Sunday, August 01, 2010

Spices Used in Indian Cooking

Understanding Problems of Storing Indian Spices

One of the fundamental requirements for retaining the exotic aura of Indian spices and ensuring that they are able to render the required flavor to a dish, is managing their storage and the method-of-use. Most Indian spices have a tendency to deteriorate in terms of losing their defining, flavoring tinge when exposed to light, vapor or air. Often referred to as the 'leaching of spices', this is a detrimental process that can greatly compromise the spice's ability to make the food tastier and healthier. Storing a reasonable stock of ground or powdered spices for the immediate future is customary since crushing or grinding spices on a daily basis is too demanding. However, this also creates a problem of spices gradually losing their typical punch that makes them such an effective, natural flavoring agent.

Understanding the predicament—all spices consist of two, basic kinds of oils. The essential oil or the volatile oils are responsible for the spices exuding a typical aroma that immediately fills the room, when fresh-from-the-pan, spiced dishes are served. The other oils are grouped as oleoresins (non-volatile oils) that define the spice's flavor or its tasteful essence. Oleoresins dictate whether the immediate and the after-taste of a spice, ranges from tangy to bitter and whether it has the commonly-acknowledged 'hotness' factor that is commonly associated with Indian spices.

Once the spice is ground, these oils are crushed out of their shell and every time the container is opened, these oils are lost to the surrounding environment. Some spices such as black pepper do provide the convenience of being used in a more trouble-free manner, courtesy of the pepper-grinder wherein dried pepper specs can be readily ground and sprinkled over a preparation. However, besides such exceptions, most spices need to be ground in a more tedious manner. The authentic techniques include dry-roasting spices before powdering them in a grinder.

The heating process is critical since the outer coatings or the barks of many spices don't release their juices (including the oils and some trace enzymes) unless heated to a minimum temperature. Dry-roasted or toasted spices assume a darker shade too. This helps to augment their utility is making the food more appeasing from a visual perspective. The dark shades blend-in with the dish's duller ingredients and immediately render them a tempting, shade that conveys that the food has gone through a dedicated flavoring process. However, dry-roasting isn't the easiest of techniques and grinder-roasted spices can take their toll wherein the spicy cloud dispersed in the surrounding air can be tricky-to-handle and the entire process is a bit messy.

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