3 Basic Indian Spices Without Which Cooking Indian Food Is Incomplete

First thing that attracts you to any dish is its appearance. Next comes the aroma and then the taste. One crowd puller quality of the Indian cuisine is its colourful look. It is the use of different spices in correct proportions that is behind the tempting look of the dish.

Though various different spices are used in different dishes, there are some spices which are the very base of Indian cooking. These are turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin coriander powder.

Even though cumin seeds and coriander seeds are two different spices they are used together as cumin coriander powder since the aroma and flavour of the two compliment each other splendidly. Cumin adds a richness and depth to just about any dish and coriander gives cool lemony flavour. Both these seeds are ground together to get homogeneous powder that can hardly be omitted from any Indian dish.

A good amount of coriander cumin powder is added in curries to provide a crunchy texture to them. It blends well with stews, soups, smoked meats and gives them an extraordinary taste.

Coriander powder prevents non vegetarian dishes from early spoilage as it contains substances that kill meat-spoiling bacteria and fungi. As it sooths the stomach for both adults and colicky babies when it is added to the food it helps to increase digestion and solves the appetite problems.

Cumin powder is well known for its diuretic, carminative, stimulant, astringent, and antispasmodic properties and so it provides invaluable health benefits. It is very effective in treating dyspepsia, diarrhoea and hoarseness and it also provides relief from flatulence and colic problems. Its use improves digestion and stimulates the appetite.

Turmeric is greatly used in Indian cooking to give the Indian curry special flavour and its famous yellow colour. In fact an Indian dish without turmeric tends to look very insipid. Turmeric has antioxidant properties. It has natural antiseptic and anti bacterial qualities.

Turmeric was also used nearly 3000 years ago in the ancient Vedic culture of India. Today it is being used as an important spice, beauty product and in spiritual ceremonies. Turmeric adds zest to any dish and combined with other spices it adds a wonderful curry flavour.

When used in food it provides a lot of health benefits and healing properties. It acts as a tonic, blood purifier and an antiseptic.

The red chilli powder, produced by grinding dried chillies, is another important ingredient of Indian cuisine. It adds colour, spiciness and flavour to the dishes. Its odour is aromatically strong and the taste is distinctive, strong and spicy.

It is widely used as a stabilizer in curries and other dishes. It contains anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It is also known to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals. Good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium and Vitamin, A, B, C and E are found in chillies.

Thus, to conclude Indian cooking is just incomplete without cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Just use quality Indian spices to make your Indian food preparation extraordinarily tasty.

All About Garam Masala – One of The Most Famous Indian Spices

One magic ingredient in Indian cookery is Garam Masala, a blend of spices. In fact it will not be wrong to say that Garam Masala is the heart of Indian cuisine. It is used in many dishes.  It is called ‘Garam’ not because it is spicy but due to the intensity, warmth and aroma of spices used in making Garam Masala.

Many spices are used in making Garam Masala. The amount of spices may be used in different combinations. All are equally popular. The trick is in being able to get just the right proportions of the spices and mixing them together to get balanced mixture. No single ingredient should over power the flavour of the other spices.  No flavour should be too strong and emphasised. Different blends of spices will make mixtures of different flavours and aromas.

The spices that are used in making Garam Masala are cloves, cinnamon,   small cardamoms, big cardamoms, nutmeg, mace, black & white peppercorns, black & white cumin seeds and bay leaves. The ingredients may differ from region to region and also every chef likes to make changes according to his expertise. In fact at times when powdered Garam Masala is bought from the market, it may contain less of the expensive spices and more of spices like coriander, fennel, aniseed, turmeric, chillies etc. which are cheaper.  One must be careful to buy it from reputed manufactures.

To prepare the Garam Masala, required spices are usually dry roasted on slow fire before being ground in order to release flavours. It can be done on a griddle. If roasted on hot fire, there is danger of burning them which would ruin the flavour. Cardamoms are roasted in their skin. All the spices can be roasted together or one by one in different batches.

As the Indian spices are roasted well, the aroma will fill the air. The spices are then allowed to cool. The skin of the cardamoms, both green and brown, is removed. Cardamoms are added back to the mixture. Once the spices have cooled down completely, they are ground to a fine paste using a pestle or mortar or an electric blender. Make sure to cool the mixture before grinding or lumps will be formed. Some people prefer to keep the masala little coarse as they feel the flavour is better.

If so desired, the masala may be sieved. Any bits left without being ground can be worked on again. Once ground, the Garam  Masala is packed in air-tight jars and stored in cool dry area of the kitchen. Garam  masala jars should not be stored on a shelf above the fire place as it will lose its flavour. It can be used as required. It is best to make fresh batches of Garam Masala and grind it when required.

Garam Masala is used in curries and gravies to enhance the flavour of a dish. It gives out its aroma when added to hot oil or dish. Garam masala is added at the end of cooking when the dish is ready. It must be used in very little quantity as the flavour of blended spices is very strong.

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.

Why Is Asafoetida (Hing) Used in Indian Recipes?

When you think of Indian food, you also think of the spices used in it. No Indian recipe is complete without these wonder ingredients ‘spices’. Indian food items have become popular the world over. The ingredients are used in such combinations that they not only enhance and compliment the flavor and food value of each other, they also compensate the side effects of each other.

Spices add aroma, flavour and taste to the food, they make the food special and today even the foreign nationals are crazy about Indian food. It is difficult to imagine Indian food being cooked without the basic spices.

As there is abundance in availability of spices in India, Indian food is never bland. Indian cuisine involves the use of numerous herbs and spices, like garlic, coriander, ginger, asafoetida and fenugreek, turmeric as well as cumin, black mustard and chilli powder. Asafoetida is an important ingredient of Indian food. It has yellow colour and pungent smell and is widely used as a flavoring agent in numerous spice mixtures.  In ancient times it was a precious and expensive condiment.

It is the root of a perennial plant that grows to about six feet in height in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A gum is excreted from the root when it is sliced,  this is dried into a resin,  and then crushed into a powder to produce the spice. It is also known as ‘Devil’s dung’ or ‘Stinking gum’ because of its strong offensive smell. During cooking, when it is sautéed lightly in oil, it develops a pleasant onion or garlic like aroma. A pinch of asafoetida is enough for a recipe.

Asafoetida is used in Indian recipes for its numerous health benefits and flavour. It acts as a nerve stimulant, sedative and digestive agent for the human body. It is known to make the blood thin and lower the blood pressure. It acts as a magic pill to cure different respiratory disorders, hysteria attacks, and a number of nervous disorders.

Its medicinal value is well known. It is extremely good for digestive problems such as gas, bloating, indigestion and constipation. It is helpful for respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma and whooping cough. The herb’s volatile oil contains components such as disulphide which leave the body via the respiratory system, this helps to cough up the congested mucus.

Certain food items like urad dal, cauliflower etc. produce ‘stomach gas’, to deactivate this component, asafoetida is used during cooking. A pinch of ‘hing’ is used in the dosa batter to remove the bad effects and retain the benefits of the nutritious value of urad dal. The strong smell of Asafoetida  kills  the  bacteria and other germs in the blood stream.

Asafoetida  is not only used in daily food items but it is also used to flavour and preserve  pickles and sauces, it is one of the ingredients in Worcestershire sauce, and it is extensively used  to flavour spicy vegetable dishes. It increases the body temperature and loosens the mucus from the lungs to give you relief from a running nose.

So, add asafoetida to your daily recipes and enjoy a good health.