Spotlight on Spices

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Recently, I was asked why I have a range of spices if I am teaching you to cook, why aren’t I teaching you to spice.

So, here’s my very important spice journey in one place.

I’m a self-taught cook, learning to cook, mostly when I was on maternity leave with Sam whose now 21, via TV and books.  I’m most definitely not the best cook around, just a very humble home-cook who believes that family love begins with meal times, it’s a great opportunity to stop, cook, talk and eat together.  Do you agree?


Spicing is complicated, it takes time to clean, roast, grind the spices and I have experimented with my own essential blends for many years, so it was natural for me to have a range of spices to share with you.

Remember the cooking styles, tips and techniques are an essential part of getting the best out of the spices.  It is all the love, care and attention that goes into home cooking that makes it so special.



Lajina Masala Garam MasalaThe Indian Punjabi Kitchen begins and ends with garam masala, garam means hot and masala means a mix, the mix can be wet or dry. My garam masala has 9 whole spices which are cleaned, roasted and ground.  I leave this mix to be a little coarse because this adds texture and keeps the masala fresher for slightly longer.  A traditional blend.

Use sparingly at all times, it is in its raw form, add to cheese on toast, omelettes, soups, usual everyday meals and in Indian dishes towards the end of cooking.

Curry Masala

Lajina Masala Curry Masala

An invention of mine to create perfect curry – I never make curry without this spice mix.  It is the base of garam masala (9 spices) plus 11 spices, turmeric and its’ superfood qualities, ginger, garlic, chillies, herbs, paprika for a great sauce.

Traditionally, when making a curry, you would start with whole spices in oil, you are now risking those spices burning and ruining your dish.

By adding these spices to fried onions, taking your time, using water, you are learning simple techniques for maximum flavour.

I teach you the techniques in class, it’s literally taking your time and ensure the spices are cooked (they release their oils when cooked) before adding your main ingredients for the dish (meat, veg, beans, lentils).

Here’s a little video to assist you to make the perfect curry base:

Cardamom Kick

Another curry creator, simpler with a big cardamom kick of green cardamom.  I have taken the garam masala base of 9 spices and added 5 spices to make a simple curry powder without any ginger or garlic.  It’s a great spice to use to make curries and really good for biryani dishes.

Another invention of mine, remember to cook the spices really well before adding the main curry ingredients.

Lajina Masala Cardamom Kick

Chef Crush

A simple mix of 5 crushed spices, used in pakoras, bhajes and rice.  I add to so many dishes, works like a stock.  I add to soups, stews, bolognese sauces and our usual everyday meals.  It’s really special, once you learn to cook with it, it will be an essential spice in your kitchen.

Lajina Masala Chef Crush

Tandoori Masala

Dare I say it, quite possibly my favourite blend of all.  I use it on roast potatoes, 14 spices, an absolute labour of love.  A traditional spice mix.  I don’t use any colour, it’s all natural and so flavoursome.  Tend to roast or barbeque with this spice, so an easy one to use.

Shall I share a tip for tandoori chicken, try marinading the chicken twice.  First with a little lemon juice, a sprinkle or chilli powder and salt for half an hour before using my tandoori masala and some yoghurt.  Serve with salad and a wrap, use the same mix for tikkas, too.

Lajina Masala Tandoori Masala

Chaat Masala

A finishing spice, use on salads and as a sweet, adds a sour finish to a dish.  The Indian street food essential and has the Umami effect, five basic tastes of sweet, sour, savoury, spicy and bitter. Use it raw, just the tiniest sprinkle is all you need.

Lajina Masala chaat MasalaDSC_0519



If you’ve got a stash of spices, please get cooking, get stuck in, cook with the kids and enjoy the experience.

If you’d like to stock up on spices, here’s the link /shop/


For Workshop Dates and Info, here is a list:

Learm to Cook1 (2)

Or find the details here: /cookery-lessons/

As always, any questions or queries, please get in touch, ring me on 07955 662 060, email me: or write to me, Lajina Leal, Lajina Masala, e-Innovation Centre, Telford Campus, University of Wolverhampton, Priorlsee, Telford, TF2 9FT.

I look forward to cooking with you soon, Lajina



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About Lajina

Lajina Leal, Lajina Masala

Lajina Leal, Founder, Lajina Masala

Lajina had a Corporate Career as an Accountant for many years and whilst discussing an impending redundancy in an Indian restaurant with her friends, they persuaded her to set up an Indian Cooking School.

The fun started in October 2013 and the business has grown from strength to strength.

Browse my spices