Know Your Ingredients

We use various ingredients for our cooking everyday. But, do we really know about them? Their characteristics, importance and uses? Below listed are some of the ingredients we use for our cooking along with a brief write up about them. I would like to mention here that, the information provided below was obtained from various books and online sources.

Recently I was browsing internet to understand the difference between the terms pulses, grains, lentils and legumes. I came across this question answered by someone aptly.  Let me start by sharing that one.

 

What is the difference between a grain, cereal, legume, pulse, lentil, and millet?

Grains are hard seeds without attached hulls or fruits.

Cereals are grains that come from a family of plants called Poaceae (true grasses).

A legume is a plant from the family Fabaceae and are characterized by their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the plant’s roots (in structures called “nodules”).

A pulse is a type of legume which produces a grain seed in a pod where the dried seed is harvested.

A lentil is a specific type of pulse with a lens-shaped seed that grows 2 seeds per pod.

Millet is a specific variety of small-seeded warm-weather annual grain (they represent two sub-families of Poaceae differentiated by the photosynthesis mechanisms in the plant).

 

Agar Agar / China grass:

Agar Agar, a vegetarian gelatin substitute derived from algae, also know as kanten, China grass, Japanese moss or Bengal isinglass.  It has no scent and a neutral flavour, making it ideal as a base for flavoured jellies and sweets, or for making clear vermicelli to use in faludhas.  Can also be used as a thickening agent.

 

Asafetida:

(Hing/Hingu/Perungayam)

Also called “Devil’s dung” due to its pungent, sulphurous scent.  Asafetida is the powdered resin of a large, fennel like plant.  As the name suggests, it has a fetid fragrance, but in cooked dishes it delivers a flavor reminiscent of leeks and garlic.  Asafetida is gluten-free, but is ground always with a starch. That means Ground Asafetida can contain wheat or other starches.  Please check the label before buying.  To avoid gluten contamination, we can use whole asafetida crystals.  

It helps in reducing gastric distress, so it is added in all the dishes featuring legumes.  It is available in the form of lumps as well as powder.  Easily available even in small grocery stores. When ground with rice or wheat flour or Gum Arabic, it can be directly added to the dishes.  When using lump form, always dissolve a small lump in water and add to the dishes.  Most of the dishes in this blog uses ground asafetida.

There is no substitute for asafetida, but it can be substituted for garlics and onions.

It is always good to store it  in an airtight container to retain its smell.

 

Barley:

Barley, a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally.

A very high fiber content, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, heart health and diabetes protection are just some of the barley nutrition benefits that make it one of the best whole grain choices. Barley is actually one of the oldest consumed grains in the world.

Barley is commonly used in breads, soups, stews, and health products, though it is primarily grown as animal fodder and as a source of malt for alcoholic beverages, especially beer.

According to Ayurveda, it is an excellent diuretic, which cures urinary tract infections (UTI) and also helps the body to keep cool during the summers. Regular usage ofbarley water helps flush out toxins from the body and the intestines through the urinary tract.

 

Basil seeds:

(Subja, Tukmaria or Tuk malanga)

These small black seeds swell when soaked in water, developing a slippery pale grey outer coating over the crunchy central seed.  Thought to aid rehydration, they give a deliciously slippery texture in faludha and can also be used to garnish puddings.

 

Bay Leaves:

(Tej patta/Brinji ilai)

These leaves of the Indian cassia tree are used to add a spicy aroma to chole and rice dishes.  Remove from the dish before serving.  

Indian bay leaves are paler than European bay leaves, with a yellow khaki colour and a straighter edge.

 

Cardamom seeds:

(Elaichi/Elakkai)

Available as green, white (bleached), brown/black pods or as dried ground spice.  Always dry roast and grind in a coffee grinder or Mortar and Pestle just before cooking to get the freshest flavor.  Green cardamom is widely used in Indian cooking and the black seeds are used as digestive aid and breath freshener while Brown cardamoms are always used in savoury dishes and garam masalas.  Always store them in airtight containers away from sunlight and moisture.  Available in all grocery stores.

