the main Ingredients used in Curry
Where does it grow , What are the characteristics , Attributes
Coriander is the seed of a small plant. The seeds are
almost spherical, one end being slightly pointed, the
other slightly flattened. There are many longitudinal
ridges. The length of the seed is 3-5mm (1/8-3/16 in)
and the color, when dried is usually brown, but may be
green or off-white. The seed is generally sold dried and
in this state is apt to split into halves to reveal two
partially hollow hemispheres and occasionally some internal
powdery matter. Bought batches of dried coriander seed
may contain a portion of broken seeds, which may lose
their aroma more quickly. Coriander is available both
whole ground. Not much used in the West, but very common
elsewhere, is ‘green coriander’-the fresh
leaves of the plant. This is used as a herb, especially
in curries, and may be found in shops specializing in
Asian and Middle eastern food and in some super markets.
Preparation and Storage
Coriander seed is generally used coarsely ground or more finely
powdered, depending on the texture desired. It is best bought
whole as, being brittle, it is easy to mill or to pound in a
mortar. Ground Coriander is apt to lose its flavor and aroma
quickly and should be stored in an opaque airtight container.
Whole seeds keep indefinitely. Their flavor may be enhanced
by a light roasting before use. As Corianders mild, it is a
spice to be used by the handful rather than the pinch. The leaves
can be chopped or minced before use. They do not respond to
drying, but may be frozen either blanched or chopped and frozen
in ice cubes.
Coriander seed oil strongly antibacterial against several organisms.
The seed is an aromatic stimulsant,a carminative (remedial flatulence),an
appetizer and a digest ant stimulating the stomach and intestines.
It is generally beneficial to the nervous system. Its main use
is in masking foul medicines, especially purgatives, where it
has anti-gripping qualities. Coriander cakes were once taken
against ‘St Anthony fire’ or ‘Rose’,a
severe streptococcal skin infection called ‘erysipelas’,
which caused many deaths (including that of Charles Lamb),before
the advent of antibiotics. The Ananga Ranga recommends a mixture
of ground ores root, elk horn and Coriander seeds for youthful
acne. It continues with another recipe for lightening the skin
which includes Coriander seed ‘…..if this be applied
to the body for seven days, it will make the aspect clean and
brilliant as the moon’. In Asia the herb is used in piles,
headache and swellings; the fruit in colic, piles and conjunctivitis;
essential oil in colic, rheumatism and neuralgia; the seeds
as a paste for mouth ulceration and poultice for other colic
Cumin is the seed of a small umbelliferous plant. The
seeds come as paired of separate carpels,and are 3-6mm
long. They have a striped pattern of nine ridges and oil
canals, and are hairy, brownish in colour, boat-shaped,
tapering at each extremity, with tiny stalks attached.
They resemble caraway seeds, but are lighter in colour
and, unlike caraway, have minute bristles hardly visible
to the naked eye. They are available dried, or ground
to a brownish –green powder. Cumin is freely available
in the west, although it is not a traditional European
Bouquet Strong, heavy and warm. A spicy sweet aroma.
Flavor pungent, powerful, sharp and slightly bitter.
Preparation and Storage
The seeds should be lightly roasted before being used whole
or ground to bring out the aroma. Cumin may also be pounded
with other spices in mixtures such as curry powder. Ground Cumin
must be kept airtight, to retain its pungency. This spice should
be used with restraint –it can exclude all the other flavours
in a dish. Less than a teaspoon of it will flavor a meal for
Cumin is stomachic, diuretic, carminative, stimulant, astringent,
emmenagogic and antispasmodic. It is valuable in dyspepsia,
diarrhea and hoarseness, and may relive flatulence and colic.
In the West, it is now used mainly in veterinary medicines,
as a carminative, but it remains a traditional herbal remedy
in the East. It is supposed to increase lactation and reduce
nausea in pregnancy. Used in a poultice, it relieves swelling
of the breast or the testicles. Smoked in pipe with ghee, it
is taken to relieve the hiccups. Cumin stimulates the appetite.
Fennel yields both a herb and a spice. The spice comes
from the dried seeds. The seeds split in to two, one sometimes
retaining the stalk. They are 4-8 mm long, thin and curved.
The colour varies from light green to brown, The green
being regarded as superior. There are five longitudinal
ridges with deepish furrows, giving the appearance of
stripes. Fennel is available ground, but best bought whole.
It is common and readily found in the west.
Bouquet Warm, sweet and aromatic.
Flavour Resembles a mild anise, although less sweet.
Preparation and storage
Grind seeds in a spice mill or pestle and mortar and
store in airtight containers away from light.
Stimulative, stomachic and carminative. It is used in ‘gripe
water’ given to flatulent children, and is an ingredient
of ‘compound Liquorice powder’. It appears to help
in chronic coughs. In India many properties are attributed to
it, including aphrodisiac, digestive, emmenagogic and galactagogic.
The oil is used against hookworms. Anethole, the main constituent
of the oil, has demonstrated anti-microbial activity. Fennel
should not be used in high doses as it causes muscular spasms
The part used is the ‘seed’ – actually
a tiny fruit dividing in to two carpels. The seed is dried
after ripening. It is hard, light brown, winged and oval,
with one side flat, the other convex. There arethree ridges
on the convex side and three vittae, or oil channels;
the flat side bears two ridges . The seed is about 3.5mm
long.Although dill is not greatly used in traditional
English cooking it is available in most shops where spices
are sold. The aromatic leafy plant tops and stalks are
Bouquet Fresh, rather sweet and aromatic.
Flavor Aromatic and slightly bitter. Reminiscent of caraway.
Preparation and Storage
The seeds can be used whole or crushed. They can be
ground if desired in a mill. A coffee grinder especially for
spices is a good idea in a kitchen where spices are widely used.
The dried seeds should keep indefinitely with airtight storage
out of sunlight.
Carminative, stimulant, stomachic. Dill water is given
as a digestive to children. It eases stomach upsets and is said
to be a cure for hiccups. ‘ The wonder-working Dill…
which curious women use in many a nice disease’ (Drayton,
Paprika, of paprika pepper, is a fine powder ground from
certain varieties of Capsicum annuum.It is not to be confused
with the vine peppers which yield the common table pepper.
