All those spices and herbs and pots and clay ovens and unusual words and terms for things can be baffling. But it really isn’t when you understand what to use, when and why. So for starters, I’m going to start demystifying things with a walk through the main spices used in Indian cooking.
Soon you’ll lose the fear and want to get stuck in yourself because believe me, it doesn’t take a genius to cook this kind of food. Put it like this, I’ve been known to serve rice pudding covered in salt instead of sugar and once I started boiling potatoes, went out shopping, had lunch… then came back to hardened potato paste you could’ve paved a drive with. So if I can cook Indian, then you can!
This month we’re starting with lovely aromatic cumin. This is the most popular spice in Indian cooking and is pretty much used in all dishes one way or another. It has a wonderfully warming earthiness that helps to bring out the natural sweetness of food and I love it.
Cumin (or Jeera as we call it) is actually the dried seed of a herb related to parsley. You can begin cooking with cumin by crushing half a teaspoon of the seeds and adding them to the sauce of your meat dishes. If you’re cooking vegetables, fry whole cumin and mustard seeds together (this releases the oils of both) for a great combination. Cumin is also fabulous in rice – fry the seeds in oil and when they release their aromas, add the rice and cook as normal for a lovely, homely flavour.
Cumin also forms the basis of a number of spice blends, in particular Garam masala. And like most spices, it’s good for you, too. Cumin assists digestion through the stimulation of enzymes that help to break down food and is used in tea to help sooth the stomach.
It’s a super spice to start with, so start using it and let me know how you get on!