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My Spice Rack

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Indian cuisine is famous for its spices. My home country India produces a greater variety of spices than any other nation in the world. The spices are used whole or ground in endless combinations. The unique subtlety of Indian cuisine is that not just one spice stands out and thus overpowers all the other flavors in the dish. Everything just magically blends together.

All seed spices can be used in dishes in at least four ways:

  1. as whole seeds

  2. ground into powder

  3. roasted and then ground

  4. roasted in Ghee (clarified butter) or oil (so the spice flavour is absorbed)

Various leafy plants such as curry leaves, mint, coriander leaves, and bay leaves are also used for seasoning.

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Ajwain

 

Ajwain seeds with thyme-like aroma, reminiscent of cumin or cumin seeds in appearance. Dry roasted, they add flavor and spiciness to dishes.

Other properties

 

Ajwain, with its antiseptic and blood purifying properties, can help against obesity, migraine, gastritis, loss of appetite, flatulence, bronchial problems, and stomach cramps.

Amchur

 

This spice powder is made from dried, raw, unripe mango fruit. Amchur is a natural acidifier and can also be used instead of yogurt as an ingredient in marinades to tenderize meat because of its naturally acting enzymes. It is sprinkled sparingly over savory dishes or used in chutneys.

Other properties

 

Amchur can improve digestion and vision and is also said to help with obesity as well as skin problems.

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Asafoetida

 

Asafoetida is a plant resin that is available as an amber-colored lump or powdered. Uncooked it has an unpleasant, intense odor, but when heated it turns into a spicy onion aroma.

Other properties

 

Asafoetida is considered an important aid for improved digestion in lentil and chickpea curries. Asafoetida can help against severe flatulence and stomach cramps, and it is also intestinal cleansing.

Fenugreek

 

An aromatic, bittersweet spice called "methi" in Hindi. The seeds have an intense flavor, the chopped and dried leaves (kasoori methi) are somewhat milder. The seeds and leaves of fenugreek add a wholesome note to curries, pickles and chutneys.

Other properties

 

The spice is also used in traditional medicine and can be helpful for indigestion, stress, fever, skin problems, and mouth and body odors.

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Chaat Masala

 

"Chaat" means "delicious" in Hindi and that's exactly how a dish should be that you've just enhanced with this spice blend. The powder contains amchur, cumin, black salt, coriander, ground ginger, black pepper and cayenne pepper. This refreshing spicy combination covers all flavors. From sweet to sour to salty and bitter.

Chili Peppers

 

Chili peppers are fruits of some Capsicum species, which are characterized by a unique spiciness and give their heat to many curries. Chilies can be green, yellow or red, depending on the degree of ripeness. The spiciest parts of this fruit are the seeds, which are often removed before use. The pods are used whole, slit or chopped, dried or fresh.

 

 

In India, many different types of chili are known. Widely used are the fresh green chilies, round and elongated in shape. Highly prized for their pungency are red dried pods from Rajasthan (Nagori) and Andhra Pradesh (Rasampatti).

 

Red chilies from Kashmir are mild in flavor and popular because they color dishes slightly scarlet without significantly intensifying the heat. Red chili powder is used in everyday Indian cooking almost as often as turmeric and ground coriander seeds. Chili flakes and pastes are just as readily available.

 

Note: The heat is mainly in the seeds; if you don't like it so hot, remove them. When seasoning, you should carefully test how the level of spice you like.

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Other properties

 

Chilies are super antioxidants and can help uplift your mood, melt away the pounds, and protect against disease. They also have anti-inflammatory effects.

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Garam Masala

 

"Garam" means "hot", in this case "warming", and "masala" is the comprehensive term for "spice blend". Every family has its own recipe for garam masala, which makes their dishes unique and which is a closely guarded family secret (unless you are writing a blog about Indian cuisine    :-)).

Garam Masala can include all sorts of warming spices. For my mom Flory, it's mostly cinnamon, black pepper and cloves (you can find her recipe here). You can also buy ready-made Garam Masala, but then do pay attention to the quality.

Garam Masala can be sprinkled over the dish towards the end of the preparation and give it a little warmth.

Fennel

 

A spice herb with a licorice-like aroma. The leaves of the plant are edible, but in Indian cooking it is mainly the seeds that are used, sometimes as an ingredient in Garam Masala. In Kashmir cuisine, the combination of dried ginger powder and fennel seeds is more widely used.