 

Carom seeds:

(Ajmo/Ajwain/Ajowan/Omam/Vamu)

Carom seeds, ajwain, bishop’s weed, thymol seeds, ajma or ajmoda belong to the cumin and parsley family.  They have a strong and penetrating flavor. They resemble tiny cumin seeds.  Usually they are tempered along with other ingredients.  When eaten raw, the seeds are bitter and hot enough to numb the mouth.  Carom seeds are often cooked with root vegetables and pulses to aid digestion.

They can also be used in breads and crackers.  It is popular to chew on with hot water to fix an upset stomach. Carom seeds or asafetida are generally added with Chickpea flour (Besan/kadala mavu) to make them more digestible.

Available in all grocery stores..

 

Cayenne (red chilli powder), whole chillies and red pepper flakes (lal mirch):

Cayenne or red chile powder is merely ground cayenne.  India red chile powder is either ground cayenne or a chile closest to cayenne in terms of heat.

Whole dried red chillies are used frequently in tempering Indian dishes.  Use dried California red for less heat and Thai cayenne  or arbol for a spicy result.  Whole red chiles in a dish slowly add flavor.  If whole chilies are the only source of heat, then break them in two before using.  Substitute with red pepper flakes to taste.  Red pepper flakes are crushed dried red chillies, not ground.  Usually more than one chile is used and the flakes can include cayenne, ancho, bell and other dried chillies.

 

Chia seeds:

Chia seeds are seeds of a desert pant called salvia Hispanica, which is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to Mexico and Guatemala. It appears humans have begun using chia seeds from as early as 3500 B.C., with the Aztecs and Mayans consuming them as staple foods. The name “chia” is derived from a Mayan word for “strength”.

They offer a high level of nutrition, support a healthy lifestyle, and aid in weight loss.

Here are some key points about chia seeds.

  1.       Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, iron, and calcium.
  2.       A 28-gram, or 1-ounce, serving of chia seeds also contains 5.6 grams of protein.
  3.       Mixed with water, they can replace egg in vegan cooking.
  4.       Chia seeds can be eaten cooked or raw, but they should be added to another food or soaked before eating.

 

Chilli:

(Marcha/Lal-Hari mirchi/Mirapakaya/Milagai)

There are different types of chillies (ripe red, unripe green, large, small, fiery, mild) and they come in many different forms (fresh, dried, flaked, pickled, powdered).  

Fresh green chillies are used for masalas, long green chillies for bhajis, small dried red chillies for tadka, Kashmiri red chillies for pickles (to give them a sweeter, less fiery warmth).

 

Cinnamon:

(Taj/Dalchini/Lavanga pattai)

This spice is made from the bark of the cinnamon tree.  It is harvested as strips of bark rolled one inside another. The best varieties are pale and parchment-like in appearance.  

Widely used in main dishes, rice dishes, puddings and sweets.  Can be used in broken pieces to flavor rice, sauces, and lentils.  It can be ground roasted or unroasted to make up spice blends or flavor sauces and curries.

It is believed to help control blood sugar levels.  The pleasant smell of cinnamon stimulates the senses and calms the nerves, since it has a numbing and antiseptic effect.  

The warm, sweet flavour of cinnamon starts to fade from the sticks after a month or two.  So buy it in relatively small amounts to keep the flavour fresh and bright.

 

Cloves:

(Laung/Grambu/Lavanga)

This small, dark-brown, woody spice is made from dried unopened clove flowerbuds. Cloves form an important part of several dry masala blends used in Indian cooking, such as garam masala.    

Often used whole to flavour dishes during cooking and removed before serving, it is also available in powdered form.  The oil has anaesthetic qualities, hence its traditional use as a toothache remedy.  

 

Coriander seeds:

(Sukha dhania/Kothamalli vidhai)

Though these seeds are from the cilantro plant (called coriander leaves in India and Chinese Parsley as well) they are not at all similar in taste or aroma to cilantro leaves.  You cannot substitute coriander seeds for cilantro leaves in a dish and vice versa.  But they complement each other.

They have a flavor similar to orange peel and honey.  Whole coriander seeds  adds a burst of flavor to potatoes. Ground one is frequently used in sauces and takda for dals.  

