OT: Spice up your life

Chicken is chicken - until you spice it a bit and then it becomes the national dish of Morocco, France or the US. Anyhow, while electronically thumbing through my personal cookbook, I came across my reference material as to how to mix various spices if they don’t happen to be sitting on my shelf. There are no a whole lot of building blocks which can make foods taste like they came from the country of your choice.



Chicken is chicken and fish is fish. The single most important factor in making that food taste Chinese, Moroccan or French is the spicing used in its preparation. We find that picking up a bit of authentic spice (being careful to make sure it’s sealed in jars or other suitable packaging to make sure that we’re not carrying pests along with the spice) can allow us to recreate the dishes we’ve enjoyed abroad.

Many of the below are mixtures of over a dozen herbs and/or spices, so only the main components may be listed:

Some of the world’s best spice mixtures:

Berbere – (Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia) A combination of spicy, bitter, and sweet spices

Dukkah – (Egyptian, Tunisian and other North African) A mix of toasted hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander, and cumin.

Harissa – (North Africa and Turkey) Pureed Smoked red chili peppers and widely featured in cuisines.

Ras el Hanout – (Moroccan, Tunisian) “Head of the House” A varying blend of 10-15 different spices, differs from shop to shop

Chinese Five Spice – (Chinese) Gives dishes a sweet, savory, bitter, and sour mixture. Made from star anise, cloves, cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorns.

Gomasio - (Japanese) Toasted sesame seeds ground up with coarse salt. Served on rice.

Togarashi – (Japanese) Made from seven spices including chili pepper, citrus peel, sesame seeds, and seaweed.

Fines Herbes – (French) Blend of chervil, chives, tarragon, and parsley.

Herbes de Provence – (French) Blend including savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano (and traces of others)

Khmeli Suneli – (Georgia) A mix of fenugreek, coriander, savory, and black peppercorns.

Quatre Epices - Meaning “four spices,” this French blend typically includes ground black and/or white pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.

South Asia

Indian cuisine includes different curries and masalas for each type of food cooked. The cuisine has affected and been adapted into those of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indochina, Thailand and Malaysia. Curries come in red, green and massaman varieties and there are more different masalas than stars in the sky.

Chaat Masala – (India) A tangy mix, made with dried mango

Curry Powder - An Indian-inspired British invention, this typically includes turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper. Particularly popular in the Caribbean.

Garam Masala –(Indian) A sweet/pungent mix of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.

Panch Phoron - (Indian/Bengali) Blend of fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard, and fennel seeds.

Examples of the full contents of some spices recently acquired in india to show the complexity of spice mixes:

Masala For Chicken – (India) Coriander, Red Chilli, Onion, Salt, Ginger, Garlic, Cumin, Black Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon, Green Cardamom, Turmeric, Fenugreek, Poppy Seeds, Green Chilli, Mace, Caraway, Citric Acid

Masala For Biryani Chicken – (India) Coriander, Red Chilli, Mint, Onion, Salt, Green Cardamom, Cumin, Cinnamon, Clove, Sugar, Bay Leaf, Black Cardamom, Star Anise, Black Pepper, Nutmeg, Caraway, Saffron, Citric Acid, Fenugreek, Rose Petals, Poppy Seeds, Green Chilli, Muskmelon Seeds, Fennel Seeds

Mumbai Bhaji Masala For Vegetables – (India) Chilli, Fennel Seeds, Coriander, White Pepper, Cumin, Stone Flower, Cassia, Cardamom, Celery, Salt, Cinnamon, Black Salt, Kichadi, Turmeric, Clove, Mace

Nihari For Meat Stew – (India) Chilli, Salt, Paprika, Nigella, Garlic, Onion, Cumin, Bay Leaf, Aniseed, Green Cardamom, Black Pepper, Ginger, Clove, Fennel, Sugar, Soy Protein

Sambar Masala For Lental Dal – (Indian) Coriander, Rice, Cumin, Red Chilli, Fenugreek, Cassia

Latin America & the Caribbean
Adobo – (Mexico) An all-purpose seasoning that contains garlic, oregano, pepper

Chili Powder – (Latin America) A blend of ancho chili, paprika, cumin, and Mexican oregano.

