Turmeric is a rhizome, a stem that grows underground, that looks like a mini version of ginger. It is available in two colors: yellow and white. The outside skin of both varieties looks and feels very similar to that of ginger, its cousin, but the inside color is bright orange or off-white (like ginger). Yellow turmeric smells just like commercially available powdered turmeric, musky and earthy, while white turmeric is citrusy and sweet. There is more to this story than just pretty color and flavor.

 

Fresh yellow and white turmeric

Fresh yellow and white turmeric

Uses of Turmeric

Everyone knows that turmeric adds a tangy and earthy flavor to food thus turmeric is an important ingredient in Indian cooking. Turmeric is usually added to spice mixtures because it has properties that bond with the healthy and tasty attributes of the other spices to give a delicious flavor to food. It is always added to lentils when they are boiled. I asked my mother-in-law why it is so but she had no definitive answer other than this is the way it is done. Supposedly it adds flavor to the beans. I’m not totally convinced since the cooking liquid is discarded when the beans are done. Perhaps it helps in the cooking process to tenderize the beans. I add a pinch of turmeric when cooking egg whites for breakfast so that they have some color. I suspect that the source of this unwritten rule lies in the history of Ayurvedic medicine.

Medical Uses of Turmeric

Turmeric is also good for you for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Many people now believe that a bit of turmeric a day can prevent or reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis as well as improve memory. Based on some of the reading I have done, it sounds like turmeric is a miracle cure that can reduce heart attacks, cancer, ulcers and several other ailments as well. I have even seen turmeric pills for sale on the Internet – of course, without any governmental regulation or approval.

Based on the volume of articles on the benefits of turmeric, I plan to continue to use it in my every day cooking. If indeed the studies are valid, I might be one step ahead in warding of one or more of the diseases that this magic spice may cure.

 

Fresh yellow and white turmeric with fresh ginger

Fresh yellow and white turmeric with fresh ginger

Making Turmeric Powder

Turmeric is peeled and boiled, then dried and powdered before being used as a dye and in cooking. I wanted to try out making my own turmeric powder. So after peeling off the skin, which was very easy to do, I put the pieces in a pan of water and boiled them for 25 minutes. By the time all of the yellow turmeric was peeled, my hands and nails were stained yellow. I even had small yellow spots on my face where juice had splattered. The water in which I boiled the yellow turmeric turned deep red, just like a glass of strong tea. Once I removed the turmeric from the pan, I cut it into small pieces and spread it out on a baking sheet.

I set my oven on the lowest temperature setting possible and let it bake for 3 to 4 hours, turning the pieces over every half hour so it would dry out. The length of time required to dry it is a function of the size of the pieces you cut. When the turmeric is hard, shriveled and dry, I removed it from the oven and let it cool for a half hour before putting it in my spice grinder and powdering it.

One word of caution, since this is fresh turmeric powder, the color is very potent. As I peeled the turmeric, the yellow juice turned my cutting board yellow. Fortunately it is glass and I could easily wash it. The powder permanently stained the plastic list of my grinder. The red cooking liquid even stained the plastic cup into which I had poured it so I could get a clear view of the color. Please take care when making your own powder.

 

freshly roasted and powdered turmeric

Freshly roasted and powdered turmeric brings color and flavor to your cooking.

My fresh turmeric is full of flavor and color, almost as though it has been concentrated through the preparation process. You can use less of it than you normally would since it has not been sitting on a shelf in a plastic bag for an unknown period of time!

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for many delicious recipes that use turmeric!

 

 

In my daily search to find interesting, tasty and easy recipes for vegetables, I learned that using a simple spice mixture livens up a basic potato and green bean dish. Since this Spiced Potato and Green Beans recipe can be prepared in one pan it can cook right along side your main dish. My family likes it because it isn’t spicy hot and features two of their favorite vegetables. I included a bit of red bell pepper to add color and variety.

