Please Pass the Recipe

sharing recipes from one generation to the next

basic spice mixes

curry booksWhen a teenage daughter announces that she has embraced vegetarianism, it’s a tough gig for a working Mum to come up with tasty, nutritious, cheap and quick meals that will satisfy the omnivores in the family. Being the sort of person who takes a recipe book to bed at the end of a day, I was well aware that  ancient cultures ate little meat and then mainly as a festive treat, so it was to India and the middle east that I turned for inspiration. This was the beginning of my love of Indian food, not the dumbed down, muddy, palate searing  “curries” served as cheap eats to satisfy tastes in the west, but the fragrantly  spiced  dishes based on vegetables, pulses, wheat and rice, the food that the Hindu, Jain, and Muslim communities have flourished on for centuries, respecting their individual dietary restrictions with no compromise to flavour and variety.

My 1988 edition of Charmaine Solomon’s “The Complete Asian Cookbook” was my inspiration in those early years, she spoke to me of authenticity. The food splattered pages, all in the India and Pakistan section are evidence to how often the book sat open on my kitchen bench. Looking for variety in my repertoire, next I found inspiration in Madhur Jaffrey, my favourite of her publications, a well thumbed 1991 edition of “Eastern Vegetarian Cooking”.

Curry feasts evolved into my favourite way to feed a crowd of family and friends.

It was not until 2007 that I finally travelled to India, igniting a late in life passion for the people of the subcontinent, their history, culture and food. Two subsequent trips have exposed me to the diversity of the cuisine, from north to south. The omnivores have control of the menu once again, so the variety of dishes is on the up, though I still return to Charmaine every now and again.

The understanding of the buying, storage and use of spices has gone from 0-100 in Australia in the last 30 years. It is impossible to I start at the beginning of my Indian food journey for Leah because of what I know now that I didn’t then.

I recommend online shopping at “Herbies” in Sydney for top quality fresh herbs and spices. Buy them in small quantities so you use them up quickly and replace them often.

These are two basic spice mixes appear frequently in recipes for Indian Cuisine. Mix keep on hand

Panch Phoran

1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 teaspoon brown mustard seed
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
Grind all the spices together into a fine powder. Store in an airtight container

Garam Masala

10 cardamom pods
3 Indian bay leaves (cassia leaves)
I teas black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
10cm cinnamon stick
1 1/2 teaspoon cloves

Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods and discard the pods. Break the cinnamon stick and the bay leaves into small pieces. Put all the spices into a grinder and process to a coarse powder. Store in an airtight container until needed.

Look for the posts on this blog, Potato and Pea Curry and the Eggs in Tomato Curry Sauce to use these spice mixes


About ladyredspecs

I live in sunny Brisbane, Australia. My love of good food drives me as a cook, a reader, a traveller, an artist and but mostly as an eater. I cooked professionally for many years but have no formal training. Simply guided by a love of eating good food, respect for ingredients and an abhorrence of artificial additives, I cook instinctively applying the technical know how acquired by experience. I hope you enjoy what I share Sandra AKA ladyredspecs

12 comments on “basic spice mixes

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  3. sb2711
    February 24, 2015

    OMG…you know about Paanch Phoran! 😀 It is essentially a Bengali spice mix and makes Dal/Lentils tastier.


    • ladyredspecs
      February 25, 2015

      Panch Phoran Is a much used spice mix in my kitchen….

      Liked by 1 person

      • sb2711
        February 25, 2015

        I am glad to know that 😀


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