The peppers which yield paprika are various in shapes
and size, but are generally pointed or cone-shaped. They
are larger and milder than chilli the peppers, flesh being
without the extreme fiery pungency of the chilli.The species
is variously named as C.a.microcarpum,C.a.tetrago-num
or C.a.grossum,but the botany of the entire capsicum family
is sometimes called ‘pimento’ (as used to
stuff cocktail olives).The powder varies in colour from
bright red to a rusty brown. Several grades of flavor
are manufactured, though the choice is fairly limited
outside Hungary and Spain. Sweet, semi-sweet and pungent
varieties are available, depending on the of . Varieties
are available, depending on the proportion of the hot
seeds need, and on whether the seeds are first macerated
to remove their pungency. Hungarian paprika is reckoned
the best, followed by that of Soain. Chilli derivatives
are summarized under Chilli and remarks.
Preparation and Storage
Except for the most pungent varieties, paprika can generally
be used in generous quantities. If it is fried, care should
be taken that the sweeter varieties do not burn or caramelize,
so cook gently. Paprika must be stored in a dark container as
it reacts to sunlight. Being a spice that tends to deteriorate
rapidly it should be bought in small amounts, as necessary.
Being a rich source of vitamins, paprika is generally healthful.However,it
has no specific medicinal uses, its stronger relative,chilli,being
used instead. It is said to improve night vision.
Piper nigrum Black, White,
Green Piper longum Long pepper
Pepper, the ‘King of spices’, derives from
several spices of vinous plant, the spice being the whole
fruit, called ‘peppercorns. Piper nigrum provides
the black and the white pepper commonly used in the West.
Black pepper is the dried unripe fruit.
The corns are spherical and wrinkled, measuring about
5mm in diameter. White pepper is from the fruit picked
when almost ripe, with the dark outer skin removed by
wetting in water. These corns are slightly smaller than
the black, both varieties containing a gray horny seed
with a tiny cavity.
rarely used in the West, consists of a fused mass of minute
fruits in the form of a conical spike, 1-3 cm long. Mignonette
Pepper or Shot Pepper, Widely
used in France, is a rough-ground mixture of black and
white corns. Pepper is available whole, partially ground
– as steak pepper for example – or in powder
form. Green pepper is a recently marketed
flavoring. This is the unripe fresh corns, bottled or
canned in brine or vinegar or, more recently, freeze dried.
Also recently marketed from Reunion is Pink Pepper,
the almost – ripe berries of the tree Schinus terebinthifolius
– a native of South America – which is not
a vinous pepper. It is available usually in vinegar or
as dried berries. The latter have a brittle, papery pink
skin enclosing a hard irregular seed, much smaller than
the whole fruit. The pickled variety is soft and easily
mashed. Although attractive in appearance, they are a
poor substitute for real pepper. They are used in Mediterranean
areas, especially with fish, and by the Indians of South
America for making alcoholic beverages. After a brief
spell as a chic new gourmet spice its reputation has been
damaged by reports of ill effects. If used, do not add
more than fifteen ‘peppercorns’ to a dish.
Bouquet Aromatic, pungent
Black pepper is vary pungent, fiery and aromatic.
H Scale: 8
White pepper is less pungent.
H Scale: 7
Long pepper is slightly sweeter.
Green pepper tastes clean and fresh and is milder.
H Scale:6 ½
Pink pepper is bitter, resinous and aromatic.
H Scale :3
Preparation and Storage
Pepper is best bought whole, as freshly ground pepper
is vastly superior to the ready bought powder. Ground pepper
quickly loses its aroma and is easily adulterated. Peppercorns
are quite hard but are ground easily in a peppermill. Their
aroma is preserved in hot food if they are added well towards
the end of the cooking process. Some dishes demand crushed or
cracked pepper- that is, partially broken. This is achieved
with moderate effort using a mortar and pestle, but if there
is much pepper to crush, simply place the corns in a polythene
bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Whole corns keep indefinitely
when stored in airtight containers. Pink or green pepper can
easily be mashed to a paste. These, being fresh fruit, do not
keep well, but will survive some weeks in the refrigerator.
Dried green peppercorns can be reconstituted in minutes by soaking
them in a little water.
Carminative, stimulant, diuretic, diaphoretic, pepper has long
been known to improve the digestion. It was used to treat gastrointestinal
upsets, flatulence, fevers and congestive chills. It is supposed
to be of help in anal, rectal and urinary troubles. Pepper calms
nausea and has been used against vertigo. Cubeb pepper has been
used in Asia for gonorrhea in its secondary stages. It is little
used in modern medicine. A paste of ground white pepper and
butter, licked at intervals, is a surprisingly effective cure
for sore throats and loss voice.
Garlic is a bulb of a lily-like plant. It is similar in
shape to an onion, but ridged. The bulb is compound, consisting
of anything up to twenty segments, called ‘cloves’.
Usually there are about ten cloves to a bulb, packed side
by side around a thin central core, separated by scaly
membranes and enclosed by a brittle parchment-like skin.
The flesh of the clove is ivory-coloured, and should be
hard and firm though easily cut with a finger nail. The
cloves should be tightly packed-loose cloves are a sign
of deteriorating or inferior garlic. The skin is usually
white, but may have a pale pink or purplish tinge. The
peeled clove should be unblemished. Garlic is widely variable
in size, some continental bulbs are minute. Garlic is
best bought whole, but is also available in the form of
granules (minced), powder or garlic salt.
Bouquet Harsh, penetrating and lasting. The whole clove
has no aroma.
Flavour Sharp and acid. The powerful oniony flavor can
easily become overpowering if used to excess.
H Scale (Raw): 5-6
Preparation and Storage
Separate a clove from the bulb as necessary. Either peel like
an onion, first slicing off the ends, or crush the clove with
the flat of a knife when the skin will be much easier to remove.