Other properties

 

Fennel seeds are used in many curry and vegetable dishes to add warmth and sweetness. Fennel can calm the nerves as well as promote sleep, strengthen digestion and help with intestinal cramps.

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Cloves

 

A powerful spice made from the flower buds of the clove tree, "laung" in Hindi. Cloves add a special flavor to vegetables, lentil dishes, meat or rice dishes. Cloves are used either ground or whole and often combined with black cardamom or as an ingredient in Garam Masala.

Other properties

 

Cloves are highly valued because they can purify the blood, relieve pain and aid digestion. They can help against obesity, toothache, flu, cough, lymphatic problems, earache, headache, muscle cramps and asthma.

Ginger

 

An indispensable ingredient in Indian cuisine. The fresh root of the ginger plant, with its strong, pungent aroma, gives dishes a warm citrus flavor when grated or crushed. Dried ginger ("saunth") is the spice made from the ground ginger root, with a woodier and less pungent aroma. Please do not peel, as many of the healthy ingredients sit just under the skin.

Other properties

 

Ginger is known for its medicinal properties and is called "Maha Aushadi" (the universal remedy) in Ayurveda. It can stimulate digestion and appetite, be warming and germicidal, help with obesity and support the intestinal flora. Ginger can also loosen mucus in the respiratory tract.

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Jaggery

 

Jaggery tastes like toffee and maple syrup. The spice is made from sugar cane juice that is boiled down to a caramel-like syrup and filtered, but not refined. The syrup is then allowed to harden. There is also a high-quality version made from palm sugar. Jaggery is used for desserts, especially in southern India and Bengal.

Other properties

 

Jaggery can promote digestion and blood purification and strengthen the immune system and intestinal flora. Furthermore, jaggery can help against obesity and is an excellent source of energy.

Cardamom

 

In Indian cuisine we use two types of cardamom, green and black. Green is the most common variety. At first, cardamom smells a bit like cold medicine, rose-sweet and with a hint of eucalyptus. But once you peel the seeds and pound them in a mortar, the aroma undergoes a significant transformation and becomes peppery, gingery and overwhelmingly delicious. There is a valid reason why cardamom is called "the queen of spices".

Cardamom is indispensable for a delicious Masala Chai. The black capsules, on the other hand, give a more intense and smoky flavor. The two varieties are used in meat, vegetable and rice dishes.

Other properties

 

Cardamom has a sweet, pungent and bitter taste, can be appetizing and diuretic. Together with ginger and turmeric, cardamom can help neutralize the mucus-forming effect of milk. Cardamom can aid due to its weight-reducing effect, and it supports against insomnia, bad breath, as well as headaches.

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Garlic

 

Garlic enjoys almost divine status in India and is the third main ingredient in Indian cuisine, along with ginger and chili peppers. Garlic is often used as a spice in Indian cuisine. It has a particularly pungent, spicy flavor that becomes considerably milder and sweeter when cooked.

Other properties

 

Garlic can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and helps cleanse the skin and blood vessels.

Coriander (aka Cilantro)

 

Coriander is an herb whose leaves and dried seeds are a major seasoning ingredient in Indian cuisine. The leaves are acidic and have a slight citrus flavor that diminishes when the leaves are cooked. The leaves can also be used raw as a garnish in almost all Indian dishes. Coriander seeds have a nutty, spicy citrus flavor and are used whole and ground. For full flavor, the seeds should be toasted in a dry pan over high heat for 1-2 minutes and then crushed. Coriander greens are not a substitute for seeds or powder, which you can get almost anywhere. The best flavor is provided by the home-made coriander powder.

Other properties

 

Coriander can help stimulate digestion and appetite. It can also aid against inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract.

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Cumin

 

Cumin is also a staple ingredient in many spice blends and the staple of many curries. It is often combined with coriander, which adds brightness to its warm roasted aroma. The seeds have a warm, earthy aroma and a bitter, anise-like flavor. They are thin, long and striped green-brown. When roasted, they become darker, more aromatic, nutty and smoky. There are also cumin seeds known as Shah Jeera, that taste milder and more elegant and are often used in Biryanis. There are also black cumin seeds (Kala Jeera), which are slightly hot and spicy and give a heady aroma.

Other properties

 

Cumin can help stimulate digestion, regulate intestinal flora, reduce flatulence, analgesic, diuretic and help purify the blood. It can also be used for constipation, insomnia, colds and anemia.