Jerk Spice – (Jamaican) mixture of black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and thyme.

Middle East
Advieh – (Persian) mix of dried rose petals and cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cumin

Baharat – (Middle East) Mix of black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves.

Za’atar – (Lebanon, Israel, Palestine) A blend of thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac.

North America
Dry Rub - Barbecue rub includes brown sugar, paprika, and other spices.

Pickling Spice - Contains bay leaves, mustard seeds, and peppercorns.

Poultry Spice - A combination of sage, thyme, and other herbs and spices.

Pumpkin Pie Spice - Made with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

Make your own spice mix:

Ras el hanout spice mix
(Abbreviated version)
Meaning “top of the shop,” this North African spice mix is the best a spice shop owner has to offer you. The recipe is usually kept secret but can contain up to 17 different spices, and varies according to whether it’s to be used with lamb, beef or fish and so on, as well as from shop to shop. This recipe can be used with any kind of meat.
?5 tbsp sweet paprika
?4 tbsp toasted cumin seeds or 2 tbsp ground cumin
?1 tbsp dried rose petals
?3 tbsp toasted coriander seeds
?1 tsp ground cinnamon
?2 tbsp black peppercorns or 1 tbsp cracked black peppercorns
?½ tsp cloves


2 dried red chilies
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon sea salt
Jerusalem spice mix
This excellent spice mix was born in Jerusalem and works with all kinds of meat and works brilliantly as a rub for grilling and other quick cooking methods.
?2 tbsp ground turmeric
?5 tbsp toasted coriander seeds
?4 tbsp toasted cumin seeds
?1 tsp cardamom pods (ditch the husks before you grind them)
?1 tsp black peppercorns
Persian stew spice mix
This spice mix is inspired by a Persian dish called khoreshet (stew)sabzi (greens). Any slow-cooked stew or rice dish would be great with this mix.
?2 tbsp ground turmeric
?1 tbsp cardamom pods
?1 tbsp whole cloves
?5 tbsp toasted coriander seeds
?5 tbsp toasted cumin seeds
?1 tsp allspice berries (optional)
?4 tbsp dried dill

Hawaij spice mix
A Yemeni mix spice that’s also very popular in Israel and has been embraced by many other cuisines in the region. Use in stews, meatballs and kebabs — and the Yemenis make a killer beef shin soup with it. Even add some when pickling…
?4 tbsp black peppercorns or 2 tbsp cracked black peppercorns
?4 tbsp toasted cumin seeds or 2 tbsp ground cumin
?1 tbsp cardamom pods (ditch the husks before you grind them) or 1 tsp ground cardamom
?2 tbsp ground turmeric
?1 tsp cloves
?2 tbsp toasted coriander seeds
?2 tbsp dried cilantro

Harissa Paste
A recipe for vegan Harissa paste from Morocco
15 red chilies (soaked for about 2 hours and then drained)
8 cloves garlic (minced)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
1 tsp 1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
Roast the cumin and coriander seeds lightly in a skillet.
Add the cumin and coriander along with other ingredients to a food processor. Process into a fairly smooth paste. You can freeze the remaining paste in an air-tight jar.

Baharat spice mix
A spice mix from the Arabic kitchen (the meaning of the word baharat is simply “spices”), there are quite a few versions around, as every region has its own recipe (you can find it in Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese, Turkish, Kurdish and Israeli cooking). This one goes well with all kinds of meat and stews, especially with lamb and chicken — it works really well as a rub for grilling or marinating. If you want to use it with fish, simply omit the cinnamon from the recipe.
?4 tbsp sweet paprika
?2 tbsp black peppercorns
?1 tsp ground cinnamon
?1 tsp cardamom pods
?4 tbsp toasted cumin seeds
?1 tsp grated nutmeg
?2 tbsp toasted coriander seeds
?1 tsp allspice berries
?1 tsp whole cloves

ALTERNATIVELY, a Palestinian version:

