Indian Curry Powder: Fine Cuisine and Ayurvedic Medicine
Indian Curry Powder: Fine Cuisine and Ayurvedic Medicine
While many imagine that curry powder is delivered late at night by the curry fairy, in reality the powder is a blend of many different spices. Unlike curry paste, curry powder will not keep well, so for the most nutrition, grind seeds immediately before using. A premium curry blend (called Garam Masala) will contain most of the following ingredients in roughly equal parts:
* Caraway – Carum carvi (Apiaceae)
Caraway contains Limonene, a volatile oil also found in citrus plants. Caraway is one of the oldest spices and was historically known as a cure all. It boosts the immune system while soothing irritated skin. Mixed with olive oil it is used as a rub to treat bronchitis, sore throat, colds, toothaches and eye infections. Chewing caraway seeds will help fresh the breath. Caraway helps fight cancer of the breast, liver and gall bladder. Caraway has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.
* Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare (Apiaceae)
Fennel seeds contain the antioxidants Anethole, Rutin, Quercetin, and Kaempferol, along with vitamin C, Fiber, Folate and Potassium. Fennel boosts the immune system, helps lower blood pressure and reduces the toxic effects of food additives like BHT. Fennel helps fight cancer of the colon. Fennel has antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-tumor effects.
* Fenugreek – Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fabaceae)
Fenugreek contains the antioxidant Choline, an alkaloid, along with vitamin A, B1, C, Iron, Fiber and Protein. Fenugreek helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Fenugreek contains mucilage that has therapeutic effects on the skin, throat, lungs, stomach and colon. Fenugreek has anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and antibacterial effects.
* Cinnamon – Cinnamomum verum, (Lauraceae)
Cinnamon contains the powerful antioxidants Cinnamaldehyde, Cinnamyl acetate, and Cinnamyl alcohol, along with Manganese, Fiber, Iiron and Calcium. Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar and is used to treat diabetes and boost memory function. Studies have shown that taking ½ tsp per day of cinnamon will both relieve arthritis and lower cholesterol. Cinnamon helps fight cancer of the blood. Cinnamon has antibacterial and anti-clotting effects.
* Clove – Eugenia caryophyllus (Myrtaceae)
Clove contains the antioxidant Eugenol, a volatile oil that has been used to treat joint and skin inflammation and as a natural topical pain killer. Cloves help fight cancer of the digestive tract. Cloves have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects and make a great mouth wash and sore throat spray.
* Nutmeg – Myristica fragrans (Myristicaceae)
Nutmeg contains the antioxidant Eugenol along with vitamin A and Potassium. Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a brain tonic, Nutmeg is said to calm the nervous system, relieve stress and stimulate mental activity, concentration and dreaming. Nutmeg was used in China to relieve stomach pain and arthritis. Nutmeg oil can be used as a topical skin ointment to increase circulation, relieve pain and stimulate the liver and kidneys along with removing kidney stones. Though toxic in high doses (don’t use the whole jar at once), nutmeg treats respiratory problems including coughing and asthma and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
* Cardamom – Elletaria cardamomum (Zingiberaceae)
Cardamom contains the antioxidant Cineole that is another cure all. Cardamom detoxifies the body, boosts the immune system, calms the nervous system, and is also used to treat asthma, digestion problems and urinary tract infections. Chewing the seeds will help freshen the breath. Helps fight cancer of the kidneys and stomach.
* Turmeric – Curcuma longa (Zingiberaceae)
Turmeric (aka Curcumin) contains the antioxidant Curcuma, a yellow pigment. Turmeric is a natural pain killer that detoxifies the liver. Turmeric has been used to treat arthritis along with many disorders of the nervous system including depression. Turmeric can help relieve psoriasis and boosts metabolic function, reducing body fat. Turmeric is used to treat multiple sclerosis, leukemia, melanoma and Alzheimer’s disease. When combined with cauliflower, it helps prevent and fight cancer of the prostate, pancreas, lung and liver. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
In most curry blends the above ingredients are mixed with Red Pepper, Garlic, and Coriander (see my article Homemade Superfood II: Guacamole and the Science of Salsa for more information on those items).
Indian cuisine mixes the Garam Masala spice blend with slow-cooked meats and vegetables and it is served with Basmati rice and leavened bread called nan. Here are some of the healthy basics:
* Mutter (Peas) – Pisum sativum (Papilionaceae)
Green peas contain the antioxidant Lutein, a carotenoid, along with vitamin C, Iron and Protein. Peas help maintain good vision and treat macular degeneration and cataracts. Peas help lower cholesterol and detoxify the liver.
* Palak (Spinach) – Spinacea oleracea (Chenopodiaceae)
Spinach contains the antioxidant Lipoic acid, along with vitamin C, E, Beta carotene, Protein and Fiber. Spinach helps maintain good vision and prevents cataract development and macular degeneration. Spinach helps fight heart disease and lowers cholesterol. Cooked spinach loses most of its nutritional value so it should be lightly cooked or eaten raw.
* Tamarind – Tamarindus indica L. (Fabaceae)
Tamarind is a fruit that contains the antioxidant Pectin, along with vitamin C, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Thiamine and Riboflavin and a good source of Niacin. Tamarind is used to lower blood sugar and treat heart disease and diabetes. Tamarind is used as an antidote to certain poisons as it detoxifies the liver. Tamarind helps fight skin cancer as a topical agent. Tamarind has antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
* Yogurt – L. cassesi (Lactobaccilus)
Yogurt is a great source of Calcium, vitamin B2, B12, B5, Zinc, Potassium and Protein. Yogurt provides quality fat while also adding healthy active bacteria such as acidopholis and lactobacillus casei. Adding plain yogurt to a meal assists the digestive process.
Recipe for Paneer
Paneer is homemade cheese that is made by simply mixing milk and lemon juice (or vinegar). The cheese has a solid texture that is ideal for mixing cheese cubes with vegetables.
* 1 quart organic milk
* ½ tsp lemon juice or citric acid (dissolved in 2 Tbsp water) – or 1.5 tsp vinegar
* Heat milk in saucepan to just below the boiling point and skim.
* Add lemon juice (or vinegar or citric acid).
* When milk curdles remove from heat for 5 minutes.
* Pour mixture onto cheese cloth and tie in a knot.
* Drain water and shape into rectangular block.
* Place cloth under weight for 2-3 hours.
* Refrigerate and slice as needed.
Recipe for Palak Paneer (Spinach with Homemade Cheese)
* 1 cup of Basmati rice
* 1 cup of paneer (cubed)
* 1 pound of spinach (substitute peas for mutter paneer)
* 1 fresh tomato (or use homemade salsa)
* 2 cloves garlic
* ½ cup of spring water
* 2 Tbsp of indian curry powder blend (see section 1).
* Prepare rice (optionally with 2 bay leaves or 1 whole clove).
* Sautee garlic in cast iron skillet.
* Add spice blend and water and stir.
* Add spinach and tomato and reduce heat.
* Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally as spinach wilts.
* Add paneer last to avoid overcooking and simmer 5 minutes.
* Serve on top of rice with lemon, yoghurt and Tabasco sauce on the side.
* For homemade nan, see my recipe for spelt bread.
About the author
Neil McLaughlin is a computer scientist and inventor specializing in 3d graphics and simulation.
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