My Spice Box

My spice box is my favourite cooking aid. I can keep all my spices in one place, and they stay fresher for longer. Spices lose their flavour and aroma once they are ground, and so I prefer to keep the seeds whole and only grind them when I need to. Most Indian homes will have a spice box, and they are able to keep the spices airtight and away from sunlight.

This tin will only hold my everyday regional spices, and by that I mean the spices that will allow me to cook from most regions of India and also Asia. All my other ones I keep in airtight containers in my pantry. And of course I accent all my dishes with the well-loved trio of fresh garlic, root ginger and fresh chillies.

Coriander seed

This is one of my favourites and one of the most versatile spices in my spice box. I use it whole, ground, and I love to use the fresh leaf to add extra flavour. It is used in all regions of India and tastes best when ground just as you need it, as it loses its flavour quickly. I like to use this with cumin to help create my first layer of flavour base for my masalas.

Coriander seed

Cumin Seed

Has an earthy flavour and tastes amazing when used whole, ground or toasted. I love to use this alongside coriander to start the base of my masalas. I like to call this my first layer of flavour.

Cumin Seed

Fresh Chillies

Small, long, thin, chunky, red, green – all chillies have a fantastic flavour but they can be very fiery so you have to be careful when preparing them and using them in dishes. As a general rule, the smaller they are the hotter they are but I always seem to find a ‘rogue’ chilli in every bag that doesn’t follow the general rule. I like to use the red or green ones fresh for instant heat, and only use the dried red chillies to add background warmth. I also love grinding up the dried red chillies to a fine powder, (red chilli powder) which I use as my second layer of flavour in my masalas.

Chilli

Turmeric Powder

Known as the spice that stains, watch out when cooking with this as it manages to stick to everything and gets everywhere! It has a bitter, earthy flavour that turns almost nutty when heated and so don’t let the raw flavour put you off. I love to use this at the very beginning of cooking to make sure I cook out those raw flavours, so add it in with your whole spices. Turmeric is also a ‘wonder’ spice and has endless medicinal properties such as natural antiseptic.

Turmeric Powder

Brown/black mustard seeds

Used in almost all regions of India, this spice has a firm place in my spice box. The flavours are only released once the spice is heated, and it will jump out of your pan when you fry it in hot oil. I prefer the brown or black seeds, as they look great in my masalas and add a wonderful nutty flavour.

Mustard seeds

Green Cardamom Pods

Green Cardamom – Probably my favourite spice of all time, not only because it happens to be one of the most expensive, but it tastes great too. The camphor-like scent perfumes anything it touches, but don’t add too many pods when cooking, as they can be quite strong. Look out for dark green plump looking pods, with sticky white seeds inside. These are the freshest and will last you the longest. Green cardamom is used in both savoury and sweet dishes, and tastes great in fresh Chai.

Green Cardamom

Whole Cloves

I love this spice. Tastes amazing, but is incredibly strong if you bite into one so best to push it to the side when eating. Look for large dark plump buds (they are the unopened flower buds of the clove tree).

Whole Cloves

Cinnamon Bark/Stick

The bark of the cassia tree can be sweet or more savoury depending on whether you get the inner or outer bark. I prefer to use the woody outer bark as it has a fantastic rich flavour and will not break up during cooking. I love adding cinnamon to most of my masalas right at the beginning, and it also tastes great when ground into a fine powder.

Cinnamon Bark

Black Cardamom Pods

This spice is the same family as green cardamom but looks different and tastes very different so cannot be used instead of it. It has a woody, smokey flavour as it has been smoked after drying, and is used only in savoury dishes. I love to use this in marinades and lentil dishes.

Black Cardamom

Whole Mace

This spice is so under rated. It is the dried outer lace of nutmeg and has a perfume scent and flavour. It tastes best when ground and used in masalas, or whole in dishes where it needs a delicate flavour, such as rice.

Whole Mace

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