1 small dried chilli
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cardamom pod
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon loomi (dried limes), blitzed to a powder
1 teaspoon sea salt

Za’atar spice mix
You can buy really good za’atar spice mix these days, but for those of you who can’t find one of these or want to go DIY, this is an easy recipe that comes close to the original.
?4 tbsp sumac
?4 tbsp dried thyme
?2 tbsp dried oregano or marjoram
?1 tsp Maldon salt flakes
?1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Blitz all the ingredients except the sesame seeds in a coffee or spice grinder, or grind with a pestle and mortar, then stir in the toasted sesame seeds.
Preparing your own dried herbs
You can dry fresh thyme or oregano in the oven preheated to 300°F for 10 minutes.

Dukkah is an earthy Middle Eastern mix blended from roasted, stone-ground wheat and toasted sesame seeds. Nuts are sometimes added, but it depends on where you are from in the Middle East and a matter of taste. I like mine with hazelnuts added, for example, but in Syria they often add crushed pistachios. Dukkah can be used on egg dishes and also as a dip for warm toasted pita bread by mixing it with Palestinian olive oil. Use the following recipe if you want to prepare your own spice blend at home:

50g (13/4oz) hazelnuts, skinned
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon sea salt

Toast the nuts in an oven preheated to 180°C fan (200°C/400°F/Gas 6) for about 15–20 minutes until slightly toasted in color. Toast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds together in a hot dry frying pan for about 30–40 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and set the seeds aside. Add the sesame seeds to the hot pan and toast for about 1 minute until slightly toasted. Grind the toasted coriander, cumin and fennel seeds to a powder, then place them in a bowl. Add the sesame seeds, paprika and marjoram. Chop the nuts into small pieces and add them with the salt and stir. This can then be stored
in an airtight container for several months.
Cajun Seasoning
2 - 3 tablespoons paprika - more if leaving out cayenne pepper (can be smoked)
2 tablespoons granulated salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1/2 - 1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Cumin, coriander, dried basil, celery seed, dried jalapeno powder, superhot powder, smoked chili powder, chopped dried lemon peel etc.

Mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Store in airtight containers
Berbere Spice
Grind and mix together. This Ethiopian spice should be heated to bring out the aromas before using

?1/2 cup ground dried New Mexico chiles
?1/4 cup paprika
?1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
?1 teaspoon onion powder
?1 teaspoon ground ginger
?1 teaspoon cumin
?1 teaspoon ground coriander
?1 teaspoon ground cardamom
?1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
?1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
?1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
?1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
?1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
?1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Chinese 5 Spice
Place all ingredients in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) and grind until smooth.

?6 star anise pods
?1 ½ teaspoons whole cloves (or 1 1/4 teaspoon ground)
?1 cinnamon stick (3 inches long ) or two tablespoons ground
?2 tablespoons fennel seeds
?2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns ( or sub 3 teaspoons regular peppercorns)

Speculaaskruiden (Dutch Spice Mix)
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground white pepper
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground aniseeds

