I’ve been cooking with spices for a long time. They’re a major reason I’m willing to spend the money it takes to get good meat.
But I’ve always been frustrated by the short shelf life of spices, especially ground spices. I love garam masala, but if I don’t use at least some of it every week, it starts to lose its potency. (A problem Garam Masala has is that it’s a blend of many different spices, some of which are pretty strong and pungent.) As a result, my spice cabinet is full of expensive bottles of spices that have lost their flavor.
Tasting this week’s garam masala made me realize that there must be an Indian way around this problem: they use whole spices in everything. And so I went looking for recipes that used whole spices, and I found this one for chicken in saffron-tomato broth from Madhuri Sharma’s blog Spice Chronicles .
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
1/2 c vegetable oil or ghee
2 onion slices, cut diagonally into half-moons
1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
There are many types of spices and herbs, with flavors that range from savory to sweet. If you have never used some of the less common ones, this is a good time to venture into new territory. You don’t need a lot of them, but they will add flair to an otherwise ordinary dish.
One of my favorite things about Indian cooking is how they use spices in combination and in very small quantities. The quantities aren’t unusual, but the combinations are. They make chicken taste like anything but chicken. This recipe is my attempt to re-create saffron-tomato broth, which I love at an Indian restaurant called Curry Leaves.
The chicken in this recipe isn’t really cooked in the broth; it’s more like poached on top of it. I found that if I simmered the chicken for too long, it would fall apart, so I suggest you keep an eye on it and take it out when it just begins to feel firm to the touch and before the color changes noticeably from white to pink.
An Indian cookbook might not be the first place you’d think to look for tips on making spices last, but one of the best ways to do that is to use them in long-cooked dishes like this chicken and tomato stew.
It’s based on a dish called “Chicken Jeera,” which means it is cooked with cumin seeds and fennel seeds. It also typically includes some kind of yogurt, which I’ve left out because I don’t have any in the refrigerator.
The stew works just as well without it; if you happen to have some yogurt around, by all means add it. But it’s good even without, as I found out when I made it last week.
And of course you can make some rice to go with it. I think basmati would be great here; the grains should be able to stand up to all that saffron.
I used to buy spices in small amounts, because I had no idea how long they would last. Now I make them last longer by cooking Indian food—which turns out to have a lot in common with preserving spices.
The best way to make spices last long is to find alternative uses for them. I have found that once I get into the habit of using spices in ways other than the typical one, I will not have to buy as many spices. This is a good thing because it saves me money and it keeps me from going spice-crazy.
I love Indian food, but I do not eat much Indian food because it is heavy on the stomach. So, I use some of the spices to make my own indian dishes.
Indian food doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Find out how to make a delicious meal that’s full of the bold flavors that make Indian cuisine so exciting.
In many Indian dishes, dried spices are usually cooked in oil or ghee (clarified butter) to release their flavor before being discarded. But if you let the spices cool, then put them in an airtight container and store them in a dark place, they’ll last for months. This is a great tip for busy cooks who don’t always have the time to hit up the spice market frequently. It’s also good for anyone who prefers fresh herbs over dried but doesn’t always have access to any except that dried Oregano from the back of the cabinet.
The process works especially well with spices such as cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns.
There are two basic steps: cook the spices in some fat over medium heat until they’re very fragrant (you can stir them a little bit as they’re cooking), and then let them cool and store them in an airtight container. The following recipe will work with most dried spices you have on hand. In this case we’re using cumin seeds and yellow mustard
Saffron has a flavor that is as exotic and as expensive as you would expect. It is one of the more expensive spices in the world, and many recipes call for only a small amount. But what if you use too much saffron in your dishes? How can you be sure you are using the right amount of saffron?
There are a few ways to avoid wasting money on saffron. You can buy the powdered form of saffron, and use smaller amounts than suggested in the recipe. You can add in other ingredients that have similar flavors and color to help mask the taste of saffron in recipes. Or you can find creative ways to stretch out your supply of saffron so it lasts longer.