Journey with spices – Spice mixtures


Recommended reading: Bring spices to your life, Leafy Spices, Kernels and Seeds, Cinnamon, Pepper and paprika and Root spices.

The last in my series of blogs about travelling around the world with spices is a truly unique blend of spices and cultures. When we moved to a new flat my mother got a spice rack for a present. We used all but two spices. I believe coriander seeds were never used. We simply didn’t know where to add them. Yellow curry shared a similar destiny. It was simply too exotic for us. Much later I learned that yellow curry goes very well together with chicken. It’s really important to know when to add curry to dish. If you spice the food too early the aroma will be gone and you would have to add the spice again and this way use too much of it and also risk making your food slightly bitter. Today I know a lot more about curry. I really rarely use yellow curry. Mostly I add some to cheese soups and cheese sauces, but that’s about it. The main curries I use today are green and red. We buy them in form of pastes. Food preparation is easy. Just heat a spoon of curry paste in oil, add coconut cream, chopped meat and some veggies. Cover, cook for 15 to 20 minutes, add other spices like kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and serve with rice. Basmati if you happen to have it around. Alternative would be jasmine rice.

Did you know?

There are two finger foods that I really adore. They are both fried pastries. There exist vegetarian and meat varieties of both. First one is lumpia or Philippine type of spring role. Second one, introduced to me fairly recently, is samosa. And the latter one is the main reason for this blog. Main spice in samosas, that I know, is garam masala.

Did you know that masala is a term used in South Asian cuisines to describe a mixture of spices? A masala can be a combination of dried spices, or a paste.

I was told by a Canadian friend that name of the spice mixture Cajun comes from Acadian immigrants. Try to say “Acadian” in a southern accent and omit a leading “A.” Simple isn’t it?

Which spice mixture comes to your mind if I mention sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty? Main spices are: fennel seeds, star anise, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cloves. Rings a bell? What about Flavour potting technique? It’s a method of stewing foods in a highly-flavoured sauce that permeates the dish. Main spice mix used is Five spice.

Origins of curry

Curry in the form of powder was invented by British colonial forces with a simple goal – to imitate the flavour of Indian cooking and putting in as little effort as possible. The wanted taste was the aroma of curry leaves, which are nowadays rarely present in curry mixtures. Main aromatic ingredient in “modern” curry comes from cumin, coriander, black pepper, and chillies, accompanied by minor spices such as ginger, celery, and even lentils. Yellow colour comes from turmeric. There are as many curries as there are cooks. The basic mixture can be further enhanced by adding cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom. You can basically mix anything in your curry and sell it as your own special blend.

Challenge

Most of us are using dried spices and already prepared mixtures. A challenge would be to use fresh herbs instead of dried ones. It adds a bit to the price of your creation but results, especially taste‑wise are so rewarding that you might never use dried herbs again. When talking about mixtures I recommend using mortar and pestle to grind spices and then roast them in a pan on low fire. After that I am quite sure you will rarely use the curry powder or garam masala you buy in a bag from local supermarket.

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About Sebastjan Brezovec

I see blogging as a welcome distraction from daily routine. It gives me freedom to express myself as well as motivation for some research before publishing the content.
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