Good Health and Longevity with Spiced Tea

Every morning when you wake up, you like to have a hot cup of tea which refreshes you and provides you with all the health benefits. Tea contains good amount of polyphenols, and  anti-oxidants  which make it a healthy drink. In the green tea, the levels of polyphenols are more than in a black tea. As compared to coffee, tea has less caffeine which is good for people suffering from anxiety.

Spices added to tea make the tea even more healthy. Spiced tea improves digestion, decreases inflammation and reduces the dangers of many diseases, it improves your life and you live longer.

Spiced Tea – Good Health

Tea with a number of spices added to it, taken hot in winter or with ice in summer, is delicious, refreshing and full of health benefits. It provides you the benefits of tea as well as health benefits of all the spices added to it.

Good Health and Longevity with Spiced Tea

Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger etc. are blended spices in Masala tea to give it that exotic taste.

  • Cinnamon – It improves circulation of blood, decreases fatigue, improves energy and strength. It helps the body to fight flu, cold and sore throat. It acts as a remedy for upset stomach and also adds warmth to the body. It stimulates the brain, and increases awareness. It helps to reduce blood pressure and bad cholesterol. 
  • Cardamom – Cardamoms helps to reduce gas, nausea, heartburn and cures upset stomach. As it improves circulation it arouses the mind, and improves appetite, makes lungs, kidneys and heart stronger. It also helps to cure allergies due to dairy products.
  • Cloves – Cloves help to relieve pain and have anti-septic properties. It produces heat in the body which is needed during cold or flu infection. These are used as breath fresheners and reduce tooth pain.
  • Black Pepper – It improves blood circulation and aids metabolism. It reduces and eases cold and cough.
  • Ginger – Ginger is often added to tea during winter as it soothes sour throat and helps to reduce cough. It has compounds which reduce motion sickness. It has high amount of vitamin C and anti-oxidants which give it these healing qualities. It improves blood circulation and thus help to fight diseases like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

All these spices together add a lot of goodness in the Spiced Masala Tea. Hence when consumed regularly it:

  • Reduces the risk of cancer as these spices have anti-oxidants and phytochemicals which have properties to prevent cancer.
  • Prevents colds since the anti-oxidants and phytochemicals  improve the immune system. These spices add heat to our body system.
  • Boosts metabolism as spices help to produce pancreatic enzymes and digestive juices. More fat is broken down and more oxygen circulates in the blood stream.
  • Prevents diabetes as these spices help to regulate the sugar levels in the blood.
  • Reduces bloating or the feeling of excess gas. Spices improve the working of the stomach and intestines by improving the digestive system.
  • Enhances energy as spices are natural stimulants.
  • Improves immune system as these spices contain anti-oxidants.
  • Reduces inflammation and pain due to the presence of anti-oxidants and polyphenols.

When your immune system is strong and your body can fight infections and diseases, you feel active and physically fit & you have good health, so you live longer.

Use the Right Spices and Herbs for a Wonderful Dish

Every dish you cook will taste different when different spices are used. Spices and herbs add that extra taste and flavor to the food. The taste and flavor of the food improves when these are used in right combination with right food.

Most of the herbs can be got fresh as well as dried. Fresh herbs and spices have stronger flavor. Dried herbs give better flavor when used with water, oil or butter.

Different parts of the plants are used as spices, which are used in dried form. Cardamom, coriander, cumin are seeds of the plant, saffron is the stigma of the flower, cloves are the buds, ginger and turmeric are roots and cinnamon is the bark of the tree.

Right Use of Spices and herbs

Sweet spices – Some spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, are known as sweet spices and they taste good with sweet dishes, cakes, cookies, etc. These spices also blend well with salty dishes like curries, rice, roasted dishes, etc.

Whole spices – Whole spices give out more flavour when they are simmered in the food slowly, for a longer time.

Ground spicesSpices in powder form can be added to a dish at any time during cooking. Freshly grounded spices have more aromas.