The garlic can then be chopped or mashed with the addition of
a little salt-this will absorb the juice which would otherwise
be lost and also prevent this pieces from slipping about. Although
it is usually advised to use the point of a knife to mash garlic,
a fork is even better. Wooden surface and utensils are best
avoided- a stale garlic odour will cling to them. If using a
garlic press, there is no need to peel the clove as the skin
will remain in the press and is easily removed after use. When
several cloves are to be crushed, use a pestle and mortar with
a little salt. Keep heads of garlic in a cool dry atmosphere.
Processed garlic must be kept in airtight containers.
Garlic has been used since ancient times for innumerable complaints
and amongst the properties attributed to it are: diaphoretic,
diuretic, expectorant and intestinally antispasmodic. It is
a good digestive aid, and used in flatulence. It stimulates
blood flow and lowers blood pressure. Garlic juice in a syrup
of honey and sugar is used in colds,coughs, influenza and helps
to relieve asthma. Today garlic oil is often administered in
gelatine capsuals to obviate the unpleasantness of the odour
to those susceptible to it. Formerly, garlic was used as a vampirifuge.
In moderns times the constituents of garlic have been shown
to be bacteriostatic-in world war 1 the juice was extensively
used on wounds; a glycoside compound has been proved to be lethal
to certain organisms. In Russia allicin is so much esteemed
that it is known as ;Russian penicillin’. The Japanese
also favour garlic as a cure-all, and one researcher has patented
a garlic spray machine that is claimed to provide beneficial
therapy for a multitude of ailments. The aphrodisiac properties
of garlic have been much praised; however, it is advisable that
both partners take the recommended prescription.
Brassica alba ,B.juncea,B.nigra
Syn Sinapsis alba
Three varieties of mustard exist, deriving from the seeds
of three related plants.
is a round hard seed about 2mm (0.08 in) in diameter,
varying in colour from yellow brown to white. It is right
outer skin is removed before sale.
is a round hard seed about 1.5mm (0.06in) in diameter,
varying in colour from dark brown to black.
or Indian mustard is similar in size to the black
variety and varies in colour from light to dark brown
.The seeds are available whole.
The seeds itself has no aroma.
Sharp and fiery .white mustard is less powerful Indian
mustard is cruder.
H scale 6-8
English mustard is fine, bright yellow power made from
a blend of white and black seeds with a little added wheat flour
and turmeric .blend of the seeds alone is also obtainable.
Bouquet when mixed, mustard has a fiery and pungent aroma ,powerfully
aromatic ,irritating and acrid.
Flavour sharp and fiery. Bitter, turning to pungent. For other
made-up mustards see under Uses.
H Scale: 7-8
Preparation and storage
Mustard develops its pungent Qualities only after mixing with
liquid, which should always be cool. Powdered mustard is made
up by adding water, milk grape juice, verjuice, lemon or lime
juice,vinegar,beer,cider or wine .for traditional English mustard
,two parts of power to one of liquid are used. Leave to stand
for fifteen minutes to allow the pungency develops. When using
powdered mustard in sauces, make it up with liquid first to
Country mustard can be made
by pulverizing or crushing the seed and mixing with herbs, spices,
and a chosen liquid. Sugar and honey are sometimes added. Stored
in an airtight tin, mustard powder should keep almost indefinitely
but ready- made mustered should be stored in a cool place and
used within six months.
Mustered is a strong emetic, a counter –irritant and rubefacient.
Black and brown mustard are much stronger than white mustard.
Although the volatile oil of mustard powerful irritant, blistering
tender skins, in dilution as a liniment or poultice is soothes,
causing a sensation of warmth and redness. Mustard paper or
plasters,’sinapisms’, are made by applying mustard
flour to paper coated with rubber solution; these are applied
as a contour –irritants. In bath water or as a footbath
mustard relives muscular aches. ‘It helpeth the Sciatica,
or aches in the hip or heckles bone…….’ (Gerard
1957).(bath mustard is a coarse powder of black and white mustard)
mustard is used to treat respiratory troubles ,rheumatism and
colic. The mucilage in the seeds absorbs moisture, so seeds
are used in laboratories to make test tubes ‘Chemically
Syn curcuma longa
The rhizome or underground stem of a ginger- like plant
provides this spice ,which is available whole or ground.
Ready ground turmeric is the most commonly available in
the west. It is a deep yellow, fine powder. The whole
turmeric is the rhizome, which is tuberous ,and its skin
is rough appears segmented-characteristic rhizome features.
It is yellowish-brown with adull orange interior, yellow
when powdered. The central rhizome measures some 2.5-7cm
in length with a diameter of 2.5cm; smaller tubers branch
off it. It is always sold dried and smoothed, in rounded
or elongated pieces from the central or lateral sections,
known respectively as bulbs or fingers. This type is called
‘Alleppy ’or ‘Madras’. A ‘Bengal’type
exists, in smaller cylindrical pieces, and is used as
a dyestuff rather than for culinary purposes. Fresh turmeric
root is also available.
Bouquet Woody, slightly acrid, redolent of a sawmill.
Flavor Warm and slightly aromatic with a bitter undertone.
Preparation and Storage
Turmeric is always ground before used. Although the whole pieces
provide a fresher powder, they are rock-hard and consequently
difficult to grind at home. The powder, which is more convenient,
will keep its colouring properties indefinitely if stored in
an airtight container away from sunlight. The flavor of the
powder will, bowever, diminish, so it is wise to buy in moderation.
Turmeric is mild digestive, being an aromatic, a stimulant and
a carminative. An ointment base on the spice is used as an antiseptic
in Malaysia. Turmeric water is an Asian cosmetic applied to
impart a golden glow to the complexion.Formerly,turmeric was
used to treat jaundice.Curcumin has been shown to be active
against (pus-producing infections).
Fenugreek is the small stony seeds from the pod of a bean
–like plant. The seeds are hard, yellow wish brown
and angular. Some are oblong, some rhombic, others virtually
cubic, with a side of about 3mm . A deep furrow all but
splits them in two. They are available whole and dried,
or as a dull yellow powder, ground from roasted seeds.
This powder is a common household spice and easily available.
