Sharing The Love #3- The Art of Spicing

by on February 15, 2008

Spices

You should see the state of our pantry right now, it’s full, it’s bright, it’s brimming with worldly goods, it smells great and it’s a mess. We have way too many spices/sauces/dried goods/noodles/occasional stale bags of potato chips (what a waste!)/lost and then found half eaten candy bars (I knew I put it somewhere in here!)/ and more noodles oozing out of the cabinets. But thanks to Lydia at The Perfect Pantry, we’re cleaning out the pantry for our future submission to her weekly edition of Other People’s Pantry. During this cleansing ritual, we conveniently gathered together what we call our “Super C” team of spices for this edition of “Sharing The Love” – Cloves, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Caraway, Cayenne and Chili powder/flakes/whole. Without these “C” power spices, we’d be lost without our home-made Chai, Curry Powder and Garam Masala -essentially, no more “Spicing”.

Cardamom

“Spicing is an art you can learn, and eventually you can tailor your curries to your own taste and not rely on a ready mixed formula”, instructs Charmaine Solomon from “The Complete Asian Cookbook”. Applying the simple art of spicing to create your own Chai teas, Curries and Garam Masala is as easy as blending your personal choice of spices to your personal taste. In India, curries and garam masala are essentially different spice mixtures of as many as 3-20 individual spices ground and/or combined together in different proportions and combinations. The term “curry” is a British export term for collectively describing and commercially packaging the quintessential flavors that duplicate the basic common combination of these spices. Most of the Western world views the typical tumeric blended yellow/golden colored commercial “curry powder as a single spice”, writes James Peterson, in his book Sauces. “In India, it would be unthinkable to resort to a commercial curry powder for cooking instead of working with the individual flavors”. In reality, there are as many different “curry” spice blends as there are kitchens in the East. Each household, region and country have their own special spice blend. So ya see? Lets blame the “curry” name on the British!

Asian Spices

Start Naked, Then “Grind It Baby, Grind it”!

We love being able to blend our “Super C” spices with other fragrant spices to create original, homemade chai teas, curries and garam masala mixtures to our own personal taste. The flavors you can achieve from freshly grinding these seeds far exceeds any store bought mixture. Cooking with ready-made, commercial curry powder or garam masala works good too, but adding a roasted cardamom pod, clove or cumin seed here or there makes your dish extra special. Be a scientist and experiment! It’s so simple! Start small with a few individual spices, add it to your packets of chai/curry/masala mixture or go for the whole sha-bang do it all from scratch!

Here’s three basic methods for working with “curries”

  • “Cheater, Cheater Pumpkin Eater” Method: Buy the ready-made “curry” spice blends. Virtually every brand will be different so no two will be exactly the same. Find one you like & use it for your dishes. Many times these will contain fillers like rice flour and they won’t have the same depth of flavor & aroma of a fresh spice blend. But these ready-made spices can do nicely when you are short on time or lack the individual ingredients. We cheat often too. ;)

  • “Dolled-up, Semi-Cheater” Method: Take your store bought ready-made spice blend and doctor it up with additional spices. If you want more warmth and sweetness, add some cloves, cardamom or cinnamon. Need a little more spice in your life?-add some additional cayenne or chili flakes. Some other aromatics like cumin, fennel seed, and anise stars all add their own distinct touch. Customize to your heart’s content, but if you are going to use this method, you might as well go the the next level: see next bullet.

  • Hard-Core, Old-School, or “I Want My Cuisine to Be The Best” Method:

    Buy the individual spices in their whole forms, slightly toast them to bring out the aromas, then grind them. Use a blender, grinder, mortar/pestle or even a rolling pin can help you achieve your desired grind. You can use them in a “rough & tumble”form or or sift them for a finer texture. There can be a bit of a cheat in this method, too. You can buy your spices already ground, but they won’t have the same punch as grinding your own spices. However, it still is the second best way to do your spicing. Either way, using the individual spices to create your own blends opens a whole new world to understanding flavors and will make you a better cook. We’ll do this when we stop pulling punches and want to go for the “wow” factor. :P

Start “Spicing” your chai and curries – find out which individual spice makes your world rock and your dishes sing.

Super C Spices

Masala Spices

Finding Your Path To Spice Enlightenment :

So here they are, all the “Super C” spices and a collection of others that will help you get started to your new path of Chai/Curry/Garam Masala enlightenment!

Find your favorite recipe, tell us what you need & GET STARTED !

