Here is a List of Spice Cabinet Essentials
Spices as we know are a key component in our cooking. From something as basic and transforming as salt, to a more complex spice blend, it’s all about experimantation. We must get to know our spices better and not be afraid to try different things with them.
Spices can tranform a simple grilled dish into a heady, aromatic exotic dish in just a few minutes. It’s important to also know when to incorporate them into the cooking process, how to store them and what are the basics I should have in my pantry.
Here are a few basic spices that I simply can’t live without. You will find a lot of these in my recipes, so I highly recommend you stock up on them 🙂
I highly recommend Himalayan salt or a coarse sea salt. Remember, with salt, a little goes a long way!
We know there there are laods of different varieties of pepper, but I usually just stoxk black peppercorns in my kitchen. Always keep them whole, and grind them when you need them.
This is high up on my list as I use this in my masala chai daily! It’s also an integral part of my garam masala and other warm spices blends. You can use it whole or grind it, evem with the outer skin on. I love the warmth and swetness of cardamom.
RED CHILI POWDER
Again, there are many different varieties of chili powder. For Indian cooking we use a standard one which is relatively hot, as in, it is spicy. If you’d rather now deal with that, go for a smoked paprika or a sweet one.The chilli is often added at the end, so you can adjust it accordingly.
Cinnamon, cassia. You can use either. We use them in both sweet and savory dishes, the bark and the powdered form ( but always grind your own cinnamon, it’s way better!)
I don’t use cloves a lot but I do like to have them on hand when I’m doing a north indian dish or even when I’m making a warm dessert as the flavour comes through so easily. I sometimes use it in my chai on a day when I need a little more of a health kick. Cloves are overpowering so use them carefully.
Here I am talking about the seeds and the powder. The seeds are citric in flavour and very deep. They are great for digestion. The powdered form is used in most Indian recipes and is great for marinades too.
Cumin seeds are also vital for digestion especially when using in dishes where lentils and legumes are the star of the show. The seeds have a nice, smoked flavour when roasted or cooked in oil at the beginning of a dish. The powder is useful in making dips such as hummus and salad dressings.
The seeds of the fennel plant have a sweet, candy sort of flavor. These are also a great digestive. You can chew them after a heavy meal and immendiately you will feel some relief.
It’s seed is quite bitter in taste so be careful on quantities. We use the dried fenugreek leaves ( kasuri methi) in a lot of curries and even in savory crackers. It’s similar to a smoky basil perhaps, and so even in pasta dishes in works very well.
Use fresh ginger where possible for a much more lively, zingy flavor. But ground ginger is also useful, particularly in baking. It’s one thing I cannot live without!
Mustard seeds are essential in Indian cooking. We use them to temper dals and in pickles and roasted veg. It’s a very key spice in Southern Indian cooking and you will find that I use this one a lot too! Black mustard seeds are more common in Indian cooking.
It comes from a berry and is widely used in Middle Eastern cooking. I love it’s citrus, tangy flavour and you can honestly put it in anything and the dish will sing!
A bright yellow spice that comes from a dried root. It gives curry powder its hallmark color and has an earthy, mustardy flavor. And last but definitely NOT least, Turneric. The QUEEN of spices is my favourite spice as it really brings brightness to any dish or drink. I love it because it has numerous health benefits. I try to keep fresh turmeric around if I can, especially when I prepare ghee, however, a good quality powdered turmeric is just as beneficial.
The health benefits of turmeric and curcumin (curcuma longa, the main phenolic compound and active ingredient found in the turmeric plant) are widely accepted as a cornerstone of Ayurvedic medicine.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Thanks to its antioxidant properties, curcumin has proved beneficial in the treatment and prevention of ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease). Turmeric, especially combined with black pepper, is used in capsule form to ease muscle strain.
Joint, heart, and skin health: The use of turmeric has been shown to ease the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, regulate blood pressure and blood clotting, help prevent inflammation leading to heart disease, and maintain radiant skin.
HOW TO STORE SPICES:
1. Keep spices airtight.
Exposure to air will cause spices to lose their flavor more quickly, so whether you choose glass jars or metal tins, remember to keep those spice containers tightly closed.
2. Keep spices in the dark.
An array of artisan spice jars on a windowsill might look pretty, but direct sunlight hastens the loss of flavor. Your best bet is to keep jars in a drawer or cupboard.
3. Keep spices away from heat.
That shelf above your stove might seem like a handy spot to store your favorite seasonings, but heat is yet another factor that quickly degrades their taste.
4. Keep track of the age of your spices.
There’s no universal agreement on the exact shelf life for spices. But everyone agrees that whole spices, with a one-to-two year window of peak flavor, last longer than ground. Buying whole spices and grinding them at home just before use will maximize taste and freshness.