Spices – used in food

  • Bay leaves – These have a unique flavour and aroma and are used in curries, soups, sauces, rice.
  • Cardamom – It is one of the most popular spice and has a strong exclusive taste. It is used in sweet dishes, pickles, curries, meat, spice cakes, soups, tea, rice etc.
  • Chilli Pepper – These are available from hot to mild variety. It is used in almost all salty dishes to add hot flavor like curries, soups, dry vegetables, meat and egg dishes.
  • Coriander – Coriander is used fresh or in dry form, whole seeds or powder. It has a mild unique taste like that of a lemon and sage. Seeds taste good in poultry, fish and in dry vegetables. It is also used in curries and dry vegetables.
  • Anardana – These are the dry seeds of pomegranate fruit. It adds a sour taste to the food. It is used for making sweet and sour sauce, in vegetables, chutneys, etc.
  • Black Pepper – This is used in foods all over the world. It has a sharp aroma and pine like flavour. It is used whole or in powder form in meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, soups, and sauces.
  • Cinnamon – It is used in pies, stewed apples, pan cakes and puddings. It is also used in curries, stews, sauces, vegetables, tea, etc.
  • Cloves – It is used in sweet as well as in salty dishes. It is used in sauces, soups, curries, plum pudding, cakes, tea, green vegetables etc.
  • Cumin – It is the second most popular spice in the world. Name an Indian dish and cumin is a part of it. It is used in soups, curries, vegetables, curd, chat, tomato sauce, meat dishes.

Conclusion

Spices are wonderful agents to flavor food, they also enhance the flavor of other ingredients. But remember not to add too much of any spice. Be creative, experiment with spices and create your own dishes.

Healthy spices for growing children

Making children eat is one big job for every mother. One needs to find new and innovative ways to cook for growing children since they want variety in taste and even looks. Same food can be cooked in different ways so that they enjoy eating the food. The food has to be tasty as well as nutritious.

It is very important for children to develop healthy eating habits and healthy lifestyle. The food for children can be made more nutritional by adding spices in it. Herbs and spices not only make food tasty but these also add flavour and colour to the dish along with a number of health benefits for growing children.

Children need to be tempted to eat so their food has to look and smell good. Spices add an aromatic flavour to the dish and also add a beautiful colour to it. These spices promote longevity, relieve pain, and help to digest food. These enhance the flavor of whatever you cook for your children.

Children need a lot of energy for their day to day activities and for growing up. Their body needs to constantly repair and heal itself, and fight diseases.

Healthy Spices

Anise seeds – These add a sweet taste to the food. It is rich in fibre, calcium and iron needed for healthy growth. They also help to cure upset stomach, cough and cold.

Cinnamon – It adds a warm sweet aroma to the food and is very rich in fibre. It helps to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar.

Cumin – It is a good source of calcium, iron and magnesium needed by growing children to build strong bones and red blood cells. Its germ fighting property helps to avert stomach ulcers.

Fennel – It helps to digest food and prevent bloating, gas and other digestion related problems.

Ginger – Ginger is full of nutrients and it helps in the digestion of food. It prevents common cold and even colic problem in children.

Basil (tulsi) – Certain compounds present in basil reduce pain and swelling. Concoction of the leaves of this herb reduces infection of the respiratory track, asthma and improves immune system. It is a good source of iron.

Mint – Mint when added to dishes imparts a beautiful aroma and a green colour to the dish. It is a superb herb for a number of digestive problems.

Nutmeg – When added to food it is a good source of fibre and has anti inflammatory properties. It aids the body to cure bacteria and fungi and also many stomach problems.

Rosemary – A herb rich in antioxidants, and it helps to improve learning and memory in growing children.

Saffron –It has a beautiful flavor and adds an appetizing saffron colour to the dish. It helps to lessen depression, asthma and cough.

