Curry powder, the spice-mix associated with the British in India and their attempts to recreate the flavours of the curries that they had grown to love, never became a part of the India kitchen. Indian cooks continued to roast and grind spices as and when they were needed, adding individual spices in varying proportions to different dishes, turning up their noses at these readymade powders.

But some curry powders, like Bolst’s, had personality. They added a special flavour to many dishes and created a following of their own, and continue to survive on the shelves of modern supermarkets. Dreamt up by Eliot Bolst, an intriguing character from the days of the Raj –a former tanner, crocodile and tiger hunter –the perfect blue tins with their distinctive orange logo contain a spice blend of coriander, turmeric, chilies, mustard, ginger, cumin and fenugreek, a recipe unchanged since 1932. The spices are roasted and beautifully blended, adding flavour and fragrance to curries and fries of prawn, chicken and mutton that has made Bolst’s a cult classic. When the Bolst family migrated to Australia, the business changes hands; the current third generation owner, Vinoo Matthew, vouches that the magic spice formula remains the same. There’s a Bolst recipe on its way.

Image Credits: Nithin Sagi

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is an author and widely published independent writer on heritage, food and wine. She is the author of The Vanishing Kodavas, an acclaimed cultural study of the Kodava people, and a collection of Kodava poems, A Place Apart, Poems from Kodagu. Kaveri is an acknowledged authority on Kodava culture, history and food traditions.

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