Meanwhile their wives are busy with the daily task of preparing curry – no fiery curry-powder, but a delicious compound of many pleasant vegetables, seasoned with pepper, turmeric, green ginger, chillies, &c, but above all, made fresh and wholly different every morning, and served with coconut, prawn, cucumbers, all manner of other excellent dainties, served in different dishes, as we serve vegetables, forming combinations to rejoice the heart of an epicure. The principal glory of a Singhalese cook lies in the endless variety of his curries; a very desirable characteristic in a dish which forms a necessary conclusion to every meal, and on which you learn to count as a necessity.

C.F. Gordon Cumming

Two Happy Years in Ceylon

As you will see from my recipes, I like to give you the quantities of spices for each recipe and encourage you to grind them fresh. Each dish has its particular blend of spices so just using a standard preparation will not get you the flavour you want in the dish.

That being said, there are two standard blends you can make in quantity and store.

Roasted spice mix

This is what I use for meat curries.

100 g coriander seed

50 g cumin seed

50 g fennel seed

Put your spices into a frying pan without oil on a high heat. You need to shake the pan from time to time to allow all of the spice to be roasted. What’s happening when you do this is a Maillard reaction, similar to what’s commonly called caramelising except it is more complex than that, resulting in the creation of new flavour compounds from the source material.

Roast them until the they begin to turn brown and release their scents. Keep shaking the pan as you roast so that the spices don’t burn.

How dark you roast them from here depends on what you are using them for. Some cooks and recipes call for roasting only until the aromas are released, which is fine for meats that need less spicing to complement the depth of their flavour.

When I use roasted spices, the gamier the meat – goat, venison, rabbit – the darker I roast the spices. Chicken also needs roasted spices, being at the bland end of the meat spectrum

When they a roasted to your taste, take the frypan off the fire. The spices will keep roasting in the heat from the pan so you may need to give another shake or two.

When the spice mix has cooled down grind it fine.

Store in a jar with a good seal or a ziplock plastic bag. You can store this in a cupboard – you don’t need to put it in the fridge. It will keep for months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unroasted spice mix

This is what I use for meat curries.

100 g coriander seed

50 g cumin seed

50 g fennel seed

1 tsp fenugreek seed

Grind together very fine.

Store in a jar with a good seal or a ziplock plastic bag. You can store this in a cupboard – you don’t need to put it in the fridge. This also will keep for months.

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