Turmeric – This is one wonder spice which imparts a pleasant colour to the dish and makes it more appetizing. It is used in almost all dishes in India. It helps to cure many ailments like skin problems, liver disorder, cough etc.

Asafoetida (hing) – This adds a pungent flavor to the food. It has anti flatulence properties and helps in the digestion of food.

Conclusion

So use new and different spices and combination of spices and herbs and surprise your children. When food is cooked keeping in mind the strategy of healthy eating, and children eat a well planned diet they grow into healthy adults.

Perk up your cup of tea with Indian spices

Britishers introduced the commercial cultivation of tea in India using the techniques and seeds of tea from China. Tea drinking became popular in India only by 1950. Today India is the leading producer and consumer of tea in the world, other than China.

A concoction of dried herbs used as a beverage or for medicinal purpose, tisanes, has been in use in Ayurveda since a long time. Many herbs and spices like pepper, mint, cardamom etc. have been used in Indian kitchens for their medicinal values. The strong and bitter taste of some of these herbs is camouflaged by adding sugar and milk to tea.

Unlike the British tea, Indian tea is prepared by boiling tea leaves in water before adding milk and sugar to it. Some of the variations of tea are masala chai, kadak chai etc.

Masala tea is tea mixed with spices. Black tea is brewed with some spices and herbs in it. It has become popular world over and many coffee houses and tea houses are offering it. Many brands of instant mixtures in powder form are available in the market, but some people blend their own mixture of masala tea according to their taste.

The traditional masala chai (spiced tea) is tea with different quantity of various spices like ginger, green cardamom pods, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, pepper corns etc.

Benefits of Masala Tea

Masala tea contains antioxidants which improve your immune system. The blended spices have many health benefits. They protect against some illnesses, reduce fever, are effective against viruses etc. Antioxidants in pepper, cloves and ginger help to reduce inflammation. Clove tea is rich in magnesium, vitamin C and K. Masala tea helps to calm nerves.

Benefits of herbs and spices in the tea:

Ginger –Ginger adds a pleasant aroma to that cup of tea especially when you are suffering from sore throat. It helps to reduce nausea and gastric problems.

Basil – It is a wonder herb which acts as a tonic for nerves. Basil tea makes stomach strong and prevents stomach upsets. It also prevents cold, and reduces fever. It helps to reduce cardiac problems, keeps you calm and relaxed.

Cardamom (elaichi) – This is the dominant spice in most of the masala teas. It helps to cure depression, indigestion, and nausea. Cardamom reduces gas, helps digestion, it is diuretic and tastes wonderful in masala chai.

Pepper – Pepper is a stimulant, aids appetite, helps digestion and is a good remedy for cold and cough.

Cinnamon– It assists in digestion and lowers cholesterol and blood sugar. Cinnamon tea helps to avert flatulence, common cold and nausea. It reduces tiredness and increases strength.

Cloves– It is a ‘hot’ spice with anti bacterial and antiseptic properties and relieves pain. These add a strong sweet flavor to the tea.

Nutmeg– Nutmeg is a stimulant and is good for sleep related problems. It is useful for hysteria and anxiety.

Conclusion

The mixture of spices in tea differs according to the region and the climate. Kashmiri tea is made from green tea with flavor of almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and saffron. Tea with spices has many medicinal benefits, it is a nourishing drink. So, enjoy your hot cup of spiced tea especially on a cold winter day or a rainy day.

Spices add that Extra Zing to North Indian Food

Indian cuisine is known world over for its immense variety and taste. Each region has its own unique cuisine which is influenced by culture, region and the climatic conditions of that area. The Northern states of Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have a rich variety of cuisine which is popular all over.

The food of Punjab and Delhi like stuffed parathas, sarson ka saag with makki ki roti, dal makhani or lentils  prepared with cream, red kidney beans, chickpea and bhature, potato and puri, paneer dishes, tanduri chicken, chicken tikka etc. is known for its rich spicy taste.

