Glossary of Ground Spices & Herbs


amchoor (mango powder) Amchoor is the powder made from grinding dried green mangoes and is a wonderful ingredient in lentil curries. It gives a sweet/sour taste that complements dal perfectly. It can also be used in curries as a souring agent.   amchoor

asafoetida Asafoetida is a pungent spice with a strong sulphurous smell reminiscent of garlic. It comes from the Ferula plant and is used in small quantities. The strong aroma disappears on cooking and leaves a rich enticing flavour.   asafoetida

bay leaves Bay leaves are a familiar ingredient in Mediterranean cooking but are also used widely in Indian cuisine. They are commonly used in rice dishes and as an ingredient in Garam Masala.   bay leaves

chaat/chat masala Shop-bought chaat/chat masala can have many ingredients but the key ones are black salt (kala namak), green mango powder (amchoor), cumin and asafoetida. The full list of ingedients in the excellent MDH brand chat masala are: white salt, dry mango, black salt, cumin, musk melon, black pepper, pomegranate seeds, coriander, mint leaves, dry ginger, nutmeg, chilli, caraway, bishop's weed, cloves, asafoetida.   chaat masala

chilli powder, hot All my recipes in Quick Meals from The Curry House and here in the public area call for hot chilli powder. The MDH brand produce an excellent chilli powder, Deggi Mirch, made from a single variety of Indian chillies. It is hot, a very colourful orange-red and is made from pure ground chillies. It's all I use at home.   Deggi Mirch hot chilli powder

coriander, ground Coriander is the seed of the plant Coriandrum sativum. Also known as "Dhaniya". Before the seeds start forming you can harvest the green leaves (cilantro) for use in curries and as a garnish. Once the seeds are ripe they are dried and ground into a powder.   ground coriander

cumin, ground Cumin is the seed of the plant Cuminum cyminum. Also known as "Jeera". Once the seeds are ripe they are dried and ground into a powder.   ground cumin

curry leaves Curry leaves come from the plant Murraya koenigii. Curry leaves look a little like bay leaves but they have a taste that is citrus like and peppery. Commonly used in South Indian cuisine. Much more fragrant fresh but dried will do if that's all you can get.   dried curry leaves

fenugreek leaves Fenugreek leaves come from the plant Trigonella foenum-graecum and can be used fresh or dried. When dried they are known as Kasuri (or Kasoori) Methi. It is the dried fenugreek leaves that will help give your home-made curries that special restaurant taste. Fresh fenugreek leaves are milder and are used as a vegetable like spinach in dishes like Methi Gosht. If you come across MDH brand Kasoori Methi snap up a few packs as it's the best there is.   MDH fenugreek leaves

garam masala The word "garam" means hot and "masala" means a mixture of spices. The hot in this case does not mean hot like chillies but means warming to the body. Garam masala has many recipes for the mix of spices but a common blend would be ground coriander, cumin, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, pimento, cardamom seeds, bay leaves, cloves and nutmeg. Garam masala is often added to curries towards the end of the cooking to give a fresh spicy taste.   garam masala

paprika Paprika is a powder ground from a special variety of dried peppers in the same family as sweet peppers and chillies. Paprika is pungent but not hot. It can be used together with chilli powder to give a deep red colour and depth of taste without the curry being as hot as if you'd used the same volume of chilli powder.   paprika

turmeric Turmeric is the powdered root of a dried tropical plant of the ginger family. It gives curries their characteristic yellow colour and imparts a mild earthy flavour. Also known as "Haldi".   turmeric

The Cooking Colonel of Madras by David Smith