Archive for August 2007

AP Spice Paste

August 12, 2007

This is an all-purpose spice paste I often use for bean or vegetable dishes in my cooking. But it can easily be used for vegetarian or non-vegetarian dishes except some variations. Some of my suggested tips for using spices: Buy your spices from a reliable ethnic or specialty store with high turnover. Never buy the spices in bulk if you’re not going to use them often. Spices should be stored in a cool, dark cupboard and should be checked periodically. Whole spices will last at least more than a year. Once spices are ground they loose their potency and fragrance. While using the spices and herbs a good rule of thumb to remember is “less is more”.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds – optional
1 large onion, peeled and grated
1/2 tablespoon grated garlic
1/2 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large tomato, chopped or unseasoned canned tomatoes

1) Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds or mustard seeds and fry for a few seconds or until seeds start sputtering.
2) Add onion and sauté until translucent. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for 2 to 4 minutes. (If you like add garlic and ginger before sauteeing onion.) Depending upon the spice (heat) level preferred you might want to use additional chili, cayenne and paprika to this paste. Add salt and black pepper as needed.
3) Add the whole spices (cinnamon stick, crushed cardamom pods, bay leaf etc.) if desired. At this stage this spice paste can be used in many ways either for partially cooked vegetable, cooked chickpeas, cubed frozen extra firm tofu, paneer, kofta or non-vegetarian dishes. Use the liquid of choice and cook on low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened to desired consistency. Again depending upon the richness of the dish plain yogurt, unsweetened coconut milk, cream or choice of nut paste is used as a finishing touch. This step is particularly used for making the sauce or gravy often referred as “Curry” in the western kitchen. Just before serving the dish garnish with chopped coriander leaves or choice of herbs.