Vegan Thai Green Curry Paste
An aromatic curry paste to make delicious Thai dishes in a hurry
¼ cup coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
1-inch piece ginger (sliced)
¾ cup cilantro (roughly chopped)
12 green chili peppers (like serrano. Jalapeno is fine too)
3 stalks lemon grass (chop and use lower bulbous part only – discard the woody tops)
4 large shallots (sliced)
10 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 lime (zest and juice)
2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tsp nutmeg
½ cup vegetable oil
In a small skillet, roast the cumin, coriander, fennel and peppercorns until lightly fragrant, about five minutes.
Place the dry spices in a blender or food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Process into a smooth paste.
Store the paste or any unused portion in an airtight jar in the freezer.
Vegan Thai Red Curry Paste
A vegan Thai red curry paste without fish sauce, but just as tasty.
½ onion (diced)
3 red chili peppers
1-inch piece galangal , sliced thinly (use ginger as a substitute)
1 stalk lemongrass (trim the top and the hard outer leaves and slice finely. If you can’t use this, use the zest of two limes instead)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tsp sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
Put all the ingredients in the grinder but add just enough oil to keep the blades moving. Add the rest of the oil if needed, to make a fairly smooth paste.
Vegan Thai Yellow Curry Paste
A vegan Thai yellow curry paste without fish sauce
2 Thai bird’s eye chilies (or other hot red chili peppers)
2 stalks lemongrass (use juice of 2 limes and their zest as a substitute)
1 tbsp turmeric powder
2 shallots
1-inch piece galangal (use ginger if you can’t find this)
1 small plum tomato
6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1-inch piece cinnamon
2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup coconut milk
Place all ingredients and ½ cup of the coconut milk in a blender bowl. Blitz into a smooth paste, adding more coconut milk if needed to keep the blades moving.
Store in an airtight container in the freezer.
Trinidadian Caribbean Spice Mix
This spice mix is perfect to sprinkle into curries, stews, rubs and vegetable sides for a striking, Caribbean flavor.
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
5 cloves
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
Roast all the spices together in a small, dry skillet until they turn a couple of shades darker. Be vigilant and stay with them-- you don’t want them to burn.
Grind into a fine powder in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Store any unused spice mix in an airtight jar in a dark place.

The plethora of Indian ethnic groups and varied geography, along with its diaspora has transformed a broad palette of raw spices into a vast rainbow of tastes and sensations which define its cuisine.
Garam Masala
The most common spice mix used in Indian cuisine
8 inch-long pieces cinnamon.
5-6 dry bay leaves
1 tbsp green cardamom pods
4 black cardamom pods
2 mace “flowers”
8-10 red chili peppers (like Kashmiri chili peppers or any mild to moderately hot chili pepper, optional or can use fewer–or more)
¼ cup coriander seeds
1 ½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp stone flower (dagad phool or patthar phool)
Heat a wide skillet over medium low heat. Add the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, red chili peppers, green and black cardamom.
Roast until the ingredients are just a couple of shades darker and smell fragrant. Remove to a plate or bowl to cool.
Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet and toast them, again until a couple of shades darker and fragrant. Also remove to the plate or bowl.
Once the spice ingredients have cooled, place them in a blender (preferably one fitted with a jar for dry blending), or to a spice grinder. Blend into a coarse powder.
Store in an airtight jar.
Chana Masala
A spice mix for popular restaurant recipes like Chana Masala and Rajma.
6 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp black peppercorns
3 dried bay leaves
3 cloves
6 green cardamom pods
1 ½- inch piece of cinnamon
Place all the ingredients in a spice grinder and process until you have a powder.
Biryani Masala
¼ cup coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp shah jeera (black cumin seeds)
2 dry bay leaves
1 tsp dagad phool (also called stone flower)
2 inch cinnamon stick
10 cloves
1 tsp mace
1 tbsp peppercorns
7 pods green cardamom
2 pods black cardamom
2 tsp kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
2 tbsp fried onion (use the kind you get from the store, like French’s, or at the Indian store. Onions fried at home would contain too much oil which could go rancid over time)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp dry pomegranate seeds (anardana)
4 dry plums (chopped into smaller pieces)
Place all the ingredients except the plums in a spice grinder or a blender. Process into an even but coarse powder.
Mix in the plums and store in an airtight jar, in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark place in your pantry or kitchen.
Biryani Masala Paste
This Biryani Masala Paste is a great, aromatic spice mix to use in biryani and other rice dishes.
1 small onion , very thinly sliced, then fried in a fairly hot griddle for about 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until the onion turns brown and crispy. You don’t want to leave the onion unattended too long because onions contain sugar and will burn.
10 prunes (dry plums)
4 bay leaves
4 1- inch cinnamon sticks
10 black cardamom
10 green cardamom
10 black peppercorns
1 tsp aamchoor
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
Place all the ingredients in a blender, add just enough water to make the blades turn, and let it all roll away into a smooth paste. You will need about half of this paste for the biryani recipe and can store the rest of it in an airtight container in the freezer…for a long, long time.
Sambar Powder
A mix of lentils and spices used to make the south Indian dal, Sambar, or Kuzhambu.
1 cup coriander seeds
? cup black peppercorns
? cup tuvar dal
? cup chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
1 heaping tbsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 heaping tbsp mustard seeds
8-10 dry red chillies
2 tbsp turmeric powder
Roast all ingredients, one at a time, on the skillet. You want them to be aromatic and two or three shades darker than they were, but don’t let them burn or darken too much. Since the turmeric is already powdered, toast it very lightly, for only about a minute-- if you toast it last, you can even do this in the already-hot skillet with the heat turned off.
Put all the toasted spices including turmeric into a spice grinder or blender and process to a very fine powder.
Spices for the sambar and rasam powders are typically sun-dried for a couple of days, then ground into a fine powder. I skillet-roast the spices for expediency and it works fine.
Rasam Powder
A spice mix used to make the aromatic south Indian dal or soup, Rasam.
1 cup coriander seeds
? cup tuvar dal
? cup black peppercorns
3 tbsp chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
2 tbsp cumin seeds
8-10 dry red chillies
2 tbsp turmeric powder
Toast the spices lightly on a dry skillet one by one until they turn aromatic and are two or three shades darker. Don’t burn them and stir them constantly. Toast the turmeric lightly and add to a spice grinder or blender along with the other spices.
Process everything into a slightly coarse powder.

