Spice Glossary


Cooking Glossary

Atta Flour – (also know as a chapatti flour) - whole wheat flour widely used for making unleavened flat breads.

Banana Leaves – is widely used for wrapping ingredients (particularly fish) before cooking. They should be soaked briefly in hot water to make them pliable. If banana leaves are unavailable use alumininium foil.

Basmati Rice– the finest Indian long-grained rise grown in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is known as the prince of the rice because of its fine flavor and aroma. It should be rinsed and soaked for 10 minutes before using.

Besan – also known as gram flour, this is made from chickpeas. It is used to flavor and thicken curries and for making Pakoras and bhajias, pancakes and teamed patties.

Biriyani- a rice and vegetable, meat or seafood oven - cooked dish.

Biriyani Masala -This is a special sweet spice mix for biriyani dishes. Grind together the cardamom seeds from 8 pods, 25 g (1 oz) cinnamon stick, 6 cloves and 1 tsp fennel seeds.

Bhoondi- tiny balls of fried besan or gram flour.

Chana Dal– with their sweet and nutty flavor, chana dal is the most popular dal in India. They're made from splitting a small relative of the chickpea in half. They're a dull yellow and are renown for causing flatulence, which Indians try to counter by adding asafoetida to the dish. Chana dal is delicious, nutritious and easily digested, but, aside from its usage both in dal dishes and savories, the legumes are also roasted and powdered into chickpea flour (besan or besin) another widely used ingredient in nearly every regional cuisine. Chana dal is used in variety of vegetable dishes. It can be cooked until soft for the dish called simply dal, or as in southern India, it can be used as a spice.

Chapati– the bread usually made on a circular cast iron griddle known as a tawa, which is slightly concave to give its distinctive shape. It is cooked without fat, over very high heat.

Chawal– rice

Chick Peas– also called gram or, in America, garbanzo beans. As chickpeas often demand hours of cooking before they become tender. Buy igourmet 17.5-oz. Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans)

Coconut– (Nariyal) is essential to many dishes. It is obtained from the white flesh of the nut and is both rich and smooth tasting. Widely used in southern Indian cuisine, its used in both savory and sweet dishes. Buy a fresh coconut to extract the milk or use chopped coconut to thicken sauces or garnish finished dishes.

Coconut Oil- Coconut oil is very heat stable so it makes an excellent cooking and frying oil. It has a smoke point of about 360°F (180°C). Coconut oil has a high amount of saturated fatty acids it also has a relatively high melting point. Above 76°F (24°C) coconut oil is a colorless liquid. Below this temperature it solidifies into a pure white solid. It is used in Indian cooking, especially in southern regions of India.

Kokum- grows on trees along the Western coast of India. Has a deep purple flesh surrounding a large seed. It imparts a pale -purplish color to food as well as a sour taste. It is used by Sindhis in their gram flour curry, and by Hindu Goans in their fish curries. It is also made into sherbets (refreshing drink concentrates made from fruits) on the West coast of India. Cocum has anti-allergic action, and cocum infusion water drink for three days first thing in the mornings is said to cure urticaria or hives.

Colam Rice - short-grain polished rice widely used in Western India. Most common varieties of shor and long-grain polished rice may be used for Dosas and Uttapams.

Corn Meal- flour made from pure maize (corn) which has been ground fine.

Dals - dried split peas, usually bought skinned. There about sixty varieties of pulses available in India. These are dreid seeds of plants such as beans and peas and those most popularly sued include chick peas (kabuli channa), split black chick peas (bengal gram or channa), black gram (urid daal), red lentils (arhar) and yellow lentils (moong). Pulses should be rinsed in several changes of water. Pre-soaking usually cuts their cooking time by half and salt tends to harden pulses it should not be added until the end of the cooking. As they take a long time to cook, a pressure cooker is a great aid to cooking most pulses. The more unusual pulses are sold in health food or Asian food stores.

Dosa - is a flat bread made with flours, rice, wheat or legumes, cooked like a pancake. It may be filled with a spicy mixture of your choice.

Food Colorings- turmeric and saffron will color food yellow, but you can also buy coloring that has no taste.

Garam Masala- a blend of ground spices used in many savory dishes. Garam masala recipe

Ghee- clarified butter made by melting butter and separating the fat from the solids. It can be made at home. The best flavor ghee is made from unsalted butter. Cheaper blends of butter are most suitable to make ghee. Once prepared it will keep for up to 3-4 months in a cool place.

