Hi, #RaodyInsider! Thank you for subscribing to my monthly newsletter. The focus this month is on Indian Spices. My blog is focused on Indian-inspired #glutenfree and #paleo recipes, so you’ll see a lot of fusion ideas, merging the best of Indian spices and flavors with other international cuisines, all while maintaining nutritional balance. However, I wouldn’t be able to create these recipes without a fundamental understanding of and love for Indian spices.
Many of you may be new to Indian cooking, or if you are familiar with Indian cuisine, maybe it’s just that you just miss your mom’s cooking. I sure do! Some of my most fond memories from my childhood were watching my mother work her culinary magic in the kitchen. The sounds of the crackling mustard seeds that bloomed in homemade ghee, the warm aromas that hugged our home from the freshly ground garam masala, and Maharashtrian (goda) masala, the rich golden color from turmeric that was celebrated in every dish, and the crimson red chilies that challenged our palettes. These vivid memories of my mother’s cooking guide me every day as I continue to explore my own style of gluten-free and paleo Indian cooking.
In order for you to get started on Indian cooking, it’s important to understand some of the basic spices and methods used in Indian cuisine, creating hundreds of different flavor profiles. It’s also incredible to realize how nutritious these spices are, each serving a distinct purpose to balance digestion and nutrient absorption. Many of these spices have been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
Keep reading to learn more about the historical roots of Indian spices, where to find them, and how I have learned to cook with them in a delicious yet nutritious way!
In good health,
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. RAODY RECIPES DIET DOWNLOAD: Indian Spices
2. RAODY RECIPES PANTRY PICK: Indian CCF Digestive Tea
3. RAODY RECIPE OF THE MONTH: South Indian Paneer Curry
4. RAODY RECIPES GOES LOCAL: May Indo-Chinese Brunch
SECTION 1: RAODY RECIPES DIET DOWNLOAD – INDIAN SPICES
Indian spices are diverse in flavor and nutrition and can be used in a variety of ways that will optimize your health and add robust flavor to your meals.
Indian cooking can be daunting, especially for the home cook like you and I, who have little time to spend in the kitchen given busy schedules. However, once you understand each spice and how to cook with them, it can actually be pretty easy! Indian spices are powerful from a flavor and nutrition standpoint and can transform your weekly cooking. Some of my most fond memories from my childhood were watching my mother work her culinary magic in the kitchen. The sounds of the crackling mustard seeds that bloomed in homemade ghee, the warm aromas that hugged our home from the freshly ground garam masala and Maharashtrian masalas made from cloves, fennel, cinnamon, star anise, and more; the rich golden color from turmeric that was celebrated in every dish, and the crimson red chilies that challenged our palettes. These vivid memories of my mother’s cooking guide me every day as I continue to explore my own style of gluten-free Indian cooking.I’m going to break down some of the most essential Indian spices, and explain their nutritional benefits, wherein India they are used, where you can buy them, and example dishes you can make with each. The best part is, if shopped from trusted high-quality brands, these spices are extremely healing, and paleo / gluten-free friendly!
CUMIN SEEDS (“Jeera”)
Overview: Cumin is considered a warming spice, with a warm and nutty aroma. It is not truly “spicy,” but it warms in a similar way that cinnamon does. It is used extensively in Indian cooking and is grown in India although it originated in Egypt. Cumin is used in all parts of India (south, north, east, and west) and can be found in most regional dishes.
Nutritional Benefits: Cumin seeds aid in digestion by preventing the formulation of gas in the GI tract. They also help boost your immune system due to their anti-inflammatory properties and high levels of vitamin c and promote skin health due to antioxidants found naturally in each seed.
How to Use: The spice is best-used whole or freshly ground for maximum flavor. The whole seeds can be toasted or “bloomed” in ghee to bring out its flavor. Ground cumin seeds (or cumin powder) are another option and are convenient when you’re in a hurry. Cumin pairs well with coriander, other warming spices, chilies, and fresh herbs.
Where to Buy: I always buy cumin seeds from Pure Indian Foods. Their seeds have no pesticides or other unnatural elements added during their development. While most of you may think it’s unnecessary to buy organic, pesticide-free spices, it is actually extremely important if you’re incorporating these spices in your everyday cooking. Pesticides can disrupt your entire endocrine system, hormonal balance, and have harmful impacts on reproductive health as well.
MUSTARD SEEDS (“Sarson” or “Rai”)
Overview: The mustard seed is one of the world’s oldest spices, referenced in multiple ancient texts. The mustard seed comes from a flowering plant in the crucifer family, which means that it’s related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. The seeds should be “bloomed” in ghee or oil to bring out its flavor and temper the seeds. Mustard pairs well with other spices like curry leaves, fresh coconut, red and green chilies, and more. It is commonly used in South Indian and Maharashtrian cooking.
Nutritional Benefits: They are an excellent source of folate, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Plus, mustard seeds can reduce inflammation that causes pain and swelling, treat gum disease, boost the health of your heart, skin, and hair, and help to prevent or fight infections due to their antibacterial and antifungal properties.
