How do I make a good curry with a curry powder?
September 15, 2011 8:35 PM   Subscribe

How do I make a good Indian curry with a pre-made curry powder?

I bought a small jar of curry powder from Penzey's a few weeks ago (the Maharaja blend), but I have yet to use it because most of the really good/authentic-looking recipes I've found online (including most of the excellent ones recommended here on AskMe) presume the chef is starting from scratch. I know that's the more authentic way to go, but I've heard good things about Penzey's blends, so I decided to give it a shot.

Can you recommend a good curry recipe for this spice blend? Here's the description of it.
posted by lunasol to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Pre-made curry powder tends to go pretty heavy on fenugreek seeds. You could start by looking for recipes that feature that flavor — which is pretty distinctive.

(I don't actually like fenugreek very much, so I'm afraid I can't suggest any recipes myself.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:51 PM on September 15, 2011

Heat some ghee in a casserole. Add whatever meat you want to cook in a 1" dice, stir til coloured. Sprinkle over a couple of spoons of curry powder to taste. Stir til fragrant. Add a drained can of your favourite legumes / pulses (eg chickpeas, lentils), a can of tomatoes, then cover the casserole and place in a 150oC / 320oF oven for four hours. Stir through a little more ghee and/or some coconut cream, garnish with coriander / cilantro.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:57 PM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I've made this one a bunch of times, and it's pretty great. You'll need to find garam masala too, but I found it right next to the curry powder in the store.

Lamb Curry Slow Cooker (Crock pot) Recipe

Boneless sirloin lamb cooked with curry spices in a crock pot. You can use Lamb, Mutton or Beef for this recipe.


1. Cooking oil: 1/8 Cup
2. Cubed Meat (1" cubes): 2½ Pounds
3. Chopped Onions (Preferably ground): 1 large
4. Salt: 1/2 teaspoon
5. Ground Lal Mirch (Cayenne Pepper): 1 teaspoon
6. Minced Garlic: 2 Tablespoon
7. Finely Chopped peeled fresh ginger (1"): 1 Tablespoon
8. Chopped Hari Mirch (Serrano): 2
Remove seeds and white membrane to reduce heat.
9. Curry powder : 2½ Tablespoons
10. Diced tomatoes: 1 can
11. Water: 1/2 can
12. Bay Leaf: 2
13. Degi Mirch (Paprika): 2 teaspoon
14. Garam Masala : 2 teaspoons
15. Cauliflower: medium head, cut into florets


1. Heat oil in heavy bottom pan. Brown meat. Remove with slotted spoon and transfer to the slow cooker.

2. Add onions, salt and cayenne pepper. Sauté about 5 minutes till the onions are translucent and the edges start to turn brown.

3. Add garlic, ginger, and Serrano. Sauté about 2 minutes.

4. Add Curry powder. Sauté about 30 seconds.

5. Add tomatoes and water. Heat till it is bubbly. Transfer the contents to the slow cooker. This heating process will give a head start for your slow cooker.

6. Add Bay leaf, Paprika, and Garam Masala to the crock pot. Cover. Turn on high.

7. Cook for 40 minutes. Stir. Turn to low. Cook for six hours. Throw in the cauliflower two hours before the end of cooking time.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:04 PM on September 15, 2011 [27 favorites]

You could start by looking for recipes that feature that flavor

'Methi' being the operative term. In this case, though, based upon the ingredients, I think you ought to look towards northern recipes -- Punjabi, Kashmiri, etc -- and perhaps mix the powder with strained/Greek yogurt as a marinade for lamb or chicken that's then grilled and served, either in cutlets or in pieces on a skewer.
posted by holgate at 9:22 PM on September 15, 2011

I have made a very tasty curry using that very curry powder following Mark Bittman's recipe for "Chicken curry in a hurry" (although I use substantially more curry powder than he does).

The gist of it as follows:

Saute one medium, sliced onion in neutral oil over medium-high heat for five minutes/until translucent. Add tbsp curry powder.

Meanwhile, sprinkle four boneless/skinless chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and another tbsp curry powder. Push the onion to the side of the pan and place the breasts in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes/side, then remove to a plate.

Reduce heat to low, add one cup (or more) greek yogurt to pan, stirring to incorporate all of the spices and onion until the mixture is nice and thick. Put the chicken back in for a few more minutes into the simmering mixture until it is cooked through.

You can get way more fancy than this, or even just dress it up a little bit by adding frozen peas, chickpeas, whatever, but this is a tasty way to use your curry powder.
posted by willbaude at 9:56 PM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

I agree with restless_nomad's technique -- cook in stages, add the curry powder along with the onions/garlic/ginger/chiles, and you can't go wrong. You can use this method on the stove if you don't have a slow cooker: just simmer until the meat is nearly tender in lieu of step 6 & 7, then add the cauliflower and cook til done.

