Its always thrilling to win something in a giveaway, even more so if its a reward for a winning entry in a contest (that way you know you've earned it & the satisfaction is that much more sweeter).
It may or may not be a surprise that lot of native Tamil speaking individuals from madras (present day Chennai) have probably never heard of or ever used this spice blend in their cooking, never mind what the marketing gurus claim! and it most definitely is never called as Madras curry powder. You'll be hard pressed to find this blend used daily in many Chennai households!
This blend probably results from an amalgamation of spice ideas that kind of got 'optimized' (for lack of a better word) for an Anglo/British palate keeping in mind typical English food that discovered a new twist when it was saucily spiced up by native spices. The other blend that comes to mind is the Vadouvan blend that was developed in neighboring Pondicherry by les Francaise (Pondicherry was a French territory in the midst of a British ruled South India).
The combination of fenugreek & mustard give it an unmistakable aroma that is so reminiscent of South Indian dishes (Fenugreek & mustard are mandatory ingredients in most south Indian Pickles, as well as classic gravies such as Sambhar & kuzhambu).
The spice blend is primarily used to flavor meat dishes such as chicken & lamb, but also find application in vegetarian gravy dishes. These entrees are usually paired with plain rice which is the carb staple of choice in the Southern Indian states.
I owe a vote of thanks to Ms. Monica Bhide for organizing the 'build-us-a-spicy-cocktail' contest and Williams-Sonoma for sponsoring some of the prizes, including this jar of Madras curry powder I incorporated into this dish.
Spiced Vegetable Rice
3 cups cooked Basmati rice
1/2 cup Diced or julienned carrots
1/2 cup Frozen green peas (I used sugar snap peas)
1/3 cup finely julienned sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup sliced red onions
2 tablespoons Ghee
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper powder (optional)
Salt to taste
1 - 1.5 tablespoon Williams Sonoma Madras Curry powder
1/3 cup Finely chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Heat the ghee in a skillet and add the onions to saute. When they begin turning translucent and a light shade of pink, add the salt, the (optional ) cayenne pepper powder, carrots, peas & the sun-dried tomatoes. Saute on medium heat till the vegetables are soft. Add the madras Curry powder, mix to blend the spice blend with the vegetables, switch off the heat & cover (you do not want the spices to get cooked. The heat from the vegetables is sufficient to warm it & release the flavors).
Ladle the warm rice onto a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetables & fold into the rice, rotating the mixing bowl around for uniformity. To finish, drizzle with the lemon juice.
Transfer to a serving dish, ad garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve warm accompanied with a raita of your choice on the side.