I would like some tips on how to increase the flavor of curries, since it often seems to be missing something. I have been spoiled by the taste of food at Indian restaurants, and homemade does not seem as good. Have tried several kinds of curry powder, but cannot use very much because it is too hot. It often also has a strong flavor that changes my palate and everything after that tastes bitter. I don't know if that is because of too much pepper, cinnamon, or cloves or what exactly. It seemed like maybe the curry powder was bad or old, but I don't think so because I have gotten the same effect from several different brands of powder. I also get the same effect from Thai curry paste.
The logical thing of course would be to add the spices individually rather than using a store-bought curry powder. However, we have tried many recipes we have found online, including those that had good reviews, but they just seem to lack flavor. So then we naturally add curry powder to try to boost flavor which sometimes helps and sometimes doesn't. I am thinking that I should increase the amount of spices that I like and use less of the ones that are not my favorites. But I don't know by how much I could increase it without ruining the dish. The spices I would like to increase would be cumin, coriander, turmeric, and perhaps fenugreek seeds or leaves, fennel seeds, mustard seeds and asafetida, but primarily the first three.
So let's say I was making a really basic curry with 1 cup lentils or chickpeas (plus the requisite amount of water or broth), one large potato, 1 cup of tomatoes, 1 can of coconut milk or cream, and perhaps another cup of some other vegetable, along with ginger, garlic, onion, and coriander leaves (I kind of know how much to use of the last four ingredients). What would be a good amount of spices for strong flavor but not too hot? One recipe I found with similar amounts of vegetables said to use 2 teaspoons of cumin and 1 teaspoon each of coriander and turmeric. Another one said 2 teaspoons of coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. Another one said 3 teaspoons of turmeric, and 1 of cumin and coriander. This is just a sampling of the kinds of variations I see, and it's really confusing for someone just getting into Indian cooking. I can certainly add fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, or mustard seeds as well, but these are not in every recipe. What kinds of dishes could I use those three in? Would all three work in the kind of sample recipe I gave?
I would appreciate any advice.