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Cooking with Ground Spices

Asian food made eas…

I’ve been thinking once again about Asian dishes which use ready ground spices in their recipes as opposed to freshly ground spices and ‘wet’ curry pastes. There are, I suppose two schools of thought when making curries, I have long advocated the use of freshly ground spices and the vast majority of my curries use a wet paste as a base but some years ago I came across a recipe for the Singapore/Indian classic Kari Kapitan which used a mixture of ready ground spices including turmeric, coriander, paprika, garlic and cumin. This was something of a revelation for me, it showed how effective ready ground spices can be given the correct quantities and, importantly their quality.

My argument against ready ground spices has been a matter of shelf life, quality inevitably suffers after a period, particularly when a spice has not been stored properly and their flavour diminishes. If care has been taken with their shelf life then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be used more for their practicality if nothing else.

Some wet mixes do use pre ground spices, in the West turmeric is almost always dried and ground but this is more of an exception compared to say cumin or coriander. What I have been thinking about once again are the dishes which omit the paste all together and use a specific ground mix instead. Essentially this is a type of garam masala or curry powder and you can treat them as such. The fun is in the making of a bespoke mix which suits your specific needs. There are some wonderful mixes to try, each country has at least one curry powder mix which is relevant to their heritage. Search out ones from Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia and you can see subtle differences but diferences nonetheless.

Here’s a recipe for a curry powder, I rarely stick to any one in particuar, ingredients and quantities depend on my mood but this should give you an idea:

Sri Lankan Curry Powder

2 tsps ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground fennel


  1. greedydave says:

    I must admit that I don’t find grinding spices to order that much of a chore so I’ve never felt the need to buy ready-ground spices. My little Moulinex coffee grinder works a treat! But I do remember seeing Floyd On India (or something) where ground masalas were sold at markets everyday, so there’s obviously something in it that I’m not understanding.

    One of the things that I miss about Manchester are the many Indian/Pakistani grocery stores and my big bags of TRS spices! You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.


    PS. C’mon Armenia!!! Pappa needs a new pair of shoes. (Eurovision rant)

    May 16, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  2. Melissa says:


    Because of your influence regarding spices and herbs, I bought a Kuhn Rikon Swiss spice grinder and a nice mortar and pestle several months ago. I’ve been sourcing wonderful whole spices and sea salts and grinding my own blends. I’ve never made my own curry powder, but with your recipe, now I’ll give it a try.

    You have no idea how much information you’ve passed along to me and how much I appreciate it. I have printed out some of your spice and herb comments and have them taped on the inside door of my spice cabinet. Things like “tomato based soups love tarragon, basil, rosemary and oregano.” Or, “things from a pod love chives, mint, lemon balm and parsley.” Not to mention the whole post you did on green cardamom.

    Thanks, Miles. You’ve definitely had an impact on this amateur cook — all the way across the ocean!


    May 17, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

  3. miles says:

    Coffee grinders are just fine, I’ve often seen these huge piles of different masala’s on my travels, quite intoxicating and a brilliant idea.


    May 17, 2009 @ 8:09 pm

  4. miles says:

    That’s great to hear, thank you. Have a go at flavoured sea salt, I mix mine with all sorts; lemon, chilli, thyme, oregano, bay, fennel… the list is endless.


    May 17, 2009 @ 8:11 pm

  5. Cid says:


    Miles is like a walking encyclopedia on food. I never tire of all the ideas he has on recipes, in fact I read them all the more. Now that we have you as well with nutritional advice, how can we go wrong. There are many things I look forward to every day but checking in to both blogs is a must for me, addictive reading and friendly banter…. I love it.


    May 17, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

  6. Melissa says:


    Thanks, I’ll tape your salt comments inside my spice cabinet as well. You’ll have a whole tribute to your culinary knowledge on the backside of the cabinet door! I’ll have to send you a photo one of these days.



    Yes, Miles is the go-to man for anything food related. Not to mention his intellectual narration and spicy sense of humor. I appreciate even being mentioned in the same paragraph. Thank you.

    Visiting here is one of the first things I do at 4 AM once my dog is fed and I have my coffee and coconut milk. And then I obsessively check back several times a day for comment updates. Sometimes the blog repartee is the highlight of my day. And not because I have a boring life, but because you are all so charming and entertaining.

    P.S. Well, maybe my life is a touch boring, but that’s not why I find such joy in your wit!

    May 17, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

  7. Anne says:

    Please forgive me if this is a dumb question? I have 2 types of paprika in my cupboard, one sweet and one sharp. Which one of these should I use in your mix, please?
    Flavoured salt? What a great idea. Melissa is right, there is so much to be learned here. Thank you.

    May 18, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  8. miles says:

    Use the sharp version for a fuller flavour, there are different types of paprika depending on the variety of pepper used. I particularly like Hungarian paprika and hot Spanish paprika.
    They’re worth seasrching out.


    May 18, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

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