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Curry Leaves and Powder

While often confused as one and the same, curry powder and curry leaves aren't in fact related to each other. It's true that both are widely used in Indian cooking, but that's where their similarities end. Curry powder is a spicy blend traditionally made up of ground turmeric, chilli and cumin, while the leaves gain their name not for their taste, but for their extensive use in curry dishes. 

We pick these herbaceous leaves from a small, deciduous tree called Murraya Koenigii that is native to India and Sri Lanka and which also grow wild in the foothills of the Himalayas. They are steeped or crushed to release the flavour and should be removed before serving.

Flavour profile

Inside each glossy green curry leaf is a burst of flavour just waiting to come out, with a warming, slightly bitter bite and lemony undertones. Sold whole, bruising or crushing in a pestle and mortar will unleash their distinct flavour which is likened to a citrusy anise or lemon grass. 
A mainstay in South Indian cooking, curry leaves are used in much the same way as the West uses bay leaves. Curry powder on the other hand is a spice blend with varying degrees of hotness and flavour, and serves as a base to curry cooking - adding a robust, fragrant taste.

Best in…

Both curry leaves and curry powder work very well in meaty and vegetarian curries. Try adding curry powder to your lentil dhal, or stir it into boiled rice to add extra flavour to a tasty pilaf dish. 

Alternatively, add curry powder to a mix of lime juice and olive oil, seasoning to taste before using to marinate salmon fillets.
Lots of recipes call for the distinct flavour of curry leaves. Bring it out by frying them in a little oil, being sure not to burn the leaf, before adding to toasted cumin seeds, chilli and ginger. Fry with chicken, cream and butter and leave to slow cook on the hob for a tasty curried dish.

Did you know?

- Curry leaves are a herb, while curry powder is a blend of spices
- Curry leaves are believed in folk lore to stimulate hair growth if mixed with oil and added to the scalp – but we definitely wouldn’t recommend it!