  • If you are in need of any one/two/three/four/five/six of these spices, comment here on what you need & we’ll send it to you (after our follow-up email for address confirmation)
  • But if you’re totally in the dark, live in B.F.E, forage for your food, never seen an Asian, Pacific Islander or Indian before, and have absolutely NO ACCESS to any of these, we’ll send you a care package of everything to help save your bland, flavorless and pathetic soul. :)
  • SPICE UPDATE to the list: Sweet Tamarind Paste, Asfoetida & Amchur Powder

Here are some of our food recipe finds for various spice mixture recipes:

Our Chai Recipe

Yield: Serves 2

Total Time: 20 Minutes

Experiment with whichever black tea you like to drink. Some people will even use a green jasmine tea for a lighter chai. Try using omitting some spices or use additional spices like fennel seed. We’ve even seen bay leaves used. Play with the quantities to your liking. As chaitearecipes.com says, “You’ll find as many Chai Tea recipes as there are kitchens in the East.”

Ingredients:

  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves
  • 10 green cardamom pods
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 Anise Stars
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 3-4 black tea bags or @ 2 tsp loose black tea
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 cup Half & Half (or milk of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Begin heating water in a pot on high. Smack cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom pod with the flat side of a knife to break them up a bit. In a dry saut√© pan, toast cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and anise stars to bring out their aromas (be careful not to burn them). Cut the ginger piece in half, then toast it on a open flame (gas cooktop flames work great. Skip the toasting if it’s a pain) Smack the ginger with the flat side of a knife to break it up a bit.
  2. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods (make sure you get all the little center seeds, that’s the real flavor), peppercorns, anise stars, ginger, and tea to the water. Boil on high for 12 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the half & half and sugar (add more or less sugar to your taste, 2 Tablespoons is what we like.) Continue to cook for about 3 minutes more. What the pot because the half & half will foam & boil over quickly.
  3. Strain & enjoy. Should make about 2 cups worth of chai.
Recipe Source: WhiteOnRiceCouple.com.

Hello! All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use our images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you. And remember in making the recipes, if using table salt instead of kosher or sea salt, make sure you reduce the salt amount.



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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Toni February 15, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Holy Smackrels!!! You guys are over the top! This is a gorgeous post – just gorgeous!! I’m a spice-aholic. I used to teach herbology at the local acupuncture college, and scored bags of fennel seeds and cardamom pods, and cloves and such. Oh, those were the days! But now I have the pleasure of scouring the Indian markets for the best spices I can find. I think I prefer the pleasure of spice shopping!!

The last time I was in India, I scored some chai masala. I still have some of it left, and I’ve vowed to try and duplicate it – or at least come close. I drink my chai every morning, and don’t know what I’d do without this fantastic blend of spices!

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2 Rebecca February 15, 2008 at 10:37 pm

Beautiful photos! They just warm me up on this cold winter’s night! I got one of those blooming teas for Christmas, and haven’t tried it yet-very pretty…by the way, I tagged you for being interesting! at: http://fromargentinawithlove.typepad.com/from_argentina_with_love/ xo-R

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3 Manggy February 15, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Okay, I’m really jealous now… We only get less than half of those spices routinely at the supermarkets and more often than not, they’re already ground..
Someone’s sending me a “spice care package” as we speak so I’m looking forward to checking out your recipes and trying them, as I have no idea how to use these “new” spices!

“TWELVE spices! Some of these must be doubles!”
– Marge Simpson, on a spice rack

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4 Cakelaw February 15, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Thanks for the terrific spice information – I still use the “cheater” method, but maybe it’s time to branch out. Loved the photos of the star-shaped spice whirl and the wonderful flower teas. And congrats on your 144th month anniversary!!!

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5 evil chef mom February 15, 2008 at 10:26 pm

umm… wow! those pictures are beautiful. stunning if i do say so. i’ve been trying to work on making my own chili powder blend and it still isn’t “old school, i want my food to be the best” not yet, anyways.

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6 Pixie February 16, 2008 at 1:27 am

We are pretty much loaded up on our spices as well! You have a great selection to choose from and you both are always thinking of others out there that I would really love to send you some vine leaves so you can one day make Dolmades! Please do get in touch so I can send you some. :)

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7 Peter February 16, 2008 at 3:11 am

Did you two set up these fab photos for us all? Props to you!

Your sad dolamdes from a can would be equaled by my pathetic, jarred curry…call it even.

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8 made healthier February 16, 2008 at 3:59 am

I’m hungry for some good chai and curry now! ;)

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9 Big Boys Oven February 16, 2008 at 8:03 am

this is good! a good pieces of information! so fond of it and so wonderful!

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10 Cork & Feast February 16, 2008 at 9:11 am

Fabulous post. Lots of information, lovely photos… basically a great tutorial on “curries” and super “c” spices. I learned a LOT. Thank you!

