Sutinder Behan Indian Spices | Raja's Banquet

red chilli peppers are a very common ingredient used by Indian caterers in Indian catering

Indian Spices

SPICES

Some chefs advocate that you buy whole seeds and lightly pan fry them and then grind them to a fine powder. I honestly don't think that is necessary for everyday cooking, but by all means do that for special occasions.

However, having said that, garam masala is a special spice mix which I recommend that you make yourself. Every Indian family has their own recipe for garam masala, handed down generation to generation and my recipe is no exception, having been handed down to me by my mum.

The everyday ground spices below will keep perfectly well for a couple of months or more if stored in the dark.

The essential spices you will need for everyday Indian cooking are:

  • Turmeric
  • Cumin powder
  • Coriander powder
  • Cumin seeds
  • Chilli powder
  • Garam masala


Below is a list of herbs, spices and other ingredients that you will come across during your culinary journey in to Indian foods. They are listed alphabetically with brief descriptions and uses. Most of them are available in supermarkets these days, but the slightly more rare ingredients can often be found in health food stores and chinese outlets. There are severalIndian spice tin used by all Indian chefs excellent online Asian food stores and I will be listing some of these for you in due course.


Ajwain seeds often called carom seeds or bishop's weed. They are mainly used in fish dishes and pakoras - use sparingly. In Northen India it is also a popular remedy for indigestion.         
Almonds are widely used in Indian puddings and in creamy dishes such as korma to add richness to the dishes.
Amchoor powder is green mango powder. It imparts a sweet and sour flavour.
Asafoetida. A pungent resin used mainly in vegetarian dishes such as spicy potatoes. A pinch goes a long way!
Bay leaves are often used in rice and tomato based dishes.
Cardamoms. An essential spice in Indian sweets and also gives boiled rice a wonderful aroma.
Cashew nuts are also used to enrichen creamy dishes when used in a powdered form and are common in Indian sweets.
Cinnamon can be used either as a bark or in the powdered form in many curries.
Citric acid. Use lemon instead to add tartness to dishes.
Cloves are also used in Indian sweets but like cardamoms impart a beautiful aroma to boiled rice.
Coconut flesh is mainly used in chutneys and salads, spiced with finely sliced fresh chillies and lemon juice!
Coconut milk adds a creamy texture and enriches dishes. Very popular in South Indian dishes.
Coriander seeds. Normally used in pickles but can also be used in most tomato based dishes. Lightly pan fry them before using.
Coriander, fresh. This herb has a lovely aromatic aroma and delicious in salads and marinades, but often used as a garnish.
Curry leaves have to be pan fried in a little bit of oil before using in mainly vegetarian dishes. Has a "curry" aroma!
Dhana jeera is a spice mix of coriander and cumin. Please refer to the spice mixes section for the recipe.
Fennel seeds taste a bit like anise. Really good in marinades when used in the powder form. It also aids digestion and is often eaten after a meal.
Fenugreek seeds are mostly used in vegetarian cooking, fried in a little oil first.
Fenugreek dried leaves. These give a richness to curry dishes and have an amazing "curry" aroma about it.
Garlic, fresh. Can be used either finely chopped or as a paste. It does add a lot of flavour, but is not absolutely essentail if not to your taste.
Garlic powder can be used as a substitute to fresh garlic but can be a bit on the strong side. Useful in spice mixes and marinades.
Ginger, fresh. Can be used either finely chopped or as a paste. It does add a lot of flavour, but is not absolutely essential if not to your taste.
Ginger powder can be used as a substitute to fresh garlic but can be a bit on the strong side. Useful in spice mixes and marinades.
Gram flour. Also known as chickpea flour or besan. It is used to make batter for onion bhaji and pakoras.
Green mangoes are used in chutneys, adding a tangy flavour. Cooking apples can be substituted.
Jaggery is a raw form of cane sugar. Soft brown cane sugar is a good alternative.
Mustard seeds are mostly used in vegetarian cooking, fried in a little oil first. They add a nutty taste.
Nigella seeds are mostly used in vegetarian cooking, fried in a little oil first and are also used in pickles.
Nutmeg is normally used in spice mixes and marinades.
Poppy seeds. These are lovely when lightly toasted and sprinkled on naan bread.
Rose water is mainly used in Indian sweets, giving them a fresh aroma.
Saffron is a very expensive spice. It is the dried stigma of a special family of crocus and is used by soaking in a little bit of warm water or milk. Mainly used in rice dishes and Indian sweets. Gives a rich colour and aroma.
Seasame seeds. These are lovely when lightly toasted and can be sprinkled on naan bread. Also used to thicken creamy sauces when blended into a paste.
Tamarind pods are normally sold in blocks and have to be soaked in warm water to extract the pulp. This very tangy pulp is used in sweet and sour dishes, marinades and chutneys. Need to add sugar to balance the flavour.
Tamarind paste is now readily available and saves on time.
Tandoori masala. This is a spice mix used in tandoori dishes. Mix a little in yoghurt and use as a marinade. It is also used in some types of curry.
Varq is edible silver leaf used for decoration purposes mainly on rice based dishes and sweets.

 

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Sunday the 22nd.
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