Kolhapuri Masala
A spice mix made with lavangi chilies from Kolhapur, in India.
8 dry red chillies, use Kolhapuri lavangi chilies if you can find them, or replace with any other hot red chili
1 cup coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
8 cloves garlic
1 large onion
12 cloves
12 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp mace
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 2- inch piece of cinnamon
4 large bay leaves
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp turmeric
Roast all the ingredients one at a time (except the turmeric), until they are a couple of shades darker and aromatic. Roast the garlic and the onion until dark spots appear, but don’t let them burn.
Remove everything to a dish to cool, and then place in a blender. Blend into a coarse powder. I sometimes add some coconut milk, blend the masala into a paste and then freeze it.
Panch Phoron (Bengali Five Spice Mix)
Perhaps the simplest of the spice mixes, because there’s no grinding involved. Also easy to remember-- you need the five spices in the same proportions.
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp nigella seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight jar.

Goda Masala
Goda masala, which translates to “sweet masala” is a milder version of garam masala used in the kitchens of Maharashtra. It includes coconut, which tamps down the spice a little.
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp coriander seeds
4 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
4 1-inch sticks cinnamon
4 dry bay leaves
1 tbsp dagad phool (stone flower, optional)
20 peppercorns
2 tbsp fennel
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds (use the white poppy seeds, if possible, but if you can’t find these the black seeds are fine)
½ cup dry coconut (copra) (shredded or broken into small pieces. This is a kind of coconut that’s been dried before use. It has a different flavor from fresh coconut.)
Heat the oil in a small skillet. Roast the masala ingredients until lightly brown and fragrant. Fry the sesame seeds, poppy seeds and coconut last and keep a close eye on it because it can burn in an instant.
Cool, powder in a spice grinder, and store in the refrigerator.
Rajasthani Garam Masala
A spice mix unique to the Indian state of Rajasthan
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ajwain seeds (carom seeds)
1 black cardamom pod
Roast the spices on a dry skillet over medium heat, about five minutes or until the spices turn a few shades darker and fragrant.
Grind to a powder in a spice grinder and store in an air-tight container.

Dhansak Masala
This powdered spice mix is used to make dhansak, an aromatic dal dish that hails from India’s Parsi community.
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 red chillies
2 black cardamom pods
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 1- inch stick of cinnamon
4 cloves
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp turmeric
In a dry skillet, over medium heat, roast all the ingredients except the turmeric. When the spices start to exude an aroma, in about 5-7 minutes, and the coriander seeds are a couple of shades darker, turn off the heat.
Add the spices to a coffee grinder with the turmeric. Process into a fine powder.
Kadai Masala
A Kadai Masala recipe for dishes like Kadai Tofu Paneer.
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
3 cloves
3 green cardamom pods
1-inch stick cinnamon , broken into small pieces
2 tbsp kasoori methi
3 dry red chili peppers
In a pan, roast all of the dry-roast ingredients until fragrant and the coriander is a couple of shades deeper. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then grind into a fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

Tikka Masala Curry Paste
A spicy, saucy Tikka Masala Curry Paste that you can store in the refrigerator or freezer and pull out during busy days to make a tasty meal in under 15 minutes.

