|Beverage | Bread | Chicken | Chutney | Dairy | Dessert | Lamb | Legume | Nuts | Rice | Seafood | Snack | Spices | Vegetable|
Whole Versus Ground Spices
Spices add flavor aroma and color to curries. Whole spices add natural optimum content. Pre-ground spices offer convenience
Most common spices used in making curry are: Turmeric, Dried ginger, Coriander, Cumin, Fenugreek, Nutmeg, Mace, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamom, Black Peppercorn, Hot Red Chili peppers, and Degi Mirch. You can buy these spices as whole, pre-ground as a powder, or cracked. You can also buy pre-ground spice blends (Curry powder, and Garam Masala).
1. Turmeric and Dried ginger
Grinding these spices is somewhat cumbersome on as needed basis. Therefore, these spices are normally bought as pre-ground
2. Coriander Cumin Fenugreek
These spices have large oil-soluble components. The spices also taste bitter when raw. They are normally fried in cooking-fats to eliminate raw bitter taste and draw the characteristic spice oils for flavor color and aroma into cooking fat.
It matters less if the spices are pre-ground or fresh-ground, the advantage of fresh-ground is marginal at best.
3. Nutmeg and Mace
These two spices are from the fruit of the same tree. The Mace is made from the covering of the Nutmeg (nut of the fruit). The flavor of these spices degrades rapidly. For optimum flavor, these spices should be grated or ground on as needed bases. These spices should not be dry-roasted or fried in oil.
These spices are included in pre-ground Garam Masala, but largely a waste of money. You should consider adding freshly grated Nutmeg to pre-ground Garam Masala for better flavor.
4. Cinnamon, Cloves, Black Peppers, Cardamom
Significant portion of these spices is water-soluble. The best illustration of their water solubility is Garam Masala Chai (Hot spiced tea latte)
These spices do have small oil-soluble components. Many recipes call-out to fry these spices in cooking-fats, it adds marginal flavor at best
These spices should be freshly ground.
You can buy these spices as 'cracked', ground to the consistency of spent coffee grounds. This coarse grind is used in making Sabut Garam Masala, and Indian Pickles. In Hindi, Sabut means whole but in this context it is cracked spice.
5. Red Hot Chili peppers
Chili peppers have two components: Capsaicin, and Carotene.
The Capsaicin is oil-soluble responsible for the pungency (heat). The chilies are fried in cooking fat to draw the pungency
The carotene is the pigment which is partly water-soluble responsible for aroma and color.
If the pre-ground spices are not stored in dark-cool-dry-place, they readily lose the aroma and the color.
You can use pre-ground spice for pungency, but whole spices are better for aroma and color
6. Degi Mirch (Kashmir Paprika)
This is low in Capsaicin and high in Carotene. It is used for its pigment (color) and sugar for aroma which is largely water-soluble. Degi Mirch is not used for pungency. This is delicate and should not be fried in cooking fat for long. For best results it should be freshly ground.
7. Asafoetida (Hing)
Asafoetida is brown, hard like a stone, dried resin. For use as a whole spice, the chunk of resin is cracked with a hammer. The small piece is fried in oil to release oil-soluble component. Since late 1970s, Asafoetida powder has become available on the market. It is convenient. Old timers such as me just have to learn how to use it, specially since only 30% of the powder is Asafoetida and the rest is filler such as rice flour. The Asafoetida powder is acceptable.
Discussion about Ajwain is actually irrelevant. It is available only as a whole spice. Ajwain contains oil-soluble Thymol responsible for its bitter and pungent flavor. Ajwain must always be fried in oil. Earlier books misidentified Ajwain as Bishop's Weed due to appearance. In reality it is Carom fruit, that look and feel like seeds. The active ingredient Thymol is also found in Thyme and Oregano.
The spices with largely oil-soluble component are hard and may be bought pre-ground. Spices with largely water-soluble components should be used as whole or freshly-ground.
All spices should be stored in dark (away from sun light and florescent lamps), dry (Less than 60% relative humidity), and cool (below 70º F) place to preserve the flavor aroma and color for extended time.
Pre-ground spices are good for six months when properly stored. There are three problems in buying pre-ground spices: 1) Un-known time lapse from initial grind, 2) Storage environment 3) Quality of whole spices before grinding
|Google Group | Disclaimer | What do you think!|