MELT #1 Coriandrum Pepper
I can’t be grateful enough to have grown up in a country where the knowledge of ‘exotic’ spices seems like second nature. Even though I almost never cooked in India, I know my spices. These flavor enhancers add another dimension to food, almost like painting highlights and shadows to a still life that would seem flat otherwise.
Different cultures have their own way in which spices are used to cook food and this is how spice blends evolved. People in warmer regions of the world (closer to the equator) tend to use more spices to preserve meat because of its antimicrobial properties. This is why spice blends seem to have more complex flavors in regions like India or Africa versus Iceland or Norway.
There are two things about blending spices that can be deal breakers (apart from the quality of ingredients):
- Proportions – Each blend will have one (or a couple) primary ingredient and then a few secondary ingredients. The art of using these in the right proportions is crucial in the process of making a good blend.
- Dry Roasting – This is something I learned over time but individually dry roasting whole spices and then blending them makes a huge difference than roasting them all at once. One of the reasons could be that some spices take longer to roast than others.
My very first savory blend is predominantly made using coriander seeds and whole black peppercorns. Other secondary ingredients that make up the blend are Black Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cumin, Green Cardamom, Clove and Star Anise.
Coriander, black pepper, cumin, clove, cinnamon and cardamom are carminative spices, which means they help combat flatulence and aid in digestion.
Indian Coriander (Dhania), the primary ingredient in this blend has a strong spicy aroma with citrus notes, its very commonly used in Indian cuisine. This very interesting study – Antimicrobial Functions of Spices: Why Some Like it Hot by Jennifer Billing and Paul Sherman focuses on patterns of spices used across different countries and cultures. It shows a frequency-of-use-histogram with meat based recipes that called for each spice in various countries along with the different mean annual temperatures. In countries such as Indonesia and India with ‘hot’ climate, the consumption of coriander is at a much higher level and negligible in Ireland or Hungary.
This blend has a smoky and spicy black peppery after taste and is great when used as a meat rub or even on potatoes.
3/4 Cup Coriander Seeds
1/4 Cup Black Peppercorns
4 Green Cardamom
1 Black Cardamom
2 Inch Piece of a Cinnamon Stick
1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
First roast the coriander seeds over medium heat.
Then roast remaining ingredients.
Blend all ingredients to a fine powder.
* Roast whole spices in a dry skillet and toss over medium heat until they smell fragrant and look toasted but not burnt.
* Let the spices cool before grinding them.
* I use the Vitamix dry jar to blend the spices, you can use any spice grinder.