Category Archives: Spices

Women in My Family

 

My parents are in India. Surprise, surprise. My parents are out there in the world traveling some where. They’re living it up though! About 12 years ago, my dad, who is a professor of engineering, started teaching at a university in Germany. He would go during spring term and for three months he and my mom lived in a little apartment in Konstanz (southern most city in Germany). I even got to visit them over there one year and I completely fell in love with that city. I could see why they kept going back! I actually picture them retiring overseas. Anyway, this year my dad is teaching at a university in India so they’re there until July. The downside is that once again they’re going to be gone for three months and they will be in India during the worst months to visit: summer. The upside is that my mom will be able to visit family in India while my dad is teaching, which is always a win.

My family is huge and they’re all awesome! The women in my family are amazing. They’ve all been through so much in their lives, are very well educated and best of all: they’re amazing cooks.

With my mom in India for three months, and all my aunts living there already, there is something I miss that they all make: Mango pickle, also known to me and my sister as avakaya (ah-vah-ky-yah). It’s this amazing, spicy pickled fruit condiment that is usually served on the side of any dish, but I love to mix it with my yogurt and rice. You can buy jars of it at the Indian grocery store and it will last for months in the fridge and years in your pantry when unopened!

But my aunts and mom make some really, really good mango pickle. My sister told me she has memories of my aunt and mom making pickle in India and then putting the sealed jar out in the sun to help it break down faster. She told me it was weeks before she could eat any pickle, but then realized maybe it was only days and as a kid it only seems like it’s slower ;) Too cute.

Photo provided by my cousin K

This is my aunt. She’s not only a genuinely nice person, but she’s beautiful, an incredibly talented singer and of course, a phenomenal cook. She makes the spiciest and tangiest (and yes those combos can be done!) mango pickle there is. I don’t know how she does it, but I remember my parents bringing it home one year from India and it was wrapped in so many plastic bags to ensure the oil wouldn’t leak all over everything. And it was spicy! I remember everyone saying the spicier the better!

Photo by yours truly. It's one of my favorites of mi madre <3

This is my mom. She’s one of the most incredible and beautiful women I know. I see so much of my sister and I in her. Her mannerisms, her kindness, her need to please people (we definitely get that from her!), her temper and maybe one day, we’ll even adapt her cooking style.

She’s taught us well, though, don’t get me wrong! Our husbands are pretty happy with the Indian food we can make them and we owe that all to my mom and the aunts and cousins in our family. There’s nothing like the kind of home cooked food my mom makes. She also makes yummy pickles. She makes good mango pickle and lime pickle (the latter my sister absolutely loves!)

Well because my mom is overseas and most of my family is overseas, I figured it was time to be a grown up and figure out how to make mango pickle on my own. And that’s just what I did! Then when I made it, my uncle sent me my aunt’s recipe and I was so happy to see that what I made is exactly what she makes! Guess it runs in the family ;)

It’s very simple to make too!

Don’t let the list of ingredients scare you. This makes about 1 1/2 cups of pickle and the serving size is about 1 teaspoon…if that. Mine didn’t turn out quite as spicy as I would like, but as a first pass, I think it turned out pretty well!

I only had the spices in whole format, so I just ground up the seeds to make them a powder! I do have a grinder just for spices ;) Brown and proud. What can I say?

5.0 from 1 reviews

Mango Pickle (Avakaya)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: a lot
Ingredients
  • •1 raw (unripe) mango – very green and hard to the touch
  • •1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • •1/4 cup chili powder
  • •1/4 cup mustard powder
  • •1/4 cup fenugreek powder
  • •1/4 cup salt
  • •1/2 tablespoon turmeric
Instructions
  1. Cut the mango up into little pieces and put into a large bowl. You can add more chili powder if you want more spice (just remember you can always put spice in, but you can’t take it out!)
  2. Add the oil and spices and give it a good stir.
  3. Put all the ingredients in an air tight jar, sealed, and place on the counter for 3-4 days.
  4. After three days stir around. It will seem VERY salty, but it’s supposed to be. It will continue to break down for another day.
  5. After the fourth day, give it a taste. It should be slightly salty, tangy and spicy! Tighten the jar again, place in the fridge and it’s ready to go whenever you need it. It should last a few weeks or even months when sealed in the fridge.

It’s literally that simple! It might not be exactly like my aunt’s or moms, but it will definitely work in the mean time. I actually took it to work and some of the Indian ladies there told me it turned out really well; one of the best pickles they had.

So I guess the women of my family taught me well. And maybe one day in the far, far, far, far far future if and when REB and I have kids, I can pass some of those recipes onto them too.

Is there someone in your family who inspires you in the kitchen?

