I have always kept a well stocked Spice cupboard because I really enjoy making curries from scratch. I try to keep whole Spices and grind them myself as they last longer and the flavour is much better than pre-ground spices. It is important that you keep them in airtight containers in a cool, dry and dark place. Wall mounted spice racks may look impressive and make for easier access but light is the enemy and blasts the oils from even the most robust of spices. This can leave you with nothing more than dust which is useless for cooking.
On one of my curry making quests I found a recipe that uses Panch Phoran. This is a blend of five Indian spices – fenugreek seeds, nigella (kalonji) seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and black mustard seeds. You can buy it ready blended in the shops but as I already had these spices as separate entities, I thought why not mix my own.
It is very simple to put together as all the proportions are identical for each spice, so I measured a couple of teaspoons of each one into a bowl, stirred to mix well and tipped them into a jar ready to be used with ease in my cooking. Traditionally it is always used as whole spices and never ground.
Fenugreek – Buff coloured and looks like little stones.
Nigella (Kalonji) – Slightly irregular-shaped and deep black in colour.
Fennel – Elongated and green
Cumin – Elongated and brown
Black Mustard – Small, round and dark brown
Photo: ©childsdesign 2011