Author Topic: Spice mixes and all things spices  (Read 958 times)

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Offline britishcurries

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Spice mixes and all things spices
« on: June 25, 2020, 08:21 PM »
I've been attempting to perfect British restaurant style curries, particularly chicken madras, for the past few months. While I've refined my curries with certain tweaks, I feel I'm missing a few spices to reach the desired quality. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but it is my understanding that fenugreek leaves/seeds (unsure which is preferable) and kashmiri chilli powder (I've also seen MDH Deggi Mirch Masala mentioned) are pretty important for chicken madras. I haven't used either because they're unavailable in local supermarkets. Fennel seeds are frequently mentioned, too, but I think they're added to most madras spice mixes. Either way, perhaps it's worth frying fennel seeds and something like, say, star anise before adding the garlic and ginger paste. I'm unsure. Since I'm inexperienced with this, do you have any brand suggestions for a madras powder? I recall Rajah having a scandal with the carcinogenic red dye Sudan 1 years ago, and I was wondering if they've stopped using it since. Other than a madras powder, would it be worth ordering kashmiri chilli powder? What about MDH Deggi? Fenugreek seeds/leaves? Fennel seeds? Star anise? Thanks.


Online Peripatetic Phil

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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2020, 08:42 PM »
A lot of questions, but I have only a few answers.  Deggi mirch and Kashmiri mirch (MDH) are both easily available online; they are the only two ground chillies that I use.  Fennel seed I might use in pulao rice, but I don't think I've ever tasted in a Madras.  Ground fenugreek provides (IMHO) the BIR smell; omit it, and it just won't smell right.  Kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves) certainly add something.  I don't think that there is any such thing as a "Madras" powder (any more than there is a vindaloo powder, or a bhuna powder); there are certainly Madras curry powders, but that is an entirely different kiddle of fish (i.e., they are curry powders, not Madras powders).  Star anise ?  Again, in a pulao for me, not in a curry [1].  Others may disagree.  My local T/A does a particularly good chicken Madras, but I am as yet nowhere near being able to replicate it.  For what it's worth, here was my chicken Madras recipe of 2010.  And below are the spices that Syed uses in his chicken Madras :

  • His own mixed masala / curry powder
  • Ground red chillies or paprika
  • Kasoori methi
My first attempt at his chicken Madras was not very successful, but his basic chicken curry is superb.  You could do a lot worse than to start with that and then see if you can help it to evolve into a Madras.

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[1] But I seem to recall that Syed uses star anise in his pre-cook, so it may well play a part after all.  Why don't I just list all of the spices in his pre-cook recipe :

« Last Edit: June 26, 2020, 10:12 AM by Peripatetic Phil »
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Offline livo

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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2020, 12:56 AM »
Back in 2014 I did a conversion of a traditional style Madras recipe from a book to a more BIR method and did a side by side comparison trying to keep the ingredients as close to identical as possible.  I really liked both versions and the dish was also liked by another member when he tried it.

I'm not going to suggest it was anything special or claim any credit for the recipe as I cooked it from a published recipe.  I haven't cooked it again in quite a while but I do recall enjoying it back then and a few times I cooked it after that time.  It may give you some insight into the spices used though.

https://www.curry-recipes.co.uk/curry/index.php?topic=13287.msg110761#msg110761
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Offline Secret Santa

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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2020, 04:07 PM »
Correct me if I'm mistaken, but it is my understanding that fenugreek leaves/seeds (unsure which is preferable) and kashmiri chilli powder (I've also seen MDH Deggi Mirch Masala mentioned) are pretty important for chicken madras.

It depends what you're local is using as they don't all make them the same. Personally I don't like kashmiri chilli because it has a slightly bitter taste (some brands much worse than others ) that I haven't detected in any curry from a restaurant or takeaway. But I love deggi mirch for its flavour and colour.

Equally I can't abide the addition of lemon juice ... it was the eating of a sour madras in a restaurant that was the straw that broke the camel's back for me and I never ate takeaway or restaurant curries since. Others will say lemon juice is an absolute essential ... no accounting for taste.

Some may use kasoori methi and some may not but you have to try that if you haven't already. Fenugreek seeds or powder have no discernable effect on the flavour for me but Phil and others swear by them. Go figure!
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Offline Secret Santa

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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2020, 04:09 PM »
Back in 2014 I did a conversion of a traditional style Madras recipe from a book

No such thing as a traditional style Madras as it is a BIR invention. Unless you mean a curry form Madras which formed the basis for the BIR Madras?
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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2020, 04:16 PM »
Back in 2014 I did a conversion of a traditional style Madras recipe from a book

No such thing as a traditional style Madras as it is a BIR invention. Unless you mean a curry form Madras which formed the basis for the BIR Madras?

