Flavor from afar Mixed blessing: A variety of spices comes together to form the international culinary phenomenon know as curry.

April 24, 1996|By Judith Blake | Judith Blake,SEATTLE TIMES

It's the flavor of faraway places.

Taste the mingled spices of curry and images of India come to mind. Or maybe Thailand, Burma or Morocco.

In all of these lands and more, curry has made its mark, seasoning many of the most memorable dishes.

Not a single spice, curry is a varying mixture of spices. Dishes made with curry are called curries.

Spices commonly used in curry include coriander, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, mustard, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cayenne and chili powder. Some or all of these and others may be used.

India gets credit for originating the spice combinations now known as curry, probably before 2500 B.C.

But in India, cooks use their own mixtures, and vary them depending on the dish they're making, instead of using the commercial curry powders or pastes found in this country. Although some consider those home-kitchen variations the heart of curry cooking, commercial products available here can provide good flavors and greater convenience.

In the following recipes using curry powder, you have a choice: You can use a commercial product or make your own curry powder, an easy task. Just dry the whole spices -- coriander seeds, cloves and four others -- briefly in the oven, then cool them, combine with four ground spices and grind all in a spice mill.

Curry powders are found in store spice sections. Pastes -- red, yellow or green -- are stocked in ethnic-food sections.

When tried in our test kitchen, the pastes seemed a little less harsh in flavor than the powders. They were all medium-hot.

Ethiopian chicken stew

Makes 6 servings

1 (2 1/2 -3 pound) cut-up best-of-fryer chicken

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, divided

3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon flour

3 cups cooked white rice

Remove the skin from the chicken. Combine 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 cups water. Place the chicken in the lemon-water and let soak 15 minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the paprika, cayenne, ginger, black pepper and salt. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 40 minutes or until cooked through, stirring the chicken occasionally.

Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and let cool slightly. Remove the chicken meat from bone and pull into coarse shreds.

Combine the flour with 2 tablespoons each lemon juice and water. Bring the cooking liquid back to a boil and add the flour mixture. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, until thickened. Put the chicken back into the sauce and let sit 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the chicken and sauce over rice.

Per serving: calories 332; protein 21 g; fat 12 g; carbohydrates 34 g; sodium 227 g; saturated fat 2 g; monounsaturated fat 6 g; polyunsaturated fat 3 g; cholesterol 55 mg

From "The African Cookbook" by Bea Sandler

Curried roast vegetables

Makes 4 servings

2 baking potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and then across, each quarter cut into 4 wedges

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

2 medium-size onions, peeled and cut into wedges

3 medium carrots, peeled, sliced crosswise into 1/2 -inch pieces

1/4 pound green beans, ends trimmed, snapped in half

6 cloves garlic, peeled

2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 (14-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained and crushed

1 cup vegetable broth

freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 cups cooked white rice

Place the rack in the center of the oven. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Put the potatoes into an 18-by-13-by-2-inch roasting pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil; rub the potatoes and pan with the oil. Cook 15 minutes; remove from the oven.

Push the potatoes to the sides of the pan. In the center, add the onions, carrots, green beans, garlic and bell peppers. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast 15 minutes longer.

Combine the curry powder with the tomatoes and toss with the vegetables. Roast 15 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and transfer to a large serving bowl. (Cover loosely with aluminum foil.) Put the pan over high heat and add the broth. Bring to a boil, scraping the pan to remove any crispy bits, reducing the broth by half. Add pepper and lime juice.

Pour the sauce over the vegetables. Serve warm over rice.

Per serving: calories 394; protein 8 g; fat 12 g; carbohydrates 67 g; sodium 717 mg; -- From "Roasting -- A Simple Art" by Barbara Kafka

Homemade curry powder

Makes about 1 cup

3 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 to 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

Put the whole spices (coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves and fenugreek seeds) in a shallow roasting pan or jelly roll pan. Dry in a 200-degree oven 15 minutes, taking care that they do not burn.

Remove from the oven, cool and grind with the ground spices in a spice mill. Transfer to a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool dark cupboard.

Per 1-teaspoon serving: calories 6; protein 0 g; fat 0 g; carbohydrates 0 g; sodium 1 mg; -- From "A World of Curries" by Dave DeWitt and Arthur Pais

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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