Of course, almost all Indian food starts with onions. Copious onions! In India, the consumer price index is tied to the price of onions, they are that important. Garlic, too. But once you’ve got those veggies simmering, you should Bollywood that skillet with some of these beauties:
The Dancing spices:
Coriander seeds: These are the seed pods from the cilantro plant. They must be toasted and fresh ground for you to really experience the fabulousness. While it is used in many Indian dishes, you’ll love it sprinkled over fresh hummus, and over meat and fish.
Cumin seeds: You know these guys from Mexican dishes. Often they’re tossed into black beans and chili. They’re also used all over Indian recipes. Both these and coriander seeds add lots of flavor without adding heat.
Cayenne: is when you want to spice things up! If you find that your dish doesn’t pack the punch you’re looking for (from the fresh chili, ginger, and garlic), then you can add a little chili powder (in this case, we have cayenne) to build a roaring fire.
Tumeric will turn everything a vibrant yellow and has a wonderful earthy, carrot-y flavor. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory, and great for your health!
Mustard seeds are so fun to pop in the pan. They have a mild flavor and are great for pickling, too.
Paprika gives an earthy, smoky pepper flavor without the heat.
Cinnamon is really best when used whole. You can grate it with a Microplane, or pop in into a stew to release its wonderful sweet-tasting flavor.
Black peppercorns, of course, are a staple in any kitchen. Fill your peppermills so you can always use freshly ground. In many Indian dishes, you’ll toast it first for that extra love. You’ll also notice it’s flavor from Chinese cuisine, as well as its role in stocks for Pho.
Star Anise should be used sparingly because it’s strong, but it’s fantastic in simple syrups and to flavor basmati rice. It’s so pretty, how can you resist it?
Cloves are wonderful and warming — add a few to simmering water for tea.
Cardamom is delicious in Chai tea, and in coffee as well. Open a few pods, remove the small black spice inside and give them a little bash in the mortar and pestle. Add to your ground coffee beans and you’ll have a very deliciously spiced coffee, with no extra calories.
Here’s how to make Homemade Garam Masala. Try it! It’s fun, and you can make it your way (which, of course, is the best.)
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds (removed from pods)
4 cinnamon sticks, grated with a microplane
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg, grated with a micoplane