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mustard seeds
black mustard
chili pepper
spice mix
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Cooking Spices
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A spice can be a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or vegetable substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Cooking spices are an essential ingredient to flavorsome appetizers and entrees. Using spices does not necessarily imply "hotness" although many spices do indeed contribute to heat.

Spice can be obtained in several modes: whole dried, ground, dried and fresh. Commonly, spices are dried. Whole dried spices last much longer, so they can be obtained and stored in larger amounts This makes it cheaper to buy and is available in small quantities. Some spices are rarely available either fresh or whole, for example turmeric and can only be purchased in ground form. Small seeds, for example fennel and mustard seeds, are used both whole and in powder form.

Spices are an everyday part of family cooking. They are used as simple flavoring for many entrees the most frequently used being pepper. Combinations of spices are used as rubs when preparing ribs, chops, steaks and even roast joints.

One of the better known uses of spices is in the making of curry. The concept of highly spiced meat goes back to prehistoric times and is associated by archeological discovery to the inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization. In more modern times curry is more associated with the Indian sub-continent, especially India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Basic curry is made up of a combination of whole or powdered chili pepper, black mustard seed, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, ginger, coriander, and garlic. One popular spice mix is Garam Masala, a powder that typically includes five or more of the above dried spices. Basic curries vary in ‘hotness’ from basic Curry which is mild and therefore you can taste all the flavor through Madras which is fairly hot up to Vindaloo which is very hot. There are also numerous other different types of flavor e.g. Rogan Josh, Balti and which tend to originate from the various regions of the Indian subcontinent.

There are many spices readily available in grocery stores and there are even some specialty spice shops. If you are a budding amateur cook like me, then you will be into using spices to enhance the taste of your meals. What always interests me is how to best combine the various spices to benefit the dishes. Professional chefs have the ability to combine various spices to bring out the best flavor. I have experienced the opposite whereby getting the combination wrong has a disastrous effect.


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