Importance of Whole spices in Indian Cuisine

Indian spices and Indian food are inseparable. Indian food is not complete without these exotic spices. An assortment of spices are grown and produced in Indian subcontinent.

In the Indian cuisine, spices are added to the dish in various forms i.e. as whole spice, roasted, as grounded powder, stir fried, chopped or as a topping. Some spices are added to a dish in the blended form like garam masala, sambhar masala etc.

The spices used in Indian cuisine differ region wise according to the difference in climate. Those used in the Northern region are different from the ones used in the Southern region.

Different Whole Spices Used in Indian Cuisine:

Coriander Seeds (Dhania) – These light brown or golden seeds are hollow and crisp and they have a very nice nutty/lemony flavour. For tempering a dish these are used whole. As a flavouring agent, these are used in stews, sweet bread, cakes etc.

Coriander is rich in many minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, copper, zinc, and magnesium. It is an anti oxidant and contains vitamin C and B-complex.

Cumin Seeds – These add taste and a discrete strong flavor to the food. Since ancient times this spice has been used as a flavouring agent to cook meat dishes as well as vegetarian curries, rice dishes, dry vegetables etc. It is also used for tempering soups, dals and other dishes .

The cumin seeds are rich in iron, calcium, selenium, copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. These also have vitamin B-complex, vitamin E, A and C.

These help in digestion and avert diarrhea, nausea and help to cure common colds.

Asafoetida ( Hing )– It is also called ‘devil’s dung’, or the ‘stinking gum’ because of its strong pungent smell. This smell changes when you add it to hot oil or ghee for tempering or seasoning the food.

Asafoetida helps to lower blood pressure, it prevents constipation, reduces flatulence. Colic in infants can be cured if a small piece of warm hing is placed on the baby’s stomach.

Mustard Seeds –3 types of mustard seeds are used in cooking, black, white and brown mustard. When these are fried in oil, they impart a beautiful fragrance to the food.

Mustard seeds are used for cooking rice, salads, vegetables and for making pickles. These are fried in oil and used for tempering food items to add colour and flavour.

These seeds contain selenium which helps to reduce asthma, it is anti-inflammatory and has anti-cancer properties. The seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein, calcium, zinc, and manganese.

Sesame Seeds – These seeds have many nutritional, preventive and curing properties. The seeds have a slight nutty flavor which becomes stronger when the seeds are roasted.

It is used as a seasoning for many dishes. These are scattered over bakery products like cakes, biscuits etc. they are used for making Indian sweets, like gajjak, mixed with peanuts and jaggery, which is eaten in the cold season.

The seeds contain many essential nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins like B- complex, folic acid, calcium, iron, copper etc.

Conclusion

Thus, spices add flavor and aroma to a dish. Each spice has an exclusive flavor, but when it is blended with other spices the flavour it imparts is out of the ordinary. Not only the aroma, spices have many medicinal benefits also. So when these are used in the food they are beneficial to our health as well.

The Most Popular Whole Spices Used in the Preparation of Indian Food

Indian cuisine owes its popularity to the variety of spices used in the preparation of the numerous dishes.

Spices may be used fresh or dry, whole or powdered. The best option is to buy whole spices and grind them when required. Store the whole spices in suitably sized jars so that their essential oils don’t evaporate.

Spices lend flavour, colour and texture to the dish. Different Indian spices are used in different dishes due to the varied properties of the spices. Most common spices used in Indian cookery are cumin, coriander seeds, fenugreek, mustard, sesame, ajowan etc.

Cumin ( Jeera) seeds are oblong in shape and yellow-brownish in colour. Its flavour is enhanced when it is fried in fat, its use in dal tadka is well known. Cumin seeds are the main component in the Indian appetizers like jal jeera and beverages like lime – soda etc. due to its cooling property. It can be roasted, ground and sprinkled over any raita, dal or vegetable curry, meat, poultry etc. to make the dish more appetizing

Coriander ( Dhania ) seeds are round in shape and have lemony citrus flavour when crushed. Coriander seeds are added to hot oil before adding vegetables and meat to impart a very pleasant flavour to the dish. Coriander leaves are used to garnish dishes.

Fenugreek ( Methi) Fresh leaves have strong nutty flavour and are used to finish off many dishes like butter chicken, shahi paneer etc. Fenugreek seeds are small yellowish amber coloured and very hard. They are used in cooking potato, sambar, chutneys, pickles etc. The seeds are one of the main components of spice mixes like curry powder, sambar powder, panch phoron .

Mustard (Rai) seeds are very small round seeds. Three kinds are most common, white, brown and black.  White mustard seeds are milder in flavour and suitable for pickling. Black mustard is smaller in size and more pungent. The brown ones are small like the black ones but not as pungent in flavour. Mustard seeds have a strong pungent flavour that goes very well with many Indian dishes like sambar, poha etc. The seeds are fried in hot oil or ghee till they pop.

Sesame seeds ( Til ) are flat and small in size. They come in many colours and varieties including white seeds and black seeds. The hulled sesame seeds are used in confectionery products like cookies, burgers, breads, cereals etc. Sesame seeds have a slight crunch and delicate nutty flavour. The flavour becomes more pronounced when they are gently dry roasted or added to hot oil. They have heat producing effect and are thus consumed more in winters in the form of laddos, gajjak ( sesame brittle), and other Indian sweets. Sesame seeds have a high content of oil so should be stored in air-tight jars in cool dry places.

Ajowan, seeds are small, greyish green and striped like cumin. The flavour is like thyme but stronger. It is used in very small quantities as it has a strong dominant flavour. Ajowan tastes great in savoury dishes like spicy biscuits, naan, pakoras, dals vegetables, soups, sauces, drinks. It is extensively used in pickles due to its pungent aroma.

Sesame – Sesame Seeds, Benefits of Sesame Seeds

SESAME…

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum. Sesame seed is considered to be the oldest oilseed crop known to man, domesticated well over 5000 years ago. Sesame is very drought-tolerant. It has been called a survivor crop, with an ability to grow where most crops fail. Sesame has one of the highest oil content of any seed. With a rich nutty flavour, it is a common ingredient in cuisines across the world. Sesame seeds are small. The size, form and colours vary with the thousands of varieties now known. Typically, the sesame seeds are about 3 to 4 millimetres long by 2 millimetres wide and 1 millimetre thick. The seeds are ovate, slightly flattened and somewhat thinner at the eye of the seed than at the opposite end. The weight of the seed is between 20 and 40 milligrams. The seed coat may be smooth or ribbed. Sesame is indispensable in Middle-Eastern, Far-Eastern, and Indian cooking. From Asia it made its way to Africa where slaves are credited with introducing it to North America.  It is even grown in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Continue reading