Some of you may know that I never attended culinary school. My professional training has been strictly on the job, learning from chefs who take it upon themselves to teach their employees well. Even before that, however, my culinary education was more self-directed (in keeping with my liberal arts education, I suppose). Every so often I would try a new cuisine and love it so much that I felt compelled to teach myself how to cook it. I would scour local libraries for cookbooks (this is before the internet), search all the grocery stores for the proper ingredients, and get to work cooking whatever I could.
My first discovery was Thai food, but I think that my exploration of Indian cuisine was my most in-depth. During the two years we lived in Portland it seems I must have made Indian food for almost 50% of all my dinners. And much of it was made completely from scratch. I made my own ghee, chutneys, breads, paneer, and of course my own spice blends. I was very lucky to have several great Indian groceries within driving distance, but none of them ever seemed to carry fresh curry leaves. Curry leaves are the one ingredient that is a must for a true curry powder, in my opinion. I was pleasantly surprised to find them readily available when I moved to New York, and since then I’ve always had some homemade curry powder in my kitchen. Having the proper ingredients really makes a difference. I have toned down the spiciness since the kids have been born, but it still beats any other commercially produced brand. Once I get it all organized I hope to actually sell it someday.