Curry Recipes Online

Curry Chat => Lets talk Curry => Topic started by: Peripatetic Phil on January 08, 2019, 01:35 PM

Title: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Peripatetic Phil on January 08, 2019, 01:35 PM
The vexed issue of so-called "mix[ed] powder" rears its ugly head from time to time, and it is clear that there will never be universal agreement as to whether it is truly fundamental to the replication of BIR cuisine or whether it is simply a short-cut or a time-saver.  What is perhaps the most contentious issue, however, is why it often (but not invariably) contains curry powder, which (a) is a virtual unknown, unless the exact brand and variant is specified, and (b) contains (to a greater or lesser degree) some or all of the very same spices that make up the other parts of the recipe.  Now, I was trying to bring some order into my collection of multi-terabyte drives over Christmas and the New Year, and I found on one of them a Kindle version of Paul Clay &  Les Jones  An Introduction to British Indian Restaurant Curries

Browsing through it, I found their recipe for Mixed Powder  (attributed to Cory Ander in the text), and was intrigued to see that they eschew "curry powder" completely, using only individual spices.  I found this sufficiently interesting that I thought others might like to see this particular recipe and perhaps try it (as I shall) —:

Mixed Powder (by Cory Ander)

This recipe produces sufficient mixed powder for around 30 – 40 curries

Ingredients:
Method:

Simply mix all of the ingredients and store in a dry, sterile, airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Worth noting, perhaps, that this recipe is considerably more complex than "CA's Simple Mild Masala" (http://www.curry-recipes.co.uk/curry/index.php/topic,7641.msg66314.html#msg66314) posted 28 December 2011, 06:42:16 and significantly closer to "CA's Masala" (http://www.curry-recipes.co.uk/curry/index.php?topic=3765.msg34202#msg34202) posted 22 September 2009, 16:03:49.  I have re-ordered the Kindle version so that the similarity to "CA's Masala" is even more obvious, and so that the differences are more easily perceived.

** Phil.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Bob-A-Job on January 08, 2019, 02:15 PM
Thanks Phil,

I was re-visiting this section, Mix Powders, just last night. as there are still a lot I haven't tried yet.

From my lurking days, I seem to remember reading a discussion about roasting the seeds prior to grinding vs  grinding only that produces some heat anyway.  Does the recipe you have found mention grinding the seeds at all?

BAJ
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Peripatetic Phil on January 08, 2019, 02:43 PM
From my lurking days, I seem to remember reading a discussion about roasting the seeds prior to grinding vs  grinding only that produces some heat anyway.  Does the recipe you have found mention grinding the seeds at all?
No, "what you see is what you get" (i.e., I didn't edit the recipe at all).  But I know that Mr & Mrs Bari gently roast some (but perhaps not all) of their spices before grinding (they grind all of their own apart from paprika & turmeric), so I will ask when I next go there (i.e., this coming weekend).  Certainly it is my belief that spices benefit (in general) from gentle roasting before grinding, and I often see a large tray of spices gently roasting when I enter The Golden Temple (last Friday it was cumin); if I find something in print to confirm this, I will add a note here.

** Phil.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Secret Santa on January 08, 2019, 07:47 PM
Posted twice for some reason so deleted this one.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Secret Santa on January 08, 2019, 07:51 PM
Certainly it is my belief that spices benefit (in general) from gentle roasting before grinding...

Hmmm ... going off on the inevitable tangent I have to disagree. Any perceived benefit will be from the fact that you're using fresher ingredients (i.e. freshly ground seeds with the flavours locked in) rather than any benefit from dry roasting. There must be a change in the flavour profile related to roasting the seeds, other than that of releasing the essential oils, but I just don't think it's significant.

Over the years I've tried fresh ground against fresh, pre-ground, powdered ingredients and, for me at least, there isn't any greatly discernable difference. Perhaps my palate isn't sufficiently discriminating but I don't think that's the case.

Back on topic, I'm not sure what CA's mix powder adds to the pot, so to speak. There are literally hundreds of authentic, traditional mix powders along the same lines and I think it's fair to say that most BIR restaurants and takeaways will be using pre-ground curry powder as one element of their mix powder.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Peripatetic Phil on January 08, 2019, 08:20 PM
Back on topic, I'm not sure what CA's mix powder adds to the pot, so to speak.
Well, just citing one well-known "authority" on the subject of BIR cuisine who clearly does not feel that curry powder is needed in a mix[ed] powder ...