1 medium red onion , chopped
8 cloves garlic , crushed and roughly chopped
1- inch knob of ginger , peeled and chopped
2 tomatoes , chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp sugar
6 green cardamom pods
8 cloves
1-inch stick cinnamon , broken into pieces
1 tsp vegetable oil
¼ cup cashews , soaked for 30 minutes

Heat the oil in a nonstick pan. Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves. Stir until he cardamom begins to turn lightly golden, about two minutes.

Add the cumin and coriander seeds and stir-fry for a few more minutes until the coriander starts to darken slightly.

Add the onions, ginger, garlic, a pinch of salt, and sugar. Stir-fry over medium heat until the onions start to turn brown.

Add the kasoori methi, tomato paste and tomatoes and mix well. Add ¼ cup of water, cover, and let the mixture cook about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are really mushy and most of the water has evaporated.

Let the mixture cool, then transfer to a blender along with the soaked cashews.
Blend into a smooth paste, adding a little water, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary to keep the blades moving.

Scrape into an airtight jar and store in the refrigerator if you plan to use within a week, or in the freezer if you want to keep it for longer. Thaw out before using.

Balti Sauce
Balti Sauce is a spice paste used in Britain, that originated in the country’s Pakistani community. It works great as a base for “meaty” vegetables and curries.

1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
4 green cardamom pods
4 cloves
2 small bay leaves
3 dry red chilies
½ tsp turmeric
3 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 medium tomato , diced
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat a skillet. Dry-roast the bay leaves, coriander, cumin, fennel, mustard, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and chilies until they are slightly darker and fragrant, about three to four minutes.

Turn off the heat, remove the ingredients to a blender, and to the hot skillet add the turmeric, curry powder, onion powder, garlic powder and ginger powder. Stir a bit to roast in the hot skillet without turning on the heat. Add to the blender.

Add the vinegar, tomato and oil to the blender. Blend into a very smooth paste.
International Vegetable Blends
Nearly every cuisine has its trio of favored aromatic ingredients - Spanish sofrito, Italian soffritto, Portuguese refogado, German suppengrun and France again with duxelles. These include varieties of ingredients including onion, garlic, celery, leeks, tomatoes, chilies, shallot, mushroom, etc.

Mirepoix (called soffrito in Italy) is onion, celery & carrots from Mirepoix, France.

Holy Trinity is onion, celery and green pepper from New Orleans.

Spanish Sofrito is a thick savory paste generally made out of tomato, garlic, onions, bell peppers, and fresh herbs.

Italian Battuto is finely chopped aromatics. Usually it’s a combo of onions (2X the amount of the others), celery, carrots, garlic and parsley cooked in butter or olive oil, and it can sometimes include a meat like pancetta, bacon or prosciutto.

Italian Pesto is a blend of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese

French Duxelles is a finely chopped mixture of mushrooms or mushroom stems, onions or shallots, herbs such as thyme or parsley, and black pepper, sautéed in butter and reduced to a paste. Cream is sometimes used as well, and some recipes add a dash of madeira or sherry. Used as a savory pasty or vegetable stuffing

Brazilian Refogado is made with 1 small onion, 1 cup garlic (use pre-peeled fresh), (sometimes parsley and scallion, salt and pepper), 1/2 cup olive oil. Use for stir frying

German Suppengrun (soup greens) are carrots, leeks and celeriac (or celery root) and usually a bit of parsley. Though, it may also include parsley root, onion, rutabaga or thyme depending on the region.

Indian Garlic Ginger Paste - 125 grams garlic, 65 grams ginger paste, 1 Tbsp oil, optionally 1/2 tsp turmeric