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Garam Masala

garammasala250px IMG 1717The name means a mixture of spices, and the blending of spices is fundamental to Indian cookery. There are infinite different combinations, and every one imparts its own distinctive flavours. Blends of garam masala vary enormously, according to local or regional tastes. Each Indian household produces its own unique blend of spices to produce a garam masala. However, commercially blended garam masala is available in most major supermarkets. Store garam masala in an airtight container for upto 6 months.

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Cassia Bark

IMG 1760Is also grown in north-east India. It is often confused with cinnamon because of its appearance and aroma, which are similar. It tastes strong, woody and bittersweet, with a slightly sharp edge. In India, cassia is substituted for cinnamon, although not in sweet dishes because of its astringent quality. Cassia is sold either as pieces of bark or as a powder.

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Chillies are the pods of an annual plant of the capsicum family. There are hundreds of varieties but they all have fire power. Fresh unripe chillies come in various shades of green and in all shapes and sizes. The ripe ones are red and vary according to type in taste and heat. Chillies are always most pungent when raw, and mellow when cooked. When chopping chillies, make sure you don't rub your eyes as they will smart.

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IMG 2576 clovesThe dried flower bud of an evergreen tree. Cloves come from Madagascar, Brazil, Penang and Sri Lanka and are native to the Molucca Islands, which are now part of Indonesia. Cloves have a rich spicy aroma. Their flavour is strong, pungent and sweet. Used in excess, they will overpower other spices. Cloves are used in rice-with-meat dishes, such as biryanis and pulaos, and in garam masala.

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fenugreek250px IMG 1726The seed of an annual herb related to clover. It is small, hard, oblong and dull in colour; ground fenugreek is a warm yellow-brown with a bitter flavour that often dominates curry powders. Once it is cooked the flavour mellows. It is used in a wide variety of spice mixes – for example sambhar powder which flavours southern Indian vegetable and dal dishes.

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Spice Bites