Can be used as a green-leaved herb in seed form or as a dried ground spice (you get a better flavour if you dry-roast and grind the seeds yourself in a coffee grinder or using a pestle and mortar when needed).  When buying seeds, look for light green oval ones.  Fresh coriander leaves are sprinkled as a garnish shortly before serving, while the spice tends to feature in main dishes, rice dishes and pickles.

Cumin and coriander seeds form a cozy relationship in many spice blends, and they provide a well-balanced temperament to recipes that have large amounts of capsaicin-heavy chilies.

 

Cumin:

(Jeera/Zeera/Jeeragam/Jeeraga/Jeelakarra)

A popular sibling of the carrot family, it is India’s favorite spice.  Like many other spices, cumin is capable of having multiple distinct flavors based on how it is used.  Cumin is truly a national treasure.

There are 8 ways one can use a spice.  Here’s an example with cumin seeds.

  1. Use it in raw form to get their distinctive spice flavor.
  2. Grind and sprinkle on a dish, the flavor is more pronounced and quite different: musky and earthy.
  3. Toast them on a dry pan, without oil, you will experience a nutty aroma.
  4. Take those toasted seeds and grind, they smell nothing like any  of their previous incarnations.
  5. Roast them in a little oil, you will discover yet another flavor – almost sweet smelling and smoky.
  6. Grind them after roasting, they will seem to lose their smoky bouquet.
  7. Soak the whole seeds in a liquid, their presence will be surprisingly subtle.
  8. And when you grind the soaked seeds, they not only take on the liquid’s taste but also impart the spice’s 8th flavor.   The strong nutlike aroma reappears, masked by the infused flavor of the liquid.

(Courtesy Raghavan Iyer’s book : Indian Cooking Unfolded)

Can be bought as whole seeds or ground spice.  However, it is better to dry roast and grind the seeds shortly before using for best flavour.

The most common cumin seeds are pale green or brown, with a warm, slightly bitter taste; however, you can also find smaller, sweeter black cumin seeds called Kala jeera.  Both types are purported to cure digestive complaints. Ground cumin is often mixed with ground coriander seeds to make dhania-jeera.

Cumin seeds are commonly used in tempering for dals, beans and rice.  Ground toasted cumin is used to garnish yogurt dishes, curries and chaat.

 

Curry leaves:

(Kadi patta/Karuveppilai/Karivepaku/Kariv sobbu)

These ‘sweet neem’ leaves  come from a subtropical tree native to India and can be used either fresh or dried.  They add a pungent aroma and a hint of sweetness to savoury dishes.  They are generally added to spiced oil otherwise called tadka, rather than cooked directly with other ingredients. Care should be taken while adding fresh leaves to hot oil, as the moisture in them makes them sizzle and spit.

The leaves are highly valued as a seasoning in southern and west-coast Indian and Srilankan cooking.  In their fresh form, they have a short shelf life and do not keep well in the refrigerator.  They can be frozen in airtight container for a few months.  The curry leaves can be eaten along with the food or removed during eating.  There is no good substitute for curry leaves.

 

Dried Fenugreek Leaves:

(Kasoori methi)

Fresh green fenugreek leaves are available when in season in India.  They are used as greens in dishes with potatoes and in salads.  Dried fenugreek leaves combine well with starchy or root vegetables like carrots, yams and potatoes. They can also be added to flatbreads, rotis and parathas.  Ground fenugreek seeds can be substituted for the dried leaves.   Use ¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds for every 1 teaspoon of dried leaves.  Similarly these dried leaves can be substituted for fresh leaves in subzis and pulaos. Soak in water for 5 minutes and drain to use as a substitute for fresh leaves.

 

Dried Mango Powder or Amchur:

Dried mango powder is made by grinding dried mangoes.  The powder preserves the acidic, tart, and spicy flavor of unripe mangoes. Amchur commonly used for flavoring curries, chutneys, soups and marinades.  It is a souring agent like tamarind and has tenderizing qualities like lime juice. Amchur can be used instead of tamarind to prepare sweet-sour dal or sambar.