Quote
There are literally hundreds of authentic, traditional mix powders along the same lines
Agreed.

Quote
and I think it's fair to say that most BIR restaurants and takeaways will be using pre-ground curry powder as one element of their mix powder
Possibly.  But would you not agree, Captain (said Mr Spock) that it is illogical ?  Why add a substance over which you have no control when you could achieve the same effect but more consistently by adding the individual spices that make up the curry powder ?  You will, I think, agree that in the case of a spice blend, the whole is exactly equal to the sum of the parts, so why not add the correct amount of each individual spice in the first place ?

** Phil.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: livo on January 08, 2019, 09:10 PM
You describe exactly my earliest thoughts on this topic Phil and I agree with you completely. However, in actual application to the task I have found that it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference (or not to my taste anyway). I've experimented and analysed and formulated different blends but I'd have to say the end results vary minimally if at all. That is to say that the use of a curry powder in the mixed powder, and in its eventual small quantity in a cooked curry, has very little effect on the finished dish.

I will however examine your posted formula and those linked to further assess my current mix. (5:4:3:2:2:1:1) I've been using this for a while now and it works well for me.  I can appreciate both sides of this. Complete control V speed and efficiency to get the job done.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Peripatetic Phil on January 08, 2019, 09:46 PM
I'd have to say the end results vary minimally if at all. That is to say that the use of a curry powder in the mixed powder, and in its eventual small quantity in a cooked curry, has very little effect on the finished dish.

Empirically, I am 99.7% certain that you are correct,  My scientific and engineering background would like it to be otherwise, but in practice I think that replacing the curry powder with individual spices would have almost no perceivable effect on the end product,

Slighly OT, I have just (almost) finished a lamb curry that I must have started before Christmas.  Each time I came to prepare the next batch, I removed whatever lamb remained from the previous batch and cooked it afresh in fresh oil, g/g, spices and base.  And each batch was better than the last.  Tonight's was absolutely superb, both in texture and in taste, and I could not help thinking as I spooned ever more (oily) sauce over another piece of lamb and paratha that wanting to eat more sauce (rather than picking the pieces of meat out of the sauce, as I confess I used to) really does demonstrate that one is "very nearly there" when it comes to BIR perfection.

** Phil (currently hoping that "Configuring Windows updates.  100% complete.  Do not turn off your computer" will eventually terminate and my motherboard swap will have turned out to be a success.  I forgot the auxiliary power connector on the first boot, and could not understand why the fans were all spinning their hearts out while the monitor was resolutely saying nothing)..
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Secret Santa on January 09, 2019, 12:18 AM
Well, just citing one well-known "authority" on the subject of BIR cuisine who clearly does not feel that curry powder is needed in a mix[ed] powder ...

Well he'd be right that a curry powder is not needed but his version is per se a curry powder anyway! Bag it up, stick a "CA's knock-off curry powder" label on it and you're good to go. And the only reason he will have gone this route is to try to differentiate his offerings from the many other BIR style recipes out there.


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Why add a substance over which you have no control when you could achieve the same effect but more consistently by adding the individual spices that make up the curry powder ? 

Au contraire! It's added precisely because there is factory-level quantity control of ingredients in it, so absolutely assured repeatability. In my youth I designed the control circuits for the machines that weigh and mix food ingredients and I can assure you that even all those decades ago this could be done to the milligram.


Quote
You will, I think, agree that in the case of a spice blend, the whole is exactly equal to the sum of the parts, so why not add the correct amount of each individual spice in the first place?

As above. Start with a factory controlled "base" mix of spices, the curry powder, and add your own extras to get it how you want, the mix powder. The curry powder is only there as a convenient way to add all the ingredients that are not the main three we normally use which are coriander, cumin and turmeric. The corollary of which, because curry powder also contains coriander, cumin and turmeric as main ingredients, is that the amount of the other ingredients in shop bought curry powders is considered too much for a BIR style curry and so they are "diluted" with added coriander, cumin and turmeric (and chilli, paprika etc. in most mix powders) to produce the mix powder. But if you have an alternative explanation, I'm all ears.



Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Secret Santa on January 09, 2019, 12:29 AM
You describe exactly my earliest thoughts on this topic Phil and I agree with you completely. However, in actual application to the task I have found that it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference (or not to my taste anyway). I've experimented and analysed and formulated different blends but I'd have to say the end results vary minimally if at all. That is to say that the use of a curry powder in the mixed powder, and in its eventual small quantity in a cooked curry, has very little effect on the finished dish.

But have you ever tried making, as near the same as you can manage, several of the same curry but with different curry powders being used in each one. Many years ago I did this with shop bought curry powders (Rajah, TRS, East End etc.) and I did find a definite difference in end result with one (which unfortunately i can't recall) being very much better than the others. Why I never stuck with this one is buried in the mists of time but if you haven't done a similar experiment you really should, it's quite an eye opener.

Oh, and I mean only use the curry powder itself, not as part of a mix powder.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: livo on January 09, 2019, 06:07 AM
SS, I have no doubt that different "curry powder" will definitely give different results, both separately and within a mixed powder.  The difference between a Hot and a Mild for starters. I can make a sausage curry with Clive of India CP and my kids (young adults now) will devour it.  If I use a different powder the noses go up. Yet I don't use Clive in my mix powders.  I instead use traditional Indian Mild Madras Curry Powders which appears to be what is usually recommended.  I did see one CT video where he used a tin of Hot for a dish and it stuck with me.

What I am saying is that the "curry powder" used as an ingredient in a mixed powder is not as significant an issue as I first thought. In my earliest days of trying to replicate a mixed powder I was literally going spare over it.  I can't buy Rajah, TRS or East End so I've had to make do with local supply and it has worked out pretty well as far as I'm concerned.  I pretty quickly realised that it aint that big a deal.

I love to experiment with spice powders and sometimes I truly wish I kept better notes. Inevitably the one you want to replicate is lost in lackadaisical endeavour.  :(

My test of a nice "curry powder" is to make a curried egg sandwich on fresh white bread.  Medium boiled eggs (half set yolks) mashed up with nothing other than a bit of CP.  2 large eggs to one scraped level tsp of CP for 1 sandwich.  No mayonnaise.  Just egg and Curry Powder.  If this is good the CP is good. Optional is some shredded lettuce.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Peripatetic Phil on January 09, 2019, 09:04 AM
hy add a substance over which you have no control when you could achieve the same effect but more consistently by adding the individual spices that make up the curry powder ? 
Au contraire! It's added precisely because there is factory-level quantity control of ingredients in it, so absolutely assured repeatability. In my youth I designed the control circuits for the machines that weigh and mix food ingredients and I can assure you that even all those decades ago this could be done to the milligram.
I do not dispute for one second that you would expect a commercial; curry powder to have a a consistent formulation.  My points were two-fold :  (1) each curry powder will have a unique formulation, and no two will be identical, so unless the recipe specifies exactly which curry powder to use, what you are adding may differ (possibly significantly) from what the recipe author intended (and presumably tried); and (2) since the recipe for each distinct commercial curry powder will be a trade secret, you cannot know exactly what you are adding.  For both of these reasons, those who are aiming for complete and replicable consistency may prefer to use individual spices in known quantities rather than rely on a commercial curry powder.  But as I have already acknowledged, in reality it may be hard or even impossible to detect the difference.

** Phil.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Peripatetic Phil on January 12, 2019, 08:06 PM
From my lurking days, I seem to remember reading a discussion about roasting the seeds prior to grinding vs  grinding only that produces some heat anyway.  Does the recipe you have found mention grinding the seeds at all?
No, "what you see is what you get" (i.e., I didn't edit the recipe at all).  But I know that Mr & Mrs Bari gently roast some (but perhaps not all) of their spices before grinding (they grind all of their own apart from paprika & turmeric), so I will ask when I next go there (i.e., this coming weekend).  Certainly it is my belief that spices benefit (in general) from gentle roasting before grinding, and I often see a large tray of spices gently roasting when I enter The Golden Temple (last Friday it was cumin); if I find something in print to confirm this, I will add a note here.
OK, had another delightful meal ("Nepalese chilli chicken") at the Golden Temple courtesy of Mrs Bari this evening, and I took the opportunity to ask her about spice grinding.  Yes, she does grind her own (modulo the two already mentioned) and yes she roasts them first,  Very gently, on the top of the tandoor, for days or even weeks before grinding.  And yes. the roasting does significantly affect the flavour, but it isn't essential.

