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Indian Spices: Cooking With Basic Spices


Indian Spice Ingredients For Cooking - The Art Of Using Indian Spices In An Indian Kitchen

Indians spice their dishes in layers harmoniously blending subtle spices with aromatic ones and layering it with herbs, ginger, garlic and lime juice or tamarind. For practical purposes  cooking with Indian spices could be divided into 3 stages. The Dance of Spices In Indian Cooking Is The Following:

Part 1. BASIC OR ESSENTIAL INDIAN SPICES  
Part 2.
AROMATIC, SECONDARY GARAM MASALA SPICES
Part 3 - HERBAL INFUSIONS,SWEETNERS MORE 

Part 1 - Basic Or Essential Spices In An Indian Kitchen.

1. BASIC OR ESSENTIAL INDIAN SPICES -
Asafoetida, Cumin Seeds, Coriander Powder, Turmeric and Chilli powder,Curry Leaves form the basic spices which go into most dishes
Indians heat a pan add ghee in it then we add cumin seeds or mustard seeds and asafetida and allow them to sizzle.
Then we add red chili powder, coriander seed powder and turmeric powder. We also add our minced ginger at this time. We then add our vegetables, salt and simmer the main ingredient to make a wonderful dish.

The Basic Spices are:

Asafetida (hing, heeng), is used mainly for its strong taste on the same lines of garlic.
Cumin Seeds - is a basic spice used in most dishes in North India. It has a strong but pleasing flavor. Cumin may be fried whole in oil, or ground, or roasted and ground, or ground and then roasted, all with very different results.
Turmeric (haldi)is also a basic Indian spice and is virtually used in most Indian savory dishes. It has no real taste and is mainly for its medicinal properties and the lovely color that it gives to the dishes.
Coriander Seeds (dhaniya)is the third basic spice in Indian cooking and is mainly for its fresh, cooling and soothing taste.
Chili Powder - is used mainly for its special pungent and fiery taste.
Mustard Seeds is mainly in south and west India. Used for its strong but very pleasing flavor.
At the time we add cumin or mustard seeds as specified above we could also add the next level of Indian spicing with fennel seeds, nigella seeds, ajwain seeds, fenugreek seeds.

2. SECONDARY BASIC INDIAN SPICES -
Other Indian spices (to complement the above)that are basic spices but not eaasential spices are:
- Fennel seeds (sounf)- is used mainly in North India. Used for its strong but very pleasing flavor. Fennel may be fried whole in oil, or ground, or roasted and ground, or ground and then roasted, all with different results.
- Fenugreek (methi)seeds - is valued for its bitter taste and health qualities. If it is burnt it gets very bitter and should be thrown away.
- Nigella Seeds or Kalonji is used mainly in North India. Used for its strong but very pleasing flavor. Small black seed, sometimes called onion seeds, although they are not really seeds from onions. It is often sprinkled on naan (bread)
- Ajwain or Carom Seeds  (ajowain) is mainly used in North India to flavor breads and root vegetables.

Carrot Recipe With Basic Indian Spices

3 cups carrots  peeled and diced
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen.
2 tsp. ghee
1 tsp. cumin seeds 
1/8 tsp. asafoetida powder 
1/2 tsp. coriander powder 
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp. chilli powder  
1 inch piece of ginger minced
Salt to taste 
1/2 tsp. Garam Masala 
juice of 1/2 lemon
A small bunch of coriander leaves chopped

Method:
Heat ghee in a frying pan or wok. 
Add cumin seeds and asafoetida powder and wait till cumin sizzles but does not burn. 
Add carrots, peas, ginger and all the spices except garam masala and salt.  Stir fry.
Add 2 tbsp. water and steam the veggies covered on medium heat.  Fold in garam masala and lime juice. Cover the pan again, turn of heat and let the flavors blend in the remaining heat. Serve hot. 

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© Kavita Mehta
photo credit Kavita and Vinay Mehta

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