The advantage of using it is that it can be heated to a very high temperature without burning (so is useful for browning onions in order to give a sauce a good rich color, and for sizzling spices before the main ingredients are added to the pan. It doesn't need to be refrigerated.

Gram Flour - made from chickpeas and also known as besan.

Halva - a sweet dish

Idli - is a bread from the South, almost like a cake, round and thick, made with fermented rice from the Kerala and legume flour (urad), shaped and then steamed (the legumes have a leavening effect).

Jaggery- raw sugar, eaten as it is and used to flavor various dishes, even vegetable curries.

Kalonji- (also known as nigella) small black tear-shaped onions seeds, used to add piquancy to vegetable curries and Indian breads.

Kewda Water - also sold in the stronger form of essence, kewra water is used for flavoring and has a delicate fragrance.

Khoa- full fat milk powder

Lassi - a yogurt drink

Masala – a mixture of spices

Masoor Dal - skinned split red lentils (actually orange in color)

Mint - widely used herb often paired with lamb. Indian mint has a stronger flavor and more pungent aroma than Western varieties.

Moong Dal- skinned split moong beans.

Murghi - chicken

Mustard Oil - a yellow oil made from mustard seeds that is pungent when raw and sweet when heated. Much used in Kashmir and Bengal.

Naan - a kind of bread popular in North India. It is made with leavened dough (chopped onion or cilantro can also be added to it), and is often made from buttermilk or yogurt. The dough is stretched by tossing the piece of dough quickly from one palm to the other to form a thin oval flatbread, slightly thicker around the edges than in the center. Traditionally is baked on the walls of a tandoor oven, brushed with a thin coating of oil or ghee and served hot. It can also be stuffed with cheese, vegetable curry or meat. In this case, the filling is placed on part of the dough which is then folded over on itself before being rolled flat with a rolling pin.

Panch Puran- mix of five spices - cumin seeds, onion seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and anise.

Papaya- a fruit with good digestive properties

Paratha - a bread; richer version of chapati, crispy and cooked in ghee on a griddle. They are very thin and are stacked up like crêpes.

Poori- is a bread fried in hot oil, completed submerged so that it puffs up. Pooris are common to the Bengal and Gujrat regions of India.

Poppodums and pappads- the pre-made and precooked flat breads (made from legume flour (urad) and rice flour) that need only be immersed in hot oil to puff up instantly; they are turned with a skimmer so that they stiffen up slightly and then are drained and served while still crisp. Some are plain, others are spiced with mixtures of spices. They can also be prepared under the broiler, thus eliminating the chore of frying.

Raita - a cooling side dish made with yogurt

Rose Water - a popular flavoring used in many Indian dishes.

Roti - The name is related to the French word "rôtie," meaning toasted bread. It is made from whole wheat (aata), millet (bajra) or sorghum (jowar)

Rumali - Toasted bread, or handkerchief bread, which is also found in other eastern countries, is made up of numerous layers of dough like a folded handkerchief.

Sambar Powder- a southern Indian spice mix for vegetable curries.

Silver Leaf (varq) - editable silver leaf is used as a garnish over sweets. Silver foil is very thin. it is very fragile and often breaks up during use. It has no aroma or taste.

Tamarind- the most popular souring agent in Southern India. The pods are collected, de-seeded and dried. Before cooking the acid flesh is soaked in water, and the juice is squeezed out. It is this tamarind water that is used in the curry. In some Goan recipes, the tamarind flesh is ground with spices. Nowadays tamarind concentrate can be bought in any grocer's shop.

Tava- a flat cast iron pan used for making bread.

Toor Dal- a glassy dark yellow split pea, similar to chana dal.

Toran - style of cooking where the dish remains dry.

Uppama- a flat bread whose dough is made from semolina instead of flour. It can be quite rich and may include onions, chilies, ginger, mustard seed, nuts, various vegetables etc.

Urad Dal- polished split black lentils, often used as a spice in southern India. It takes quite a long time to cook.

Varak- silver leaf used as a decoration for both sweet and savory dishes.

Vindaloo- a highly spiced and hot curry, traditionally from Goa.

Wheat flour (Gehun ka Atta) - flour made from whole wheat (usually a variety low in gluten), very finely ground for making bread. A fairly close substitute is whole wheat pastry flour. Regular whole wheat flour gives heavier results and is stiffer and more difficult to work with than chapati flour. If regular whole wheat flour must be used, sift is several times through a very fine sieve (to get a fine flour and to remove bran) and substitute refine flour for half the whole wheat flour in a recipe.

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