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11 Charcuterista February 16, 2008 at 10:17 am

Nice job, guys! The photos look great and what a neat idea for a post. I’ve done my own garam masala with great results, but never considered making my own chai mixture. Thanks for the inspiration…

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12 White on Rice Couple February 16, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Toni – Oh cool, we have an herbology expert here. Please let us know of other spices that we can add here. We know of about 5 more, but did not have any at the moment. We’re spice-aholics too and are always looking to learn and add new ones.

Evil Mom- Making your own chili powder sounds like a great idea and you’re kids sure are lucky getting some spice in their foods. Let us know if you need anything from the list!

Cakelaw- There are times when cheating works well too and dishes are still tasty. Our pantry is also full of “cheats”.:)

Rebecca – Oh no! We’ve been tagged! :) We’ll try our best to keep it clean, but honest! Thanks for the honor.

Manggy – Lol! Thanks for the quote by Marge!

Pixie – Can’t wait to receive those vine leaves to finally branch outside of our canned dolmides. Your kaffir lime leaves are on the way!

Peter- See what you started? Now pixie is going to send us some vine leaves so we can make your tasty dolmides. Thanks for the recipe!

Made healthier- Hope you get your chai and curry fix soon!

Big Boys & Cork & Feast – Thanks! This is the info that we know , but are anxious to see if anyone will share any new spices with us too.

Charcuterista – Thank you. It’s fun to make your own garam masala. How many spices does your blend contain?

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13 Pixie February 16, 2008 at 1:45 pm

We would love some kaffir lime leaves- they’re difficult to get here and are quite expensive as well. So, they would be greatly appreciated!

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14 Tiina February 16, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I love to learn about spices! This was a very useful post for me, and I will definitely check the links you provided.

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15 nikkipolani February 16, 2008 at 5:10 pm

This is an amazing post — you two have outdone yourselves! I thought it was going to be about organizing your pantry and I was thinking of my own lazy-susan reorg last week when I finally resorted to alphabetizing my collection to help locating them in a hurry. (you are right – there are lots of “c” spices!) But I was amazed to find your fabulous photos, spice hints, and “love share”. Not in need of any spices, just came to applaud a beautiful, informative, generous post :-) Happy long-weekend to you both.

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16 Lydia February 16, 2008 at 9:40 pm

If this is a preview of coming attractions, I can’t wait to see your photos for Other People’s Pantries! Now I’d better go straighten up my own pantry, and make sure I’m well stocked with the C spices!!

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17 White on Rice Couple February 17, 2008 at 1:04 am

Tiina- Please do check out the links. Some are short, others are long, but they all have great information regarding spicing.

nikkipolani- We’re saving the talk about “organizing” in our submission to Lydia’s event. There’s some other “C” spices and many more different lettered spices we have not added. One of which is TAMARIND !! Darn it, can’t believe we did not add it in the Masala picture. We’ll just have to save it for another post. Hope yo have a good 3-day weekend too!

Lydia – Don’t get too excited yet. There is a big yellow “caution” tape across our pantry cabinets now. We’ve still got some more cleaning to do too!

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18 Homecooked February 17, 2008 at 1:20 am

Wow…this post on all the spices is very informative and the pics are great.Looking forward to more posts where u use the spices to make some delicious food.

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19 Wandering Chopsticks February 17, 2008 at 12:05 pm

I love the swirly picture on top.

Hehe. Must have spices on the brain. I reorganized my spice drawer yesterday. You forgot Chinese five-spice and Sichuan peppercorns. Although I cheat and buy mine ready-made a lot of times… I make my own Thai green curry though so that counts right? ;)

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20 Asha February 17, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Hi Diane and Todd, just e mailed you. Thank you for your encouragement!:)

Wonderful post with gorgeous photos. Just looking at those spices makes me happy! I posted Kari Ikan (Malaysian fish curry) with Star Anise at Aroma blog, loved the taste. Looking forward to more posts with these spices here. Enjoy. Do try my masala chai at FH, great start with spices if you like Indian tea!

http://foodieshope.blogspot.com
http://aromahope.blogspot.com

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21 FlaNBoyant Eats February 17, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Hey there! Great post. I love spices and cheat sometimes but also do the natural/fresh thing most times. I love love fresh nutmeg. Just bought a mill on ebay but haven’t gotten it yet. looking forward to my RM!! :)

oh by the way, I’m doing a full post on the different ways you can cook plantain, both green and maduro. Make sure to check it out! :)

B-

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22 White on Rice Couple February 17, 2008 at 2:51 pm

Homecooked – Wish we could have the time to photograph and post all the curry dishes me make, but sometimes we’re so hungry and just cook, but forget to photograph. Today we made a braised pork in a curry and coconut milk sauce. It was deee-lish ! But no pictures to share. :(

WC- Join the club, you’re like us and fit into all 3 of the categories!