 

First I prepare the seasoned oil with traditional Indian spices. To this I add the potato pieces and let them brown a bit in the oil followed by the green beans and red bell pepper. Once everything is cooked, I transfer it to a bowl and serve. Of course, I taste a few tasty morsels before the dish gets to the table.

 

Spiced Potato and Green Beans recipe

Spiced Potato and Green Beans is an Indian fusion recipe that is made in no time and is as tasty as it is colorful.

 

I plan on serving this Spiced Potato and Green Beans dish along side my turkey this Thanksgiving. It is so easy to make that this will become a family favorite recipe.

 

A friend recently gave me a bottle of an East Indian spice blend called Panch Phoron. I was aware of it but had never cooked with it so I did some research. It is a blend of 5 different spices (the name actually means five spices): cumin, mustard, nigella, fennel, and fenugreek, that are mixed together and used in seed form rather than being ground. Occasionally other spices, like anise, are added or substituted to vary the flavor of the spice mix. The spice mix may be used as it is, gently roasted or lightly fried in a bit of oil just before it is used to bring out the flavor.

 

In India panch phoron is used to season meats, breads and vegetables. The flavors these spices bring to food are amazing. Together they provide a warm, earthy flavor with a fruity, bitter, grassy essence. It is a very mild spice mix that is not overpowering or hot at all. I’m surprised that is it not as popular as some of the more common Indian spices mixes like garam masala but it should be.

Panch Phoron

Panch Phoron

 

The basic recipe for Panch Phoron is equal measures of each spice. I have adjusted the ratio to suit my tastes. I think the fenugreek is too bitter so I reduced it a bit. Just mix all of the seeds together and you are done! This spice mix can be made ahead and stored in an airtight jar to save time in the future.

 

Panch Phoron recipe

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds

 

All of the ingredients are supposed to be used as whole seeds. The commercial spice mix that was given to me contains fenugreek seeds that are very small while the seeds I buy in the U.S. are large and extremely hard to chew (more like impossible to chew). When I make Panch Phoron at home I use crushed fenugreek seeds, not ground, to make the spice mix easier on the teeth.

 

One of the ingredients, nigella, is somewhat unusual to most people outside of India. They are hard and crunchy with the flavor of toasted onion. They are also known as kalonji and charnushka.

 

Some recipes call for crushed or ground Panch Phoron. Gently dry roast the spices before grinding them to bring out the flavor. Do not grind them in advance so the flavors do not have a chance to interact with each other and change the flavor.

 

Try adding Panch Phoron to any recipe. Just sprinkle it on meat, roasted vegetables, lentils (dal) or some curries. I guarantee you will love the flavor.

 

Check out how to use Panch Phoron in my Steak Chettichurri recipe.

 

 

A friend recently gave me a bottle of an East Indian spice blend called Panch Phoron. I was aware of it but had never cooked with it so I did some research. It is a blend of 5 different spices (the name actually means five spices): cumin, mustard, nigella, fennel, and fenugreek, that are mixed together and used in seed form rather than being ground. Occasionally other spices, like anise, are added or substituted to vary the flavor of the spice mix. The spice mix may be used as it is, gently roasted or lightly fried in a bit of oil just before it is used to bring out the flavor.

 

In India panch phoron is used to season meats, breads and vegetables. The flavors these spices bring to food are amazing. Together they provide a warm, earthy flavor with a fruity, bitter, grassy essence. It is a very mild spice mix that is not overpowering or hot at all. I’m surprised that is it not as popular as some of the more common Indian spices mixes like garam masala but it should be.

Panch Phoron

Panch Phoron

 

The basic recipe for Panch Phoron is equal measures of each spice. I have adjusted the ratio to suit my tastes. I think the fenugreek is too bitter so I reduced it a bit. Just mix all of the seeds together and you are done! This spice mix can be made ahead and stored in an airtight jar to save time in the future.

