Ready-made curry powders are a relatively new product - mixtures of spices were traditionally prepared in India depending on the climate of the region and what was readily available. Nowadays there is a wide range of different types and strengths of curry powder.
Generally, blends from northern India are mild with warm, fragrant flavours while spice mixtures from hotter southern India will have fiery chilli flavours. Aromatic spices included in curry powder such as coriander, cumin, mustard seeds and chillies are dry-fried in a heavy-based pan until they give off a rich aroma. They are then ground together (you can use a pestle or a coffee grinder, kept just for this purpose, at home) and combined with any other ingredients. Also see Garam masala.
Uses: Sprinkle curry powder over meat or vegetables at the beginning of the cooking time to get the most flavour in a curry. A pinch of curry powder can be added to egg and cheese dishes, sauces and salad dressings and soups - the amount you use depends on personal preference.
To store: Keep ready-made powders in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Traditionally spice mixtures would be made fresh every day, but homemade mixtures can be stored in an airtight jar for 3-4 months.
A variety of curry powders are available including:
Balti chicken crushed curry spices
A coarse, aromatic blend of spices including cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chillies, ginger and garlic.
Uses: In any chicken curry recipe where an aromatic mild to medium flavour is required.
Bombay crushed curry spices
A mild mix of spices including turmeric, coriander seeds, ginger and chillies.
Uses: This blend of spices is particularly good with vegetable dishes, including Bombay-style potatoes, Bombay-style chicken curry works well too.
Medium curry powder
A blend of spices including coriander, fenugreek and cloves.
Uses: Add to rogan josh recipes or other medium-hot dishes.
Hot curry powder
A combination of spices including cumin, chilli and fennel make up this hot and spicy powder.
Uses: Ideal for adding to Madras recipes or other hot and spicy recipes.
Thai crushed curry spices
A hot and spicy coarse blend of spices including cumin seeds, coriander seeds, coriander, lemon grass, ginger and chillies.
Uses: Ideal for a Red Thai Chicken curry or add to seafood curries.