Asha- Thanks for the info on all those dishes. We’ll definitely check them out . We’re looking forward to your guidance on learning more about Indian cuisine.

Hey B!- Did someone say “plantains?” We’re there. Can’t Wait.

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23 Annemarie February 17, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Your generosity is fantastic, really. I love spices and have been thinking lately that I needed to incorporate them more into my cooking in unexpected ways – not just Asian foods but going back a few hundred years and trying spiced European stew combinations, or finding sweet treats with more spices running through them. Hooray spices!

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24 Christine February 17, 2008 at 3:35 pm

I love love love this post! What an endeavor it was to put this all together. Now, I can point friends to this post when talking about spices. I love grinding my own curry blends and other spice mixes. Hell of a good way to beat out any frustrations :)

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25 Ginger M. February 17, 2008 at 9:30 pm

Wow! What a well-stocked pantry you have there! For the longest time, I was one of the people who thinks “curry” is a single, yellow-coloured spice. Haha…

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26 Angie February 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

As usual; fantastic, amazing, beautiful pictures!! I know first hand how much work it is to take pictures like these – major kudos to you!
Even though I am all set on spices (I order mine online, since I *do* live in BFE!), I think it it fan-tab-ulous that you offer to mail these out. Oh, btw, Do you use a coffee bean mill to grind your spice/spice blends?

P.S. I am adding you to my blogroll : )

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27 White on Rice Couple February 18, 2008 at 12:24 am

Annemarie – Yes! It’s amazing how just a small pinch, dash or seed from one of these spices can add a bit of brilliance to your dish.

Christine- Spices are one of the few things you can beat and still get great results !

Ginger – It’s OK. Now you know. Hey! Maybe you can source out some cool curry products and write about them! We’ll do an update and link to your cool finds.

Angie- You might live in BFE, but your soul is not pathetic and bland. We’ve seen what you cook. You’re an exception to our example. We toasted the spices on a hot pan, then grinded them on an electric coffee bean grinder (not the burr grinders, just the little $15 cheapee one). After that , we sift it in a fine mesh sieve .

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28 Cathy February 18, 2008 at 12:27 am

Pardon my French, but that was a kick-ass post! It’s embarrassing to admit, but the only spices I had in my cupboard before moving to Saigon was salt, pepper, and cinnamon :-(

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29 dhanggit February 18, 2008 at 3:17 am

for a real spice girl like me (not the band girl of course hehehe) this post is absolutely fabulous!! i love the first photo… i hope i could take a photo as beautiful as those with all my spices in the kitchen :-)

btw, i tagged you guys :-) on sharing 5 random facts about yourself thanks

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30 Lyrical Lemongrass February 18, 2008 at 6:34 am

Wow I’ve never seen spices look so good before! Living in Malaysia, they’ve become a part of my daily life for as long as I can remember. :-)

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31 Snehal February 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Loved your blog by the way … it is pure eyecandy and very well written!!

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32 matt wright February 18, 2008 at 5:15 pm

awesome photography as usual guys. It is always so important to find a decent source for spices – the difference between crappy supermarket, and decent fresh spices is incredible.

You guys honeslty make this look so bloody inviting. Great stuff.

I did a curry from scratch about a month ago now, and the results were fantastic. Take-out curry in the US (seattle anyhow) seems pretty terrible, and I will honestly never buy another curry again – always home made from now on – and this post shows why!

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33 kate February 19, 2008 at 6:50 am

Wow u guys … this is one hellva post. That picture ” More for your Masalas ” is the kind of stuff people put up as banners in food Expos!
Love this post … and yes i go let out a laugh when i see the English curry powder. There is no one “curry powder”!!! if u come back to India … every household has its own curry mix.If i want i cannot even try n make the same mix like my mum. And trust me each one has a gr8 recipe. And it changes from region to region.
U’ll have done a gr8 job with this post. Now i need to chk whats rotting in my pantry …. gosh i feel so guilty !

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34 White on Rice Couple February 19, 2008 at 8:53 am

Cathy – You might have only had 3 spices, but look at where you are now and what you’re eating! Geez, we’d gladly trade you our pantry to be where you are right now, eating in Saigon!

dhannggit- lol, I didn’t even think of the rock band “Spice girls”. Pretty clever! Thanks for the honor of the tag, we’ll be getting our post up soon.

