This is Raghavan Iyer’s version of a “typical” curry powder. The recipe can be found on pages 24 and 25 of his book, 660 Curries. Many curry recipes (though not this one) call for the seeds and peppercorns to be be dry roasted in a pan over medium heat until aromatic.
If you do this, shake the pan constantly to avoid burning the spices, and err on the side of under-roasting. Additionally, you must allow the roasted seeds and peppercorns to return to room temperature before grinding; otherwise, moisture from the warm air will incorporate into the spice mixture and make it clump, and the moisture will mar the flavor. Never roast turmeric; the reason it is not even put in the grinder in this recipe is for fear the heat of the grinding process will release bad-tasting by-products. If you buy a commercial curry powder substitute, choose a hot curry powder, which means the chilies are included. The advantage to making your own is you can control the heat to your taste, of course.
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
½ tsp whole cloves
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
5-7 dried red Thai or cayenne chilies, to taste, stems removed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1. Place all the ingredients except the turmeric in a spice grinder or coffee grinder, and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper. Stir in the turmeric (which will give the mixture its characteristic yellow hue).
2. Store the blend in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to 2 months. Do not refrigerate.
Makes 1/3 cup.