Turmeric

 

Turmeric can be used fresh or dried and is a basic ingredient in almost every dish. Because of its bright yellow color, turmeric is also used as a natural food coloring. Fresh turmeric tastes earthy, peppery and slightly bitter. We mostly use ground turmeric for cooking. Turmeric rarely plays the main role among the ingredients, but it gives the dish a nice earthiness.

Other properties

 

Turmeric can help beat the effects of stress, colds and inflammation. It can be very blood purifying, as well as help with allergies, allergic asthma, hay fever, skin problems, hemorrhoids and chest pain.

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Bay Leaves

 

The leaves of the Bay leaf tree grow on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. They differ from European Bay Leaves mainly in terms of their aroma. Fresh or dried, the leaves give curries a flavor reminiscent of strong cinnamon. The leaves are used only for seasoning and are not eaten.

Other properties

 

The medicinal plant is also considered a stimulant and an antiseptic. It can aid digestion and serve as an antioxidant.

Nutmeg

 

An aromatic spice made from the kernel of Nutmeg, is used either freshly grated or ground. A major ingredient in Garam Masala. Mace, the aromatic seed coat of the nutmeg, is dried whole or ground and used in sweet and savory dishes. In India, nutmeg is known as "javitri".

Other properties

 

Nutmeg can help with flatulence, insomnia, skin problems and aid digestion.

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Black Pepper

 

Peppercorns are the fruits of a flowering vine, originally native to the Malabar Coast, growing as green, juicy and fragrant berries. Black peppercorns are obtained from the cooked and re-dried unripe fruits. They have a fruity, woody, warm and earthy flavor. Black pepper is considered the "king of spices". Peppercorns are often left to steep in oil at the beginning of preparation to soften and make them easier to eat.

Other properties

 

Pepper can help with colds, coughs, weak digestion and muscle aches. Pepper in combination with honey can help clear mucus.

Saffron

 

A spice made from the dried stigmas of the Saffron Crocus. Saffron has a unique, delicate flavor and is also popularly used as a food coloring. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices, but a small amount of it is sufficient for seasoning. Saffron is used either in whole threads or ground slightly sautéed/roasted or soaked in milk/water.

 

Other properties

 

Saffron is known in Ayurveda as a rejuvenating spice, it can be very restorative, stimulating and analgesic. Saffron can reduce mucus, aid digestion and stimulate liver function and metabolism.

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Mustard Seeds

 

Black, brown and yellow grains come from three different plants in the Brassica family. The black grains have many uses in Indian cuisine. They have a nice nutty flavor and are suitable for a wide variety of dishes. They go especially well with fish and seafood. In addition, the oil extracted from the grains is preferred as cooking oil in large parts of northern India and Bengal. Fresh green mustard leaves are a popular vegetable in Punjab.

Other properties

 

Mustard seeds can be very good for weight loss, dry ulcers, and can help soothe the heart. They can also help against sore throat, poor circulation and blood-circulatory problems.

Star Anise

 

This beautiful spice is derived from the dried fruit of an East Asian evergreen tree. It looks like a five-pointed star, with shiny seeds whose flavor is reminiscent of anise. Star anise is cooked with, but never eaten.

Other properties

 

Star anise can be an expectorant, weight reducer and digestive stimulant, soothing the intestines and relieving nausea.

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Tamarind

 

Tamarind is India's secret weapon, widely used throughout India as a souring agent called "imli". Tamarind has a sour slightly tart taste, but as the fruit ripens it becomes sweeter and less acidic. It is bought as pith or fruit or in blocks in Asian stores.

Other properties

 

Tamarind has antibacterial properties and can help with fever, nausea, stomach cramps, flatulence, sore throat, burns, colds as well as skin problems.

Cinnamon

 

The dark and tantalizing cinnamon "dalchini" in Hindi, is the Brad Pitt of spices. What we know as cinnamon in Europe is often "cassia", a Chinese relative. Hold the two side by side and you can tell the difference. True cinnamon has tight coils, often only 1mm thick, while cassia often has only one, thicker layer. Cinnamon has a warming flavor that goes well with desserts and savory dishes. It is available as a powder or in stick form. The sticks are cooked along for flavoring and removed before eating.

Other properties

 

Cinnamon can be very warming and appetizing. It can stimulate circulation, blood flow and urination and is good for respiratory problems and intestinal diseases.

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