Tandoori Masala

So I was on a bit of a hiatus. I didn’t realize I hadn’t updated this thing since the holidays! That’s totally my bad. Things have been pretty crazy between traveling for work and wedding planning. We’re almost all done with the planning, but I’m still traveling a lot, which means not being able to cook my man some good food. Since I’m home for another three days, I took advantage of our rest day from working out to make some good Indian food!

I had written a post on how to make garam masala before, but there was another masala mixture I wanted to try to make: tandoori masala. It’s mostly used for, you guessed it, tandoori chicken. Since we don’t eat chicken in this household, it can be used in things like chicken tikka masala or any tikka masala. And I wanted to make paneer tikka masala, so I made the spice mixture. It was pretty easy too!

Yeah, it made a lot, mostly because I eye-balled all the ingredients. Whoops. That’s half the fun though, right?! It made a ton of masala – about 1/4 cup or so, which should last me a few weeks. The most important part of Indian cooking is that spice and making it is just as easy as buying it pre-made!

Tandoori Masala
•2 teaspoons ground cloves
•1 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
•1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
•1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
•1 teaspoon ground ginger
•1 teaspoon garlic powder
•1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1 teaspoon fenugreek powder
•1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Like I said, I eye-balled a lot of this. I had to grind the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves and cardamom to a powder since those aren’t powders already. Use your judgment. You can make it as smokey or spicy as you want.

Combine all the ingredients and sift through a sieve to get out the lumps. Then store in an air tight jar or container. It should keep for 3-4 weeks!

How To Make Chai

Having the sniffles, stinks.

I woke up this morning feeling as if I’d swallowed a softball. Blech. My nose was pretty stuffy and my sinuses ached. I stayed home from work and did nothing all day.

Then it occurred to me: What is the one thing that could make me feel better? My mom’s Chai.

Well, my mom lives an hour away and I needed the Chai right then and there.

So I made some. And it was amazing. Chai is the traditional spice tea that people in India drink almost every day instead of having coffee. It’s delicious and so easy to make at home.

And now I’ll tell you how to make it at home, too.

My moms Chai is the cure for the common cold. I’m not kidding. It’s spicy so it clears up your sinuses, it’s hot so it soothes and it makes you sleepy so you’ll rest.

If I don’t fall asleep halfway through writing this entry, please applaud me.

Here’s what you’ll need for 1 serving of Chai (I’ll explain each ingredient after):
•Black Cloves
•Cardamom (in the pod)
•Cinnamon stick
•Black peppercorn
•2 tea bags


I use a British tea, often referred to as Darjaleeng, which is what you see above. It’s the most common type of tea used. You can use loose-leaf tea if you want, but tea bags are much easier (and easier to dispose).


There are probably like 5-8 whole black peppercorns in there. Now, this ingredient is totally optional. In fact, my mom told me she only uses peppercorns when she’s sick since the spice and heat from the pepper helps clear the sinuses. So obviously, I used some today.


5-6 pieces of cardamom, in the pod.


Cardamom is a staple ingredient in Chai. If you don’t have any of the other ingredients, this is the one you should have if you want to make Chai, or garam masala. It’s spicy, sweet and smokey. I love it! Now, a lot of people will wonder why you need the pods because if you open the pod, you get cardamom seeds that look black like what I used when I made garam masala. I use the pods because I like the flavor even from the skin so it’s not just the seeds that help create the distinct flavor of Chai.


Cinnamon stick. Powder won’t cut it. This adds another spicy-sweet flavor. A “mulling” spice, if you will.


You need a pinch of whole black cloves. This adds a SUPER intense smokey flavor that I just love.

Let’s make some Chai! Because I’m still surprised I’m awake…

You’ll need a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, they aren’t expensive to buy. You could grind everything up in a grinder, but I don’t think having a powder works quite as well.


I’ve mentioned before how much I love mine. It was a wonderful gift from my parents and a perfect use for making Chai.


Since I made Chai only for myself, this is 1 1/2 cups of water I put into a sauce pan to heat. Let the water get a little hot before you add in the tea.

So while that’s happening, you can make your Chai mixture.


Break up the cinnamon either with your hands or with the pestle (the “bat” used to crush things)


Place all the ingredients into the mortar and pestle and go to town to crush it all up!



This is what you end up with. I inhaled this mixture about a million times, and that alone made me feel a ton better. All the oils were released and it smelled so wonderful.



When the water is hot (not boiling), add in the tea bags and stir. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes.


It’ll turn a lovely mahogany color as it’s steeping. Soooo pretty!

Add in the Chai mix to the water and tea bags. Let it heat through another 5 minutes or so and stir well. As you do, you’ll really smell the Chai and your nose will grow impatient.


When it’s all done, pour the tea into a measuring cup. This will make for easy pouring into your cup.


Using a strainer, pour the tea into your cup.


The strainer will catch all the tea mixture, but leave the great intense flavor in your cup.


