INDIA month: stocking the spice cabinet

It’s March! Let’s go in like a lion, and heat things up around here!

We have so many great Indian recipes, we need 2 classes to cover everything. All Hipcooks studios are offering Indian classes all month long, so come on down and let’s spice things up.

Speaking of getting spicy around here, let’s talk about that spice drawer of yours. We bet it’s time for a little Spring Cleaning in there. Did you know that spices, especially those in powdered form, lose their luster over time? If you’ve got stuff in there that’s more than a few years old, they won’t spark joy, let alone flavor. Give that drawer an overhaul! And as you replace spices, buy the whole seeds and pods, rather than the powders. They’ll last longer, and taste better. For instance, buy cumin seeds rather than ground cumin. Any Hipcook worth their salt knows that toasting cumin seeds in a dry pan, and then fresh grinding them with a mortar and pestle will knock it out of the park. Try it with the coriander seeds as well… it’s much more impactful.

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. It 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 a lot 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.

The Warming Spices:

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 spice

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 cusine, as well as it’s role in stocks for Pho.

Star Anise should be used sparingly because it is 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.

We’ll be posting recipes all month that use these fantastic spices, so you’ll be sure to get well-acquainted with them. Turn up the heat, and we’ll see you next week with recipe posts.

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