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Welcome to my Hub Page simply called: "Spice".
Spice is a topic close to my heart as I enjoy cooking and cooking interesting meals for me involves the use of different spices depending upon the style of dish that I'm preparing.I personally use many spices and combinations of spices for different dishes.
In this hub page, I'm looking at using certain Indian spices and spice groups to create a certain types of basic Indian curry dish that can be easily modified to make many different although essentially similar Indian main course dishes.
This particular dish uses chilies to add fire to the flavour, but if you don't like it so hot you can simply cut down of even cut out altogether the chilies. The dish is easy to experiment with by slightly altering the volumes of the individual spices to subtly alter the flavour.
There are many uses for the group of spices that are used in everyday Indian cooking, as they're not just for that purpose. Such spices as coriander, cumin, anise and fenugreek are also used extensively in Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine.
Chili is a spice that is used all over the world in hot spicy dishes from Mexico and Latin America, to South American countries, Most of Asia, as well as some Mediterranean countries and of course Africa and the Middle East. But this is about Indian cuisine in particular, so lets get on with what I started!
Ok, this is what its all about! I love Indian cuisine and had the privalege of working with an Indian guy who was a qualified Indian chef while I was working in the IT industry on shift many years ago. He taught me a lot of what I know now about cooking Indian meals and the use of the various spices that are included in each dish.
Here I'll look at a general curry style dish that can be tinkered with to subtley alter the flavour and it all comes down to the spices used andthe way that they are used.
For a basic chicken curry, you'll need these ingredients:
- Chicken pieces cut into cubes
- Vegetable Ghee (or sunflower/olive oil if you can't get ghee)
- Tomatoes (tinned, finely chopped)
- Large Onion
- Fresh Garlic
- Fresh Ginger
- Fresh Chiles (red, green or both)
Spices: Coriander seeds, Cumin seeds, Green Cardamom pods , Black Cardamom pod, Star Anise, Cloves, Fenugreek seeds, Fennel Seeds, Black Peppercorns, Turmeric, Bay leaves, Cinnamon stick
Note: All spices should always be whole seeds and NOT powder (except for turmeric which is often difficult to obtain as a fresh root). The reason for this is that powders soon lose their flavour and aromatic qualities, whereas freshly ground seeds give maximum flavour and aroma to dishes, so I always grind up the seeds into a powder just before cooking. Coriander and cumin are the main two flavouring spices in most curry powders and are used quite liberally here.
Putting It All Together:
Its important to prepare everything first because once you start frying, you'll need all your attention on stirring to prevent anything from burning.
Note about measurements and amounts: I don't use measures for anything except for the palm of my hand! That means I vary the amount of each spice every time I cook this dish, so results in taste vary slightly. That's all part of the fun! As a rule, I generally don't overdo each spice so:
- Corriander and cumin -about a handful of each as they are the main two spices.
- Cardamom - 6-8 green, one black
- Star aniseed - usually one whole star.
- Cloves - about 8-10
- Fenugreek and Fennel seeds, Peppercorns and Turmeric - small handful (about a dessertspoon)
- Bay leaves - 3-5
- Cinnamon sticks - 2-3
Chiles are up to personal taste. I like it hot, so will use half a dozen or so in a dish with seeds to really make it powerful! You can cut down to one or two if you don't like it so hot, or omit them completely for a mild curry.
Chop the onion (either medium or fine as you prefer) and set aside. Fine chop the fresh ginger and chiles (either keep or discard the seeds depending upon how "hot" you want it) and also set aside. Chop the garlic finely and divide into two piles. Grind all the spices together (not the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks) and set aside.
You'll need to heat the ghee to melt it (or oil) in a large heavy bottomed pan, preferably cast iron or stainless steel. Non-stick teflon coated is fine too. Do not use bare aluminium pans as recent research has concluded that minute fragments of the aluminium find their way into the cooked food. Excessive aluminium levels in the human body are respinsible for lowering intelligence in children and increasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease later in life.
When the oil is hot, add the onions, ginger and chiles to the hot oil. Take care if you kept the chili seeds, as they can give off quite a strong, acrid smell which can irritate the nose and eyes! Fry for a few minutes until the onions soften but before they go brown. Add the freshly ground spice and continue frying - stirring constantly to prevent the spices from burning. Add one pile of chopped garlic, the bay leaves and cinnamon stick broken up into pieces and the cubed chicken and fry for several minutes until the meat is completely sealed.
Now stir in the tomatoes, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Keep simmering for about 20 minutes or until the mixture has reduced to a fairly thick sauce, stirring frequently to prevemnt sticking and burning.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to about 180ºC, take some Basmati rice and boil it in plain water with a dash of olive oil and a whole green cardamom pod and a bay leaf for about seven or eight minutes. Strain and place in an oven-proof dish. For plain rice, place as is in the oven for about 10 minutes. If you want Pilau Rice, dribble a line of both red and yellow food colouring in a cross pattern (red goes horizontal, yellow goes vertical, or vice versa) and place in the oven. When the rice comes out, use a fork to carefully mix it up and you'll get surprisingly even amounts of red, orange and yellow rice!
If you like chapati bread, this is easy to make yourself. Use wholemeal flour and water to make a stiff dough, roll it out into thin circles about the size of a sandwich plate and either dry fry on a hot, heavy cast iron frying pan, just a minute each side, or under the grill. It helps to splatter a little water on the cooking side of the chapati to stop it burning.
There you have it. basic chicken curry, rice and chapati.
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