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SPICES
We Indian love to cook with spices.
A spice is a seed, fruit, root, bark, or other plant substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Spices are distinguished from herbs, which are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants used for flavoring or as a garnish. Many spices have antimicrobial properties, which may explain why spices are more prominent in cuisines originating in warmer climates, where food spoilage is more likely, and why the use of spices is more common with meat, which is particularly susceptible to spoiling. Spices are sometimes us Spices are the foundation for Indian cooking. They can transform any dish into a tasty meal and give life to even the simplest ingredients. Used in medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics or perfume production .Indian cuisine uses many different spices (masala), not just for a layering effect of flavors, but also for their nutritional/medicinal values which are rooted in Ayurveda.
Some common spices-
Cardamom
There are two kinds of cardamom used in Indian cooking: green and black. Green is the more common variety, used for everything from spice mixes to lassis to Indian desserts. The flavor is light and sweet, with a mild eucalyptus note. Green cardamom can be blended whole when making spice mixes, like garam masala, however when using them in sweets or desserts, you would pop the pod open and lightly crush the fragrant black seeds before using.
Black cardamom, on the other hand, is very powerful and smoky, and needs to be used with a lot of caution. Normally only the seeds would be used, and if using the whole pod, it?s best to pull it out before serving the dish, as it can be very spicy to bite into.
Clove
Clove is a common spice in Indian cooking and its anise notes are easily recognizable in many Indian preparations. The strong, almost medicinal flavor of clove comes from the concentration of essential oils. Cloves are technically flowers, and a lot of their oils are pressed out before they are dried and used in cooking. Cloves can be used whole or blended into spice mixes. They do need to be used with caution, however, as they can tend to overpower more delicate spices.
Cumin-Cumin derives from the parsley family and is used to add a smoky note and a robust aroma to most Indian curries and vegetables. Fried in its dry form and roasted before use, cumin seed is usually the first spice added while cooking Indian dishes. It is also dry roasted and converted to powder before being added to dishes like pudding and buttermilk. It is used to flavor rice, stuffed vegetables, many savory dishes and curries
 Turmeric
Another spice belonging to the ginger family, turmeric is probably the most commonly used spice in India. Turmeric was predominantly used as a dye and in Siddha medicine for thousands of years. Derived from the roots of Curcuma Longa, a leafy plant native to India, turmeric has an earthy consistency, and a warm aroma and taste. Mainly used for its flavor and color, turmeric also has antiseptic qualities and is therefore used for its health benefits as we.
Saffron
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Originating in Kashmir and derived from the stigma of crocus flowers, saffron is believed to be more valuable than gold. The most striking feature of this spice is its pungent, honey-like aroma. The deeper the color of saffron, the purer it is. It is often used after being soaked in water or milk, which softens its strong aroma and taste.
Black pepper
 Black pepper is actually native to India, primarily from the Western Ghats and Malabar region. It is a surprisingly hard spice to grow, as it depends on many natural cycles, like a set amount of rainfall, which is why prices for fresh pepper vary a lot.
Like most spices, black pepper needs to be toasted before blending. For the best flavor, however, fresh black pepper can also be ground directly into dishes.
 Mustard seeds
Mustard seeds can be yellow, black, or brown and are used interchangeably in Indian cooking. The flavor of mustard seeds is released when they are crushed or cooked in oil. Their smoky, nutty flavor is a staple in curries and curry powders, and mustard oil is commonly used in the North of India
.Fenugreek
 
 Fenugreek is an herb similar to clover that is native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia. The seeds are used in cooking, to make medicine, or to hide the taste of other medicine. Fenugreek seeds smell and taste somewhat like maple syrup. Fenugreek leaves are eaten in India as a vegetable.
  Curry leaves
 Base ingredient for different type of tadkas (tempering).An aromatic herb used to enhance flavor for mostly vegetarian dishes. Highly used in Western and South Indian cuisine.
Nutmeg
Nutmeg is the spice made by grinding the seed of the fragrant nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) tree into powder. The spice has a distinctive pungent fragrance and a warm slightly sweet taste; it is used to flavor many kinds of baked goods, confections, puddings, potatoes, meats, sausages, sauces, vegetables, and such beverages as eggnog. The seeds are dried gradually in the sun over a period of six to eight weeks. During this time the nutmeg shrinks away from its hard seed coat until the kernels rattle in their shells when shaken. The shell is then broken with a wooden club and the nutmegs are picked out.
Indian Bay Leaves {Tej Patta} ? Tej patta, which translates to ?pungent leaves,? are Indian bay leaves that originate on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. They are an integral ingredient in many North Indian dishes and are very different from European laurel bay leaves. These olive-green leaves are larger with three veins running through them, and have a milder aroma, similar to that of cinnamon bark.
Coriander
Coriander is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavour, aroma, and pungency. Ground coriander seed loses flavour quickly in storage and is best ground fresh.. They are the main ingredient of the two south Indian dishes sambhar and rasam.
Red Chili Powder
Red chili powder is made from the seeds of red chilies. Being the hottest part of the chili, the powder is exceptionally strong and used in small quantities. Originating in the Americas, the powder was introduced to India by the Portuguese and has since become an integral part of Indian cooking. The chili is also used in its whole form in various South Indian curries
   Mace
. The nutmeg tree (myristica fragrans) is the only tree that produces two separate spices. The fruit contains a hard pit known as nutmeg, while the lacy red membrane surrounding it is mace. Mace spice is a common ingredient in Northern European cooking, appearing in hearty vegetable dishes, cream sauces, and sausages. In baking, ground mace spice can be used as a substitute for nutmeg; its mellower flavor is especially nice with fruits or delicate pastries. It?s also delicious in pumpkin pie or baked winter squash dishes
Kokum-
Similar to tamarind, kokum skins are usually available as dried rind or fruit, and infused in hot water. The deeper the colour the better the kokum. It will keep in an airtight jar for about a year.Kokum has the same souring qualities as tamarind, especially enhancing coconut-based curries or vegetable dishes like potatoes, okra or lentils. Kokum is especially used with fish curries, three or four skins being enough to season an average dish. It is also included in chutneys and pickles.
 


Last updated: Sep 18, 2021

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