Indian spices and condiments
Spices are the very heart and soul of Indian cuisine.They form the foundation of a cuisine that has existed for centuries. It is virtually impossible to cook Indian dishes without spices, even if they are only red chillies and salt.
- Bay leaves (tej patta): An aromatic herb used for flavouring vegetables and meat.
- Black peppercorns (sabut kali mirch): A pungent aromatic condiment.
- Cardamoms (elaichi): One of the world's most expensive spices, there are two varieties -the large, black-brown ones, which have a heavier favour and the small green ones which are aromatic and have a delicate flavour
- Carom seeds (ajwain): Also known as thymol or omum; used in pickles and vegetable dishes.
- Chilli and chilli powder: There are at least 20 known varieties of chilli powders.The range of chillies can be from white and yellow to saffron and red in colour While capsicums or peppers are mild and flavoured, Goan chillies are dark red in colour and not pungent. Green chillies are similar to fresh red chillies and their seeds are the most pungent. Red Kashmiri chillies are very mild and can be used for colouring and flavouring.
- Cinnamon (dalchini): Most Indian food is cooked with cassia bark, which is a good substitute for real cinnamon. However it does not have the delicate flavour of cinnamon as its flavour is much stronger
- Cloves (bung): Cloves are the dried flower buds of an evergreen plant. The oil of cloves contains phenol, which is a good antiseptic and helps in preserving food.
- Coriander (dhaniya) seeds: Coriander seed powder is a very important spice in Indian food. Fresh coriander leaves are used for garnishing. Coriander has a strong, pungent smell but is almost indispensable to Indian cuisine.
- Cumin (jeera) seeds: Cumin seeds come in two varieties: white and black.The white variety is the more common one and is used as extensively as coriander seed powder while the black variety is more aromatic and peppery.
- Curry leaves (kadhi patta): These impart a subtle flavour when fried until they are crisp.They are popular in South Indian dishes.
- Fennel (moti saunf) seeds: Fennel seeds are a common ingredient for flavouring stocks, sauces, and curries. Used extensively as an ingredient in paan and as an effective digestive.
- Fenugreek seeds (methi dana): Fenugreek seeds are square, flat and yellowish-brown in colour Care must be taken in using the seeds as they are bitter and the quantity used must be controlled.
- Mace (javitri): Mace is a part of the nutmeg. It is the shell of the nutmeg kernel. It has a flavour similar to nutmeg, but Is more delicate and is used in rice dishes.
- Mustard seeds (raj):Tiny, dark, round seeds used for tempering in dais and pickles.
- Nutmeg (jaiphal): This is used to make fragrant garam masala. The kernel must be finely grated just before use. Excessive use must be avoided as it can be poisonous.
- Onion seeds (kalonji): Sprinkled over Indian breads and used in cooking vegetables.
- Pomegranate seeds (anar dana): Used in making savouries, and for giving a sour flavour.
- Poppy (khuskhus) seeds: White poppy seeds, roasted and ground, are used to provide a nutty flavour and to thicken gravies.
- Saffron (kesar): The world's most expensive spice, saffron must be soaked in either warm milk or water and used at the end of cooking a dish.
- Tamarind (imli): The bitter-sweet, highly acidic pulp of the tamarind is used to flavour foods, and is a good source of iron, potassium and magnesium.
- Turmeric (haldi): Turmeric is a rhizome of the ginger family.
Making masalas at home is an essential part of the Indian cuisine. Here are some recipes you will find very useful.
Standard Garam Másala
- 24 gm Black cumin (shah jeera) seeds
- 24 gm Cumin (jeera) seeds
- 40 Cloves (laung)
- 12 Bay leaves (tej patta)
- 40 Black cardamom (bari elaichi) seeds
- 40 Green cardamom (choti elaichi) seeds
- 6 Cinnamon (dalchini) sticks, 1" each
- 25 Black peppercorns (sabut kali mirch)
- 1 gm Mace (javitri), powdered
- 9 gm Dry ginger powder (sonth)
Method: Dry roast the black cumin seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, bay leaves, black cardamom seeds, green cardamom seeds, cinnamon sticks, and black peppercorns on low heat until aromatic.
Remove from heat and cool. Put all the roasted spices, mace and dry ginger powder in an electric blender and grind to a fine powder. Then pass the powder through a fine sieve. Store in an airtight container.
Fragrant Garam Másala
- 3 gm Cinnamon (dalchini) sticks, 1" each
- Green cardamom (choti elaichi) seeds
- 3 gm Cloves (laung)
- 2 gm Mace (javitri), powdered
- Nutmeg (jaiphal), grated
Method: Dry roast the cinnamon sticks, green cardamom seeds, cloves, and mace powder on low heat until aromatic. Mix the dry, roasted spices with the grated nutmeg and blend to make a fine powder.Then follow the same method as mentioned for the Standard Garam Masala.
Kashmiri Garam Masala
- 6 gm Green cardamom (choti elaichi) seeds
- 3 gm Black cumin (shah jeera) seeds
- 6 Cinnamon (dalchini)sticks, l" each
- 12 gm Black peppercorns (sabut kali mirch)
- 3 gm Cloves (laung)
- 1 gm Nutmeg (jaiphal), grated
Method: Use the same method as for the Standard and Fragrant garam masalas.
Whisk 2 cups yoghurt until smooth. Add 1/2 cup water and whisk again. Cook on high heat till the mixture comes to the boil. Lower heat, cook till the mixture is reduced to 1/2 and the colour changes to off-white. Use as specified in the recipe.