Lyrical- So good to hear that you are part of the Hard Core group! Half of our duo grew up with it and the other half didn’t. Can you tell which one is which?

Snehal- Thanks! And we’ll be making your toasted coconut semifreddo’s this week to share with work.

Matt- Oops! “Blame it on the British” does not apply to you! You’re one of the “hard core” ones, and I’m sure your curry dish is fantastic! Can’t wait to see some of your curry posts soon.

Kate- Yeah, we’re still wanting to learn so much more about Indian food, it’s fantastic! Just learning about curries and masala blends alone are quite a lesson. Once we can understand this basic premis, we’re hoping to move on to bigger and better Indian dishes. We can’t wait to go to India one day to the heart of this spice love!

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35 Pixie February 19, 2008 at 9:26 am
36 susan February 19, 2008 at 11:46 am

beautiful photos! since i’ve been making more indian food having bags of whole spices is a requirement. there’s just something really satisfying about grinding one’s own spices. if i’m going to spend the time to make the dish anyways might as well start with whole spices. but i also cheat too (i have whole and ground versions of a few spices) when i’m just making something casual for myself.

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37 Ivy February 19, 2008 at 11:48 am

I came over from Pixie’s Blog to say congratulations on your award but I am stunned. What a beautiful blog, what beautiful posts and most of all what beautiful pictures. I must come back and read more, I am sure I will find more beautiful things.

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38 Mango Power Girl February 19, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Great shots and information here. I learnt something, and I thought I knew all my spices ;) Love the Super C list, I never thought how many of them start with C.

Even if we sometimes buy ready-made masalas (I hate it when I can’t find all the fresh ingredients and have to resort to this), we cheat as well to customize it to our taste.

I want these charts you’ve created in my kitchen, so when I have family and friends who don’t know what I am talking about, but want to learn, I can point them to it – And, I now will to this link :)

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39 Veron February 20, 2008 at 6:40 am

Wow, I love the way you arranged all the spices and the composition in the pictures are just awesome!

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40 White on Rice Couple February 20, 2008 at 8:56 am

Pixie- Thanks for the link and looking forward to reading it!

Susan- You’re right about the satisfaction of grinding the spices. It’s so much fun and so are your beautiful dishes.

Ivy- Congrats too you too Ivy!

Mango Power- Hey, we print it up for you so theres better resolution and send it to ya ! Gotta spread the love of spices!

Vernon- Welcome! One thing we learned about arranging the spices for photography…don’t sneeze!

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41 Pepy February 20, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I should add Candlenuts for C :)

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42 Susan G March 1, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Love the photos! Adds a whole sensual element to spices. And time for me to reorganize. Back when I had a small (24) spice rack, they were organized by — Italian, Indian, etc, then my son came along (age 12 or so) and alphabetized them. Now there are more all over the place and only those originals have any rationale. Since I sell herbs and spices (not a wonderful as an ethnic market, but pretty good for small town NH, probably 150?, medicinal as well as culinary), I’m always ready for more. Latest was Zataar blend (Lebanese), which includes sumac, sesame, thyme/marjoram. Then there’s this Dukka (?) I’ve read about…what a wonderful world of taste!

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43 Randi March 3, 2008 at 9:23 am

I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog. You guys write beautifully about tempting foods! Sadly, the extent of my real spices include cumin, corriander and tumeric… the others have gone into sad disarray, ick. I’m not sure if you’re still offering, but I had serious trouble finding cardamom and star anise that’s not insanely expensive out here in the ‘burbs. A little fresh chili powder never hurt anyone either. But if I’m too late or you’re all out or whatever, it was gift enough to find a great new blog :)

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44 White on Rice Couple March 6, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Pepy- Candlenuts are new! Thanks! We’ll be looking for them at the markets!

Susan- The zaatar blend sounds awesome! Hope we can get our hands on some. Thanks!

Randi – The spices are headed your way! Enjoy! :)

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45 argus March 15, 2008 at 4:12 am

Wow, i don’t need your care package because I make my curries from scratch. But i’d like to tell you your picture of the great Cs is lovely beyond words.

My fav spices:

Fenugreek is warm and mysterious,
Star anise is cute and showy;
Turmeric is bright and in your face,
Cumin is vivacious and flirty.

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46 Aila D. January 19, 2009 at 9:32 pm

First of all, I just want to say that I recently found your website and absolutely adore it. And love your recipes (especially since I have a ridiculous love of Vietnamese food!) I do however, have a dirth of many of these spices, and was wondering if it’s too late to request a care package? Including the Sweet Tamarind Paste? Though honestly, I have no idea what to use the Tamarind Paste for, I promise to find something delectable to make with it!
Cheers!

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