Heat and spices go hand in hand. My tongue was tuned to spices from a very early time. As a new-born there are many traditional practices followed in many Indian homes. In our family, parents smear Vayambu, a spicy root made into a paste with honey, on the infants tongue. It is done as a special ceremony. The dried root of vayambu has therapeutic qualities. Nutmeg and other medicinal spices are also given in traces to infants to ward off ailments.
I cannot imagine a life without spices! Every Indian home smells of different blend of spices in each dish. All mouths are addicted to its strong flavours and distinct taste.
These are clicks of a few spices that I use frequently.
Dried red chilly is an essential ingredient in almost all spice mixes. Heat is imparted by the amount of the chemical capsaicin in different chillies. Chilly is always the center of most curries to provide the required amount of heat.
Bay leaf is dried and used as a flavouring spice. It is most fragrant when dry unlike all other herbs. These bay leaves here, were hand-picked from a hedges of evergreen bay laurel that grows in Italy. A friend brought it as a gift for me and I treasure it. I had to dry it and store it. It has a very strong flavour and I thank them every time we make soups.
I come from the pepper growing region, and my mother has pepper climbers all over her yard. So this is the most common spice for me. I did not realize its important in the economy of the state until I grew up.
There is a hint of clove in many spice mixtures. Clove is a medicinal spice I tasted when I had my very first tooth ache. A drop of clove oil is very strong and numbs the pain. When using this spice, the mantra is ‘less is more’.