The 3 Green C's: Coriander, Cumin and Curry
I decided to group these three spices together for this post as you will start to notice them being mentioned in my recipes. Interestingly they all begin with the letter C and are all greenish brown in color hence the title for this post! In a typical curry dish you can start to add these in as well as the Magic Three (see my post on Three Spice Magic) but of course feel free to experiment with your seasonings. It all depends on which flavors you prefer and want standing out. For example, I recently tried out a recipe for Palak Paneer (spinach and traditional Indian cheese) and the only spices were cumin and chili, and I can assure you it was absolutely delicious! Simple is always better and you don’t want to go crazy with your spices either that it masks rather than complimenting the flavor of the food. Feel free to mix and match, anywhere from one to five spices I’d say!
Coriander powder is made by grinding roasted coriander seeds, similar to garam masala, see my post on whole spices // garam masala. As I mentioned in that post the seeds are roasted to release the aromatic flavors. After having a taste of the spice, coriander powder almost tastes sweet, fruity and flowery! You can make your own coriander powder at home by roasting and grinding the seeds. I’m yet to try this but fresh is always better!
Cumin powder is also made by grinding down the roasted seed. It has a warm, earthy and distinct flavor. It tastes absolutely delicious with any vegetables and adds that level of warmth. You can also make your own cumin powder at home by roasting and grinding the seeds.
Curry powder isn’t as simple as I thought it was, so brace yourselves for this, I was going about my life thinking chili powder is made from chili, turmeric powder is made from turmeric, (baby powder is made from babies) and so curry powder is made from curry leaves.
BUT NO. It is a SPICE BLEND that MAY OR MAY NOT contain curry leaves. What we know today as ‘curry powder’ is actually a British construct invented to mimic the general flavor of Indian food. This spice blend can contain spices like turmeric, chili, coriander, cumin ginger, mustard, cinnamon, cardamom etc. Now I’m just about coming to terms with this and still processing my emotions over this (the history of Britain and India, colonization, the spice trade, appropriation and racism makes me mad, what can I say) but I feel not enough people know about this. It isn’t traditional to South Asian cooking rather it was made in the west, similar to generalizing Indian food with the word ‘Curry’.
I think I inherently knew this, because when I’d be cooking, I didn’t really see the point of using curry powder because the food already tasted like ‘a curry’ because I’d already put in the spices that make up a curry powder! So, in terms of cooking South Asian food, I’m not gonna boycott curry powder and tell you to do so too, but I would just advise that if you're already using a few spices you can skip on the curry powder or just use a little to enhance the flavor. Or you can do it the other way, begin with the curry powder and see if you need anything else.
To conclude I’d say question everything, do your own research, understand the history of things and read the label, it can do you wonders!