My brother’s daughter had this clever idea for my Christmas present to do some shopping at a local market that sells Indian food.
She knows how fond I am of Indian cuisine.
She bought a large bag of whole garam masala, one of the various spice mixtures called for in Indian cooking, and perhaps my favorite. I am familiar with the ground garam masala – I have been working my way through a gallon jar of it -- but not with the whole version.
At first glance, it looks very much like common garden-variety pickling spice, but one sniff and you know this is not pickling spice.
I was not sure what to do with this bag of spices, but I found a recipe for a pear-avocado salad that calls for a syrup made by simmering the whole garam masala in sugar. I made this and it was quite nice. I fed it to my first luncheon victim in February.
Another item in the Christmas box was a packet of curry powder. I assume my niece is aware that that – just like in the United States – there are many regional styles of cooking in the huge country that is India. Perhaps she was not aware that there are also many different varieties of spices from these various regions that are blended and called “curry powder.”
Did she have any idea what she was buying when she picked up the packet of “Madras Sambar Powder?”
Probably not. In any event, I certainly had no idea what a surprise it was going to be when I started adding it to the recipe for curried kidney beans that I was making from my Indian cookbook (had I gone online and looked at any of the several recipes for curried kidney beans that have been posted, this adventure in cooking would have been avoided).
Curried kidney beans? Does that sound yucky??
Don’t yuck too quickly. The ingredients in my recipe are nearly identical to any basic recipe for Mexican style chili beans – onions, beans, tomatoes, fresh green chili, and even some chili powder -- but it tastes totally different from chili because of the various other spices and ingredients.
The recipe called for 2 tablespoons of curry paste, which I did not have, so I added 2 teaspoons of the curry powder my niece sent me. When I had it made, I took a state and there was a bit of heat, which I thought was from the green chili, but not much of a traditional “curry” taste, so I added 2 more teaspoons and gave it a stir.
The main ingredient of this curry powder appears to be ground red pepper. It made for a very…very lively meal.