The Masala Tin
There are many spices that is used in Gujarati food and any Gujarati kitchen would not be complete without a ‘Masalyu’ or a masala/spice tin. The spice tin contains the main spices that are used to make the many Gujarati dishes. So lets explore in more detail what this spice tin contains.
1. Raai, Methi & Jeeru Seed mix, (Organic Mustard seeds, Fenugreek seeds and Cumin seeds)
The seeds spice mix is usually used at the tempering or ‘vaghaar ‘ stage of cooking. Main dishes are based on steamed vegetables and dals that are added to the ‘vaghaar’. The vaghaar takes place at the beginning where a mixture of seeds and spices are fried whole in hot oil or ghee (purified butter) to bring out their flavour. Some dishes only use either cumin seeds or rai seeds for the vaghaar and I will highlight these in the recipes I share.
Rai (Organic Mustard Seeds)
Raai or organic mustard seeds can be white, yellow, black or brown, and are derived from three different plants. They are small round seeds of the mustard plant which are dried to create this spice. The black mustard seeds are also known as Brassica Nigra. In many Gujarati dishes such as dal’s and curries, mustard seeds are fried whole in hot oil or ghee (purified butter) at the tempering stage of cooking, which brings out the lovely mild nutty taste. The tempering process, carried out by heating a little sunflower or vegetable oil or ghee and frying the seeds, will bring out their flavour. Removing them from the heat will prevent them from becoming bitter. Very often, they are the main ingredient either whole, or crushed, for Indian pickles too.
Methi (Organic Whole Fenugreek Seeds)
Whole Methi or organic fenugreek seeds are small, roughly angular, brownish yellow seeds. The seeds have a bitter yet pleasing flavour and potent aroma and are a characteristic taste of curry powders. The very small pebble-like seeds are often toasted to enhance their pungent aroma and have a powerful bitter sweet, somewhat acrid taste, so using them in moderation is always advised. Methi seeds are most commonly used in Gujarati dishes with mustard and cumin seeds in the ‘vaghaar’.
Jeeru (Organic Cumin Seeds)
Jeeru or cumin seeds have an oval shape, resembling caraway seeds and have a yellow-brown colour. The seeds scientific name is Cuminum cyminum and have a slightly bitter sweet, peppery and nutty flavour giving them a wonderful aroma when used in cooking. They are very popular in many Gujarati, Indian, as well as Tex-Mex, European, Middle eastern and North African dishes. In India, where cumin seeds are known as jeera, are fried first in hot oil to release their earthy flavour.
2. Ground Hing Powder (Organic Asafetida Powder)
Asafetida or hing is an Indian spice with a very unique and pungent flavour. In order to release the true flavour of ground Asafetida, it is usually sautéed in oil or ghee with the seeds. A pinch of ground Asafetida Hing goes a long way and it should be used sparingly. Asafetida and mustard seeds sautéed in oil or ghee are often poured over cooked lentils for aroma and flavour and along with other spices and it can be used to season vegetables or to make fruit chutneys. This spice is used as a flavour enhancer and is often used to harmonise sweet, sour, salty and spicy components in food.
3. Ground Haldi Powder (Organic Tumeric Powder)
Turmeric or haldi (known as hardar in Gujarati) gives an intense orange yellowish colour to food. It has a sort of woody,earthy aromatic and spicy fragrance with a slightly bitter flavour. Turmeric is an important spice in Indian cooking and almost all Indian vegetable and meat dishes use turmeric either as separate spice or in the spice mixture.
4. Ground Lal Marchu Powder (Organic Red Chilli Powder)
Red chilli powder or marchu is a spice blend consisting of one or two types of dried red chillies that are ground and pulverised into a fine powder. Foods are often enhanced with this powder, depending on the chillies used for the powder and the intensity of the heat in the chilli.
5. Ground Dhana Jeeru (Organic Cumin & Coriander Powder)
Cumin & coriander powder or dhana-jeeru is a delicate blend but excellent blend of powdered cumin and coriander seeds which are used in a variety of Indian foods. Because of its tangy and flavourful taste, this powder is excellent with vegetarian cuisines. To avoid overwhelming your dish with this piquent spice, start by adding a small amount to a recipe and go by taste. You can always add more if needed. Use dhanajeeru powder to make chaat masala when mixed with salt, chilli, and amchur.
6. Gor (Jaggery, Pure Unrefined Sugar)
Jaggery or gor is a tan, completely unrefined sugar originating from India. It is produced from the sap of palm trees or sugar cane and has a wonderful, rich flavour than granulated sugar. It’s often sold in solid cakes, but it should crumble when you squeeze it. Gor is often added to many vegetable curries and dals to balance the spicy, salty and sour components in Gujarati cuisine. Due to its rich flavour only a small amount is needed.
7. Garam Masala (Blend of Ground Spices)
Garam masala is a blend of ground spices common in Gujarati and Indian cuisines which can be used alone or with other seasonings. The word ‘garam’ refers to intensity of the spices rather than chilli content and is aromatically pungent, but not piquant. The composition of garam masala differs in accordance to the region in India and personal taste.
8. Limdo (Organic Curry Leaves)
Limdo or curry leaves are the shiny, dark green, aromatic leaves of a tree from the citrus fruit family that release a deliciously nutty aroma when fried in hot oil in the vaghaar. A staple of South Indian cooking, curry leaves are used in Indian and South East Asian cuisine in the same way as bay leaves are used in the West.
9. Laving (Organic Cloves)
Laving or cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae and they are very often used in Gujarati cuisines. Cloves add a uniquely warm, sweet and aromatic flavour to cuisines, particularly when used together with cumin and cinnamon. As it’s considered a very strong spice, the quantity of clove used in recipes is usually small and it is usually added to the oil or ghee at the tempering stage of cooking.
10. Taj (Organic Cinnamon Quills)
Taj or cinnamon is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree, which when dried, rolls into a tubular form known as a quill. Cinnamon is available in either its whole quill form (cinnamon sticks) or as ground powder. There are many varieties if cinnamon however, they are relatively similar in characteristics, featuring a fragrant, sweet and warm taste. Taj is very often used at the vaghaar stage of cooking to allow the flavour to be released into the oil and subsequently the cuisine.
Photos to follow……