 

Fennel seeds:

(Saunf/Sombu/Somu)

Fennel seed has a sweet licorice taste.  It can be used to flavor oil or it can be ground and used in spice blends or sauces.  Fennel seed is also roasted with fenugreek and used in stuffed vegetables.  In many parts of India and Pakistan, roasted fennel seeds are consumed as an after-meal digestive and breath freshener.

 

Fenugreek seeds:

(Methi dana/Vendhayam/Menthulu/Uluva)

The yellow-amber colored seeds are added in the preparation of pickles, vegetables, and spice blends such as sambar powder.  Fenugreek seeds are available both in whole and ground form.  The seeds are roasted to reduce the bitterness and enhance the aromatic flavor.  The seeds can be sprouted and added to salads or sandwiches.

For the best results, roast and crush the seeds yourself when needed.  These seeds are thought to improve digestion, have a strong curry-like flavour and can be added to spiced oils or directly with other ingredients.

 

Flax seeds:

Flaxseeds (also called linseeds) are a rich source of micronutrients, dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B1, and the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA or omega-3.

Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s. Lignans, which have both plant estrogen andantioxidant qualities.

Ground flaxseeds are sure to digest and supply your body with valuable fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Whole flaxseeds grind easily in a coffee grinder if you wish to process your own. Ground flaxseed is often sold as “milled flax,” “flaxseed flour” or “flaxseed meal.”

Some tips for using flaxseeds in our diet.

Add 1-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to a morning smoothie.

Mix a tablespoon in with yogurt and raw honey.

Bake ground flaxseeds into muffins, cookies and breads.

Add to homemade sprouted granola.

Can be mixed with water and used as an egg substitute.

 

Garam masala:

Literally ‘hot mixture’, this spice blend is used in many dishes and most Indian households will have their own recipe. As the name itself suggests, this blend is supposed to heat up the body.   Some regions in India have their own special seasoning blends that may be similar or very different from garam masala .  Some people add up to 18 ingredients in this blend. It is not to be confused with Curry powder which is British or Western spice blend approximating the masal spice blends from north and south India.

Garam masala generally includes roasted ground cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black cumin, nutmeg and peppercorns, but if you don’t fancy making your own, it can also be bought ready-made.

 

Garlic:

(Lahsun/Poondu/Thellullipayalu)

In recent years, garlic has been hailed as a wonder-food, with antifungal and antiviral properties and beneficial effects on everything from blood pressure to acne.  It plays a vital role in Indian Cuisine, except during periods of fasting, when our dishes need to be onion and garlic free.  (for that matter this blog doesn’t contain any recipe with onion or garlic as one of a must have ingredient. For people who use them, can visit this page to learn how to peel garlic.)

 

Ginger:

(Adhu/Adrak/Inji/Allam)

Another staple ingredient of Indian cooking, is ginger.  They are available as a fresh root or dried spice and lends its heat and warmth to savoury dishes and sweet treats alike.  Ginger infusions have long been used to treat sore throats and nausea.  Look for firm roots with no wrinkles or spots, and store any unused ones in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks.

The size of the ginger root varies drastically.  Some roots can be large and fat and some thin and skinny.  When a recipe calls for a 1 inch knob of ginger, use a 1 inch cube in general.  If it is a skinny knob, add some more ginger.  If too fat, then use a ½ inch knob.  

1 inch knob gives 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger.  

Ginger root can range from young, juicy and fresh to fibrous and mature or too sharp.  The juiciest and least fibrous roots blend up well in the sauces whether chopped or minced.  

 

Mustard seeds:

(Rai/Kaduku/Avalu)

Mustard seeds, the small round seeds of an annual plant of the cabbage family, are also one of the important Indian oilseed sources, that is, the seeds are widely used to make oil.  These seeds grow in small one inch pods that must be collected when they are ripe – but before they burst – then dried and threshed.  There are many varieties worldwide, though

Three main varieties are popular – black, brown and yellow / white, available as whole or split seeds, paste or powdered spice.  Small brown ones bring heat and flavour to spiced oils (tadka) and the split yellow ones for pickles, as they act as a wonderful preservative.  When added to hot oil, brown mustard seeds start to pop as they cook, making it easy to tell that they are working their magic.  