Curry powder is a quick and easy way to add flavor to dishes without going in for a lot of preparation, too. I make my curries from scratch, but I still love to put a package of chicken thighs on a bed of sliced onions, jalapenos, and mushrooms, sprinkle good curry powder over everything, and then pop the pan in the oven until the chicken is golden brown; the result is nothing like "curry", but it has an awesomeness all its own. The same goes for chopped cauliflower sauteed with garlic and curry powder -- I like this just as much as the authentic Indian cauliflower dishes I make, in a different, quick-comfort-food sort of way. This does depend on getting quality curry powder, but I don't think you'll go wrong with Penzey's!
posted by vorfeed at 9:57 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also agreeing with restless_nomad's technique. You're gently browning meat and onions (for umami and caramelization), then layering in garlic/ginger/heat, then frying the spices to bring out their flavour. You can adapt this sequence to all kinds of curries -- any meat, any veg [1]. And if you don't have a crockpot, bring just to a boil on the stove, then lower heat and simmer until the meat is tender and flavours are blended.

Personal differences: I add yogurt, with a little cornstarch to keep it from breaking down, as a final step a few minutes before serving, and I usually add Garam Masala near the end of cooking as a gentle augmentation of the flavour.

[1] Vegetarians will skip the meat stage, of course. Beans and other pulses can be added after the frying spice step.
posted by maudlin at 10:07 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's a quickie bastard-curry I love:

Brown a whole cut-up chicken & 1 diced onion in olive oil in a large skillet.
Add two cans whole tomatoes (mush them up a bit with your hands) and just enough water to mostly cover the chicken.
Add diced bell pepper & sliced mushrooms, several tablespoons of curry, a teaspoon or so of salt, and some black pepper.
Simmer, covered, for a while, until chicken is falling off the bone - 30-40 minutes?

Serve over white rice.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:36 PM on September 15, 2011

Nthing restless_nomad's technique, which is generally the same approach for all curries: you want to saute the spices ("curry powder") in oil / ghee early on to release the flavour & infuse it into the oil / ghee, but this only needs a minute or so or they can burn, so get your onions under way first. Nice & gentle heat; don't nuke it!

I'd advise against adding garam masala to your particular spice mix - it has a lot of the same spices already as garam masala (which is a mix of cloves, coriander, cardamom etc) & you run the risk of overloading & drowning out the saffron. I'd keep it relatively free of chilli, too, for the same reason.

Saffron goodness makes me think of creamy (malai) sauces, rich and not-so-fiery northern (Mughlai) cuisine. Chicken would be ideal, as the Penzey people suggest. Google up a few recipes for malai chicken (murgh) and just pop your powder in at the aforementioned point in the sauteeing process instead of the "first principles" spices the recipe suggests, and off you go.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:37 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I usually use the Maharajah curry powder when I make my curry. But I cut my chicken into little chunks, marinate it in olive oil, garam masala and yogurt for a few hours, then bake it in the toaster oven on a wire rack, so it gets nice and browned. Then I saute my diced onions and grated ginger and garlic in a pan with some olive oil, get it nice and browned, then add 2 tablespoons of the curry powder (I dry toast it in the pan first), 1/2 a can of tomato sauce, about 2 cups of yogurt and 2 cups of water or stock. When it starts to thicken a little bit, I put in my baked chicken, and let it simmer for about 5 more minutes. Then I turn off the heat, and hit it with just a little bit of cream or half&half at the very end, and little bit of garam masala and salt the very last thing.
posted by geekhorde at 11:00 PM on September 15, 2011

Truly the secret ingredient to success is coconut milk.

Heat some oil, add onion, garlic, and ginger. Add veggies and spices. Add coconut milk. Simmer.

Top with lime, cilantro, and chopped nuts.

Serve with rice.

You will be so golden.
posted by troublewithwolves at 11:21 PM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

I found a tasty channa masala recipe that was improved with curry powder. Maybe try this?

My revisions:

Use a whole onion, two garlic cloves, more butter than it calls for and fry the fresh ginger at the beginning of the recipe, with the garlic. One tablespoon of Tandoori Masala spice mix replaced the coriander, cumin, cayenne and paprika.

Three tablespoons of tomatoes really didn't seem like enough, so I used half a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead. It was a good addition, but sometimes canned tomatoes are acidic so be sure to taste the channa before adding the lemon juice.

Now I'm hungry.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:38 AM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! All this advice was extremely helpful. I just made a lamb curry based on restless_nomad's recipe, but I did it on the stovetop with maudlin's adjustments, and added some whole coconut milk at the end, as per troublewithwolves recommendation (You're right! It's amazing!). Also, I added a pinch of brown sugar because it was tasting a tad too acidic and needed a touch of rich sweetness, and that was a nice touch.
posted by lunasol at 9:39 PM on September 18, 2011

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