Thursday, March 5th, 2020
Let me start by apologising, I lied in the subject, I said quick… how can you have a blog about spices and it be quick? It’s a glorious, magical ingredient that brings dishes to life, full of healing, healthy properties, this subject doesn’t need to be rushed.
Grab a cuppa and take your time now that you have been kind enough to click here, thank you.
Recently, I was asked why I have a range of my own personal spice mixes and why I don’t encourage you all to have a box full of spices. Firstly, it has taken me many years to learn to spice. How, when, which spice, so many questions. I usually answer what I know in class.
My spice mixes exist to simplify your Indian Home Cooking, you can buy and use in small quantities for optimum freshness.
I meet so many people who confess to having a spice rack they received as a wedding gift and they are yet to open some of the spices, let alone finish a jar. Some of these spices are 20+ years old. Please don’t encourage me to talk about spice audits….
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 22, via TV (ready, steady, cook was a favourite) 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? More so, in today’s tech world. 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.
I personally, would NEVER, EVER buy previously ground cumin or coriander, I would roast and grind the seeds as I need them. To be honest, I may roast and ground cumin for dips but rarely would I use ground coriander. From my experience. it can add a bitter note and ruin a dish. Actually, I’m fibbing again, I might buy ready ground spices and mixes so we can compare the commercial blends to my own hand made ones.
The beast of the Indian Kitchen.
The Indian Punjabi Kitchen begins and ends with garam masala, garam means hot and masala means a mix, this mix is dry. My garam masala has 9 whole spices which are cleaned, roasted and ground. I grind this mix to be a little coarse as this adds texture and keeps the masala fresher for slightly longer. A traditional blend that many Indian mums would spend days, cleaning, roasting and grinding garam masala from scratch.
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.
The Boss of the Curry Creations.
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, tons of turmeric for its’ superfood qualities, ginger, garlic, chillies, herbs, paprika for a great sauce.
I teach you the curry base making technique in class, it’s literally taking your time to cook your onions then add the curry OR cardamom spice mix (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:
The Simpler Curry Creator
Another curry creator, simpler with a big cardamom kick. 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.
It’s so good layered up in a biriani, I can show you this in class, please ask me when you book onto a class.
The Creative, fun Spice.
A simple mix of 5 crushed spices, used in pakoras, bhajes and rice. I add to so many non-Indian dishes, it works like a stock. Try it in 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.
For the Baked Dishes
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 of 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.
My family love this blend mixed with some soya sauce, sugar, lemon juice over chicken, just before baking. If you like the sound of this super speedy AND tasty marinade, please let me know and I WILL add it to my recipes, thank you, as always.
For the Salads and the sweet, tangy, spicy finisher.
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.
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 to my shop: /shop/
For Workshop Dates and Info, please find the details here: /cookery-lessons/
As always, any questions or queries, please get in touch, ring me on 07955 662 060, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org 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, Love, Lajina x
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.