In Rajasthan sweet dishes like Imarti, ghevar, balushahi are eaten not only after a meal but also before a meal or during a meal. The main course vegetarian dishes include shahi gatte, lauki key koftey, besan gate ki sabji etc. and the non vegetarian dishes are mohan maans, laal maans etc.

Uttar Pradesh is known for its Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine, both vegetarian and non vegetarian. It is known for the Nawabi food of Lucknow. Some of the popular dishes are kebabs, dum biryani, mutton dishes, kofta etc.

The climate in North India is extreme, hot summer and very cold winter. Fresh vegetables and fruits are available in plenty. Dairy products like curd, cheese, milk, ghee, cream etc. are an important part of the cuisine.

Spices add that extra zing to the delicious food of these states. The many spices used to make these dishes are:

Bay leaves – Bay leaves have a sharp taste, and the light green coloured leaves give a magnificent flavor to the dish.

Cloves – It adds a strong, sweet, pungent smell to the food. It is also used as a mouth freshener.

Black Cardamoms – These large brown pods are used to flavor vegetarian as well as non vegetarian dishes.

Pepper Corns –It adds a pungent, hot taste to the dish. These are used whole or in powder form.

Ginger – This is hot and pungent to taste and has a sweet flavor. It is used in almost all types of dishes and it helps to digest the food.

Garlic – Garlic cloves are used to add flavor to curries, soups, sauces, salads chutneys etc.

Coriander –Its fresh green leaves and the dry seeds, both are used to spice up the dishes. The seeds have a sweet tangy flavor with a touch of lemony aroma.

Cumin – With their warm nutty flavor, these are used to flavor rice, vegetables, curries, curd etc.

Turmeric- Turmeric adds a bright tempting yellow colour to the dish. It is known for its curative and digestive properties.

Cinnamon – This has a sweet woody aroma. It has a pleasant smell which calms the nerves. It is used to add flavor to hot drinks, sweet dishes, and curries.

Saffron – Its honey like pungent aroma and the bright yellow colour give a rich look to the dish. It is used in sweet dishes as well as in rice and soups.

Ajwain (carom)- The strong pungent aroma of ajwain gives a beautiful flavor to the dish.

Fennel (soonf) – When added in moderation, it gives a sweet flavor to the dish. After a meal these are chewed for digestion and to make the breath fresh.

Conclusion

When you think of any dish from North India, you think of the lovely aroma, fragrance and the taste and also the spices that go in the dish to bring out that yummy aromatic taste.

Various Spices used in South Indian Cuisine

India is a vast country with diverse geological regions, cultures and food. The food and the food habits of each region, East, West, North and South are completely different. The climate of each region influences the type of food eaten in that area.

In South India the climate is sultry and hot. They receive a good amount of rainfall and also fruits and vegetables are easily available. Their main food is rice, and the popular south Indian dishes are sambhar, rasam, dosa, idli, vadas, payasam etc and not to forget a range of chutneys.  The chief spices and ingredients are lentil, tamarind, curry leaves, chilies, and mustard, cumin, cinnamon, etc. Coconut oil is commonly used.

All the spices and ingredients used in South Indian cuisine have dietary as well as therapeutic benefits. The food is hot and spicy and it has a blend of taste, aroma, smell, and seasoning.

Tamarind – This is a commonly used spice in South Indian cuisine. It is rich in dietary fibre and helps to excrete bad cholesterol from the body. It is anti-oxidant and is rich in iron, calcium, copper, potassium etc. It is also rich in a number of vitamins.

Turmeric –The rhizome of the plant is dried and powdered. It is a part of almost all South Indian dish, it adds colour to the food. It is a natural antibiotic and when added to food its healing ability is beneficial to the body. It has calming effect on the stomach, it is anti –inflammatory and kills inner parasites and also purifies blood.

Coconut – Grown in large quantity, coconut is the main ingredient of South Indian cuisine. Fresh grated coconut or its milk is used to make the curry thick, to add flavor and taste to a dish.

