Spices- The cornerstones of cuisines - II

Monday, August 18, 2008

Posted by Dee

My previous post has the details of spices from A-C. Here are some more with reference to their origin , remedies etc.



Clockwise: Cumin, fenugreek, curry leaves, mustard and Indian coriander seeds.

Coriander : It is a small annual herb , commonly grown in the Mediterranean and warmer climate , the leaves are known as cilantro and the seeds are called coriander. The seeds have a sweet pungent smell and used to spices up vegetables to meat and also used in cakes, also commonly used in the pumpkin spice mix and vanilla pie filling. The Moroccan seeds are commonly available but the Indian spice is much sweeter and lighter in colour. The seeds are commonly used to treat digestive problems. the crushed seeds are a good addition to lemonade.

Cumin: A native of middle east , most commonly used in turkish , greek and Indian cooking , cumin will grow in any warm , sunny position in rich, well drained , sandy loam. It grows about 2 feet long with slender stems and tiny pink or white flowers. The most common ingredient in the famous Indian spice blends garam masala and tandoori masala , cumin in India comes in 2 varieties white and black. The black variety is difficult to find outside India and has a more subtle flavor.Normally expectant mothers who suffer from nausea are asked to chew cumin seeds and sometimes it does help them feel better.

Curry Leaf: Curry leaves grow only in tropical regions and is not really suited to temperate climates unless it is grown in a greenhouse.The leaves resemble small bay leaves and are used on the stalk. In India and Srilanks , they are used to increase and add a deeper flavor.Great for digestion and commonly used in south Indian spice blends.

Dill Seed : A familiar and much loved herb, dill is also grown for its seeds that are quite strong tasting, pungent and warming, with a taste similar to caraway.Dill is native to southwest and central Asia, commonly used to flavor breads, potato dishes , also as a pickling spice with vinegar . Because the flavor lingers in the mouth, the seeds can be used as a breath freshner, Like dill weed, the seeds can be used as a digestive aid.

Fennel: Fennel is extremely versatile. The crushed seeds can be used for refreshing teas.Its difficult to say where it originated from , but it was well known and much used by the ancient Chinese, Romans , Greeks, Britons, Indians,Egyptians and Persian. Fennel is carminative and used as a diuretic .It is also used commonly for bronchitis as it has expectorant values.

Fenugreek: Fenugreek is grown because it can add nitrogen to soil and often used as cattle fodder in the east. It is a great source of protein and makes it a useful spice in vegetarian and vegan diets.It was recognized in the seventh century BC. In Egypt , it is sold as hilba and used in embalming lotions. The seeds can be infused and used to treat gastric inflammation and digestive disorders.

Galangal: Known by the Arab world, it was introduced to Europe by returning crusaders in the 13th century. In medevial times, it was used in cooking and as an ingredient in perfumes. However it fell out of favor by the 18th century. It is also known as Siamese ginger, the most well known varieties of Galangal are greater Galangal and lesser Galangal. The greater Galangal rhizomes have an orange red skin and pale flesh. Lesser galangal has brown skinned rhizomes with orange flesh. Medicinally it makes a warming digestive and is used to treat gastric upsets. Popular in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia and used in curry pastes. To store wrap it in plastic wrap and keep in the pantry or refrigerator for upto a week.

Ginger: Undoubtedly one of the worlds best known spices, it was first mentioned in Chinese herbal medicines 2000 years ago. The flavor is warm, biting, sweet and woody. The young rhizomes of the plant are used for fresh ginger and preserved candied stem ginger. While dried ginger tends to come from older more pungent rhizomes. The flowers of the plant are used in Southeast Asian cuisine. Ginger tea is said to settle the stomach and ease morning sickness.

Juniper: Considered to be a magic plant for warding off evils and evil spirits. It was often burned in rooms occupied by the sick, to fumigate the air and drive out demons. Today the berries of this tree are well known as the spice that flavors gin and other cordials. Juniper goes well with the flavor of purple fruits such as damsons, plums, blackberries and blueberries. The leaves can be used fresh of dried with broiled fish, and the wood and leaves can be used on a barbecue to give a subtle flavor to the meat. In medicine, Juniper is used in the treatment of urinary tract infections and for gout and rheumatism. It can reduce inflammation of the digestive system.

Kaffir Lime: In Sri lanka and Indonesia kaffir Lime is used as an insect repellent and a cleansing hair rinse. IT can be grown as a conservatory plant. This small tree is a sub species of the citrus family called Paepeda. The lime green fruits are not sweet enough to eat on their own, but the bitter rind and the very acidic juice are used in cooking. Like bay leaves, you should discard the leaves of kaffir lime before serving.

Lemon Grass: This comes from Southeast Asia and the leaves when crushed add a delightful fragrance to soaps and perfumes. It is sometimes found under the Indonesian name Sereh. Its rich lemon flavor and fragrance make it a tangy addition to many foods. The bulbous base of the grass stems is most widely used part in the kitchen. Lemon Grass can be taken medicinally as a digestive aid and to relieve feverish complaints.

Licorice: It has a sweet distinctive flavor and is widely used in confectionery and medicines. Its name means sweet root and it was once used as a cooking sweetener because it is said that it has 50 times the sweetening power of ordinary sugar. The root can be chewed or sucked to relive sore throats and ease other cold symptoms. It also has gentle laxative properties and is a popular agent in cough syrups used to disguise other less pleasant tasting ingredients.

Mace: Mace is the bright red shiny fiber that covers the nutmeg seed inside the fruit of the nutmeg tree. The flavor is refined rich and warm. Mace is mainly used as a sweet spice which should be added just before serving. In fact a little mace can be freshly ground and sprinkled over the top of any cooked dish. Medicinally it is used to treat stomach disorders.

Mustard: This is easy to grow and thrives in temperate climates. Mustard has been used for so long that its origins are lost but it probably came from the eastern Mediterranean where it grows as a weed and is used for feeding horses. There are two types of mustard seed - brown and white. The brown ones are more aromatic and tasty while the white ones are larger and hotter. All mustard blends are combinations of these two types of seeds.

More to come , in the last of the series in my next post. Also don't forget to check out the Enspiceopedia at What's for lunch Honey ?





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This Post was written by Dee from Ammalu's Kitchen


2 comments:

Thank you for the info on spices, I don't cook with too many spices but I will pass your blog site on to my son, thanks again.

Margaret Cloud said...
August 18, 2008 at 9:26:00 PM GMT+2  

I love spices and never get enough of playing around with the flavors and combination. This is a great reference to keep coming back to!

Meeta said...
August 20, 2008 at 10:19:00 AM GMT+2  

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