Bouquet Warm and penetrating, becoming more pronounced
when the seeds are roasted. Ground, they give off a ‘spicy’
smell, pungent, like an inferior curry powder which would
probably contain too much fenugreek.
Flavour Powerful, aromatic and bitter-sweet, like burnt
sugar. There is a bitter aftertaste, similar to celery
H Scale: 2
Fenugreek leaves are also available fresh or dried. The
dried variety is a mass of crushed grey-green leaves and
Bouquet Similar to the ground seed.
Flvour Milder than the seeds.
Preparation and Storage
Dried seeds should be lightly roasted because, if this is overdone,
they will be merely bitter, so do not let them darken to more
than a golden brown. After roasting, they are quite easy to
grind. A small amount will compliment other spices and flavours;
too much will overpower the dish. If the seeds are required
as part of curry paste, soak them overnight when they will swell,
become gelatinous and be easy to incorporate with the other
Fenugreek is a digestive aid. As an emollient it is used in
poultices for boils, cysts and similar complaints. It is also
a febrifuge, diuretic and galactagogue. Reducing the sugar level
of the blood, it is used in diabetes in conjunction with insulin.
As early as 1030, the great Arabian philosopher and physician,
Abu Ali al-Husam ibn Abdullah ibn Sina (Avicenna), was prescribing
fenugreek for diabetes. It also lower the blood pressure. In
the East, beverages are made from the seed to ease stomach trouble.
The chemical make-up is curiously similar to that of cod liver
oil, for which a decoction of the seed is sometimes used as
a substitute. It is used as a hypoglycaemic aromatic in veterinary
medicine. Many other properties are ascribed to it in India
and East and not surprisingly include aphrodisiac.
Cardamom comes from the seeds of a ginger like plant.The
small brown-black sticky seeds are contained in a pod
in three double raws with about six seeds in each raw.The
pods are between 6-20mm long,the larger variety, known
as ‘black’,being brown,and the smaller being
green.The pods are roughly triangular in cross section
and oval or oblate.Its dried surface is rough and furrowed,the
large ‘blacks’ having deep wrinkles.the texture
of the pod is that of tough paper.Pods are available whole
or split and the seeds are sold loose or ground.It is
best to buy the whole pods, ground cardamom quickly becoming
neutral.Cheper substitute known as ‘beda elachi’
are the seeds of Afromomum aromaticum (Bengal Cardamom),
Amomum xanthoides and subulatum(Nepal Cardamom). Other
varieties that enter in to trade are Java Cardamom,Cambodian
cardamom and Chinese cardamom.
Bouquet Pungent,Warm and aromatic
Flavour Warm and eucalyptine with camphorous and lemony
undertones. cardamom is blunter,the eucalyptus and camphor
suggestions very pronounced.
Preparation and Storage
The pods can be used whole or split when cooked in Indian substantial
dishes- such as pulses.Otherwise ,the seeds can be bruised and
fried before adding main ingredient to the pan, or pounded with
other spices as required. Keep the pods whole until use. The
pod itself is neutral in flavour and not generally use.
A stimulant and carminative, cardamom is not used i western
medicine for its own properties, but forms a flavouring and
basis for medicinal preparation for indigestion and flatulence
using other substances, entering into a synergetic relationship
with them. Ancient Indians regarded it as a cure for obesity.It
has been used as a digestive since ancient times. A medicinal
(Perhaps aphrodisiac) cordial can be made by macerating seeds
in hot water.
Syn Chalcas k.,Bergara k.
These are the leaflets of a tree that is common in southern
India. They resemble bay leaves in shape but are smaller,
mush thinner and not at all leathery. Their color is olive
green with a paler underside and they have a delicate
appearance. They vary considerably in size.1-4 cm (1/2
– 1 ½ in) in length. When fresh they are
very shiny. Curry leaves are available fresh or dried
from specialist Indian shops.
Preparation and Storage
Curry leaves are used whole or they can be macerated or minced
before adding to stews, curries and marinades. They can be fried,
and the spiced butter or fat drained off for further use. Store
the leaves in airtight containers.
Said to be tonic and stomachic. In India, the young leaves are
taken for dysentery and diarrhea. An infusion of the toasted
leaves is anti-emetic. A paste of the bark and roots is applied
to bruises and poisonous bites. The seeds are used to make medicinal
oil called ‘zimbolee oil’.
Syn E. caryyophyllata,
E.aromatica, Caryophyllus aromaticus, Syzgium aromatcum
Cloves are the immature unopened flower buds of a tropical
tree. When fresh, they are pink, but they are always sold
at least partially dried.-some over dried- finally turning
to a red-brown or rust brown color. Shape they resemble
small nails, with a tapering stem of rounded cross section
whose larger end is topped with an open four –pointed
crown containing the flower bud. The whole clove measures
12-16 mm in length. The is stem quit tough, but the head
should be more fragile and easily crumbled between the
fingers. Most cloves are highly flavored and therefore
even the inferior ones are acceptable, but the best retain
their natural oils even after drying and plump and not
brittle or withered. Cloves are sold whole or ground and
are freely available at a reasonable cost.
Preparation and storage
Cloves are best bought whole –the powder quickly deteriorates
the y are difficult to pulverize in a pastel and mortar so it
is best to use the electrical grinder. Another quick way to
obtain the powder is by crumbing the heads between the fingers,
saving the stalk for future use. Store the spice in airtight
Eugenol is very strong antiseptic-hence the effectiveness
of cloves in preserving preparations such as pickling liquids
.clove oil is a powerful stimulant and carminative. It is
used to treat flatulent colic,nausea ,indigestion and dyspepsia
.cotton wool soaked in clove oil is applied directly to an
aching tooth ,bringing immediate relief. Compounded with Zinc
oxide, it is employed in dentistry as a temporary tooth felling
.externally applied; clove oil is irritant, rubefacient and
mildly analgesic .it is used in liniments with a base of clove
oil .clove themselves are astringent, owing to the large percentage
of tannins present.
