning (wellnessmama.com/2170/homemade-chili-seasoning)
  17. Fresh Bites Daily (making ginger powder): freshbitesdaily.com/ginger-powder
  18. Mom with a Prep blog (making ginger powder): momwithaprep.com/dehydrate-ginger-root-make-ginger-powder
  19. Creole Seasoning recipes: Epicurious (epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/creole-seasoning-104679); All Recipes (see 19c, above), and copycat version of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning: food.com/recipe/tony-chacheres-creole-seasoning-copycat-500434
  20. The Kitchn:
    1. (20a): Pickling spice (thekitchn.com/inside-the-spice-cabinet-pickling-spice-63744);
    2. (20b) Harissa (thekitchn.com/how-to-make-harissa-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-190188
  21. See reference 9B, above
  22. Fine Cooking’s Make it Tonight for Week of October 9, 2017: s3.amazonaws.com/finecooking.s3.tauntonclud.com/app/uploads/2017/10/04120550/MIT-10-09-17.pdf
  23. Pumpkin Spice on Learning Herbs (learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/spice-blend-recipes/
  24. GreenMedInfo:
    1. greenmedinfo.com/blog/how-spicy-food-can-save-your-life-1
    2. greenmedinfo.com/blog/turmeric-extract-helps-open-your-arteries
    3. greenmedinfo.com/article/curry-spice-curcumin-selectively-inhibits-cancer-cells-growth-vitro-and-precli (last topic, cut short in title: preclinical model of glioblastoma)
    4. greenmedinfo.com/article/curcumin-turmeric-reduces-oxidative-damage-and-amyloid-plaque-transgenic-anima (last topic, cut short in title: animal model of Alzhleimers)
    5. greenmedinfo.com/article/curry-consumption-improves-cognitive-function-elderly
  25. Amazon image: amazon.com/Revel-CCM101CHL-110-volt-Grinder-Chrome/dp/B06XGR35RZ/ref=sr_1_11
  26. spiceography.com/garam-masala-substitute
  27. Advieh recipes, suggestions:
    1. Epicurious: epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/persian-spice-mix
    2. The Delicious Crescent: thedeliciouscrescent.com/advieh-persian-spice-mix/
    3. The Kitchn: thekitchn.com/persian-spice-mix-advieh-195500
    4. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advieh

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