Indian Spices. The uses and health benefits
Cumin Seeds (Jeera, Black cumin or Kala Jeera)
Cumin is a basic Indian spice used mainly in North Indian cooking. It has a strong flavour and can be fried whole in oil, added ground into curries, or roasted and ground, each form will produce its own flavour.
Turmeric is a basic Indian spice used in Indian dishes for achieving an attractive yellow/golden colour.
Coriander Seeds (Dhaniya)
This spice is used mainly for its fresh and soothing taste.
The most commonly used chilli powder is Indian cooking is red chilli powder, which has a pungent and hot fiery taste.
Mustard Seeds (black)
This is a basic Indian spice used mainly in the South and West parts of India. Mustard seeds have a strong flavour and are often used whole and quickly fried in oil until they pop to impart a flavour to the oil.
Used in a number of Indian dishes for its smooth flavour, although it has a foul smell when raw. Asafoetida is used in a number of lentil dishes.
Fennel seeds (Sounf)
This is a basic Indian spice used mainly in North Indian cooking. It is an anise flavoured spice which can be fried whole in oil or ground.
Fenugreek is used in Indian cooking both as a herb and a spice. Fenugreek seeds are commonly used in pickles, curry powders and pastes. Dried fenugreek (kasuri methi) has a bitter taste and strong aroma and can be added to curry dishes.
Nigella Seeds or Kalonji
A basic but not essential Indian spice used mainly in North Indian cooking. It has a pungent bitter taste and a faint strawberry like aroma. Naan breads are often topped with nigella seeds.
Carom seeds (Ajawan)
Carom has an aroma almost exactly like thyme, but is more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as slightly bitter and pungent. Carom seeds are often added to Indian breads and curries (especially seafood dishes, like masala fish or fish curry). When added to curries, the seeds are usually crushed with a pestle and mortar.
Green cardamom (Eliachi)
A spice used throughout India for its strong unique taste with an intensely aromatic fragrance. It is best to grind small amounts of cardamom at home using a coffee grinder when making curry dishes. Cardamom is also used to make traditional India tea as well as in numerous Indian desserts.
Cinnamon is used throughout India in North and South cooking. It has a sweet flavour and is one of the main ingredients for making the traditional Indian garam masala spice. Cinnamon is used to flavour curries, rice dishes, vegetables and Indian desserts.
Cloves have an extremely strong flavour and should be used sparingly. They are used in North Indian and South Indian cooking to flavour curries.
This is a secondary Indian spice used throughout Indian for its warm flavour in vegetable, curry and dessert dishes. It is best to grind small quantities of nutmeg using a coffee grinder.
Mace is used in North Indian and South Indian cooking to flavour curries as well as rice dishes. It has a delicate flavour, similar to that of nutmeg.
Garam Masala is a blend of spices, including cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black peppercorns, nutmeg and mace and is always added towards the end of the cooking procedure as this is one of the spices which looses flavour the quickest. Garam means hot, in the sense that the spices in the masala are said to increase body temperature. Many different regions of India make various varieties of Garam Masala and each mixture will vary from household to household. At home and at my father’s Indian restaurant, we make our own Garam Masala with seventeen different spices.
Garlic is an essential Indian seasoning and is usually used in paste form when cooking curry dishes and tandoori dishes. When fresh garlic is not available garlic powder is the equivalent.
Ginger is also an essential Indian seasoning usually used in paste form (when fresh) and is added to curry and tandoori dishes. When fresh ginger is not available, ginger powder can be used as the equivalent.
Fresh Mint (Pudina)
Mint is used in North Indian cooking especially when cooking Biryanis. It has a cooling taste and can add flavour to many Indian dishes, including Indian salads.
Mango Powder (Amchoor)
Mango powder has a sour and tangy taste, similar to that of lemon and should be used in ‘pinch’ form when cooing small quantities of Indian food.
Saffron is a very expensive spice as it only harvests for 10 days each year). Saffron in Indian cooking is often soaked in water and milk before being used to bring out the colour in various Indian dishes including rice dishes, Mughal dishes and Indian desserts.
Black Salt (Kala Namak)
Black salt is used in a number of pickles and chaat masalas (a northern Indian Spice mix). It has a strong sulphuric flavour and is used extensively in Indian cooking.
Properties and Health benefits
|Ajawain Seeds||Useful in stomach diseases. Known as a digestive aid and antiemetic.|
|Green Cardamom||Known to aid digestion|
|Garlic||Contains antioxidants that may help prevent stomach cancer, may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Garlic also helps to purify the blood.|
|Ginger||A powerful digestive aid that calms nausea and reduces inflammation|
|Cloves||Known to relieve tooth pain|
|Turmeric||May reduce inflammation associated with arthritis and may protect against certain cancers. Research shows that turmeric inhibits blood clotting and helps the liver metabolize fats and thus aid weight loss|
|Fennel||Known to aid digestion and ease a chesty cough.|
|Fenugreek||Useful in inflammatory disorders, joint pains & in Diabetes|
|Cumin||Cumin is of benefit to the heart and uterus and is given to women after childbirth to increase breast milk. Cumin seeds contain good amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fibre, calcium, iron and phosphorous.|
|Coriander seeds||Useful in improving digestion|
|Mint (pudina)||Remedy for an upset stomach)|
|Black Salt||Laxative and digestive aid. Believed to relieve intestinal gas and heartburn. It is used often by people with high blood pressure because it is thought to be lower in sodium.|