Toasting and grinding spices

Two ingredient posts in one day!!!!

Whenever I watch Indian chefs on tv, they always bang on about toasting and grinding their own spices. I don’t remember my mum ever doing it and so I don’t do it either. In my cooking I use a combination of whole spices and ready ground ones.

Whole: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, carraway seeds, cardamom, cinnamon bark, cloves, dried peppercorns etc.

Ready ground: cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric, salt, asafoetida, paprika etc.

I like to have the whole spices in the dish when I eat (though I don’t actually bite on them as they are really strong!). It adds a dimension to my dishes that I enjoy. I have tried to toast my whole spices before grinding them in my coffee mill. The benefit being not having to pick out the whole spices when eating. But I found the ground spices all melding together and lost something. I think it’s a matter of individual preference. 

But then I was watching Saturday kitchen – a segment with the gorgeous Spice Men and my man, Tony Singh. He showed me the way! He lightly toasted some spices, not too hot as he was able to continue handling them (though bear in mind, chefs have asbestos hands), in this way the spices release their flavour. And then after they had cooled he gently pounded them in a pestle and mortar.

So if gave it a go and wowsers, what a difference. I added these to a mung dal that night and it was delicious. So there you go, I’ll toast and pound from now on.

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Ingredients: Bay leaves

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The picture above shows two types of bay leaf. The large one on the left is the Indian bayleaf (tej patta) and can range in colour from dark green to brown. It has long stem lines along its length. The flavour is a subtle one, almost cinnamon like and it’s what I prefer to use for cooking dals or rice dishes, tearing the leaf to release the flavour before adding it to the dish.

It has been incredibly hard to come by in Scotland and all the Indian shops I tried didn’t know what it was, didn’t stock it and frankly looked at me as if I’d gone insane which was a bit extreme if you ask me. Instead they have had packets and packets of the mediterranean version and have confusing labelled that as tej patta too.  Luckily, it’s finally back in stock on the online stores such as asiancookshop or spicesofindia.

I have been making do with the mediterranean bay leaf which has stronger herby smell / taste. There is nothing wrong with using it but it does give a harsher taste to the dals compared to the Indian bayleaf. The med version however, is fabulous in cheese sauces (such as my mac and cheese) or when I am making a tomato based pasta sauce such as my quorn Bolognese.

One thing both have in common as that they are pretty strong if you bite into them, so if you are going to serve out your food, pick the leaf out before hand. 🙂

 

Crochet update

I’m a rubbish blogger. Posts get written in my head that rarely make it to the screen. So a lot of this is old but as this is actually a journal for me, and not about you, that’s fine!

There have been a bundle of babies born to friends and colleagues this year. As such, I’ve picked up my hook and made a blanket or two. And yes, I made blue for a boy and pink for a girl. In my defence, I don’t have a lot of dosh so pick what’s on sale in Jenners.

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Then in July I went along to the Knit Works  exhibition and workshops at the National Museum of Scotland. I missed the first day as I didn’t know it was on – we were just checking the site to take the kiddo into town for the street festival. Anyhoooo, It was a boiling hot day and I welcomed the cool interior of the museum. I had booked to join the Crochet workshop with Arne and Carlos so only had a little time to look around the display – I have a sneaky suspicion I missed a load. 

These are displays by the designer Steiunn, Brora and another designer who’s name I didn’t write down but did some great hip-hop clothes pieces. 

The workshop was not what I expected. I thought we would be taught step by step how to do a flower. Instead, they handed out yarn, hooks and a handout of the pattern and just told us to get on with it. Both Arne and Carlos were on hand to help but as there were quite a few beginners in the room, they couldn’t help everyone. I tried to help a few around them but sadly think I may have confused them as I wasn’t sure whether the pattern was in UK or US terms. Arne and Carlos will be back next year for Edinburgh Yarn Festival and I will try to book again for a workshop as I like them and their designs. Still odd to me that here are two men talking to a room full of women about yarn craft. 

After, I tried to join the knitathon. I was told to pick whatever wool I wanted and to choose a pattern to do. So sat down happily and tried to chat. Ok, this may be because I was hot, or it may just be that knitters can be really unfriendly bitches sometimes. What a cold front trying to talk to some of them and a really shock after chatting to the friendly crocheters. Turns out that I was actually too late to make a square and so I sadly left. I may be a loud mouth but actually find it very very hard to walk up to a group of strangers to talk – so when they are not quite welcoming, I take it really badly. Grrrrr. 

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