Super Spices – How to Use Them?

Spices add flavour, aroma and a beautiful taste to the food. To bring out the maximum flavour of the spice you must know how and when to add a particular spice to a dish. Spices are used whole or in powder form. Some spices are mild in flavour while others have a strong aroma.

How to use Spices:

Before one begins to use spices in cooking you must know how to use different spices and also which spices taste good in which dish. To begin with add very small quantity of spice, if you like the taste you can add a little more later on.

Buy whole spices if possible and grind them fresh for better results. When ground and stored, these tend to lose flavour over a period of time. Always store spices in a cool and dry place like a cupboard. These should be stored away from hot and humid places like a stove, window, near a dishwasher etc.

In vegetable dishes – Vegetables have a strong flavour of their own. Spices with delicate flavour like cumin, mustard, fennel, coriander and Turmeric Powder go well with vegetables.

In curries and main course dishes – Spices with strong flavour and aroma like cardamom, clove, cinnamon when used in small quantities do wonders to these dishes.

  • A pinch of cinnamon powder added to a soup adds a lovely flavour to it.
  • Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon or cardamom, sizzle for a while and pour over a dish already cooked like mashed potatoes or a curry.
  • Freshly ground cloves and cinnamon, when added to a meat loaf or any meat dish give the dish an amazing flavour.
  • While marinating meat add a little curry powder, ginger and garlic to curd.
  • When cooking dry vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower and paneer etc., add cumin, dry red chilli and asafoetida to hot oil before adding vegetables. This adds a wonderful aroma to the dish.
  • To make your drinks like lemonade more striking, add a few pieces of saffron to it.
  • While cooking rice, add cumin and two to three cloves to hot oil before adding rice. This gives a very pleasant flavour to the cooked rice.
  • For that hot spicy taste, black pepper should be freshly ground before adding to a dish. During cooking the taste of the pepper becomes less, so for more flavour add a little more pepper towards end of the cooking.
  • Asafoetida has a very strong flavour, so use a very small amount of it when you season or temper a dish.

Some vegetables and spice combinations:

  • Sweet Potatoes – Cumin Powder, Cinnamon
  • Potatoes – Cumin Powder, Coriander, Mint, Garlic, Mustard
  • Cabbage – Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Coriander
  • Carrots – Cumin, Ginger, Coriander
  • Peas – Cumin, Ginger, Coriander
  • Beans – Cumin, Coriander, Ginger
  • Spinach – Ginger, Garlic, Cumin, Coriander

It is very important to understand the seasonings being used since this will improve or spoil the taste of a dish. So go ahead and experiment with your food, add spices to add aroma and flavour to your food.

Uses of Spices in the Kashmiri Cuisine

Condiments and spices are an integral part of any Indian cuisine especially in the Kashmiri Culinary art and their cuisine. Dishes prepared especially by Kashmiri pundits contain special spices to give them their trade mark flavour.

Kashmir used to be a part of the ancient Silk Route. Spice traders from all over the world used to pass through this valley. They also stayed in Kashmir as visitors to enjoy the summer climates and buy and sell saffron, spices, medicinal herbs, dry fruits etc.

The knowledge of the medicinal values of different spices and condiments was inherited by the Kashmiri pundits from ancient Sanskrit texts of Ayurveda. The use of these spices was and still is common in almost all Kashmiri houses. There is hardly any spice or condiment that is not available at a Kashmiri grocer. A special class of traders came up to deal especially in herbs, spices, seeds, roots and minerals.

Spices used in the Kashmiri cuisine:

By learning how to use local condiments, herbs and spices and those that were introduced by the travelling traders, Kashmiris developed hundreds of exquisite dishes which included both non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes like Rogan Josh, Yakhni, Dum Olav etc.

These dishes vary from sweet or sour, hot to soft, crunchy and some spicy and fragrant. The art of blending various spices in correct proportions thus matured in order to prepare dishes with a variety of flavours and aromas. These dishes were created to perfection in-order to suit various seasons and occasions and tastes of both Indians and outsiders.