Cinnamon – This is the bark of the tree. It lowers LDL cholesterol, is beneficial for diabetes, it gives relief to people suffering from arthritis. It is a natural food preservative so when it is added to food it averts the growth of bacteria and prevents the food from spoiling.

Asafetida ( hing) – This has a pungent flavor and a strong taste. It is beneficial for respiratory disorders, flatulence, impotency etc.

Black Pepper – When added to food it improves digestion, it reduces intestinal gas, it is an anti oxidant and prevents the growth of bacteria in the intestines.

Cardamom – It helps to offset acidity in the stomach and when the powder of cardamom is sprinkled on coffee it act as an aphrodisiac. When added in food it improves digestion and helps to lessen stomach gas.

Cumin seeds – Cumin has a strong discrete flavor, it improves digestion, helps to cure heart burn and stomach pain. The seeds are anti oxidants and anti- flatulent, these help in digestion. These are rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, copper, calcium, vitamin E, A, and C etc.

Mustard seeds – Mustard seeds are used in almost all dished in South India. These add a pungent aroma to the food. These are used in vegetarian as well as non vegetarian dishes, and also in pickles and chutneys.

Mustard seeds are rich in anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. They are a rich source of B-complex vitamins, and vitamin E. It helps to lower blood cholesterol and regulate the metabolism.

Conclusion

All the spices used in South Indian cuisine are of pant origin. These prevent diseases and promote health. They also increase the flavor of a dish.

Spices – The True Cooking Spirit

For those of us who are accustomed to the richness of flavour, vibrancy of colour and the delicacy of aroma of the food we eat, it is impossible to imagine cooking without spices. Cooking with spices is ‘the way’ to serve delicious food. The availability of spices in the market freely today enhances our enthusiasm of trying different foods and flavours. Spices have played a major role in the development of Civilization, and it is said that wars were fought and lands explored and colonised in an attempt to find new ways of obtaining spices from the Orient and gaining control of established routes. Spices enrich our food and give a distinctive flavour to them. The spices are also very healthy, and aid in digestion too. They also make the food last longer.

Spices are great in flavour and yet low in sodium and fat. All spices used in cuisines carry some or the other dietary as well as medicinal properties. Spices add to the creativity in cooking. Spices are easy to store and are not affected by bacterial contamination and they have a longer shelf life. One can mix them as per their individual tastes. To enjoy long-term health benefits, spices must be included in one’s diet to enhance the flavour of food and make it more interesting. Each spice has its own merit and enhances the flavour and aroma to the dish it is added to. Spices are generally dried leaves, roots, bark, nuts or fruit of a plant. Apart from the seasoning the dishes, spices add medicinal and preservative value to the dish they are added to. The Ayurveda practice of medicine lists several spices for treatment of various ailments.  Spices and herbs are incorporated into our foods and beverages for better health.

The dish is well cooked when the spices blend properly in its gravy or even when sprinkled on dry dishes for seasoning. Spices maintain and enhance the character of the dish. Spices like asafoetida counteract flatulence and colic, and are added to lentils to help digest them. Turmeric is used for burns, stomach ulcers and for glow of the skin. Indians use fragrant fennel, cardamom or cloves and mix them with sugar for helping to digest the food. Not only are they great mouth fresheners, but they aid digestion, prevent heartburn. Some spices help to break up food particles and enable the digestive process to function effectively. Adding spices in our daily cooking not only keeps us healthy but also adds taste to the food we eat. Some spices are believed to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in our blood. Certain spices also prevent skin diseases. Turmeric is included in many lotions and creams because it adds shine to the face and prevents pimples. Coriander is a very rich source of iron, manganese and magnesium. Cinnamon reduces inflammation and is also good for the heart.  Cumin is also a vital ingredient in curry preparation for its anti-carminative properties. It is well known for its cooling effect on the body.  All the wonderful  and exotic spices make cooking a pleasure.