 

Panch Phoron recipe

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds

 

All of the ingredients are supposed to be used as whole seeds. The commercial spice mix that was given to me contains fenugreek seeds that are very small while the seeds I buy in the U.S. are large and extremely hard to chew (more like impossible to chew). When I make Panch Phoron at home I use crushed fenugreek seeds, not ground, to make the spice mix easier on the teeth.

 

One of the ingredients, nigella, is somewhat unusual to most people outside of India. They are hard and crunchy with the flavor of toasted onion. They are also known as kalonji and charnushka.

 

Some recipes call for crushed or ground Panch Phoron. Gently dry roast the spices before grinding them to bring out the flavor. Do not grind them in advance so the flavors do not have a chance to interact with each other and change the flavor.

 

Try adding Panch Phoron to any recipe. Just sprinkle it on meat, roasted vegetables, lentils (dal) or some curries. I guarantee you will love the flavor.

I have talked about the role of chutney, pickle and raita in Indian cooking over the past few months so now it is finally time to finish my series on Indian condiments. The last installment is dedicated to powders, or podi, which are mixtures of various spices that are roasted and ground then served along side of other dishes like Dosa, Idli and rice. They accompany these items to enhance their flavor. Sometimes they are mixed with a bit of oil that brings out the essence of the podi. Podis are also used as pre-made spice mixes for cooking dishes like sambar to save time.

 

 

Podis, or powdered spice blends, are popular in Indian cuisine.

Podis, or powdered spice blends, are popular in Indian cuisine.

My favorite Podis are:

Curry Leaf Podi served with rice (in the white bowl)

Mulaga Podi eaten with dosa and often mixed with a bit of oil (in the blue bowl)

Sambar Podi – used to make Sambar (in the green bowl)

 

The recipes for these podis are quite simple. The core ingredients of a podi  is a mixture of different dals and spices to which a special ingredient is added, either curry leaves or dried red chiles. (One word of caution, the Mulaga Podi is really hot so you might want to reduce the number of chiles you add. It is called gunpowder for a reason.) All of these podis are available in Indian grocery stores ready for use. I prefer to make my own since the process is really easy and the flavor of fresh podis is far superior.


Check out my recipes for podi and enjoy!

 

One thing I have learned from writing this series of posts on Indian Condiments and then reviewing them with my family is that everyone has a definite opinion of which ones are the best, whether it is Red Chile Coconut Chutney versus Tomato Chutney, Shrimp Pickle versus Raw Mango Pickle, Onion Raita versus Cucumber Raita or Curry Leaf Podi versus Mulaga Podi. The correct answer to which is best is partly determined by the dish you are eating with it. Mainly it is determined by a person’s individual preferences and taste. So, there is no single correct answer, all are correct! Enjoy!

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips!

 

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I was thrilled to discover green garlic (also called spring garlic) during my last visit to my Indian grocery store. It looks like a green onion with a bulb that looks like a clove of garlic. When I brought home a bunch, I learned that green garlic is immature garlic, harvested before the clove divides and a whole bulb develops. Fresh green garlic gives off the aroma of garlic so it should be used quickly before everything in your refrigerator absorbs the smell. Unlike garlic bulbs, it has a very short shelf life; the green leaves begin to dry out and turn brown, and the bulbs yellow and shrivel after a few days.

 

Fresh green garlic looks like a cross between a green onion and a clove of garlic.

Fresh green garlic looks like a cross between a green onion and a clove of garlic.


 

Green garlic can be used raw or cooked. When used raw, its flavor is less strong and a little bit bitterer than a clove of garlic. It is crunchy and can be used in any recipe where fresh garlic is used. When cooked, the flavor softens and becomes a little sweeter. Roasting and grilling green garlic, in my opinion, are the best ways to cook it, as the resulting flavor is heavenly. Green garlic can be substituted for regular garlic in any recipe. The entire plant is edible. Just trim off the root end of the bulb and the dried ends of the leaves. A small part of the stalk has a brown, woody texture, even though it can be eaten, most people discard this part. The tender green leaves have more garlic flavor than the bulbs and brighten any dish or can be used as a garnish.

