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A Beginner’s guide to basic Spices in the desi Indian kitchen
Jokes about the queues for cooking competitions being longer than ever are doing the rounds as people have discovered the hidden chef in themselves. Thanks to the lockdown that is! Hit or miss, we are doing the best we can. While some of us are creating masterpieces in the kitchen, many of us are struggling to understand the usual ingredients.
So, here is a quick guide to some basic Indian spices in your kitchen:
The first thing to understand about cooking Indian food is that there is no one pre-mix for every dish. Each recipe has its own set of spice requirements and in variations. So, you might want to stay away from that one ‘Magic Masala for all’!
1. Cumin (seeds & powder)
Literally the first spice you add to oil for most North Indian dishes, Cumin seeds are aromatic and have a nutty flavour. They tend to add bitterness to your dish if burnt. When using cumin powder, add along with other spices and not at the beginning.
2. Mustard seeds
Adding brown or black mustard seeds directly to hot oil till they splutter or pop, adds a rich aroma and pungent nutty flavour to your dish. They are used in the traditional ‘Tadka’, salads, pickles and have a versatile use.
3. Red Chili Powder / Ground Paprika
This is the spice that you can use in the quantity you like. It’s all about the extent of spice you can handle. Red chili powders add heat and colour to your recipe and gives it a rich smoky flavour. Kashmiri red chili powder is mild and adds a vibrant, natural red colour whereas others are stronger and must be used with caution.
4. Turmeric Powder
Turmeric is renowned for its healing and anti-inflammatory properties. It is a bright, vibrant, and yellow spice that adds a peppery earthy taste. It is a staple in Asian sea food preparations.
5. Coriander powder
If you are making a sambhar, rasam or a rich curry, this is a must. It adds a delicious layer of citrusy flavour and texture to our dish. Coriander powder also thickens the sauces.
Some even add whole coriander seeds to the dish for a fresher undertone.
6. Garam Masala
Garam masala powder or the whole spices (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, black pepper, fennel seeds, cumin etc) add warmth and richness to your recipe. The powder is usually added last to the recipe giving it a smoky, earthy flavour. It adds a finishing touch and brings the dish together.
This pretty much sets you up for a decent cooking session in the kitchen. Browse at your local supermarket and don’t be afraid to discover the hidden chef in you. This will surely save you from spending a lot on Indian take-outs!
Here’s a store you can visit in Berlin (Germany) or order online from - https://www.spicevillage.eu/collections/spices