Pinch of Amchur that Creates a Tangy Taste to Dishes

Amchur is the dried or dehydrated product prepared from unripe mangoes to be mostly used in curries. The unripe fruits are peeled and the flesh is cut into thin slices. The slices are then dried in the sun and packed in gunny bags for sale. Amchur is also marketed in the form of powder by crushing or powdering the dried peeled mango slices. Amchur is used as an accidulant or souring agent for curries. It is also used in chutneys, soups and certain specific curries. The rind is astringent, stimulating, tonic in debility of stomach. Also it is one of the most flavoured and popular masala used in Indian dishes. Amchur is the best substitute of tamarind and lemon.

A pinch of amchur can enhance the taste and flavour of chicken, fish, meat, prawns, pork, etc. It improves the taste of paneer, biryani, pulao, kachumber, salads and several dry vegetables and vegetables with the gravy. It is good for digestion and has a cooling effect. It is acidic and astringent and has high Vitamin A and Vitamin C content. It has high iron content and so is beneficial to people suffering from anaemia and pregnant women. It aids digestion and eases acidity. Amchur lends a citrusy acidic taste that is somewhat sweet to spicy.

It improves the taste of curries, chutneys, marinades, dipping sauces, soups, stews, fish, poultry, and meats. Formerly, the spice was rarely used outside of Indian cooking. Now, it has grown in popularity as an addition to vegetarian dishes both in the whole or powdered forms for its tart, sharp spiciness.  In India, mangoes are used fresh or preserved. As Amchur is highly concentrated and has a very potent flavour, it can be used instead of lemon in recipes. You can also substitute amchur for tamarind as amchur won’t change the colour of a lighter dish the way tamarind does. It is a natural foodstuff and thus scores much above the synthetic additives. In India, the mango is known as king of fruits due to the delicious fruit as well as being rich in vitamins and minerals. Amchur has a high citric acid content that is integral to the prevention of scurvy.

It has a high concentration of phenols, and phenolic compound have powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer abilities. Mangoes are low in carbohydrates and rich in anti-oxidants. Mangoes provide a pharmacologically active flavonoid, a natural xanthine, which has a number of pharmacological actions and possible health benefits. These include ant diabetic, antioxidant, antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, hepatic-protective, hypoglycaemic, anti-allergic and anticancer activity. It is also an excellent tenderizer and mainly used in Indian cooking as a souring agent in many curries and other dishes.  Try adding a pinch of amchur on steamed vegetables and fold in for a tangy taste. Sprinkle it on fresh cucumbers and fresh slices of onions. It is an excellent seasoning for grilled dishes. It is difficult to imagine many dishes without their distinctive spices and seasonings. Spices lend magical flavours to the dishes they are added to.

Garam Masala – The Famous Indian Blended Spices

A blend of ground spices used alone or with other seasonings is called the Garam masala. Different regions prepare garam masala recipes in accordance to region and personal taste and thus varying combinations of spices are used as per the local flavour. The spices are carefully blended to achieve a balanced effect. The famous Indian Garam Masala is available as a commercially prepared ground mixture. It is often added at the end of cooking a dish to retain its aroma. The garam masala is the most popular spice blend used throughout India. It is the basis for Indian curries. It gives a delicious final touch to a dish. Some of the basic whole spices used to prepare the garam masala are….bay leaves, cloves, cardamoms, peppercorns, cinnamon, mace, cumin seeds nutmeg, carom seeds, star anise, coriander seeds, etc. It has a pungent taste which is important to make the flavourful recipes.

The Garam masala is used in vegetable recipes, curries, dal and many such dishes. It can also be used as a great sprinkling powder, and can be used just before serving the hot and sizzling dishes. Using a small amount of garam masala powder is enough to bring out the richness of gravy and even vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Dal fry, dal makhani, simple dal can be topped with a pinch of garam masala for that unique touch at the time of serving. The Garam masala is to be stored in air-tight container and should be away from wet places.