** Phil.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Bob-A-Job on January 12, 2019, 11:56 PM
Thank you Phil.

I am a little surprised when you say weeks, days I can get my head around if it is very gentle, in a few minutes or an hour at a time and then sealed away from dust/dirt/food debri the rest of the time but when you say "on the top of the tandoor", surely that is with it turned off and cooling otherwise they would be roasted really quick and be blackened in a few minutes?  What am I missing please?

Before coming here, I used to make a lot of different Mexican dishes (mainly during the summer months) and so I had been using a 'dry fry' and then pestle & mortar to produce my powders but the quantities were begining to take hours per week and so I bought a wet & dry grinder at the insistence of my wife.  Searching for that/usage/grinding spices is what brought me here, maybe a year ago (I did say I had been lurking for a while?).

I still love the aroma of hand grinding the roasted seeds but at the back of my mind, conservation nags at me saying that if I am releasing the aroma in grinding, it won't be there for the cooking.  If you get what I mean?

Thank you for remembering my question.
BAJ
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Peripatetic Phil on January 13, 2019, 09:05 AM
Hallo Bob —

I am a little surprised when you say weeks, days I can get my head around if it is very gentle, in a few minutes or an hour at a time and then sealed away from dust/dirt/food debri the rest of the time but when you say "on the top of the tandoor", surely that is with it turned off and cooling otherwise they would be roasted really quick and be blackened in a few minutes?  What am I missing please?
Well, firstly, that neither Mr nor Mrs Bari use the tandoor for cooking !  I don't know how the tandoor is powered, but I am certain that it never gets up to normal tandoor temperatures.  I will try to find out more next weekend.  As to dust/dirt/debris, yes, I see your point.  Perhaps not the optimal environment, but I've never had food poisoning after eating there, and I don't think anyone else has ! 

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Before coming here, I used to make a lot of different Mexican dishes (mainly during the summer months) and so I had been using a 'dry fry' and then pestle & mortar to produce my powders but the quantities were begining to take hours per week and so I bought a wet & dry grinder at the insistence of my wife.  Searching for that/usage/grinding spices is what brought me here, maybe a year ago (I did say I had been lurking for a while?).
Ah, interesting background.  I don't think I own a wet & dry grinder (or if I do, I don't use it as such) — I have a coffee grinder reserved for spices, and various wet gadgets I use for making g/g paste and so on.

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I still love the aroma of hand grinding the roasted seeds but at the back of my mind, conservation nags at me saying that if I am releasing the aroma in grinding, it won't be there for the cooking.  If you get what I mean?
That is a very interesting point, and not one I had ever considered, but I am of a generation that still remembers "Importers Ltd" roasting and grinding the coffee beans in the window of their Bromley High Street premises; the smell was out of this world, and could be sensed from hundreds of yards away, but their coffee (they used to serve Blue Mountain, amongst others) was the best in the world.  So yes, there must be some aroma loss when spices are gently roasted, but if the process allows the spices to yields more of their essential oils than would otherwise be the case (as I suspect — I need to check Dr Pruthi on this), then the process may well have overall benefits.  After all, why would Mr & Mrs Bari do so if it were not worthwhile ?  They both have excellent business acumen, and would not willingly waste either time or energy on something that was not worthwhile ...

Update:


I could find nothing in Dr J S Pruthi's Spices and Condiments, but the absence of an online (or even scanned) edition means that I cannot guarantee that he makes no reference to any benefits of roasting before grinding, so I consulted instead Heal and Allsop's Cooking with Spices.  Under cumin, which is one of the spices that I know for sure that Mr & Mrs Bari roast before grinding (because Mr Bari offered me some when I was last there), Heal & Allsop write "The seeds should be lightly roasted before being used whole or ground to bring out the aroma".  This, then, support my own beliefs.