 

Green garlic is only available in the springtime before large bulbs begin to form on the plants. It is usually available in farmers markets from March through May (more or less). Seeing it, though, lets us know that spring is on the way! Green garlic can easily be grown at home in a garden or in pots. It is same plant, just harvested early.

 

I have found just a few Indian recipes that use green garlic. Most use it to enhance dal or vegetable dishes while several chutney and raita recipes feature it as the main ingredient. Based on my recent experience with green garlic, it would be a wonderful addition to any Indian recipe.

 

For that matter, add green garlic to any recipe. Add one or two to scrambled eggs or pizza. However you use it, I guarantee you will become hooked on green garlic’s flavor. Below are my two favorite recipes for Grilled Green Garlic and Roasted Green Garlic Chutney.

 

 

Grilled Green Garlic

Grilled Green Garlic is a unique side dish for a simple meal.

Grilled Green Garlic is a tasty addition to any meal.

 

1 bunch green garlic

oil

ground cumin

salt

pepper
 

 

1. Wash the green garlic. Cut off the roots and the tough ends of the leaves. Dry on a paper towel.
 

2. Lay the whole garlic pieces on a baking sheet. Toss with a bit of oil. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper.
 

3. Lightly oil your grill pan or the outside grill.
 

4. Place on the hot grill and cook until tender and starts to brown. Turn the garlic halfway through cooking.
 

 

A few pieces of the roasted green garlic can be served on each plate or it can be roughly chopped and served as a side dish. Roasted green garlic can be added to any recipe. Tastes great with any chicken or meat dish.

 

 

Roasted Green Garlic Chutney

 

My Roasted Green Garlic Chutney is a delicious variation on more popular ones. It has a rich, smooth flavor that can accompany any meal. I found that my husband loves it on crackers as a snack. Very versatile!

 

Green Garlic Chutney is a tasty accompaniment to any meal.

Green Garlic Chutney is a tasty accompaniment to any meal.

 

1 full cup green garlic

1 tsp oil, plus more for roasting

1 tsp lemon juice

2 Tbs cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin, plus more for roasting

1/2 tsp salt, plus more for roasting

1/4 tsp black pepper, plus more for roasting

1/4 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp red chile flakes

1/4 cup water

 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
 

2. Wash the green garlic. Cut off the roots and the tough ends of the leaves. Dry on a paper towel.
 

3. Lightly spray a baking sheet with oil.
 

4. Lay the garlic pieces on the baking sheet. Toss with a bit of oil. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper.
 

5. Roast until tender and starts to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the garlic halfway through cooking. Let cool before proceeding.
 

6. Roughly chop the roasted green garlic.
 

7. Add all of the ingredients in a food processor and grind until smooth. Stir in the water.
 
 

Tastes great with any chicken or meat dish or even as a spread for an appetizer.

 

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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During my visit to Dubai’s famous spice souk last year I discovered that saffron is not only sold in its natural state as threads but also as liquid saffron extract. I purchased a bottle because I found it interesting and thought it would be a different, easy way to add saffron flavor without going to the work of heating a bit of milk and soaking the threads. The vendor in the shop told me it was very popular with the locals and tourists alike.

 

Saffron extract is available in a bottle for quick and easy use.

Saffron extract is available in a bottle for quick and easy use.

 

Saffron extract is, as the name implies, a concentrated liquid containing saffron flavor or essence. The paper that came in my bottle of extract calls it “red gold”. Its purpose, in the kitchen, is to provide a standardize measure of saffron across recipes in contrast to a pinch which varies wildly. Since it is already in liquid form, it does not need to be soaked in a warm liquid for 10 to 20 minutes to release its flavor; the liquid is ready to be used. It also has a longer shelf life than dried saffron threads. The best reason to use saffron extract is that it is quick and easy to use – just pour a few drops into your dish during the step in which you would normally add the saffron.