Garam masala is known to be the heart of many Indian dishes. Spices actually slow down the ageing process while promoting weight loss. Black pepper used in the garam masala contains a type of antioxidant that is so powerful that it does a lot of good. Pepper is anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic. It increases the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It is a natural metabolism booster, and also contains a compound that breaks down fat cells. Black Pepper is high in Vitamin K and manganese, which assists the body in metabolizing fats and carbs. Cardamom relieves gas, heart burn, and soothes stomach upsets. It increases blood circulation and also flushes the toxins from the body. It is a natural breath freshener. Cardamom reduces the formation of blood clots while lowering blood pressure and is a great source of manganese. It is also anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-carcinogenic.

Cinnamon is an excellent source of calcium and fibre. It is a natural painkiller and containsGaram Masala a potent antioxidant. It fights bad breath, and kills the bacteria responsible for it. Cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels while increasing insulin production. Cloves relieve tooth aches. Cloves have a blood purifying property and thus support a healthy immune system. Cloves boost the metabolism and remove toxins from the blood stream. They help cardiovascular health by preventing the formation of blood clots while regulating blood sugar levels. Cloves provide an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K. While low in Omega 6’s, cloves are impressively high in omega 3′s. So the famous Indian garam masala is not just tasty…but healthy too.

Use Blended Spices to Prepare Tasty Indian Food

Indian cuisine has become greatly popular all over the world due to the variety in the number of dishes found in India. Even in India itself as you travel from one end to the other you come across entirely different dishes and methods of cooking which adds interesting variety to simple food items. One factor that greatly influences the difference in taste of various dishes is the use of various Indian spices.

Spices add flavour, taste colour and texture to the dish.These may be used fresh or dried. Some spices lose their flavour when dried so have to be used fresh only. Usually they are stronger when dried. In southern India fresh spices are used more as they are readily available. In North fresh spices are not readily available in winters so people depend more on the use of dry spices.

Spices are ground together in the pestle and mortar or a grinder to make a homogenous powder that can be stored in an air-tight jar. It should be used quickly and not stored for longer periods of time as the mixtures lose their flavour over a period of time.

It is judiciary to use the quality Indian spices in the right amount to get the authentic taste of a dish. No spice should be so overpowering as to hide the true taste of the main ingredient whether it is vegetable, pulse, meat, fish  or poultry that is cooked using the spice. Important point is to use the right amount of spices to get the proper balance.

Different blend of spices should be used in different dishes to highlight the taste of the dish. If the same combination is used in all the dishes, they will all taste same.

Most commonly used spices are red chillies, pepper, cayenne, cumin, coriander, aniseed, poppy seeds, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, caraway seeds, mustard seeds and saffron. The spices are blended in different ways to produce different effects.

Indian cuisine will be incomplete without garam masala, often referred to as magic masala, which is a combination of cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, cumin, coriander seeds, peppercorn and bay leaves. Garam masala is used in a variety of Indian dishes.

Famous Five Spice Powder combination may vary, but usually it contains cinnamon, aniseed / anise, star seed, fennel and cloves.

Chaat masala used to spice up the salads consists of mango powdered, roasted powdered cumin seeds, black salt, salt, pepper, mint, a pinch of asafoetida, Some pomegranate seeds can be added if desired.

Essential ingredients of sambhar masala, used in the preparation of sambar, are mustard seeds, whole red chillies, asafoetida, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, peppercorn, coconut, turmeric powder, chana dal ( split baby chickpea ,  urad dal ( split black gram), and a dash of asafoetida.

Some spices are blended together for tempering hot oil or ghee for which is then poured over a dish like dal tadka or raita. Most commonly used combination is cumin, mustard seeds and red whole chillies.

Spices have been used in India down the ages for their medicinal, preservative properties as well as for seasoning. Use of spices set Indian cuisine apart from the cuisine of the rest of the world.