Autumn is one of those times in the culinary world when you’re able to take a bit of a breather and really focus on flavor. The hurried stream of summer produce seems to never stop and you never really get a chance to catch up and take a breath. Fall is that opportunity. The late summer harvest slows, the weather cools, and the days get shorter. Now is the time to really hone in on a few ingredients and cooking techniques that might require more time than the busy summer season allows.
One of our spice blends, Madras Curry, is perfect for this time of year. Its bold blend of spices and seasonings makes it a perfect accompaniment to richer heavier winter ingredients and preparation. But what is Madras Curry? Curry powders are of course ubiquitous with Indian cuisine, but its actual history might surprise you.
The blend itself is an intense combination of 5 spices – each procured and treated with the utmost care before becoming part of the blend. The mixture contains coriander, turmeric, fennel, cumin, fenugreek, caraway, and chili. A little salt is added to really make it all pop and balance out the intensity of the heat. All of these spices are blended together with great care and skill – combining just the right ratio of each to create something truly magical. The curry is bold and potent, with just a small amount being able to carry an entire dish from start to finish. Because of its very strong flavor profile – it’s best used to season items prior to cooking, rather than used as a finishing element.
Curry Powder itself actually has a very interesting and even controversial history. Contrary to popular belief, curry powder is not a staple ingredient in the Indian kitchen. This exotic spice was first invented for the British in the 19th century and while not as hot as some Indian spice blends, Madras Curry is considerably hotter than most western-style curry blends. The confusion likely stems from a popular Indian dish known as “curry”, which is made up of a spiced sauce alongside vegetables or meat, but almost never contains curry powder itself.
But what to create that will really highlight this magnificent spice blend and the fall ingredients available right now? Let’s take a look! A curried carrot soup with swirls of crème fraiche, dots of intense olive oil, and crispy toasted pumpkin seeds would be a great place to start. The carrots should be seasoned liberally with salt and Madras Curry prior to being added to the pot. Start by caramelizing them in a little butter – allowing the carrots to brown and the spices to toast and become aromatic. All of that color is added flavor! Then add a little white wine, reduce, and finish with a few glugs of vegetable stock to cover. Let the whole thing simmer until tender, then blend until smooth. Top with all of the tasty toppings your heart desires! Fall is a bowl.
Moving to something a little meatier, how about a lamb stew? Cubes of lamb leg are seasoned with Madras Curry and sea salt. Sear the pieces well in a heavy cast iron pan or dutch oven. Remove and add your stock components – things like carrot, onion, celery, herbs, garlic. Allow to them to brown and caramelize. Add the lamb back to the pan and deglaze the whole concoction with a few glugs of red wine. Then add stock, beef preferably, about ¾ of the way. Pop the whole thing in the oven and try to forget about it for a couple hours. Soon, the rich aromas of the Madras Curry will be filling your home and taking you on a trip to a far away place.
And that right there could be the very best aspect of this incredible spice blend. Yes, the flavor is incredible and whatever you season it with will be mind blowingly delicious. But the real magic of the Madras Curry comes in its ability to transport the diner and chef to a place they may have never been before. The kitchens of India – where baskets of spices overflow and pots of delicious soups and stews bubble and steam and fill the room with mouthwatering aromas. That’s your kitchen now. Right in your home. And all you need is a little Madras Curry to take you there.