In-order to cope with the ever growing demands, a group of professional chefs grew up to compete with one another for the production of exquisite dishes. Thanks to the patronage of influential people who permanently engaged these professional chefs, Kashmiri culinary art gained popularity.

Condiments and spices such as asafoetida hing, fennel seeds, ginger powder, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and cumin are used in good quantities and freely by Kashmiri pundits. On the other hand Kashmiri Muslims use these condiments and spices, commonly known as Masala sparingly, but there is always a predominance of garlic, onion and shallot in their vegetarian and meat preparations.

Shallot which is known as Pran in Kashmir is not used by pundits in their kitchens. In recent times, garlic and onions are used in a few of their meat and vegetable curries. They prefer using Asafoetida also known as Hing instead of garlic, onions and shallots.

Rogan Josh – This popular lamb based dish has its origin in Persia. Kashmiri pundits prepare it without onions and garlic. The basic spices used in this dish are fennel seeds, asafoetida, ginger powder, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, bay leaves etc. Curd is used to add consistency to the gravy.

Kashmiri Dum Aloo– ‘Dum’ means slow cooking. This dish is prepared using small baby potatoes. Spices like asafoetida, bay leaves, cardamom powder, clove, fennel seeds, dry ginger powder, Kashmiri Chilli Powder, cumin powder are used to add that special taste and flavor to the dish.

Kashmiri Garam masala – This mixture of spices is very fragrant. It is made by grinding together green cardamom, clove, black cardamom, cinnamon, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel, black pepper, fenugreek seeds, and nutmeg.

Hence, those who wish to learn the Kashmiri culinary art, the know-how of different condiments, spices and ingredients used by the Kashmiris is necessary. Proper knowledge of processing methods and presentation of these before their utilization is important.

Different Ways of Using Cumin

One of the most beneficial tools one could learn while cooking at home is the use of various spices from around the world.

For centuries now spices have been used to enhance flavors, as medicines or even as colour enhancers in various cuisines. When you open your horizons to the use of spices, you end up adding a whole new dimension to your cuisine. One such spice that is easily found and is worth having on your spice rack is Cumin.

What is Cumin?

What do we know about Cumin? Cumin seeds are potent and pungent little things with the ability to change the entire course of a dish. Cumin is most commonly known to be used in Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and some Chinese dishes as well. Cumin was one of the most accessible and most popular condiment back in the middle ages for Europeans. Stories are told of soldiers going into war with cumin bread loaves in the bags for good luck. It was extensively used by the Romans, Greeks, Persians and Egyptians. More details visit at

Cumin is originally a member of the herbaceous annual in the parsley family, but rather than having a crisp and bright flavour, Cumin is known for its warm and smoky taste. It was originally a native to the Nile river valley but for centuries now has been cultivated in China, Eastern Mediterranean, India, North Africa and America.

More commonly used in South American and Indian cuisines, this spice has a distinctive flavour and aroma. Some cumin seeds have even been dated all the way back to the 2nd B.C. Cumin also receives mention in the old testament of the bible.

Uses of Cumin:

Either used by being ground into a Cumin powder or as a whole, Cumin has a warm, grounding taste which is used in many soups and stews and can really bring some warmth to a lot of recipes. One can change their whole perspective about what breakfast should taste like by adding some cumin into their scrambled eggs.

Cumin can also be used in your breakfast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and hummus. In India we add cumin in ground or whole form to most of our vegetables, to give them a distinctive flavour. Ground or whole cumin can be used with lentils and can also be added with paprika to your rice recipe. Whole cumin seeds can be toasted in a frying pan or skillet and used as a warm and crunchy topping of salads and soups too.

Some studies have found that Cumin extracts decreased total cholesterol and also prevented excessive weight loss. Cumin has also proved to improve our immune systems and can help increase bone density and bone micro architecture. Certain studies have also shown cumin to protect our livers from the adverse effects of alcohol.

Cumin is one of the most versatile condiments, so next time when you are cooking something try adding a bit of Cumin to your dishes in whole, toasted or ground form.