Cinnamon is the dried inner bark from the shoots of a
small laurel like tree. The spice is in the form of cylinders,
known as ‘Quills’ ,consisting of strips of
bark rolled one in another .the pale-brown bark strips
may be only 1.5 mm thick, the spongy outer bark having
been scraped off. Scrolled together, the length and diameter
of the cylinder vary, but on average are 75mm and 8mm
respectively. The dried bark is hard and brittle, the
best varieties being pale and parchment –like in
appearance. Cinnamon is readily available in the west,
as in the east, and is also sold in powder form. Cinnamon
is similar to cassia .these spices are differentiated
by law in Britain and some other countries, although others,
including the United States, do not make this distinction.
Bouquet sweet and fragrant, the powdered from yielding
H Scale :3
Preparation and storage
Like other powdered spices, powdered cinnamon tends to deteriorate,
and should be kept dry, airtight and out of sunlight. This is
the more common form, however .as the quills are difficult to
grind in a pastel and mortar. As its best cinnamon is quiet
potent: large amounts will overpower .a mixture of sugar and
cinnamon for sprinkling over desserts is the best in a ratio
of between 15:1 and 20:1 .in cooking liquids, a whole quill
can be steeped and removed when it has imparted its flavor.
Cracked sticks may be used in sweet –and-sour pickling
mixtures .whole quills will uncurl during cooking.
cinnamon, one of nature’s most aromatic spices, strangely
does not have many properties attributed to it and its uses
are minimal .even in India and Africa, where most aromatic are
ascribed powers bordering on the phenomenal,it was used only
superficially; otherwise it was use violently, as in gonorrhea
when oil was injected into the infected parts .perhaps ,being
so powerfully aromatic healers were wary and only prescribed
it when the very source of life was in peril. However, more
mildly, cinnamon is carminative, stimulant, astringent and aromatic.
It has been used in diarrhea and stomach upsets. In nausea and
occasionally as an inhalation .in various pregnancy problems
efficacy is attributed to it. In modern times, oil of cinnamon
has been found to be bactericidal against some organisms and
ground cinnamon is anti fungal.
The nut-like seed found in the fruit of a large tree ,
the fresh nutmeg is enclosed in a hard brown shell, enclosed
in turn in a crimson cage -like aril. The aril dries to
a yellow brown colour, and is the mace of culinary use.
Nutmegs are commonly sold without the mace and the hard
shell. They are oval, measuring about 25mm in length ,
with a diameter around 2cm. The dark brown surface is
lightly wrinkled; the inner substance is hard and lighter
brown. When the nutmeg is cut or grated , the exposed
surface develops a waxy sheen. Nutmeg is sold whole or
ground to a powder. Sometimes the whole nuts have a thin
coating of lime, against worms and fungus, otherwise they
are fumigated before reaching thye shops. Nutmegs are
freely and constantly available.
Bouquet Sweet, aromatic and nutty.
Flavour Nutty and woody. Warm and gently bitter, both
sweetish and slightly camphorous.
Preparation and Storage
As powdered nutmeg deteriorates quickly, it is best to keep
whole nuts, which last indefinitely, and grate as required.
Special nutmeg graters are sold for this purpose. Nutmeg is
slightly poisonous, and should therefore be used in moderation-
a pinch will harm no- one. It should be noted that nutmeg increases
the potency of alcohols. Store both nuts and powder in airtight
In small doses nutmeg is a gastric stimulant, a mild external
stimulant, a counter-irritant and anti-nauseant. It is used
in flatulence and rheumatism. However, myristicin is a toxic
narcotic, and may be the factor causing euphoria and hallucination
when nutmeg is taken in excess. Too much nutmeg may also cause
epileptic symptoms. Nutmeg extract can be addictive. These effects
will not be induced with a culinary-sized dose of the spice.
At most, combined with a nightcap, it will act as a mild soporific.
Mace is the aril of the nutmeg, an aril being a fleshy
appendage attached to certain seeds. In its natural state,
mace is a bright crimson network up to 35mm (1 ½
in) long, encaging the brown nutmeg in irregular, fleshy
tentacle-like lobes. The mace of commerce is dried to
a dull yellow-brown, becoming horny and brittle, although
superior mace, if not over kept, should retain some degree
of pliability and exude a little oil when pressed. It
is flattened and sometimes roughly broken, appearing in
solid, branched or segmented pieces. Mace is sold also
in powdered form, or, more decoratively, still enclosing
the nutmeg. It is commonly available, though more expensive
Preparation and Storage
Dried mace pieces are impracticable to grind at home. Ready
powdered mace is acceptable, but tends to deteriorate even when
kept airtight, so it is advisable to buy little and renew often.
Whole mace pieces can be steeped in liquids during cooking and
removed after use. Being quite powerful, one ‘blade’
or its equivalent will suffice to flavor a family-sized dish.
Carminative, stimulant, and tonic, mace aids the digestion,
is beneficial to the circulation and is used to mollify febrile
upsets and in Asia to relieve nausea. Mace butter is employed
as a mild counter-irritant and used in hair lotions and plasters.
As with nutmeg, large doses of mace can lead to hallucination
and epileptic form fits, myristin being poisonous, but dangerous
doses are unlikely to be taken in the course of everyday use.
Ginger is available in various forms, the most common
of which are as follows;
Fresh or ‘green’
ginger; ginger is a bulbous, tuberous, irregularly
shaped root. It is sold as whole root stocks or pieces
of these in various shapes and sizes, usually 5-20cm (2-8in)
long. The larger pieces resemble a hand with knobbly arthritic
fingers. It has a pale yellow interior and a skin varying
in colour from broen to off-white. Jamaican ginger, which
is pale buff, is reckoned the best variety. African and
Indian ginger is darker skinned and generally inferior,
with the exception of Kenya ginger.
ginger: dried ginger root is sold either ‘black’
with the cork or root skin attached,or ‘white’
with the cork peeled off (an unpleasant task for those
involved),and is sometimes bleached or sliced and is usually
tough and fibrous.
formerly the most common manifestation of ginger, the
ground spice is a slightly fibrous buff-coloured powder
made from dried ginger
Preserved or ‘stem’
ginger ; tender immature rhizomes are preserved
by several bolings in ginger solution. The final product,
in its familiar Chinese jar, consists of the ginger pieces
in syrup, usually yellow-brown in colour.They are soft
and pulpy like fruit, but extremely hot and spicey.A spectacular
Chinese variety is bright red in a similarly couloured
syrup, the ginger being thinly sliced.
or candied ginger; this is a confection and baking
ingredient. Young ginger is skinned, blanched and steeped
in sugar syrup for several days, then dried and coated
in sugar. Exceedingly sweet with the characteristic ginger
Preparation and Storage
In Asian cooking ginger is almost always used fresh. In this
form it may be minced, crushed or sliced and is superior to
ginger bought as a powder, both in flavor and in aroma. Fresh
ginger can be peeled and preserved in dry sherry, or kept for
about a month in the salad drawer of a refrigerator. As with
many other spices it is best to buy it whole and use pieces
of it as required. Ginger bought dried can be ‘bruised’
before use.-that is, beaten strenuously to open the fibres.
