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.

Different Forms of Coriander Used in Indian Food Recipes

The spicy aroma flavors found in most of the dishes is the trademark of the Indian cuisine. The Indian food is flavored with different type of spicy ingredients which include a variety of herbs and spices. The basic Indian spices are cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander seeds, chili powder, mustard seeds and asafetida etc.

One of the basic spices used in Indian food is coriander. It is the seed of the cilantro plant and is also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania.

It is used as fresh green leaves, in seed form or in powder form. The seeds look like tiny, pale, creamy-brown peppercorns.

When they are dry-fried, the seeds have a stimulating, slightly burnt orange aroma which is very pleasing their scent and flavour  is lemony, with a hint of sage. The seeds should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, in airtight containers. Coriander powder losses its aroma very fast, so it is always best to grind the seeds as per the requirement.

The ground seeds have a pleasing, mild and sweet taste that is enticing. Every Indian household uses huge quantities of ground coriander in curry powders, garam masala and a variety of other spice mixtures. Whole or ground seeds are used in chutneys. Coriander seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that have anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties

Its powder is used in baked goods like cakes and cookies and also in spicy foods like curries because its taste has a hint of cloves as well as pepper.

Coriander seeds and cumin seeds are often combined together, dry-fried and then ground (dhania-jeera powder) to form a powder. The strong, spicy, sweet aroma of cumin when combined with the flavor of coriander in a dish, lends a lovely fragrance to the recipe. It is an excellent blend and this combination is one of the essential spice blends used in Indian cuisine. 

Benefits of coriander

  • Coriander helps in proper digestion of food.
  • The seeds have low cholesterol properties.
  • It increases appetite and relieves indigestion, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea.
  • It helps to increase the body circulation and relieves the fluid retention.
  • It works as an appetite stimulant, which helps in the secretion of gastric juices in the body.
  • Coriander seeds are a rich source of vitamin C.
  • They are a storehouse for many vital vitamins and minerals.

Uses of coriander

  • Coriander is used in almost every Indian recipe.
  • It is used in sweet as well as spicy dishes of Indian cuisine.
  • It is the basic ingredient for a variety of gravy and curry recipes.
  • The coriander powder is used to flavor barbecue, grills and tandoori items.
  • It is an essential item for making vegetarian, non-vegetarian and tofu recipes.
  • It is used for marinating meat, chicken, fish and prawns.
  • Dhania  jeera powder is used for sprinkling over salads, fruit chaats, buttermilk or plain curd. It is also added in pickles, curries and chutneys.

Therefore, coriander plays an essential role in the Indian cookery. Very few recipes can be imagined without the use of coriander powder or the seeds.

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.

Great Indian Spices – Chilli Powder, Coriander, Cumin

SPICES

Chilli powder – prepared from the different variety of mild to hot chillies, different types and brands vary in their degree of heat. Check the ingredients before buying, as some chilli powders may contain flavourings such as garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. For best results buy RAMDEV pure chilli powder prepared by seeding, drying and grinding the finest of chillies. If the dish requires other herbs and spices, you can add them individually to taste. Chilli powder is used in almost all parts of the world. Central and south America, West and East Africa, the whole of the Asian continent and most parts of the Middle East use chilli powder in a significant proportion of meat, vegetable and rice dishes. Even in those countries where chillies are less apparent, they still have a walk-on role, in the pasta sauces of Italy, for instance, and in pickles, chutneys and relishes.

Coriander – just as fresh coriander (cilantro) is one of the most important herbs of Indian cuisine, so are the seeds of the coriander plant also up there with the other great Indian spices. The seeds look like tiny, pale, creamy-brown peppercorns. When they are dry-fried, the seeds have a heady, slightly burnt orange aroma which is very appealing. The ground seeds give a pleasing, mild and sweet taste that is not overwhelming. Every Indian household uses huge quantities of ground coriander in curry powders, garam masala, and a variety of other spice mixes. Coriander seeds are frequently combined with cumin seeds, the two spices being dry-fried together before being ground (dhania-jeera powder). This combination is common in Middle Eastern dishes too, and coriander seeds also feature as flavouring in many South-east Asian recipes. Whole coriander seeds may be added to chicken and pork casseroles and they are one of the ingredients in basic pickling spice. Whole or ground seeds may be used in chutneys.

Cumin – native to eastern Mediterranean countries and upper Egypt, cumin is now grown almost anywhere where the climate is dry and warm. The spice comes from the seed of this plant, which grows to about 30cm/1 foot high and has flowers that range in colour from mauve or rose-pink to white. Black cumin has a smaller seed, and is occasionally confused with nigella. White cumin is the most available variety. Black cumin seeds have a slightly sweeter aroma and a more delicate flavour than the white ones. Cumin has a strong, spicy, sweet aroma with a warm, slightly bitter and pungent taste. These last two qualities are particularly noticeable in the ground spice, although this is counter-balanced when it is used with ground coriander. Dry-frying before grinding brings out a toasted, nutty flavour, making the spice less harsh. Cumin, with its distinct and strong flavour, is a hugely popular spice in India, the Middle-East, North Africa, Mexico and practically any country where highly spiced food is enjoyed. It is used in almost all Indian curry mixtures and in garam masala. The spice is added to soups and stews, Moroccan lamb dishes and Mexican meat dishes.