Go beyond the red chilli powder and experiment with the flavour profiles of other spices in your pantry to make your food spicier.
A spice is a plant product that has aromatic properties and is used to season foods. By and large, most spices are obtained from seeds – fenugreek seeds, nutmeg, nigella seeds, cumin, mustard, etc. Along with the seeds, some spices come from the bark such as cinnamon, the fruit such as pepper, and leaves like bay leaf.
What would our meals be like without spices? Imagine having to eat tasteless bland food, day after day; no salt and pepper to dust over our fries, no chaat masala to sprinkle over our sev puri, and no chili flakes over the pizza!
Garam masala – the classic spice blend that makes Indian dals, stews, subzis and biryanis come to life! This warm and earthy spice blend lends your dish bags of flavour and gives it an authenticity. What’s more, the impeccable amalgamation of spices and condiments heightens your cooking style, provides a whole host of surprising health benefits and saves loads of time too.
Once winter sets in, it’s not always enough to wrap yourself in a blanket! You need to warm yourself from inside out. Condiments and spices have been used in our culture for culinary as well as medicinal reasons. Warm spices such as pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and coriander partner beautifully with most Indian recipes as well as spice blends - garam masala, biryani masala, paneer masala and curry powder. In fact, spices have a stellar role to play in all Indian dishes. What’s more, the health benefits of spices are also noteworthy.
Our dietary patterns match seasons is not really news to us. Traditionally, we have eaten food which cools us down during the summers, and gives us warmth during winters. This pattern can also be mapped to spices. To understand what kind of spices we should use during the different seasons, we need to first understand our seasons and the benefits of spices better. Our seasons can be broadly categorised into two phases, Visarga Kala and Adana Kala. Visarga Kala has three seasons: Varsha, Sharad and Hemanth. The season extends from the monsoon through autumn to early winter. Adana Kala meanwhile starts with the cold late winter of Shishira, moves into the spring season of Vasantha and ends with the hot summer season – Grishma.
Spices are the soul of Indian food. Irrespective of cuisines or type of food, spices add flavour, aroma and a distinct touch to every dish. Each Indian household has a set of spices that are used every day. At the same time, there are spices or spice blends which are not used as regularly. As spices are used in small quantities, each packet also tends to last for a long time. The potency of any spice can get compromised if it is not stored properly. Keeping spices in the open makes them lose freshness and makes it susceptible to insects.
Spices have very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that they are capable of helping us deal with chronic diseases, perking up metabolism and work towards good health. The science of Ayurveda states that though spices are usually seen as aromatics and taste enhancers, most of them hold a valuable key to disease prevention.