It can then be infused in cooking or making ginger beer and
removed when the flavor has been extracted; drying the root
is best accomplished by hanging it in a dry place- a garage
or larder, for example. It should be kept dry or it will resume
growth and spoil. Store all forms of dried ginger in alright
Stimulant, carminative, stomachic, expectorant, rubefacient,
counter-irritant.Ginger is used in diarrhea, piles, rheumatism
and lung troubles. As an infusion it is taken in coughs and
nausea and apparently helps amenorrhea due to cold. It has long
been ascribed aphrodisiac powers-taken either externally or
internally. It is mentioned in the Kama Sutra, and in Melanesia
it is employed ‘to gain affection of a woman’. Conversely,
in the Philippines it is chewed to expel evil spirits. It opens
the pores and induces perspiration. Ground ginger is said to
be a remedy for car sickness.
Capsicum frutescens spp
Chilli is the common name given to a variety of species
of capsicum, the number and range of which is astonishing
and defines any exhaustive description. Common characteristics
of the pod like berries are a thin, shiny outer skin,
covering a pithy layer of flesh, the fruit being hollow,
often with a central core stuffed with small, white disc-shaped
seeds. The fruits generally contain between two and four
long interior ridges, often dividing the berry into chambers.Chillis
very enormously in size,shape and colour.The distinctions
between the various types often becoming blurred.They
are usually associated with hotness and pungency, although
some relatively mild varieties exist. Perhaps the best
known in the west are the hot slender varieties 5-10cm
long.Chillies are available whole-either fresh or dried.Fresh
chillies are green until they ripen, when they turn red,yellow,brown,purple
or black.They should be firm. Dried, they can be dark
red,brown or black.Ground and crushed chilli is also available,as
is chilli powder and pickled chilli.
Bouquet Hot,acrid pungent. Can cause sneezing and weeping.
Flavour Sharp and fiery,with a characteristics capsicum undertone.The
seeds are gegerally the hottest part. The strength varies from
fairly mild to nuclear fission.
Chillies can literally burn. While it is not necessary
to wear gloves to handle the fresh chillies commonly sold in
the west, it is advisable to be circumspect in tasting the raw
article.Chillies should be used sparingly. It is best to discard
the seeds.Wash hands after touching and do not touch eyes or
other sensitive areas.Dried chillis can be whole or ground,
or pre-soaked and ground to a paste in a pestle and mortar.To
make chilli powder : roast the dried pods till dark ,grind and
sieve. Other spices such as garlic, cumin,oregano or (in Mexico)
chocolate can be added to the powder.Chilli extract can be made
by macerating the fresh or dried fruits in alcohol-sherry is
excellent-obtaining a liquid handy for flavouring soups.Should
a dish be overseasoned with chilli,the addition of a little
sugar may alleviate the hotness.Always store in airtight containers
away from sunlight.
Chilli is healthful in small amounts,being a high vitamin digestive
aid.Large doses can cause stomach troubles and internal burns.
Medically it is used as a carminative in atonic dyspepsia,and
is an external counter- irritant in rheumatism and nervous pains,also
a local stimulant and rubefacient.However,excessive use can
cause skin burns and blisters.Capsicum oleoresin, used medicinally,
contains some 0.8% capsaicin and is highly pungent and irritant.
An antiseptic sticking-plaster coating is produced from capsicum
and belladonna.Chilli was once used against gout and scarlet
Cymbopogon citrates and spp
Syn Andropogon schoenanthus
This flavoring is hardly known in the West. It consists
of the base and the white fleshy leaf-stalks and green
leaves of a tall tropical grass. The tops of the leaves
are usually cut off about 15cm(6 in) from the base.It
is normally used fresh, but is also sold in dried form.
The dried spice comes in three forms; the whole stem;
longitudinally sliced; or horizontally chopped. the seasoning
a dish. A powder made from lemon grass,sereh powder, is
also available, and an oil expressed from the plant is
sold for culinary purposes.
The lower part of the plant, 10-15cm (4-6 in).is used the upper
blades being discarded. If using dried lemon grass, twelve strips
are equal in potency to one fresh stem. The stem can be bruised
and used whole or cut across in slices. Store separately as
the flavor is imparted to other foods. Lemon peel works very
well as a substitute, being virtually identical in flavor. Dried
lemon grass should be soaked in water for two hours before use.
Lemon grass has sedative properties and was formerly used as
a carminative. If features in British, Indian and Brazilian
pharmacopoeias. It is a mild insect repellant, diaphoretic and
stimulant; as an external liniment it is used in rheumatism,
lumbago, sprains and similar complaints. A preparation of lemon
grass with pepper is said to be efficacious in menstrual troubles
and nausea. Lemon grass tea, to which Queen Victoria was partial,
is an effective stomachic for children, also a refrigerant and
diuretic. In the form of paste it is applied on ringworm.
Greater : Languas galangal
Syn Alpinia galangal
Lesser: Languas officinarum
Syn Alpinia officinarum
Kaempferia: Kaempferia galangal,
Kaempferia pandurala, Kaempferia rolunda
The galangal are fascinating ginger-like spices used in
south East Asia. It is not always clear which is which
and we can go back to Gerard (1597) for the clearest delineation
between the ‘Lesser’ and the ‘Greater’.
