Using Spices in Indian Cooking
Spices are vegetative substances that grow as fruits, nuts, seeds, and even bark any many cultures use them as tiny food additives to enhance flavours or add colouring.
All spices also hold many other properties that have been used for many years in different industries from medicine, cosmetics, perfumery and even in textiles.
The health benefits of spices is staggering and they are routinely used in alternative or contemporary medicine such as Ayurveda (a system of traditional medicine native to India).
Spices come as either whole (in their natural state) or ground into powders. I prefer to buy most of my spices whole and grind them as and when required. This means they retain their natural oils and aromatics for much longer.
Whole spices are best used within about six to nine months or three months for ground. Always store spices dry in airtight containers and store in the dark. Traditional Indian spice tins called Masala Dubba are perfect.
What Spices Do
When we eat, our chemical-sensing system allows us to sense flavour. Flavour is the result of all our senses coming together from smell, texture, temperature and taste. Over 85% of our perception of flavour comes from aroma.
The main thing to take away is that spices enhance aroma, which in turn heightens our sense of flavour, and it is this that makes Indian food so unique and delicious.
This is a list of all the spices I use on a regular basis:
- Asafoetida (Hing)
- Amchoor (Dry mango powder)
- Bay leaves (Tej patha)
- Black Cardamom (Kali elachi)
- Black peppercorns (Kali mirch)
- Carom seeds (Ajwain)
- Cassia bark (Dal chini)
- Green Cardamom (Elachi)
- Cloves (Laung)
- Coriander seeds (Thania)
- Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
- Fennel Seeds (Saunf)
- Fenugreek seeds (Methi)
- Fenugreek leaves dried (Methi)
- Garam Masala
- Nigella seeds (Kalonji seeds/Kalvaji)
- Kashmiri chillies
- Mustard seeds (Sarson)
- Pomegranate seeds (Anaardana)
- Red Chilli Powder (Lal mirch)
- Saffron (Kesir)
- Star anise
- Turmeric (Haldi)
- White Poppy Seeds