Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back to Basics: Essential Powders and Pastes

Indian cooking is known for its extensive use of spices. There are certain spices that I use often in my cooking. Of these the most important for me are cumin and coriander powder, which find place in my everyday cooking.

I have been wanting to write this post for the longest time now. At last, I was able to get a picture (without forgetting) when I made a batch of powders and pastes last weekend. So finally the post is here.

Cumin & Coriander Powder

Nothing can be easier than making these powders. All you need to do is roast the seeds and then grind them. You can roast the seeds in a pan or simply microwave them for about 30 seconds. I prefer to roast mine on a medium heat in a pan. Once roasted, let them cool and then simply grind them. The powders are ready to be used. You can also sieve them if you like.

Ginger, Garlic and Green chilli Paste
The other things that I always have on hand are ginger, garlic and green chilli paste. I usually make these at the beginning of every month and they last for the entire month. Just like the most of us, I too initially used to buy bottled ginger-garlic paste. However, I always preferred the fresh pastes over the store bought ones and have been making these for a long time now. Making these pastes hardly takes any time. Here is how I make them.

Ginger Paste:
Rough chop the ginger root and grind to a fine paste. You can leave the skin on or peel it off as per your preference. I always grind it with the skin on as it has the most flavor. A cup of chopped ginger yields about 4oz of paste.

Garlic Paste: Peel the garlic cloves and grind them to a fine paste. A cup yields about 4oz of paste.

Green Chilli Paste: Cut the chillies into 2-3 big pieces and grind them.

Storing the pastes: Since I use these pastes for over a month, I freeze them. However, freezing the pastes leads to formation of ice crystals. To avoid this, I add a lot of salt before freezing them. For a cup (of chopped ginger/garlic/green chillies), I add about 1-1.5 tbsp of salt. I know that's a lot of salt for so little quantity. However, salt prevents formation of ice crystals and you can directly use the pastes right from the freezer without thawing. Just remember that the pastes already have salt in them, so keep that in mind when you add salt to the dish you are cooking.

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