How to Use: The mustard seed is found in spice mixes for meats, seafood, and legumes, or can be used on their own in many vegetable-based dishes like my south Indian broccoli fry. The seed should be fried in ghee to provide a milder nutty flavor. Where to Buy: I always buy mustard seeds from Pure Indian Foods. Their seeds have no pesticides or other unnatural elements added during their development.
TURMERIC POWDER (“Haldi”)
Overview: Perhaps considered one of the biggest superfoods in the world, Turmeric comes from the Curcuma longa plant, which grows in India and other Southeast Asian countries. It is a member of the ginger family. The dried root of the Curcuma longa plant is ground into the distinctive yellow turmeric powder.
Nutritional Benefits: Ayurvedic medicine has been prescribing turmeric to combat disease for centuries. Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, can combat depression, chronic illnesses like diabetes, can boost skin health, can help detoxify the body, and has anti-cancer fighting properties. Clearly, turmeric is incredibly powerful and should be incorporated into your daily cooking, if it isn’t already.
How to Use: The ways to use turmeric are endless! It is best to pair turmeric with black pepper which maximizes nutrient absorption. You can find it used in most of my Indian recipes from vegetable dishes like my spring peas with turmeric and coconut, to meat dishes like tandoori chicken or butter chicken, or used in hot tea like my golden matcha tea latte. Check out Pure Indian Foods’ e-book on 74 ways to use Turmeric, available for free on Amazon!
Where to Buy: I always buy turmeric from Pure Indian Foods. Their turmeric is grown organically on their own small spice farms in India. These days, conventional turmeric powder found through generic spice companies or grocery stores are typically compromised by mishandling or poor processing before it gets to the consumer. In the last 5 years, the FDA has recalled inferior imported brands for Lead Contamination (read more) and the presence of Salmonella. Other brands contain fillers and additives and may have undergone a harmful process called ionization radiation.
CAYENNE (“Lal Mirch”)
Overview: Cayenne peppers originated in the Cayenne region of French Guiana and are now cultivated in tropical climates around the world, including in India. They are bright red, long and skinny, and are ground up to create the red chili powder that is used in Indian cooking. It has an intense spice that adds heat to any dish and carries that in its hot and pungent aroma.
Nutritional Benefits: Cayenne can help with digestion, including heal upset stomach, slow intestinal gas, stop stomach pain, stop diarrhea, and as a natural remedy for cramps. It’s also used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels — including to improve poor circulation, reverse excessive blood clotting, lower cholesterol, and prevent heart disease.
How to Use: Use this spice to add heat to any Indian dish that you make. You can adjust the quantity to lessen the spice if you can’t tolerate too much heat! All of my Indian cooking uses some amount of cayenne powder.
Where to Buy: I buy Cayenne from Pure Indian Foods. It is organic and is not processed when being ground into a powder form.
CORIANDER POWDER (“Dhaniya”)
Overview: Coriander is the fruit of the Cilantro plant. The plant grows wild over large parts of Europe and the Near East, making it difficult to determine its place of origin. The flavor and aroma of coriander seeds are heightened through dry-roasting, and the roasted seed can be eaten as a snack.
Nutritional Benefits: Coriander seeds contain six different types of acids, including ascorbic acid or Vitamin C, along with 11 different minerals, vitamins, and essential oils. It can be used to treat a number of chronic issues due to its anti-inflammatory properties like diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and digestive/inflammatory illnesses. These are just a few of its nutritional benefits, among many others.
How to Use: You can either use coriander whole or ground, but most often I use ground coriander. In Indian cooking, coriander is most often paired with cumin, and you will see both of these used in many of my recipes!
Where to Buy: I buy Coriander powder from Pure Indian foods. I also buy their seeds. Both are organic and extremely flavorful.
Overview: Garam masala is a popular blend of spices used in North Indian cooking. It is made by slowly dry roasting several warm spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper, and coriander. These roasted spices are ground into a powder form for cooking and give off a warm aroma.
Nutritional Benefits: Garam masala has plenty of nutritional benefits from each spice it contains. Anti-inflammatory properties are central to this spice blend.
How to Use: Use this spice blend to marinate meats and incorporate this blend in vegetable dishes! For a traditional recipe, try my Instant Pot Kheema (minced meat) or my Saag Paneer. For a modern / fusion twist, try my masala jackfruit tacos!
Where to Buy: I buy Garam Masala from Pure Indian Foods. They toast and blend these organic spices in the perfect proportions making it a balanced and extremely flavorful and aromatic spice blend. This is not common with other brands.
Overview: Asafoetida, otherwise known as Hing across India, is a spice that is essential for Indian cooking. Hing comes from the dried, resinous gum of giant fennel, which is a perennial native to the Middle East. Hing by itself is bitter and musky. However, that all changes as soon as it is heated in a fat, such as ghee, where it immediately mellows into a full-bodied pleasant onion-like flavor. Some would even compare it with the pungency of garlic.
Nutritional Benefits: Hing is essential for digestion, and has even been used to treat patients with IBS. It can also lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and is a natural expectorant that can help clear allergies.
