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Indian Spices/Masala

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  • Indian Spices/Masala

    Spices and aromatics are the very heart of Indian cooking. They have been used since ancient times. They were mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, ancient Egyptian papyruses and the Old Testament. Although it was not until the Roman conquests that western counties discovered their culinary possibilities, spices have always been believed to have healing and magical qualities. They have been used to cast spells, as incense in religious rites, to embalm corpses, to add aroma to perfumes and as aphrodisiacs. The word spice comes from Latin species, meaning a commodity of value and distinction. During their long and fascinating history, spices have often been more valuable than gold or precious stones, and the trade of spices has been an extraordinarily influential factor in history.

    Many researchers have attempted to explain why hot spices are pleasant to taste. It seems the burning sensation is the pain of nerve endings on the tongue. This releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, giving rise to pleasurable and even euphoric sensations.

    Flowers, leaves, roots, bark, seeds and bulbs (the simplest of natural ingredients) are used in endless combinations to produce an infinite variety of flavors: sweet, sharp, hot, sour, spicy, aromatic, tart, mild, fragrant or pungent. Their tastes and aromas combine to create a kaleidoscope of exotic flavors to delight the plate. It is best to obtain spices in whole seed form and to grind them just prior to use.

    Indian spices spices offer significant health benefits and contribute towards an individual's healthy life. They add flavor and nutrients to dishes without fat or calories!

    Asafoetida (Hing) - also known as devil's dung. It is a resin taken from a plant from the parsley family. It is a distinctive and pungent spice. It is most commonly found in powdered form. When cooked, it has a truffle-like flavor and a roasted garlic aroma. It is used mainly for its digestive properties, especially in the cooking of beans and lentils, as it is reputed to have antiflatulence properties. Asafoetida is an important ingredient of the snack called cheewra - a mixture of grains, dried fruits, and spices. It can be added to flavor fish and vegetable dishes. A pinch of it can be fried in hot oil before the rest of the ingredients are cooked.

    Bay leaves - these fragrant leaves with pointed ends are used in their dried form. These are used in curries and rice preparations.

    Cardamom (Elaichi) -Elettaria Cardamomum is the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family. Fruits and seeds leave pleasant aroma with sweet, pungent taste behind when chewed. Cardamom has a sweet, lemony, eucalyptus flavor. It is world's second most expensive spice. It is available as a powder, dried pods, or loose seeds. Green cardamoms are the most common, but there are also black and cream varieties. It is one of India's favorite spices, used in curries, savory and sweet dishes, ice cream and custards. It is often combined with almonds and saffron. It can be used to flavor tea and also is great with black coffee. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to remove fat and as a cure for urinary and skin complaints. Egyptians chewed cardamoms to whiten their teeth and simultaneously sweeten their breath. The seeds are aromatic, sweet cooling, carminative (cures flatulence), digestive, stimulant and tonic. Cardamom finds usage in indigestion, anorexia, burning sensation, debility, asthma.

    Cayenne pepper (Lal Mirch)- is a spice made from the seeds of plants in the capsicum family (ranging from sweet pepper to chili - in general, the smaller the fruit, the hotter it is). Cayenne peppers' bright red color signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. It includes both the ground seeds as well as the dried flesh. It should not be as hot as chili powder, but it is pretty hot and should therefore be used with care. Cayenne pepper is used to provide the heat for many spicy dishes.

    Chilies (Mirchi) - it is the hottest flavor on earth. As a general rule, dark green chilies tend to be hooter than red chilies. Small, pointed chilies are usually hotter than larger, more rounded varieties. Whole chilies can be seeded to make them a little less hot. Chilies and chili powder should be used with extreme care. The hot vindaloo curries are made from the hottest chilies.

    Cinnamon Sticks (Dalchini)- It is another ingreadient which is used in many Indian dishes. It contains calcium, phosphorous, iron, sodium potassium thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins C and A.
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