Greater Galangal (laos) : Used as a flavouring
throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and parts of India. Orangey-
brown skin with pale yellow or white interior. The rhizomes
are longer than lesser galangal. Available as slices ,
3mm thick, or powder.
Bouquet Gingery and camphorius.
Flavour Pungent but less so than lesser galangal.
H Scale: 7
Lesser galangal (kencur):
Used as a flavouring in Indo-China and Indonesia but not
in Chinese cooking. The 8x2cm rhizome has a reddish-brown
interior. The texture is fibrous. Available as slices
Bouquet Aromatic and gingery.
Flavour Aromatic and pungent, peppery and gingerlike.
Kaempferia galangal: Used
as a flavouring in south East Asia.
Bouquet Sweet and silkly with pungent undertones.
Flavour Like bouquet but much stronger.
Preparation and Storage
Use like ginger, powdered, bruised or crushed. One slice of
the root is equivalent to half a teaspoon of powder. Generally,
small quantities are specified in in recipes, laos being used
in larger amounts than kencur. The powders should be stored
in airtight containers and used within a short space of time.
Resembling ginger in its effects, galangal is an aromatic stimulant,
carminative and stomachic. It is used in nausea, flatulence,
dyspepsia, rheumatism, catarrh and enteritis. It also possesses
tonic and anti-bacterial qualities and is used for these properties
in veterinary and homeopathic medicine. In India It is used
in Europe and Asia as an aphrodisiac for centuries.
The coconut is the seed of one of the largest fruits in
the vegetable kingdom. The oval fruit, yellow brown when
ripe, measures around 30cm long. The nut, also oval, with
three small ‘eyes’ at the base, is 15cm or
more in length, surrounded by a fibrous mass,’ coir’,
most of which is removed before export. The shell of the
nut is thickish ,hard and tough. Inside is white layer
of hard moist flesh, and the hollow interior is partly
filled with a clear liquid, known as ‘coconut water’.
Coconuts are widely available in the west. Heavy coconuts
are freshest. For culinary purpose coconut is available
in the following forms.
Desiccated – small dried flakes of the white flesh.
Crystallized – Chinese confection.
Canned – Thick coconut milk that can be diluted
Frozen – frozen coconut cream in cartons (Australia)
Creamed – Compressed coconut cream which is partly
soluble in hot water.
Dried – large pieces known as copra.
Bouquet The aroma of the fresh meat is not as strong as
coconut cream, which is sweet and rather cloying.
Flavour fairly sweet and nutty with a crunchy fibrous
Preparation and storage
To extract the flesh from a fresh coconut, pierce the softest
‘eye’ and one other, then pour off the water which
can make a refreshing drink or be used to prepare coconut milk.
Break open the nut by hitting hard across the middle with a
hammer. The flesh may then be prised out with a knife (warming
the nut in the oven for ten minutes facilitates this), and then
peeled and finery grated. There is a special device which performs
extraction and grating simultaneously.
Coconut oil is a substitute for cod liver oil, and used in disorders
of the lungs. The fermented sap juice is mildly laxative. The
meat is a vermifuge. The water from ripe nuts is diuretic,and
the ash of coconut palm bark is locally used as an antiseptic
An inorganic substance, salt is not strictly a spice,
rather a mineral. Today, its most common form is an table
salt. Block salt, or kitchen salt, is table salt minus
the chemical additives which cause it to flow freely,
and comes in coagulated bricks or blocks. Less ‘processed’
than table salt, it is generally available in health food
shops. Kitchen and table salt come from rock salt- a rarer
form is as untreated, separated crystals. Production of
this has virtually stopped. The other form of salt is
sea salt. This is growing in popularity. Sea alt, or bay
salt, appears as small chunks or flakes, brittle enough
to be powdered down easily. Saltpetre is chemically unrelated
to common salt. It is used in preserving and pickling
meats and is available from chemists. The following are
some of the best known types of salt.
Bay salt Bay salt is sea salt obtained by evaporation
by sun and wind in coastal bays, possibly originally the
bay of Biscay- see sea salt.
Black salt This is unrefined rock salt from Asia, available
in attractive, crystallized lumps and colours dark blue
or red, due to various trace elements.
Common salt Ordinary house hold salt available as coarse
cooking salt or fine table salt
Cooking salt Cooking salt can be block salt but now more
usually refers to fairly coarse, free running refined
salt with added magnesium carbonate.
Fine salt see table salt
Freezing salt A non edible, coarse crystallized salt used for
Grey salt This is the same as black salt but of a grey appearance
due to other trace elements.
Gros-sel The French name for coarse bay or sea salt.
Halite Halite is the Scientific name for rock salt which occurs
in layers from the evaporation of land-locked lakes and seas
past geological ages. Sometimes these layers rise up through
the overlying sedimentary rocks to form salt domes which can
act as oil trapes. Halite is crystalline, transparent to translucent
and of various colours such as yellow, red or blue ( these are
the grey and black salt of Asia). Rock alt is either mechanically
or hydraulically mined.
Lodized salt salt with iodine added at the rate of 0.0025 per
cent to supplement iodine-deficient diets (a lack of iodine
causes thyroid problems). Sea salt contains iodine but this
is lost during storage.
Kitchen salt Another name for cooking salt.
Lump salt Another name for rock salt (halite) or block salt
(coarse kitchen salt).
Maldon salt The finest English sea salt from Maldon, Essex .
The crystals are small enough to be sprinkled directly on food.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) Strictly not salt, but a salt of
glutamic acid which is added to foods to give a meaty and salty
flavor. Very popular in China and with the Western food processing
industry. MSG has been found to be dangerous in excessive quantities.
Pickling salt same as block and lump salt (refined rock salt)
used for pickling because it is without additives that otherwise
discol our the pickling liquid and make the pickles slimy.
Pretzel salt A Mexican salt much used in the USA for pretzels.
The crystals fuse during but retain a shiny and crystalline
Rock salt The common name for Halite. It is hard, crystalline
and comes in large lumps. In the US the name ‘rock salt’
is used to describe freezing salt which is inedible.
