Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Masala Mix

A glimpse back to the history of spices, leads us to trails of it not only being used to make food burst with flavours, colours and aroma, but also in having served hundreds of other uses. They are known for their potential to fight diseases or for providing significant protection against various health conditions. They posses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-carcinogenic properties. Many are rich stores of antioxidants and some are even used therapeutically. Some spices are used as powerful preservatives, killing harmful bacteria or preventing their growth, thus retaining freshness of food.

The right blend of spices is what determines the characteristic tastes of a region's cuisine. The mix varies from region to region. Some use them in moderation and some generously.
Mixing spices or knowing it's right blend is an art. It is always best to store a spice whole and grind or crush them fresh. Most spices are added in the initial stages of preparation of a dish to infuse maximum flavour and aroma. Traditional Indian Cuisine is well known for its use of exotic and pungent spices.  They are the heart of Indian cooking.

This is my special spice mix used in many of my Indian cookery. When I mention "my masala mix" in any recipe, it is this blend. You can always be creative in blending the right masala mix for yourself. It's fun. discover the smell, taste and flavour of each spice available to you and experiment on making your magical blend.

 It's difficult to give a precise measure, but, you can see the picture and judge the quantity of each spice used. I'd recommend using all the 12 spices and herbs mentioned below for the masala mix mentioned in my recipes to give the guaranteed or intended taste and flavour.

Ingredients :

  1. Whole black Pepper
  2. Dried red Chilies (preferable seeded)
  3. Star Anise
  4. Cinnamon sticks
  5. Black Cardamom
  6. green Cardamom
  7. Cumin seeds
  8. Dried Mace
  9. Coriander seeds
  10. Cloves
  11. Fennel seed and
  12. Kasoori methi (dried Fenugreek leaves).
Blend these fresh in a grinder. Never powder them into a fine powder and make sure it's a little coarse like seen below. Once ground, store in a tightly concealed container and you can preserve the freshness and aroma for almost a month.

I love spices, and I stock almost all spices that comes in use to me in steel masala dabbas and plastic containers. This not only helps easy access, but, everything is organised and I am well aware of what is out of stock. I used spices and herbs as handy medicines for small ailments.

Here are some really beneficial tips:
  1. Have severe heartburn? Chewing some dried coriander seeds and slowly swallowing its juice is a quick fix.
  2. Boiling some fennel seeds and drinking the water warm is believed to kill disease carrying bacteria. Therefore, after a visit to a hospital or clinic, or a crowded public place, drinking this water is really good. We used this especially during the H1N1 flu season.
  3. Suffer from gastric problems?? Crush some dried ginger and drink its water warm.
  4. Crushing and biting a piece of Cloves between your teeth is helpful in reliving tooth ache.
  5. There's no mouth freshener as natural and effective as chewing some Fennel seeds. You find it in all Indian restaurants. It eliminates the odour of onions, garlic, milk etc from your mouth.
  6. During the hot summer, boiling water with fenugreek seeds and drinking it once cooled, really cools your body. Fenugreek seeds also help relieve menstrual cramps.
  7. When you have an upset stomach, drinking water boiled with dried ginger, mace, coriander seeds and turmeric powder helps.
  8. For common cold, drinking warm coffee blended with crushed black pepper, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dried ginger and turmeric powder, sweetened with a little jaggery is great! It's called chukku kaappi in the south and is very popular in reliving cold or cough derived from cold.
  9. Adding some kasoori methi in curries, not only enhances a special flavour, but, is also a good source of iron and vitamin A. It is highly beneficial in treating diabetics. For nursing moms, intake of fresh methi or even including dried methi leaves in the diet helps in increasing secretion of milk. It is also good in eliminating intestinal worse and benefits patients suffering from piles.
Let me stop there :) These are all remedies I've heard from old people and I feel it has helped a great deal. Well I am no one to certify or claim the authenticity of all this :)