Top Indian Spices – Coriander

 

When it comes to Indian spices, coriander can well boast to be the most versatile sort.  Its taste is a little dominating in the seed form. Coriander has a nutty, spicy flavour and is pleasantly fragrant. When young, the entire plant is used in preparing chutneys and sauces and the fragrant leaves are used for flavouring curries and soup. Coriander seeds are not only used extensively as a condiment, but also have medicinal properties, especially the oil. Our ancient heritage Ayurveda lists numerous spices for their medicinal properties. Coriander was meted out for insomnia, cloves for spleen, kidney and intestinal disorders.

But what are these coriander seeds. Basically, the fruit of the Coriandrum sativum plant are dried and commonly referred to as coriander seeds. Ayurveda calls it a cooling spice that combines well with cumin, turmeric, fennel, cayenne pepper and black pepper.

Fresh coriander can really enhance any dish and the super part is that all parts of the plant are edible! We can use the leaves for garnish, the stems and leaves in chutney, the seeds in garam masala and other masalas, the roots in Oriental cooking and coriander oil in seasonings for sausages and other meat products. And it would also be a great surprise that coriander is not ingenious to India but features in a variety of cuisines, including Southwestern, Latin, Caribbean, Mexican, Mediterranean, North African and Southeast Asian.

How should we store coriander? Remove the roots and thick woody stems and store the leaves in an airtight container kept in the fridge. It can stay for a week. As and when you need it, wash the leaves well, dry them, chop and use. Coriander seeds should be lightly roasted to ensure no breeding ground for any kind of insects. Coriander powder should be stored in a clean container and you may use a piece of whole asafoetida to prevent spoilage.

Foodies will know the advantages of putting fresh coriander in dishes such as Coriander Chicken, Coriander Parantha, chutney, pulao, or then go Mexican and make a salsa with tomato, onion, garlic, chillies and freshly chopped coriander leaves. Or stir some coriander leaves into a chilled cucumber raita. Or use with spices as a stuffing in bread but bake in large batches as this is a super success. A combination of powdered coriander seeds with cumin gives a powder called dhana jiru that not only adds deep robust flavour but also thickens the curry if there is any. Split the coriander seed to reveal a kernel that when chewed upon cleanses the palate – this dhana dal is a popular mouth freshener. Like it is said coriander aids digestion, stimulates the appetite…so take a look at these recipes….

Coriander Prawns with Mango Salad

Dhania aur Mirch ki Roti

Kothimbir Wadi 

Joy of Halwa

As a North Indian, I can say I have grown up eating halwapuri halwa is a special breakfast combination in Punjab and Delhi! The Golden Temple in Amritsar has the Kadaprasad which is a rich version of halwa…then of course we have the suji halwa which takes the name of sheera in some states. But what I was totally thrilled with is the Lakshwadeep Halwa I picked up in Kottayam this weekend. I have tasted Kerala’s most famous traditional banana halwa – firm, nutty and quite dark in colour (frankly, its black!) but is appetising in looks! I picked up not only banana halwa for family, friends and colleagues but also the more contemporary pineapple halwa and my discovery Lakshwadeep Halwa. It comes in little banana leaf parcels all tied up with twine.

First you have to untie the twine. And yes, the more interested ones had a good whiff of the parcel before opening it…the contents are soft and dark and in a ball shape…the first bite says coconut, coconut all the way and the second bite gives signals of something sweet (maybe jaggery or dates, dates it is ) and then the third bite onwards you get the ginger taste. By this time, the taste buds are completely satiated with the fruity flavours and one starts to fill up on it. Lovely but best to have only one half of it!

My chat here is slowly going to take you to the fact that one should really try out new things and also to savour the taste and then come to a conclusion about your liking or dislike for it. In fact, I love to create new recipes and this is what most of us crave for all the time…something new to keep the taste buds revved up. If one enjoys new flavours then life will take you onto a fast track of gastronomic discoveries.

So lets give you something new to start the week…no more Monday blues!

Soya Granule Lasagne
Chicken and Spinach Pizza
Corn and Coriander Rice

Till I write again
Sanjeev Kapoor.

Sweets without sugar – Live show in Delhi, the healing power of Indian spices

First and foremost, my heartfelt thanks for all the congratulatory notes! I refer to my name in the list in latest Readers Digest’s (India’s Most Trusted). I feel humbled and all I can say is thanks to all of you for your trust and confidence in me.
Off to Delhi for a live show for Sugarfree. It is the Good Housekeeping Show on Saturday 6th March, 2010 between 2.30 and 3.30 pm. The venue is The Grand, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. The live demonstration will be followed by an interactive session and I would love to answer your queries.
Holi has gone and with it taken all traces of cool weather from Mumbai! Summer is truly here and one needs no major evidence for that. Time to watch out for the mangoes and also to strengthen the immunity. Have all the seasonal fruits and vegetables and refrain from having too many icy drinks. They will cool your parched throats for a minute but also possibly start off a sore throat! ‘Doctor’ at home are the spices in the masala box.
Spices like cumin and coriander seeds have cooling properties and also aid in digestion. Coriander is also considered helpful for promoting respiratory system, health and enhancing natural defence against allergens. It is also a detoxifying spice, helping to cleanse the body. Eating a teaspoon of fennel seeds after a meal helps enhance digestion and freshen the breath. Fennel is also helpful for facilitating cleansing. Turmeric as a spice infuses Indian dishes with a rich golden colour and has long been used by Ayurvedic healers for its diverse and powerful healing properties. Turmeric is a natural preservative. It is also anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial. Turmeric contains iron and potassium. No wonder then that spices are revered in the Ayurveda because of the therapeutic value they bring to a meal.
In case you are wondering what is the best way to use spices, the answer lies in continuing your traditional cooking. Almost every dish in Indian cuisine is enhanced by the aroma, flavour and healing properties of spices. In Northern cooking the stress is on the use of cumin, coriander and ginger. Whereas in the cuisine from the hot desert land of Rajasthan it is asafoetida, ginger and red chilli powder. Gujaratis will not cook a dish without mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida and in the Southern states, the dominating spices are mustard seeds, asafoetida and aromatic curry leaves. Towards the east, especially in Bengal, we can taste the unique goodness of paanch phoron, which is a flavourful mix of cumin, mustard, fenugreek, fennel and onion seeds. I am sure Indian cuisine best understands the goodness of using spices in cooking and brings home the fact that wellness is possible in each and every Indian home.
A taste of something perfect to go with all this info! Chorchori, Jeera Aloo, Yam Curry.

Till I write again
Sanjeev Kapoor