Incidentally, this scientific paper (https://eurekamag.com/pdf/004/004235016.pdf) (by Sushmita Behera, S. Nagarajan and L. Jagan Mohan Rao) is clearly both relevant and interesting.

** Phil.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: livo on February 04, 2019, 10:51 PM
I've gradually been reading over all of Andy2295's posts and darting off on interesting tangents.  It makes for interesting reading and I'm learning from it.

This link, http://www.curry-recipes.co.uk/curry/index.php?topic=1556.0 (http://www.curry-recipes.co.uk/curry/index.php?topic=1556.0) shows that his posted spice mix also did not contain a "curry powder" but was instead made up mainly of whole spices, roasted and ground fresh along with a few powdered ones. He also used a different mix, that did contain both curry powder and garam masala, specifically for his base gravy recipe, as clarified in answer to CA's question (page 2). 

He was quite emphatic about the high turnover of in situ produced spice mixes from whole spices, and placed great importance on freshness.  He claimed to have absolutely no commercial pastes of any type in stock.  Wherever he did make any reference to commercial powders he (or his chef if there was one) insisted on TRS and Raj (Rajah perhaps? I'm not sure and it's irrelevant to me anyway).

There are some similar ingredients to the formula in the OP (naturally) but that is the end of any similarity. Andy2295's formula contains several extra spices and the quantities and ratios of the common ones are vastly different between the two.  Does anybody recall trying Andy2295's spice mix and if so, how it was as opposed to the now widely accepted Mix[ed] Powders?

PS. (Off topic).

Interesting to note that his Aromatic salt is in fact a very short ingredient list compared to some others.  The use of Allspice (even in minimal quantity) is not a common spice for BIR apparently but I did find it is used in The Bombay Bottle Masala  (Allspice - Kababchini / kabab chini / cubeb / tailed pepper).

I found his statement on there being no secret very interesting.  He maintained it was all down to patience, perseverance, ingredient freshness and technique.  He was also very clear in his claim that there was no single BIR taste, but that it was subjective and a very localized regional thing.  Anybody's perception as to what they were after in seeking "The BIR taste" was largely influenced by what they had already experienced.  From what I've read on this forum over the years I'd have to agree that there is quite a bit of merit in this claim.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: mickyp on February 13, 2019, 08:42 PM

I still love the aroma of hand grinding the roasted seeds but at the back of my mind, conservation nags at me saying that if I am releasing the aroma in grinding, it won't be there for the cooking.  If you get what I mean?

Think of all that wasted taste when you walk past the kitchen of your local Curry House lol
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: livo on February 13, 2019, 09:00 PM
Andy2295 was talking about high turnover so he had the luxury of this to keep the full benefit even with roasting and grinding. I know what you mean though. I've just bought a heap of fresh spices even though I wasn't out. My old whole seeds like coriander, cumin and fennel must be 4 years old. Still good but not fresh. They aren't expensive but it's difficult to justify dumping the old.
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: Bob-A-Job on February 13, 2019, 11:21 PM
I watched a cookery programme, a while ago (a couple of years) and I can't remember what it was but the guest chef did say that powders and such never go 'out of date' but do lose potency, so you just have to 'use a bit more'.  I was going to bring this up in the 'Scaling...' thread but then realised it wasn't relevant to that discussion.

Do you find that with your old seeds as much?

BAJ
Title: Re: Mix[ed] powder
Post by: livo on February 13, 2019, 11:44 PM
I can't say I notice any significant difference to be honest, even using some whole spices that are 4 years old. They still make perfectly acceptable curry.  My stocks getting low was the main reason I've just bought more and while tempted to buy big bags, I decided it was better to go with sensible home sized instead.  It will probably be 6 months before I get down to the city again. 

The one thing that I think you can really notice is the decline in aroma from really fresh bright green cardamom to the dull pale green ones that have sat for a year or so.  Whether or not that crosses over into the taste I can't tell.

I've found it the same with my pastes.  The recipes for home made, and labels of bought pastes, tell you it can be stored in the fridge for 6 months. I sterilize my jars before bottling and I have Balti Paste that is over 2 years old and still haven't made anybody ill by using it.  It's preserved in oil, vinegar and salt.