 

When I started researching saffron extract, I could not find any information on it except that people use it as an appetite suppressant for weight loss or as a nutritional supplement. Hmm. That is not my intent. I looked all over the Internet for biryani recipes, chicken recipes, any recipe that used it. I couldn’t find a single one. A year later as I search again, I have only seen one or two recipes and a minimal amount of guidance as to how to use saffron extract. Perhaps they are available but only in Arabic.

 

Using the extract is really easy. At first I was a little nervous that I would pour way too much into my rice but, since the top has a tiny hole, just a mini-drop comes out at a time. My rule of thumb is about 10 of these drops to a cup of cooked rice. You are supposed to add it to liquid before stirring it into the rice but I added it directly to the rice after I had mixed it into the hot oil and spices. It mixed very evenly with my rice. Even if it hadn’t mixed evenly, any variation in color would enhance the look. A photo of my cumin rice with the extract is below.

 

Indian cumin rice dish made with saffron extract.

Indian cumin rice dish made with saffron extract.


 

I can only hope that my tiny 18ml bottle lasts until I can get to Dubai again. In the meantime, I plan on using
it in as many of my recipes as I can.

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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Two years ago I compared saffron grown in the top three saffron producing countries in the world to try to answer the question Is Saffron from Kashmir the Most Exotic?.  With May’s recipe of the month, Chicken and Saffron Curry, I want to explore how saffron is used in Indian cooking.

 

Saffron, harvested from the flower of the saffron crocus, is very special since it is the most expensive spice per ounce on the planet. To give you perspective on how rare this is, each crocus plant may have 4 flowers and each flower has 3 stigmas. That means 12 tiny threads per plant! Fortunately a tiny bit of saffron goes a long way. One needs just a pinch to flavor a bowl of rice or a dessert.

 

Saffron in Indian cooking is primarily used for its delicate honey and grassy aroma that it brings to food. It is also used for its concentrated yellow-orange color that it brings to food and as a dye for fabric.

 

Saffron, a key ingredient in Indian cooking, brings an exquisite aroma to food.

Saffron, a key ingredient in Indian cooking, brings an exquisite aroma to food.


 

Most often saffron is most often found in sweets or desserts, like Payasam. The threads add a subtle flavor and give it the distinctive color. The delicate flavor is a perfect match to a sophisticated dessert. Since this dish is milk based, it is very easy to see the threads floating in the liquid. Other desserts include some Kesari, halwa and paalada pradhaman recipes.

 

Saffron is found in many biryani recipes whether made with lamb, chicken or seafood. I use it in my Dum Pukt Chicken Biryani and Langoustine Biryani recipes. The recipe for biryani is very complicated and involves alternating layers of seasoned rice, meat and caramelized onions. Since biryani is so complicated, it is usually made for important dinners for guests or special events. Saffron, as part of this dish, implies that the meal is special.

 

Beyond these recipes, it is found in many rice dishes as well as some seafood dishes. I use it in Pondicherry Pouillabaise and Prawn Balchao. It occasionally appears in other chicken recipes like my Chicken and Saffron Curry. My Creamy Carrot Soup also takes advantage of the subtle flavor of saffron.

 

I have a few tips to using saffron to its best advantage:

 

  • Stirring the saffron to a few tablespoons of warm milk (preferred) or water and letting it sit for about 20 minutes before adding it to the pot will bring out the maximum amount of flavor and color so you do not have to use as much as you would if you added it directly to the pot.
  • Crushing the saffron threads between your fingers just before adding them to the warm milk will bring out more flavor.
  • Don’t include saffron in recipes that are very heavily spiced or hot, as the flavor will be masked by the other flavors. Save your saffron for a dish that is worthy.
  • Pretend saffron is rationed. Some people think that more is better and add it to a recipe by the handful. When I was in Dubai, a merchant told me that this is how many Saudi women add saffron this way. In my mind, this is not necessary and wastes the saffron. It just makes the color more intense but does not enhance the flavor.
  • Store your saffron in an airtight container in a dark, cool place to keep it fresh. Use it promptly as the flavor deteriorates over time.
  • If you don’t have saffron, turmeric can be used to give a golden color to a recipe.