Mustard seeds are considered a good overall therapeutic spice.  They are believed to stimulate the appetite, act as a carminative (gas- reliever) and a diuretic, as well as relieve respiratory trouble.

Mustard seeds are very strong tasting and are generally combined with other mild greeds, such as spinach, to balance flavors.  Mustard oil is a natural preservative and is used extensively in chutneys and pickles, and for cooking.

 

Nigella seeds:

(Onion seeds/Kala jeera/Kalonji/Karunjeeragam)

These small black seeds are picked from kalonji bushes, which are grown throughout India.  The seeds are about the same size as sesame seeds, though they have a more triangular instead of oval shape. The color and the flavor of the seeds make them a popular spice to flavor breads (such as naan), savory biscuits or pastries and salads.  Nigella is also called black cumin, but it is not the same as kala jeera (which also translates to black cumin).

There is no good substitute for nigella seeds except when used as a flatbread garnish, when you may substitute a combination of black sesame seeds and dried onion flakes.

 

Nutmeg:

(Jaiphal)

Nutmeg and mace have similar sensory qualities, with nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavor.  Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts.  Nutmeg is used for flavoring many dishes, usually in ground or grated form, and is best grated fresh in a nutmeg grater.  Nutmeg is used in many sweet as well as savoury dishes (predominantly in Mughlai cuisine).

Nutmeg has a rich, warm, citrusy, antiseptic fragrance and balances a bitter, yet sweet, flavor.  Nutmeg and mace are considered quite valuable in pharmaceutical preparations.  They are narcotic and should not be consumed in large quantities.

 

Paprika:

(Kashmiri degi mirch or Rang wali mirch/Kashmiri milagaai thool/Chilli powder)

Paprika holds a place of honor in the Indian spice rack.  It has a sweet chile-like aroma and a bitter aftertaste, which mellows dramatically after it is sizzled in oil.

Indian paprika is the brilliant red powder made from mild, non-pungent red chiles.  Used mainly for its color, this powder is almost devoid of heat because, even from these mild chiles, all the seeds and veins are removed before they are dried and ground.  Most of the Indian paprika comes from Kashmir, and hence the name kashmiri degi mirch.  

It is rich in vitamin C and considered an appetite stimulant.

 

Peppercorns:

(Kali mirch/Karuppu milagu/Miryalu/Mulagu)

Black pepper, often known as the king of spices, is one of the oldest and probably the most popular spice known to humanity.  The pepper  plant is a branching evergreen creeper found mainly in the hot and humid monsoon forests of southwest India.  The berries of this plant are called peppercorns.  Ranging in color from green, black and red to white, the peppercorns grow in clusters and are initially green.  As they mature, they turn from green to yellow to orange to red.  (they do not however, turn to black, as one would expect).  Black peppercorns are actually processed green peppercorns.  This manual process involves picking the fully mature (but still unripe) green berries and drying them in the sun.  As they dry, they shrivel up and take on the familiar brown-black color.  

Green peppercorns are the small, soft, immature, caper-like berries, which are freeze-dried or brine-packed while they are still unripe and green.  They have a very delicate flavor.  White peppercorns are the fully ripe yellow-red berries, with their outer skin removed.  They have a milder flavor but a stronger bite.  Black peppercorns have a strong, fragrant, peppery hot bite and a rich, earthy aroma.  Their heat, though, does not linger for too long.  Their aroma and flavor increased dramatically after they are lightly dry-roasted and then coarsely ground.  

Prized as a home remedy for flatulence and sore throats (especially when mixed with honey), they believed to clear the sinuses, stimulate the appetite, and aid digestion.

 

Pomegranate seeds, Dried:

(Anardhana/Maadhulam vidhai/Dhanima ginja)

Anaardana/Pomegranate seeds, used as a spice, are actually the sun-dried or dehydrated, fruity seeds and teh flesh of a wild pomegranate tree.  As they dry, the juicy flesh around the seeds forms a reddish-brown, sticky coating with a tangy, fruity, sweet aroma and a predominantly sour, acidic taste.  Pomegranate seeds are believed to cool the body, aid digestion, and relieve gas.

