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The Use And Benefits Of Indian Spices

Indian Spices

Let us know the use and benefits of Indian Spices

We know that Indian Spices ( Indian Masala) are using widely all over the world in many cuisines.

In the West, BAY LEAVES come from the bay laurel tree; Indian bay leaves (tej patta), however, are from the cassia tree. Aromatic, pungent, and redolent of cinnamon, they are used in Roast Chicken à la Rama, Lamb Chops with Browned Onions and Tomatoes and some of the other curries, too. Find them in Indian grocery stores or substitute regular bay laurel leaves

BLACK PEPPER (kali mirch), native to Kerala in southwestern India, is widely available whole or ground—as with many spices, I advise that you buy the peppercorns whole and grind them at home.

BLACK SALT (kala namak) is used in Date and Tamarind Chutney and Curried Chickpeas to bring a different level of saltiness, as it is highly sulfuric in its composition.

Whole CARDAMOM PODS (illaichi) are available green, which has a minty, herbaceous flavour, or black, which are more pungent.

CASSIA (dalchini), like its relative, true cinnamon, is the inner bark of a tree native to Asia. Both are sweet and aromatic; cassia is more pungent. In this book, they can be substituted for one another. For these recipes, you’ll be using whole sticks rather than ground cassia.

CILANTRO (hara dhania) is the herb of choice for garnishing Indian dishes. To prepare it, wash the bunch of cilantro under cold running water. Gently shake off the excess water from the leaves and then place the bunch root side down in a drinking glass to allow the leaves to completely dry. Use the leaves and tender stems only for the garnish; the thicker stems close to the roots tend to be bitter. To store extra (washed and dry) cilantro, wrap it in a paper towel and then place it in a plastic bag.

CLOVES (laung) are the dried flower buds of an evergreen tree; aromatic and pungent, they are used whole or ground in spice mixes.

Grated COCONUT (nariyal) meat is available frozen in Indian and other Asian ethnic markets.

CORIANDER (dhania), the seeds of the same plant that yields the fresh herb cilantro (see above), is warm, citrusy, and sweet; buy the seeds whole and roast and grind them at home.

CUMIN (zeera) seeds, whether whole or ground, are used in dishes for their distinctive earthy, warming, slightly pungent flavor. As with other whole spices, roasting them releases their oils and intensifies their flavour; roasted ground cumin keeps in an airtight jar for up to 10 days.

FENNEL SEEDS (saunf) bring a sweet anise flavour to dishes and spice blends.

FENUGREEK is a bitter herb, the seeds (methi) of which are used in Indian pickles; the dried leaves (kasoori methi) are used in many preparations to balance the flavours

GARAM MASALA is a classic blend of roasted and ground whole spices, which includes cardamom, cinnamon or cassia, cloves, coriander, cumin, black pepper, and whole red chiles. You can buy ready-blended garam masala, but it’s best made at home.

Fresh GINGER (adrak), essential to many Asian cuisines, has found its place in Western markets. Several varieties of the rhizome are available: ethnic Asian and Indian markets sell the ginger imported from China or Indonesia, which tends to have less fibre than that available in supermarkets. When buying ginger, break off a piece to see how much fiber is there and choose a piece that has the least amount.

A small teaspoon is perfect for scraping the skin off gingerroot without peeling or paring off more than necessary. Most recipes will call for the rhizome to be measured by inches, which can be hard to judge, as some pieces are thinner than others. For the purposes of this book, a one-inch piece peeled and then minced is equivalent to a scant tablespoon. To julienne ginger, slice the peeled root at a bias creating long oval slices, then turn them 90 degrees and slice them into long thin strips. Ginger powder (saunth) is sharp, spicy, and aromatic.

GREEN MANGO POWDER (amchur), tart and fruity, is available in Indian grocery stores and is used to add an acid profile to a recipe in place of lemon or lime juice. However, lemon or lime juice cannot be substituted, as more often than not the acidity is required in a nonliquid form.

INDIAN RED CHILE is available whole (sabut lal mirch) or ground (lal mirch)—it’s either hot or very hot, and deep red in color. (Pictured here) For whole, you can substitute árbol chiles; for ground, you can substitute cayenne. (Serrano chiles are closest to the flavor and pungency of the green chiles used in India.) I do not seed my chiles; if you prefer your food less spicy, remove the seeds. If you prefer your food really spicy leave the seeds in, or substitute Thai bird’s eye chiles. It is best to use gloves when handling chiles.

JAGGERY (gur) is unrefined sugar (usually date, cane, or palm sugar) with a caramel flavour; it’s sold in blocks in Indian grocery stores. You may substitute golden brown sugar if you can’t find jaggery.

KARI LEAVES (meethi neem), the aromatic leaves of the sweet neem tree, are available fresh in Indian markets. They add a fresh verdant flavour to the dish, and although they are best used fresh, neem leaves can be bought dried. Unlike bay leaves, they can be left in the food.

MACE (jawantri) is the covering of the nutmeg seed (see below), separated after harvest and sold as a spice on its own; its uses and flavours are similar.

MADRAS CURRY POWDER, a blend of roasted spices, such as coriander, mustard, and fenugreek, is used frequently in the curries of Southern India.

MUSTARD SEEDS (rai), tiny and round, are sharp and full of a strong flavour that mellows and becomes more complex when the seeds are roasted. I prefer the brown Indian variety, but you can substitute black Indian mustard seeds.

