Fragrant Caribbean Curry Powder
Caribbean curry powder packs the flavour punch of its British and South African counterparts without the heat. This delicious blend is redolent with fragrant spices. It’s rich in gingery, spicy kick, without a hint of chilli. This is because the heat in West Indian curries comes from fresh chillis added when cooking!
One of the easiest ways to improve your cooking is to concoct your own spice blends. Store-bought blends offer lots of convenience. And, in an age where our time is at a premium, they are super tempting.
However, experience has taught me that the limited time it takes to create one’s own spice blends is time well spent. Most spice blends come together in well under an hour. However, the flavour punch they pack is incomparable. Thanks to their taste, you can prepare simpler every day food that still tastes exquisite.
Homemade vs. Store Bought: Is there a difference?
If you’re anything like me, you have more tasks than time. That seems to be the nature of modern life. Thus, it’s only natural that you would question the need to make homemade spice blends. It seems like a fussy, unnecessary thing to do.
I would be the first to agree that when you are truly under the gun a store-bought blend can be a lifesaver. That having been said, homemade spice blends come together in mere minutes. So, it’s worthwhile to organise yourself to whip up a blend or two when you have a tiny bit of free time. Why?
The answer is simple. The vast majority of store-bought blends contain lots of inexpensive fillers. These fillers are less expensive spices — such as chilli, cinnamon or turmeric. While these spices are tasty, they throw off the delicate balance of traditional blends.
Moreover, spices go stale very quickly. When they are stale, the flavour slowly fades away. This is especially true of ground spices. That’s why cooks who use a lot of spices buy in limited quantities (6 months or less at a time) and do not toast and grind spices until they’re ready to be used. When you purchase spices at the supermarket, you have no idea how long those spices have been sitting around ground. Hence, you’re a little clueless as to how much to use to achieve the flavour you seek.
On the other hand, when you prepare and grind your own spices, you can not only adjust your personal blend to your family’s tastes, you also control the age of the blend. This is the reason I recommend preparing blends (such as this one) in limited quantities. Hopefully, you can use a cup of Caribbean curry powder within three months. Then, you can prepare a fresh blend when you’re ready to cook West Indian food again!
What Is Caribbean Curry Powder?
Caribbean curry powder is a product of the Indian diaspora in the West Indies. As Indians flocked to the West Indies for opportunities on the sugar estates, they brought their own culinary traditions along. However, people from villages across the sub-continent suddenly found themselves thrown together in a new land, where some of their traditional ingredients were unavailable. The result was a “creolisation” of their cuisine — meaning people shared recipes and flavours, and experimented with seasonings available in the West Indies to develop a new cuisine. Hence, Caribbean curries echo traditional Indian flavours. However, they are profoundly influenced by the Africans, Europeans, Native Americans, and ingredients that Indians found when they reached the new world.
In the case of this Caribbean curry powder, it contains plenty of turmeric (from India) and allspice, which is native to the Caribbean. To this day, Caribbean people love the flavour of allspice, which is one of the foundations of Jamaica’s famed jerk chicken.
Moreover, this curry powder contains no chilli whatsoever. West Indian cooks tend to make generous use of habañero (scotch bonnet) chillis to add heat to their food. The curry powder, on the other hand, is there — like so many Indian masalas — to add flavour.
About the recipe
Remember that fresher spices taste better. That cardamom that’s been hanging around your cupboard from the stollen you made three Christmases ago? I’m sorry to say it probably ought to be tossed. The fresher the spices, the better the flavour.
Unlike wine, spices don’t age well. Their flavour just slowly fades away. So, pleas take this lesson on board and jettison the outdated spices. From here on out, try to purchase no more of any spice than you will use in a six month period. Trust me, you will thank me later.
As I’ve said many times before, I am not fond of any “unnecessary” cooking steps. For those with my inclinations, toasting spices may seem like a waste of time. However, you ought to reconsider.
Toasting whole spices releases their flavourful oils and enhances the flavour of the finished blend. Hence, it’s important step — even if it takes 5 minutes or so to execute and another 10 minutes for the spices to cool. Please don’t get tempted to skip this critical step!
Please don’t be intimidated by the grinding required! If you have a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee grinder you can grind spices. If you find yourself grinding spices more often, you will ultimately want a designated grinder.
In the meantime, you can clean the oils and coffee fragrance out of your electric grinder by grinding a batch of white rice and cleaning the bowl and blades thoroughly. Repeat the process when you’re finished with your spices, and the grinder will be ready for coffee again.
Caribbean curry powder is the perfect seasoning for any recipe that calls for “curry powder”. Simply remember to add any additional chilli heat with cayenne pepper or fresh chillies. I hope you love this blend every bit as much as my family does. Bon appétit!
Recipes Using Caribbean Curry Powder
|Creamy Caribbean Curry Dip|
|Caribbean Oxtail Curry from the Instant Pot|