 

Poppy Seeds:

(Khus khus/Kasakasa/Gasagasa)

Poppy seeds come in three different colors: the familiar blue-gray from Europe, the brown from Turkey, and the pale yellow-white from India.  All these are very similar in taste and flavor and can be used interchangeably in recipes where color is not important.  Raw poppy seeds have a light and sweet aroma, and a pronounced, nutty, almond-like flavor.  

Khas-khas, Indian poppy seeds are the tiny, pale yellow-white seeds of the opium-producing poppy plant. Contained in a capsule-like head that develops after the flower dies, the best poppy seeds in India come from the capsules from which opium has not been extracted.  (Opium is the milky sap that oozes out once the capsule is open).   The seeds, however, are opium-free.

Poppy seeds are added for thickness and texture (in both sweet and savoury dishes), and also to give added flavor to the recipe.  Poppy seeds, white or black, are both hard seeds and not easily ground with a mortar and pestle.  Toast them to make them easier to grind and use a spice grinder.  They can also be soaked in hot water and blended to make a paste.  Poppy seeds can be replaced with sesame seeds.

They are cooling to body, high in protein, and are considered cures for fever, thirst, stomach irritation, and insomnia.

 

Psyllium husk:

Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Planta go ovata plant’s seeds. It sometimes goes by the name ispaghula. It’s most commonly known as a laxative.

Psyllium fiber comes from the outer coating, or “husk” of the psyllium plant’s seeds. It is not wheat, and is therefore gluten free. The psyllium husk is a natural source of soluble fiber, similar to fiber found in grains such as oats and barley.

Psyllium, one type of bulk-forming laxative, has also been used along with a proper diet to treat high cholesterol.

Cooking With Psyllium:

While psyllium is commonly added to fruit juices or water and drunk as is, it can also be added to baked goods, soups, stews and even pureed vegetables. Psyllium used in cooked foods needs to be mixed with enough fluid so that the husk can absorb and bulk up, reducing the risk of constipation.

 

Rose Water and Essence:

Gulaab jal and ruh gulaab.  Rose water and rose essence are made from the petals of specially cultivated, highly fragrant, deep pink-red roses.  Rose water, as the name suggests, looks just like water but exudes a strong, sweet, rosy fragrance.  Rose essence is a concentrated version of rose water and, like other flavors and essences, is available in small bottles.  

Two drops of rose essence are equivalent to one tablespoon of rose water.

 

Saffron:

(Kungumapoo/Kaesar/Zaffron)

Saffron is rare and hard to find.  It is among the world’s most costly spices by weight because it takes thousands of hand-picked flowers to make a single ounce. Just a few strands are enough to affect the entire dish so a small box will last for a long time.  It is used in sweet and savory preparation.  

Saffron threads are the dried orange to deep-red stigmas and tips of the saffron crocus, a member of the iris family. Most of the Indian saffron comes from Kashmir.  Saffron has a distinctly warm, rich, powerful and enticing bouquet and a characteristic bitter taste.  It imparts an exotic fragrance and a favored yellow color to all dishes.  This color shows up best in the paler milk based desserts and sauces, and in Pulavs (pilafs).  Saffron is usually soaked in warm dairy or non-dairy milk to help release its color and aroma.

Saffron is believed to be cooling to the body and, in addition to other things, acts as a stimulant, especially for the heart and brain.  In large doses, however, saffron is a narcotic.

There is a chance of adulteration while buying saffron.  Yes, sometimes corn husk will be colored and sold as saffron.

To know whether it is genuine, smell and taste it. Saffron has an aroma and flavor that cannot be duplicated in fake saffron.  If you put a thread of saffron in your mouth and it feels sweet, then learn that it is fake.  

Another test is when saffron is placed in cold water for a few minutes, it will color the water and come out still looking like the original saffron thread.  If the color washes out and the thread when taken out has faded or completely lost its color, then it is fake.