NIGELLA seeds (kalonji), sometimes sold as onion seeds (no relationship) are tiny black seeds with a flavour reminiscent of onion, oregano, and pepper.

NUTMEG (jaiphal), the spice, is the dried seed of the nutmeg tree. Warm, with a balance of sweet and bitter, it’s used in small quantities. Though typically available ground, it’s best when freshly grated, so buy a whole nutmeg (they’re about the size of an olive) and grate off a bit when you need some.

PANCH PURAN is a five-spice mix made entirely of whole seeds: cumin, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, and nigella.

PANDANUS ESSENCE (kewra), distilled from the flower of the pandanus tree, is a sweet and aromatic addition to drinks and desserts—it’s used like rosewater or orange-flower water.

Dried POMEGRANATE SEEDS (anardana) are tart and fruity and are available whole or ground. I prefer to buy them ground, as they are difficult to grind and hard to chew when whole.

RASAM POWDER is a packaged spice mix for South Indian tomato soup, containing roasted channa dal, coriander, mustard, red chile, asafetida, and kari leaves. It’s available in Indian markets.

SAFFRON (kesar), floral and aromatic, is the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus flower. This spice is very expensive and is used sparingly to season and colour dishes.

STAR ANISE (chakri phool), the sweet and fragrant dried fruit of an evergreen tree, smells and tastes like anise or fennel, though the plants are unrelated. Buy it whole, in pieces, or ground.

TAMARIND (imli) is available as pulp, which comes in blocks, and paste, which comes in jars, in Indian, Southeast Asian, Caribbean, and some Latino markets and speciality stores. To extract paste from the pulp, break the pulp into pieces and soak it in boiling water. When the water is cool enough to handle, mash the pulp with your fingers and force it through a fine-mesh sieve to yield the paste.

TURMERIC (haldi) is a rhizome from the ginger family. Dried and ground, turmeric adds a warm and bitter flavour to a recipe. It has many health benefits and is considered a natural food preservative.

Other Ingredients in Indian Spices

BASMATI RICE is the choice when it comes to Indian cooking. Though many stores today carry basmati rice, it is not always imported from India or Pakistan—make the effort to find imported basmati rice: there’s a huge difference. Also, purchase basmati rice that is marked “aged” as it has less starch, resulting in a fluffier rice dish.

CHICKPEA FLOUR (besan), ground from chickpeas (channa dal), is used in bread and to thicken curries and many other dishes. It has an addictive earthy, nutty flavour; buy it in Indian markets and gourmet and speciality stores.

GHEE, or Indian clarified butter, is one of the primary cooking fats for Indian dishes. Made by cooking butter and removing the residue so that the end product is pure fat, ghee is shelf-stable and can be stored without refrigeration as long as it’s in an airtight container. It’s readily available in Indian and speciality markets.

SOFT WHOLE WHEAT PASTRY FLOUR (atta), is available in Indian grocery stores. If you cannot find atta, substitute soft whole wheat pastry flour. The chapatti will be a little denser due to the fact that atta is cut with a little bit of all-purpose flour.

Lentils And Beans Always pick through all legumes and beans for stones and twigs. Then rinse in several changes of cold water until the water runs almost clear. The beauty of the slow cooker is that you usually do not need to soak lentils or beans before cooking them

BLACK-EYED PEAS (lobia), are widely grown in Asia and provide a great source of protein, making them perfect in main courses for vegetarians.

BLACK LENTILS (ma sabat) are creamy and rich, and a favourite of Punjabis. These hearty lentils are best suited for the slow cooker as they require a lengthy stewing time.

Whole BROWN LENTILS (sabat masoor), are pink lentils with their skin left on, which makes them heartier. They keep their shape when cooked and result in dishes with a lentil soup consistency.

CHICKPEAS (channa dal) are a smaller version of the garbanzo bean. This small, dry, unroasted chickpea comes from the black channa variety. They have a low rating on the glycemic index, making them perfect in dal for diabetics.

GREEN MUNG BEANS (sabat moong dal), come from the commonly cultivated whole green variety of mung beans. They are used for making dals as well as khichdi, a dish that combines rice and lentils and has a consistency that varies from soupy to more robust. Once cooked, they take on a creamy consistency.

PIGEON PEAS (toor dal), also known as arhaar dal, disintegrate completely when cooked, making for a dish with a smooth consistency. One of the oldest lentil varieties cultivated, they are used widely both in Northern and Southern India.

PINK LENTILS (malka masoor), are sometimes referred to as Turkish lentils. Pink dal is quite small and they turn yellow when cooked. Light and easy to digest (and requiring hardly any soaking time), they are my favourite.

RED KIDNEY BEANS (raj ma), are, like all beans, an excellent source of protein—especially when combined with rice. Raj ma chawal, red beans and rice, is a popular lunch meal. These beans hold their shape when cooked through, and yet lend a creamy texture to the recipe. Due to the length of time required to cook the beans, a slow cooker is a perfect appliance for the task.

YELLOW MUNG BEANS (pili moong dal) are the husked, and thus lighter, version of the whole mung bean and probably the most common dal used in Indian cooking. Yellow mung beans tend to boil over when cooked in a saucepan. However, this is not a concern when they are cooked in the slow cooker, which maintains a consistent temperature.

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