Normandie Kitchen

Shared food in a share house

Tag: spices

Tempering spices

Tempering in oil is a traditional method of releasing flavour from whole spices, common in Indian cooking, whether to start a dish, or to finish it (as in a tadka). It’s easier than toasting and grinding, but it takes a little bit of nerve the first time or two, to heat the oil to sizzling, and cope with the spluttering an popping. The final product is worth it, though — throughly fragrant, intensely flavourful oil for cooking or serving.
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Everyone should have ajwain in their kitchen, and they should be using it all the time. It has a pleasant thyme aroma: clean, herbal, and with a bite like the best zaatar or spicy oregano. It’s absolutely ideal for any kind of spice rub on meat, north Indian curry, French soup, Mexican sauces, Ethiopian spiced butter, or Mediterranean stew. It’s not a familiar spice, but it’s common in Persian, Afghan, and northern Indian cooking.ajwain

This is a member of the carrot family, Apiaceae, along with a number of other common kitchen spices. It looks like cumin or caraway, but the seeds are smaller and fatter.

If you don’t have it and need a substitute, the closest taste is dried oregano. It’s available at a lot of Persian and Indian markets, though — or cheaply on Amazon. It’s meant to be antiflatulant … make of that what you will.


Habanero chilis are typically green to orange, with a sharp, fruity smell and an intense heat. They are the typical chili in Caribbean and Yucatanian cuisine, as well as Nigerian and Camaroonian. They work very well with tropical and fruity flavours, such as pineapple, lime, and bitter orange. Because they are so intensely spicy, however, you must exercise extra caution when working with them.
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Toasting spices

Toasted, and freshly ground whole spices provide a vividness and depth of flavour you can’t compare with. Roasting spices, is critical in Indian, Thai, and South-Mexican food. In fact, pretty much anything you cook will taste better with freshly toasted spice. It’s also more economical than buying ground spices. Whole spice doesn’t go stale and bland so quickly. On toasting, the chemical composition of spices changes as well, so you get more complex, and quite different, flavours than you do with raw spices.cumin and allspice


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Seasoning to taste

Seasoning is at the heart of cooking. Depending on your ingredients, or your mood, you will need to adjust salt and spices for every recipe. For some seasonings, like chile or salt, people’s preferences may diverge quite a lot, and they’ll need to adjust their recipes. The only way to do this is to taste the food as you cook. A surprising number of people never actually taste what they’re cooking while it’s cooking, or before they serve it. It’s worth going over what we mean when we repeatedly say “season to taste” or “salt to taste”.

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