Just Curry

BRITISH INDIAN RESTAURANT FOOD (BIR)

Bay leaves

Used to flavour and not eaten. Often placed in pilau rice for their distinctive mild flavour but often removed prior to serving.

Fresh and dried are available although the dried tend to have a stronger flavour which is similar to cinnamon but much milder. This leaf has been used since ancient greek days and is popular around the world and not just indian cuisine. 

In times gone by these leaves where often scattered in the pantry as its believed they repel mice, flies and roaches. 


Cardamom

There are mainly 2 variaties, Green (Elettaria) and black (Amomum) although the green is the most common and you tend to buy them in pod form although powdered form is available.

Believed to originate from india although it is hotly debated that it has origins in ancient persia

Inside the pod are small dark seeds which hold all the flavour which is quite strong and unique almost flowery and can be used in sweets as well as cooking. Some countries often use cardamom with coffee which makes for a interesting drink. 

Believed to help with teeth and gums along with digestive problems and often prescribed as a herbal remedy.

Whole cardamoms can be placed in rice when cooking and removed for serving. 


Cardamom (black)

A lot of people will have come across cardamom but may not know there is also a black version. Member of the ginger family and a relative of the green cardamom but tend to be much bolder and stronger in flavour and slightly smoky. 

Many chefs regard the black cardamom as an inferior spice to the delicate flavour its green cousin as it can be too strong for many sweet dishes but find their place very well within meat dish's 


Chilli powder

Is the dried and ground fruit of the chilli plant. Used the world over for adding heat into any dish not just Indian food. 

In the UK chilli is spelt with 2 x L but in other parts of the world including the USA its spelt with one L.  Often you will see extra hot chilli powder or mild chilli powder and also increasing common is chilli blended with other spices, however its best to use the normal heat version for most cooking as it offers great taste along with the heat.


Cloves

A very aromatic spice which originated from indonesia but used world wide for adding a aromatic taste to any dish.

The spice is found in the flower buds and grown from a tall evergreen tree (up to 12 meters) they are a bright red when harvested and measure between 1 - 2 cm in length. 

The oil from this spice is often used for tooth ache and is commonly used in tooth pastes as it has a slight numbing property. 

Been used in cooking for a few centuries BC and is often used with fruit, drinks as well as meat. Used in rice dish's such as biryanis and often used in marinades. 


Coriander powder

A powdered form made from the seeds of the Coriander plant.

Light brown in colour and looks similar to cumin powder. Available from all major super markets and all the major spices brands produce this spice. Keep in air tight and out of direct light. Has a good shelf life but lightens in colour if exposed to light, 


Cumin powder

Sometimes also spelt Cummin, cuminum or cyminum. But also known commonly as Jeera powder, not to be confused with caraway as the seeds look similar. The seeds of the plant are dried and in the case of the powder crushed. The main plant (cuminum cyminum) is a member of the parley family although has quite a strong and distinctive flavour. Light brown in colour.

 


Fresh Chilli

In Indian restaurants the birds eye chilli is the most popular, giving good heat and flavour. Grows around 2-3cm in length and measuring 100,000 - 200,000 on the scoville scale of heat and green in colour.

Originally from Mexico and South America although now grown world wide and very popular in Spain and Portugal. This chilli can be found in most large super markets in the UK and loose in large trays in Asian stores. 


Fresh Coriander

Also known as cilantro or chinese parsley but most commonly called coriander in the UK. Thankfully this herb is now widely available in most supermarkets as its an important ingredient both in garnish and flavour. The stalks carry the most flavour and the leaves are often sprinkled on top of a dish. 

Can be grown in most climates although in a green house this herb does particularly well in the UK. 1/2 a litre of seeds were found in tutankhamun's tomb where it was believed to have been cultivated in ancient civilizations. 

The plant is rich in Vitamin A, C and K and the seeds high in fiber, calcium and magnesium making many cultures to believe in its dietary benefits when eaten regularly. 


Fresh Garlic

Part of the onion family and been used in cooking for over 7,000. One of the most popular flavourings in all cuisines around the would. Also used for medicinal purposes.


Garam Masala

A common blend of spices from India, Most commercial versions contain Coriander seeds, turmeric, black and white peppercorns, Cloves, Cinnamon, Black and white cumin seeds and cardamom pods, star anise  which is ground into a fine powder.

There are many recipes for making this spice mix at home with a coffee grinder or similar device but commercial versions can be a good time saver and quite inexpensive to buy. 

 


Gram flour

Also known as chickpea flour or besan. Made from ground chickpeas and used in dishes such as onion bhajis. Commonly found in supermarkets. When mixed with water it can be used as a egg substitute for vegan cooking.

High in carbohydrates and high in protein but is gluten free.


Jaggery

Jaggery is unrefined sugar, which is widely used in Indian cooking.

It is made from concentrated sugarcane juice, but the molasses are not separated which is done in the case of sugar.  When jaggery is not available normal sugar can be used in its place although this will give you the sweetness required it does not contain quite the same taste.


Lemon juice

Sold in all supermarkets by many brands, simple the juice of lemon. Try and avoid sweetened versions or with other additives. 

Can be directly replaced with squeezed fresh lemon although having a bottle in your cupboards can be a good time saver.  


Methi

Dried fenugreek leaves, has a quite a unique smell, almost like Tea. Used often in the early stages of cooking. Also available in fresh and powdered forms. Although its the dried leaves that are most commonly used. 


Mint sauce

Mint sauce is used regularly in many dish's and marinades, Just regular mint sauce is suitable from any super market.
Fresh mint finely chopped can be substituted if you have any growing in your garden. Most restaurants buy large jars and don't use fresh, Some varieties of fresh mint can be quite strong so replace sparingling 


Mix powder

Nothing more really than a chefs version of a curry powder. There are so many recipes for this mix its impossible to list them. All restaurants will have their own versions giving them a slightly different taste to others around them. Most chefs guard their version but most will contain  Cumin powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, chilli powder and many other spices in varying amounts. 


Turmeric powder

Deep orange to Bright yellow in colour and often used to add colour to a dish, has quite a earth type of flavour. A native plant to India and the rhizomes are boiled for upto an hour then dried in hot ovens to remove all the liquid, Once dry it is made into the powder which is commonly used in cooking Indian cuisine.