I seem to recall having that exact discussion with Madrasandy about (maybe) 18 months ago ...

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Offline britishcurries

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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2020, 06:29 AM »
Correct me if I'm mistaken, but it is my understanding that fenugreek leaves/seeds (unsure which is preferable) and kashmiri chilli powder (I've also seen MDH Deggi Mirch Masala mentioned) are pretty important for chicken madras.

It depends what you're local is using as they don't all make them the same. Personally I don't like kashmiri chilli because it has a slightly bitter taste (some brands much worse than others ) that I haven't detected in any curry from a restaurant or takeaway. But I love deggi mirch for its flavour and colour.

Equally I can't abide the addition of lemon juice ... it was the eating of a sour madras in a restaurant that was the straw that broke the camel's back for me and I never ate takeaway or restaurant curries since. Others will say lemon juice is an absolute essential ... no accounting for taste.

Some may use kasoori methi and some may not but you have to try that if you haven't already. Fenugreek seeds or powder have no discernable effect on the flavour for me but Phil and others swear by them. Go figure!

Thanks. On the subject of seasoned oil, do you use it, and if you do, what recipe do you use? I heard that it's essential to recreate the BIR flavour.


Offline harley

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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2020, 06:54 PM »
There's a few BIR near me that use aniseed/fennel in their madras. Depends what you've experienced. I like the addition and have known it being used since the 90s but wouldn't say it's essential or part of a classic nationwide madras. Some do some don't and I use it on and off and still get the lovely cooked BIR madras flavour without.

Fenugreek powder is another nice addition, I think it adds a certain smell and smokey flavour of BIR in general and I also use leaves mostly. In my mix powder I use kashmiri powder.

With aniseed I just use the hard spice in the ally pan and remove it at the end. I've tried aniseed ground bought in a packet to save me the time of grinding it but the flavour gets very diluted even with a lot in so one or two star aniseed whole do a better job. You could also bias your spiced oil with aniseed/fennel.

Madras is my fav and it's pretty basic hot but tasty curry really with room to put your own distinguishing note on it, some like lemon, lots of coriander, aniseed background and so on.

After 8-10 years I've got a consistent BIR flavour coming through even with just a standard madras mix power. I've been down the road of trying this and that many times in the early days.

Offline britishcurries

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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2020, 07:05 PM »
There's a few BIR near me that use aniseed/fennel in their madras. Depends what you've experienced. I like the addition and have known it being used since the 90s but wouldn't say it's essential or part of a classic nationwide madras. Some do some don't and I use it on and off and still get the lovely cooked BIR madras flavour without.

Fenugreek powder is another nice addition, I think it adds a certain smell and smokey flavour of BIR in general and I also use leaves mostly. In my mix powder I use kashmiri powder.

With aniseed I just use the hard spice in the ally pan and remove it at the end. I've tried aniseed ground bought in a packet to save me the time of grinding it but the flavour gets very diluted even with a lot in so one or two star aniseed whole do a better job. You could also bias your spiced oil with aniseed/fennel.

Madras is my fav and it's pretty basic hot but tasty curry really with room to put your own distinguishing note on it, some like lemon, lots of coriander, aniseed background and so on.

After 8-10 years I've got a consistent BIR flavour coming through even with just a standard madras mix power. I've been down the road of trying this and that many times in the early days.

Nice. Madras is my fav too. Do you mind posting your favourite recipe and method? I stumbled across an "ultimate" madras thread and this was the ingredient list:

1Tb - Green Pepper (finely chopped)
1Tb - Onion (finely chopped)
1ts - Hot Chilli Powder
1ts - Deggi Mirch
1ts - Kashmiri Chilli Powder
1Tb - Mix Powder
1ts - Fenugreek Leaves (rubbed between fingers)
1ts - Cumin Powder
2ts - Lemon Juice
2ts - Garlic Pureed
1ts - Ginger Pureed
2Tb - Blended Tinned Toms
1Tb - Coriander
1/4ts - Salt
4 drops of worcester sauce
6Tb - Reclaimed oil
350ml - Base sauce

I wonder how yours compares.  :like:

Offline livo

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Re: Spice mixes and all things spices
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2020, 08:05 AM »
There really is nothing extraordinary about that list of ingredients.  Have you cooked it? 

I'd say the 3 different chilli powders are unnecessary but up to you and a matter of personal preference.  The biggest variables there are the mixed powder, base gravy and spiced oil.   Nobody is going to be able to tell you what to do there other than to use your own favourites. I read an interesting thing the other day that said to dry roast your Kasuri Methi before adding it to your curry.  It is meant to increase the flavour and aroma.  It is something I'm going to try next curry.
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