Saltpeter short for chile saltpeter, potassium nitrate. Also
called nitre, saltpeter acts as a meat preservative, usually
used with salt a small quantity only is required, otherwise
it hardens the meat fibres. Saltpetre is responsible for the
fine pink colour of bacon, hams, salamis, other preserved meats
Sea salt Salt derived from sea-fed salt pans, obtained either
by direct evaporation of sea water pans or factory finishing
of saline concentrates from these pans. Sea salt sometimes contains
traces of other salts and elements. However, any iodine present
is lost during storage. Sea salt is considered the best salt
because of its appearance, large pure crystals, and flavor.
Commercially ground sea salt has magnesium carbonate added to
aid flow and inhibit moisture absorption. Sometimes known as
Sel Gris Coarse, grey – coloured sea salt used in the
kitchen in France.
Spiced Salt Also called seasoned salt. Salt with spices added
such as ground celery seed, garlic or onion, These being the
Table salt Any of the basic salts finely ground and with magnesium
carbonate or another similar agent added to promote easy flow,
used at the table.
Vegitable Salt Salts of vegetable origin.
Bouquet Normally odourless. However, sometimes sea salt has
a faint smell of chlorine and some rock salts, especially from
the east, have an unpleasant sulphurous smell.
Flavour Salty. Salt is one of the few basic flavours experienced
by the taste buds. No domestically used salt is completely pure,
so its flavour is always modified by the chemical traces its
contains. Untreated rock salt is said to be best flavoured.
Sea salt lack the bitter aftertaste of table salt, but is more
Preparation and Storage
Kitchen and sea salts are powdered before use in cooking or
as a condiment. For hard rock salt, a pestle and mortar or a
mill are required. The more delicate sea salts can be crushed
simply between thumb and finger. Less sea salt than rock salt
is required in cooking. Temperature affects saltiness- the cooler
a dish, the saltier it tastes. Steaks should be salted just
prior to cooking, fish some time beforehand. Being non organic,
salt will keep indefinitely and does not always require airtight
storage. But it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and in
humid climates will soon become damp and not flow, so silica
gel or a few grains of rice will help keep it dry. Cooking salt
may be kept handy in a stone crock or wooden box. Table salt,
with its chemical additives, should not be used for freezing,
salting or pickling nor should it be kept for more than a day
or two in silver cellars because chlorine attacks silver, discolouring
Salt is essential to life, regulating the osmotic tension of
the tissues and blood. Salt deficiency can cause severe illness,
and death. Conversely, too much can cause kidney failure and
high blood pressure. Among its medical uses are the treatment
of burns, saline drips and dialysis. Salt is said to include
labour and may be useful as an analgesic. Iodized salt is used
in areas with endemic goiter, the malady often being reduced
by 50 per cent. Saltpetre is toxic, but the amounts used for
culinary purposes are too small to cause any damage.
The onion is an edible bulb. While it is a vegetable at
heart, it also act as a spice inasmuch as it can provide
an aromatic undertone to various meat and vegetable dishes,
without being a major ingredient. The characteristic appearance
of the onion is well known, but there are many variations
of colour, shapes and size. The colour varies from white
to red to purple, the shape from spherical to almost conical,
and the diameter at the largest point from 10mm to 8cm
or more. Onions should be firm, though not rock hard.
The papery skin should be tight over the surface of the
bulb. Spring onions, or scallions, are immature plants
where the bulb has not completely formed. They may be
cylindrical, the green stem shading into the white bulblet,
which may be almost spherical. Onions are also available
in processed form, as dried flakes and powdered, or liquid.
Bouquet sharp. Raw onions which cut or bruised may irritate
the eyes and nose.
Flavour Generally pungent and bitter with a sweet note.
Onions actually cover the whole gamut of aroma and pungency
from mild to intolerable.
Onions may be used whole, sliced, chopped, diced or liquidized.
It is important to observe the cooking instructions carefully,
as the flavor of onions is greatly influenced by their treatment.
A recipe where onions are to be ‘fired till golden’
will suffer if the onions are browned. Small onions and picklers
are easier to peel if they are first immersed in boiling water
for ten seconds and then rinsed in cold water before removing
the skins. To prevent the eyes from watering, peel onions under
cold water or put them in the freezer for ten minutes before
chopping. Should onions be excessively strong, boil them whole
for five minutes before proceeding with the recipe. An easy
method for dicing an onion is illustrated below. Firm unblemished
onions should keep for several weeks if stored in a cool airy
place. Too much warmth will encourage sprouting. Home- grown
onions must be quite dry before stringing. Dried onion flakes
and powder should be stored in airtight containers.
Antiseptic, diuretic expectorant and rubefacient . Onion’s
antiseptic properties as a juice or paste have been used for
wounded healing, skin complaints(acne), insect bites, haemorrhoids,
boils, toothache, earache, and respiratory complaints. The raw
juice is diuretic and the whole
onion is an appetite stimulant and digestant. It has been used
as a vermifuge. It is believed to stimulate the liver and is
beneficial to the heart and nervous system.
We eat our Meals In Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka we eat 3 Warm and spicy Meals a Day. All meals
feature Spices, Herbs, Curry and coconut as the main flavoring
ingredients. A meal consists of a staple and a few accompaniments.
The hotness of the meals differs according to the regions.
Breakfast consists of mainly Rice, Bread or rice based products
like coconut Milk rice, String Hoppers, Hoppers, Pittu and
Roti with one or several curries as side dishes and a sambal.
Lunch as a standard consists of rice and several curries and
accompaniments like papads pickle or chutney. And dinner could
be rice and curry again or String Hoppers, Hoppers, Pittu
and Roti with several curries and a sambal.
Being a predominantly Buddhist country and having a wide choice
of fresh vegetables growing right through the year, vegetable
curry is a regular feature. Sri Lanka is also an island nation
surrounded by the Indian Ocean with its rich marine hence
Fish is a regular feature in our daily meals too. With the
influence of the western cultures since the 15th century Chicken
beef and Pork feature in our meals too with a diverse list
of spicy fusion receipes.