June 9, 2019
December 30, 2020
Herbs, spices and seasoning elevate routine dishes to royal kitchen quality. Spices are derived from bark, buds, roots and seeds of a plant while plants’ leaves are the sources of herbs. Sometimes a plant can give herbs as well as spice, for example fenugreek and coriander seeds belong to spice category while the leaves are used as herb.
India has been the land of spices since ancient times and spices have been exported all over the world since then. Interesting little known facts about spices and herbs some which given here are informative as well as amusing.
Explorer Vasco de Gama is believed to have encountered pirates during spice export from India to Portugal in the late 15th century. Then spices were valued higher than gold.
For more than 4,000 years peppercorns have been used to spice up foods. The 4th century BC texts mention pepper being used as a seasoning in Indian feasts.
Red peppers is rich in contains antioxidants and a higher amount of vitamin C than lemon.
The humble turmeric is also contains antioxidants and believed to reduce aging. It is said to cure Alzheimer’s disease also. Turmeric is used in almost all items in the Indian cuisine.
Fenugreek helps in increase in the lactation amount in nursing mothers. Cumin is also a popular spice which is useful in digestion.
Cardamom is widely used in Indian sweets. Scandinavians use this in mulled wine.
The most expensive spice saffron is cultivated in cold Kashmir state of India. It’s unique aroma gives Indian sweets and biriyani a unique flavour. The deeper the colour the purer is saffron.
Cinnamon is a spice used worldwide for its woody aroma in desserts and cakes. In India it is used in Biryani and gravies. In India it is produced in the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Cinnamon has a variety of health benefits including developing immunity against cancer and help to lower blood pressure.
Asafoetida with its anti-flatulence is a spice of choice for items like kachori and paratha. It grows in Punjab and Kashmir states of India.
Nigella seeds are used in Bengali cuisine, which are known for their medicinal properties.
Coriander seed’s tangy taste enhances flavor.
The seed of the Myristica fragrans tree is called nutmeg or Jaiphal. Several Indian cuisines use the seed (nutmeg) and the seed-covering (mace) for its strong taste and aroma, especially Indian sweets and the Mughlai dishes. Although the flavour is similar mace is slightly more pungent. Nutmeg was once so exotic that the Dutch traded the entire island of Manhattan to the British for the islands that grew nutmeg.
Black garlic, a fermented Korean product, adds richness and delicious flavour to eggs, dips and meats. According to Taoist mythology, it helps in attaining immortality! The speciality of black garlic is it is not as harsh as its white variety, it is benign and tastes similar to fig.
Spices blended in a particular combinations and proportions are kept as a secret ingredient of popular dishes since ancient days. For example is the Argentinian blend, Chimichurri. It is said that Basque colonists named the sauce tximitxurry, which more or less means “a mix of many things, in no particular order.”
Another interesting fact is a certain Jamaican plant pimento tastes like a blend of many spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Known as allspice in Europe this small, dried berry is added to savoury dishes and also in baked desserts.
Chinese traditional blend the Five Spice is named after the five flavors (sour, bitter, salty, sweet, pungent). The combination of these flavors is believed to create mind and body balance.
Harissa is a popular blend in North African cooking. It’s what Tabasco is to the United States. This popular blend is hot, flavourful and contains coriander, cumin and caraway.
Chili powder is another popular blend across the world that usually contains chiles, onion, garlic, cumin and other spices. The origins of chili powder date to frontier chuck wagons. The first commercial chili powder blend was sold in the late 1800s.
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