 

Sesame seeds/Sesame seed oil:

(Til/Gingelly/Nuvulu/Ellu)

Sesame seeds are the tiny, smooth oval, flat seeds of an annual tropical herb.  These popular oilseeds come in white, brown and black colors, are almost fragrance-free and mildly sweet, but when dry-roasted, they provide a rich, nutty fragrance and taste.  They are high in protein and calcium and are believed to have a warming effect on the body. They are considered beneficial to the respiratory, digestive and female reproductive systems.

Sesame oil, also known as gingelly oil (nallennai, nuvulununa) is a popular oil used in cooking in south Indian cuisine and has properties similar to olive oil.

 

Star Anise:

(Lavangapoo/Anasipoo/Anasphal/Dodphul/Dodhful/Badian)

Star Anise is the dried mahogany-colored, 8- pointed, star shaped fruit of a large evergreen tree.  Each of the eight tips of this star has a bead-like seed.  Star Anise has a sweet flavor, reminiscent of fennel and anise, even though it is no relation to them.  Star anise is considered to be carminative (gas- relieving) and good for the stomach and intestines.

 

Tamarind:

(Imli/Puli/Chintapandu)

Tamarind also known as Indian dates, are the buff to dark brown, sticky fruits contained inside the bean-shaped pods of the evergreen tamarind tree.  Covering the fruit is a brittle, buff-brown shell and inside the pulp are flat, shiny, ½ inch seeds.  Tamarind has a mild, fruity, sweet and sour fragrance, and a predominantly acidic, sour, and slightly sweet taste.  Tamarind is rich in minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin C, and is considered a natural body cooler. It may aid digestion, and can relieve colds and throat infections (especially when used as a gargle).  It is a mild laxative and stomach soother.

 

Turmeric powder:

(Haldi/Manjal thool/Pasupu podi)

Turmeric, a bright yellow-orange powder in the form we know, is actually the boiled, peeled, sun-dried rhizome of a tropical plant of the ginger family.  The rhizome, similar in size and shape to fresh ginger, has short “fingers” and bright orange flesh.  

Turmeric has a warm, peppery aroma, reminiscent of ginger and a strong, bitter taste that really mellows upon cooking.  This spice is also one of the most valuable everyday spices of Indian cuisine.  

Turmeric is used in most sauces and curries to lend them the characteristic yellow hue.  Turmeric is mostly used in savory dishes.  Too much turmeric in a dish can make it taste bitter. .  It has a vibrant color and preservative and anti-inflammatory properties.  Considered a natural antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory, and a blood purifier, turmeric is used as a home cure to relieve everything from upset stomachs to aches and pains.

 

Grains:

 

Raw rice:

(Ponni raw rice/Pachcharisi/Pachchari/Biyyam)

Rice is boiled in lots of water and then drained completly, which results in beautifully dry and fluffy, spearate grains. The water and time required for cooking rice depend on the variety and age of rice; typically older rice needs more time.

 

Basmati rice:

Long-grained rice from northern India with a nutty flavour and fragrant aroma.  They work great as a side with Indian food. Wash thoroughly but gently before cooking to remove the starchy coating, taking care not to break the grains.

 

Broken rice:

Rice which has broken or cracked during harvesting or drying.  Starchier and cheaper than the whole rice grains. Used for sticky rice and porridge dishes and sometimes for dosa batter too.

 

Brown Rice:

Brown rice is whole grain rice with the inedible outer hull removed.  White rice is the same grain with the hull, bran layer and cereal germ removed. Brown rice contains more nutrients than the white rice in terms of calories and carbohydrate content.  Because of its fiber, brown rice offers a lower glycemic index which means that we will experience slower or less dramatic spike in blood sugar after eating those carbs. Apart from reduction in high cholesterol levels, brown rice also helps in preventing atherosclerosis.  It is an excellent grain choice for people with diabetes.  It requires more time and water to cook compared to the normal white rice.

 

Puffed rice:

A vital ingredient in many snack and street food  dishes.  Store in an airtight container and try to use up quickly once you have opened the packet, as it will quickly soften and lose its crispness once exposed to the air.

 

Pressed rice/Poha:

Flattened, beaten or pounded parboiled rice, often used in chaat dishes or as a form of Indian fast food.  Pauwa flakes are available in differing thicknesses, from thick to fine, depending on the weight of the rollers used to flatten it.