 

Try my Chicken and Saffron Curry recipe to discover the magic of chicken with saffron.

 

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

 

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Last week I wrote that saffron is one of the most important spices in Indian cuisine. To give credibility to my statement, I am sharing my recipe for Chicken and Saffron Curry. In this recipe, I marinate chicken pieces in a delightful spice and yogurt mixture before it is cooked then it is added to a rich, creamy curry that has been infused with saffron threads. It is easy to make and great with rice and a simple green vegetable. It is a heavenly dish that family will love; your guests will request the recipe. For those who do not enjoy hot, spicy
food, this is a recipe for you!

 

Chicken and Saffron Curry has a rich creamy curry sauce with a hint of saffron.

Chicken and Saffron Curry

 

I hope you enjoy my Chicken and Saffron Curry recipe!

 

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What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words “Indian cuisine”? Is your answer spice? If so, you have the correct response. Indian cuisine is known for its use of a wide array of spices that give the food the tantalizing and distinctive aromas that we all love. A small subset of spices is used in most of the dishes in some combination and varying amounts. These combinations are the secret to excellent Indian cuisine.

 

Indian spices

Indian spices

 


Over the years I have seen many lists in which people have ranked their favorite spices. I thought it would be a good idea to pull together my list of the spices I use most often in Indian cooking. As you build your Indian spice rack, start with the first 5 items on this list and add more spices as your recipes call for them. Armed with this list, you should be able to prepare almost any Indian recipe you wish.

List of Top 10 Spices

 

Top 10 Indian spices used in Indian recipes.

1. Turmeric – From a root that looks like ginger’s smaller cousin, turmeric is dried and ground giving dishes a yellow color and a unique peppery flavor. Don’t add too much or your dish will be bitter and very yellow.

2. Red chile powder – Made from dried red chiles, this red powder adds a fiery taste to every dish. This is the reason many Indian dishes are hot.

3. Saffron – This spice comes from a species of the crocus plant. It brings a unique, subtle flavor along with a yellow color to dishes.

4. Cumin – Cumin has a warm, aromatic flavor and is used in a wide array of Indian dishes. Used whole, ground, fried in oil or roasted. I find that I use cumin in almost every dish but don’t add too much as it is powerful.

5. Coriander – As seeds or ground, coriander is one the most frequently used spices in Indian cooking. These tiny, light brown seeds of the cilantro plant have a light spicy flavor with a hint of citrus.

6. Mustard seeds – Small reddish-brown seeds have a pungent flavor and are usually added to chutneys, pickles and other dishes.  Frequently they are fried in hot oil until they pop to bring out their flavor.

7. Cloves – These dried flower buds give a warm, aromatic flavor to food. Used whole or ground

8. Cinnamon – Shavings of bark from the cinnamon tree. This fragrant spice is used in many sweet as well as savory dishes.

9. Cardamom – Small aromatic pods that contain many small black seeds.  They are available in black or green; however, the green ones are more popular. This is one of my favorite spices that I add to rice and sweet dishes for a special taste.

10. Fennel seeds – Small seeds like cumin seeds that are commonly used in pickles.

 

These spices are used whole or ground, and raw, roasted, fried in oil to bring out special characteristics of the spices to create a dish that makes a statement on your table. By mixing different spices together, different masalas, or spice blends, are created that you can use. For example, I make batches of the ever-popular Garam Masala that I use to season vegetables and save time. Once I like a spice blend, I write down the recipe so I can make it in the future to save time.

 

Try experimenting with these spices in your cooking and you will never have to eat a boring meal again.

 

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

 

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