Glossary of Whole Spices

ajwain (lovage seed) Ajwain or lovage seeds have a strong thyme-like aroma and are a common ingredient in balti cooking and in bhajias and pakoras.   ajwain

cardamom pods - green Green cardamoms are called for in many Asian recipes and can be used both in savoury dishes and in sweets such as kulfi, a sort of Indian ice cream.   green cardamom pods

cardamon pods - black Black cardamom pods are larger and more pungent than their green cousins. They are strongly aromatic and are often used in the making of garam masala.   black cardamom pods

cassia bark Cassia is a relative of cinnamon and has a similar but more savoury flavour. Its robustness makes it better for use in curries. It is that woody-looking spice that you often find whole in rice and other dishes at restaurants.   cassia bark

chillies - whole Bird Eye Chillies are the hot cousins in the Capsicum family. Chillies, of course, are available fresh and are absolutely wonderful. But dried chillies have a unique taste and many uses. Heat whole dried Bird Eye chillies in some oil until they increase in size. The frying enhances their flavour. Bird Eye chillies may be small but they are very hot so use with care.   Bird Eye chillies

cloves Cloves are the dried flower buds of a tropical tree and are a well known ingredient in sweet dishes. Many curry and rice dishes use whole cloves and they are often used in the making of garam masala.   cloves

coriander seeds Coriander is the dried ripe seed of the plant coriandrum sativum. Also known as "Dhaniya". One of the most common ingredients in curries and other Asian dishes.   coriander seeds

cumin seeds Cumin is the seed of the plant Cuminum cyminum. Also known as "Jeera". If the seeds are dry roasted their flavour changes and becomes warmer and less astringent. Universally used in Asian and Mexican cuisine.   cumin seeds

cumin seeds - black Black cumin seeds have a fine flavour quite unlike regular cumin seed. Used in pilau rice in good curry restaurants. Also known as "Kala Jeera"   black cumin seeds

fennel seeds Fennel seeds come from the plant Foeniculum vulgare dulce. As the "dulce" in its name suggests fennel has a sweetish taste and a mild aniseed flavour. The flavour is enhanced by dry roasting the seed or frying it in the early stages of cooking a curry. It is also known as "Soonf".   fennel seeds

fenugreek seeds Fenugreek seeds come from the plant Trigonella foenum-graecum. They are commonly used in pickles and in curry powder. It is fenugreek seeds which give curry powder its distinctive aroma. Take care not to burn fenugreek seeds as they become very bitter if overheated.   fenugreek seeds

kalonji Kalonji are black, tear-drop shaped seeds. Kalonji are a favourite ingredient in Bengali cuisine and often appear in vegetable dishes and sprinkled over naan. The are sometimes known as "wild onion seeds" but they are actually from the plant Nigella sativa.   kalonji

mace A "blade" of mace is the dried outer coating of a nutmeg. Mace and nutmeg are the fruit of the tree Myristica fragrans. Highly valued as a spice in its own right mace is more robust than nutmeg and so is ideal for use in curries and sauces. Mace is an essential ingredient in a classic Bechamel sauce and in a traditional Moghul korma. Also known as "javantry".   mace

mustard seeds - black Black mustard seeds can be heated in oil until they start jumping out of the pan by which time they have taken on a rich nutty flavour and can be added to salads, vegetable and dhal dishes.   black mustard seeds

peppercorns - black Black peppercorns are the fruit of a vine native to India. A spice traded since ancient times black pepper is an essential ingredient in garam masala and virtually any savoury dish. Highly aromatic if used freshly ground in a pepper mill. Black peppercorns are made by drying the ripe green berries in the sun until the skins become wrinkled and black.   black peppercorns

poppy seeds - white White poppy seeds have a pleasant nutty flavour and can be ground and used as a thickener in Indian cuisine.   white poppy seeds

sesame seeds Sesame seeds are used in both sweet and savoury dishes. The little ivory coloured seeds can be lightly toasted to enhance the flavour. Sesame seeds are often used as a topping on breads.   sesame seeds

star anise Star anise is an essential ingredient in Chinese cooking and one of the required spices when making "five spice" powder. Star anise is also used widely in Parsee dishes such as Dhansak and Patia. A circle of "petals" give the pretty pods a star shape (hence the name).They impart a warm aniseed flavour.   star anise

The Cooking Colonel of Madras by David Smith