Traditionally, Chai is served with milk and sugar. It’s how I’ve always had it growing up, so having tea just straight black, tastes horrible to me.


You really only want enough milk to turn the Chai into a beautiful chestnut color. You’ll need to add quite a bit of sugar to help sweeten it. If you don’t, it’ll be REALLY strong. I mean, I guess you could leave it that way, but I like it sweet.

So there you go! It’s definitely not hard to make your own Chai and beats what ever they serve you at your local coffee shop because that’s almost always pre-made. That’s definitely not my BAG. Heh heh. Sorry, the puns are thanks to the cold. Although, my sniffles have reduced a ton thanks to this tea. I’m not kidding: cure for the common cold. Well, at least I like to think so.

How To Make Garam Masala

Garam masala is the one spice mixture you need for Indian cooking. Store-bought doesn’t cut it for me. Call me high maintenance, but you can’t skimp on good flavor and spice!

I make a lot of curries and most every recipe,  if not all of them, requires 1 tablespoon (I like my curries spicy!) of this incredible spice. This is actually a combination of six different spices ground together into a fine powder.

Up until now, my mom made the masala for me because she makes huge batches and loves to share. But now I’m a grown up, so making it at home is super simple and now I’m going to let you in on the secret of how to make it!

Now, you could use the old fashioned method of making your own masala with a mortar and pestle. However, that isn’t ideal if you want to make big batches, like I did tonight.

This guide will show you how to make your own at home! It’s super easy and believe me, once you make it, you won’t ever buy store-bought again.

What you’ll need:
•2 tablespoons black cardamom seeds
•2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
•2 tablespoons cumin seeds
•2 tablespoons coriander seeds
•1 cinnamon stick
•2 whole dried red chilies

You also need a grinder. Like I said, you could use a mortar and pestle, but a coffee grinder would be a better choice. My mom actually has two: one for grinding coffee, and one for spices. Great investment.


Beautiful sight isn’t it? These are the spices you’ll need to make this masala. There are many variations to this recipe and I’m sure you can find them all online, but this is what my mom uses. So by default, this is what I use ;-) It’s all relative (ba-dum-bum pssh!)

Let’s talk about those spices in detail, shall we?


Coriander seeds are little tan seeds, which add a super strong, pungent taste to your masala.


Whole peppercorns don’t need any explanation. They’re spicy and necessary.


One whole cinnamon stick. This is going to add a spicy-sweet flavor to the masala. Don’t worry, you won’t use the whole thing (that would be WAY too overpowering), but this will add just a hint of sweet spice in the background. I guess kind of like nutmeg, but not as mild.


Whole dried red chilies. Yum! These will add such a kick. There is no such thing as “mild” garam masala, so don’t skimp. Add the heat.


Cumin seeds add a lovely smokey flavor to the masala. It’s not quite spicy, but it’s not bland either. I can’t explain it, except that it’s wonderful. Cumin seeds are used a lot on their own in other curries.


And finally we have black cardamom seeds. Cardamom is a very distinct spice used a lot in Indian cooking. Most people know cardamom as one of the main ingredients in Chai. That kind is the green pods, but these black seeds are used in garam masala. The more you know.

So those are the spices! They’re lovely and don’t fret. They aren’t as expensive as you might think. Most Indian grocery stores sell them in decent-sized bags for between $3-7. And believe me, they’ll last a long time, so it’s well worth your money.

To prepare the garam masala, you simply dry roast all these ingredients in a skillet over medium heat for 15 or so minutes.


Dry roasting is essential when making this. This will release all the oils in the spices and will create and incredible depth of flavor.


Every few minutes, lift the skillet off the heat and swirl it to stir the spices around. You want to dry roast the ingredients for up to 15 minutes, or until the air is aromatic. And believe me, you’ll know when it’s done.


Once it’s finished, turn off the stove and place the skillet on a cool burner. Let it cool completely (5-10 minutes) before you grind it.


Remove the cinnamon stick from the skillet and if you have a mortar and pestle, break it up and place only a few pieces back into the spice mixture. So basically what I did was roast the cinnamon to infuse the flavors into the skillet and then only using a little bit of it in the actual mixture so that it’s not overpowering. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just use a rolling pin or anything hard to help break up the stick. Save the rest of the cinnamon, too! You can use it in another dish or grate it over tea or cider.





Once the spices have cooled, you can take a little bit at a time and grind it down to a fine powder as shown above. Do this until the entire mixture is a fine powder.


The end result is this amazing little spice mountain of decadence. Store it into an jar or air tight container and it’ll keep for up to 6 weeks! You only need to use about 1/2 a tablespoon at a time when you add into your curries. Unless you’re me. Then you’ll be adding 1 tablespoon or more for that heat.

So that wasn’t too hard, right? The hardest part is finding all the spices, but once you get them, it’s smooth grinding from there.