How to Use: Use just a dash of Hing to flavor soups, vegetables, legumes, pickles, relishes, chat masala, curries, and sambar. It is also used, along with salt, to cure meat and to season fish. For those avoiding onions and garlic, it is a sufficient substitute. It also adds the subtle super-savor quality of umami to dishes otherwise lacking in “meaty” qualities. Where to Buy: I buy Hing from Pure Indian Foods. They are one of the few sellers of raw, pure hing with no additives, so a little goes a long way. Most Hing sold elsewhere include gluten and other additives. Sources of information for this section: Pure Indian Foods and Dr. Axe
My Indian Spice Box contains all of my favorite spices that I outlined above!From top middle going clockwise: Cayenne powder, Garam Masala, Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds, Coriander powder, and Turmeric powder. The middle container is filled with Indian Five Spice, a fun dry rub that I like to use on meat dishes and potatoes!
SECTION 2: RAODY RECIPES PANTRY PICK – INDIAN CCF TEA
One of my favorite pantry essentials is my CCF Tea. It is an Ayurvedic tea that contains coriander, cumin, and fennel. Each spice stimulates digestion and detoxes your body.
While I use most of my Indian spices in my daily cooking, they can also be very healing in the form of tea. One of my go-to teas that aid in digestion is called CCF tea. CCF tea has been used in Ayurvedic practices for centuries. It contains cumin, coriander, and fennel and each has anti-inflammatory and properties that promote digestion and prevent gas build up in your GI tract. Fennel, specifically, adds a naturally sweet flavor to the tea. I typically drink this soothing, healing tea after meals to optimize digestion. RAODY RECIPES PANTRY TIP: I add 1 teaspoon CCF tea to one cup of water. I bring the water to a boil and then simmer the CCF blend in the water for 5 minutes on low heat. I sometimes also use this mix as a seasoning for cooking food! Great on roasted or pan-fried potatoes.
Shop CCF tea on Pure Indian Foods.
Brewing CCF tea takes just five minutes and has become a daily practice of mine thanks to the healing benefits of cumin, coriander, and fennel.
SECTION 3: RAODY RECIPE OF THE MONTH
This month, I’m featuring my very popular South Indian Paneer Curry.
This extremely flavorful and delicious veggie-friendly recipe blends flavors of South Indian cooking with the ever-so-popular Indian cheese called Paneer. Most people are familiar with classic north Indian dishes like paneer makhani, or paneer tikka masala. However, I prefer this dish because it’s much healthier, and derives its creaminess from freshly ground coconut. It also celebrates aromatic spices like coriander, fennel, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, curry leaves, and more! While this is a bit more time-intensive, it is not hard at all. All you need is a blender to blend together a variety of roasted Indian spices to make the base of this dish: a dynamic Chettinad spice blend. Once that’s finished, the rest of the process is very straight forward! I make the Chettinad spice blend in bulk and keep it in my refrigerator in a glass jar for a month at a time! Making this recipe will truly introduce you to the versatility of Indian spices and wow your palettes. You will find all of the spices in this recipe from Pure Indian Foods! Curry leaves can be purchased from any local Indian grocery storefront or buy dried curry leaves at any gourmet grocery store (like Whole Foods) or online at Amazon. Serve this at your next family/friend gathering, and they won’t believe you made it yourself!
This South Indian (Chettinad) Paneer Curry is to die for. It is packed with flavor thanks to almost 15 different Indian spices, and each cube of creamy paneer is coated in this rich and robust curry. It is much easier to think than you make. Check out the recipe!
SECTION 4: RAODY RECIPES GOES LOCAL – MAY RAODY BRUNCH
My May #RaodyBrunch meetup with local Bay Area #RaodyInsiders was a success!
In January, I kicked off my #RaodyBrunch meetup group with local Bay Area followers. The goal of this is to connect with each other in person and explore new gluten-free / paleo restaurants in the city. My January #RaodyBrunch meetup included meeting three amazing women and bonding over a delicious brunch at The Little Gem in Hayes Valley, San Francisco. After receiving feedback from some of you, I’ve decided to begin hosting brunches in my home with menu items from my Raody Recipes collection! My March #RaodyBrunch had a Mexican-Indian fusion gluten-free/paleo menu. My most recent #RaodyBrunch in May celebrated a blend of flavors and spices from Indian and Chinese cuisine. For an appetizer, I served hot bowls of Instant Pot Sweet Corn Soup. For mains, I had a spread of Cauliflower Fried Rice, Chili Paneer, and Chili Garlic Hakka Noodles. For dessert, I made mini Mango Lassi Custards. All of these dishes are soy-free, refined-sugar-free, gluten-free, and grain-free thanks to Coconut Aminos which is a soy sauce substitute made from coconut sap and salt. Adding this ingredient makes these dishes stay true to their classic flavors while not compromising on nutritional value, and are just as delicious as what you may have had in a restaurant or on the streets of India! If you’re interested in joining me for a #RaodyBrunch at my home, message me on Instagram, Facebook, or just contact me using the link at the bottom of this newsletter.
Let’s take this journey to health together.
I want to hear from you! Share your own wealth of knowledge with me, or let me know what you want to see more of in future newsletters. I look forward to continuing this journey together!