Namak shamak!

They say no matter how busy we are, we always find time to do the things we love. So here I am with another blog post so I can interact and communicate with all my readers. Off late, I have been getting a lot of queries on Twitter and Facebook about black salt or kala namak. Hopefully this post should answer all those queries about this beautiful native Indian ingredient.

Also known as sulemani namak, black salt, kalo noon or black Indian salt, is a salty and pungent-smelling condiment used in South Asia. The condiment is composed largely of sodium chloride with several impurities lending the salt its colour and smell. The smell is mainly due to its sulfur content. Due to the presence of Greigite (Iron (II, III) sulfide) in the mineral, it forms brownish pink to dark violet translucent crystals when whole, and, when ground into a powder, it is light purple to pink in color. Black salt is also made by mixing salt water with harad seeds. The mixture is left to evaporate leaving behind black lumps of salt. When the salt is ground, the resulting powder is pink.

Kala namak is used extensively in South Asian cuisines of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan as a condiment or added to chaats, chutneys, all kinds of fruits, raitas and many other savory Indian snacks. Black salt is also a base ingredient in chaat masala and gives it its distinctive flavor. Those who are not accustomed to black salt often describe the smell as similar to rotten eggs. It is an ideal flavouring ingredient for vegan food, because it imparts the food with a slight eggy smell and flavor without the actual use of eggs.

Kala namak is considered as a cooling spice in Ayurvedic medicine and is used as a laxative and digestive aid. It is also believed to relieve intestinal gas and heartburn. It is used in Jammu to cure goiters. This salt is also used to treat hysteria, and for making toothpastes by combining it with other mineral and plant ingredients. It is sometimes used by people with high blood pressure or on low-salt diets because it is thought to be lower in sodium and purportedly does not increase sodium content in the blood. This is used as a stool softener and is a remedy for constipation. Hypertensive patients are also advised to use black salt instead of common salt.

We use black salt to season a lot of dishes in Indian cuisine. Using black salt in many recipes is what adds that extra dimension of flavor to it. Take nimbu paani for example – adding a pinch of black salt to it, is what rounds out the flavor profile, perfectly balancing the sweet, sour and salty taste. I’m sharing some recipes which can be made using black salt. I’m also looking forward for all of you to share your interesting home recipes or anecdotes about this magical ingredient – black salt.

Dahi Wada
Nimbu Adrak Pani
Paani Puri ke teen pani

Till I write again.

Sanjeev Kapoor

Top Indian spices – Turmeric

 

One spice that cannot be substituted with anything else in Indian cooking is turmeric. Turmeric, or haldi as it is called in Hindi, as a spice infuses Indian dishes with a rich golden colour and has long been revered by Ayurvedic healers for its diverse and powerful healing properties. It has been used since antiquity throughout the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia in religious rituals, as a dye for priestly robes, for its medicinal properties and as a culinary spice to give flavour and colour to a great variety of dishes. In most Asian countries it is used to flavour and colour butter, cheese, margarine, pickles, mustard, fruit drinks and what have you.

It is not only turmeric as a spice that is so important to Indian cooking. A variety of other spices too have always been dominating in Indian cooking. As time has progressed they have been segregated into three functions: medicinal, preservative and seasoning. Spices not only give taste but also better health. We will be looking at cumin seeds, mustard seeds, coriander in seed and powder form, red chilli, asafoetida, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamoms, fenugreek, etc. Food with spices looks good, smells good and tastes delicious!  It also heals, soothes and rejuvenates.

The masterful use of spices in any regional cuisine provides synergy and balance in taste and flavour. Let us dwell on the benefits of a few of them to understand their medicinal prowess.

  1. Turmeric’s medicinal importance was recognized some 3000 years ago. It is a natural preservative, also being anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial. Turmeric contains iron and potassium. In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, turmeric is applied in the paste form for itches and skin diseases. The turmeric root by itself is a good mouth freshener.
  2. Cumin and coriander provide cooling properties and also aid in digestion.
  3. Coriander is also considered helpful for promoting respiratory system, health and enhancing natural defense against allergens. It is also a detoxifying spice, helping to cleanse the body from the cell up.
  4. Eating a teaspoon of fennel seeds after a meal helps enhance digestion and freshens the breath. Fennel is also helpful for facilitating cleansing.

And this is just a curtain raiser!

Storing the spices correctly is very important. In general, spices need to be stored in glass air tight jars. Clean and pick the seeds and roast very lightly on heat. Let cool and place in jar. Seal and keep in a dry dark place. Powdered masalas can be stored with pieces of rock salt. The salt absorbs the extra moisture and keeps the masala from fungal growth.

Here are some recipes that use turmeric to give the food an attractive aura and flavour.