Whenever people tell me that they find it intimidating to use spices, I am reminded of “Garam Masala” and turmeric; the oxygen of my mother’s cooking. Every dish started out with half a teaspoon of turmeric in the beginning and ended with a sprinkle of about 2 teaspoons of Garam Masala, be it Daal, a vegetable side dish or a Pulao – Rice dish.
Hing or Asofetida is perhaps the smelliest of all spices. I had never thought of using it. “It is the worst smell on earth!”, according to my father, who endured smelly suits for a whole month – because of Hing! He was in Nigeria then, he had taken along a dozen bottles of hing in his suitcase, for a friend. As luck or ill-luck would have it, during the journey the hing sprinkled on his clothes, including his favorite suit. No amount of dry cleaning or washing helped him get rid of that “obnoxious” smell and he had to wear those smelly clothes for his business meetings.
My mother never used hing in her cooking, I did not feel the need either. Not until now. On our recent visit to India, I kept hearing about the medicinal properties of hing, it aids digestion, it can be substituted for onion, garlic and ginger. It especially helps make the daals and beans ( garbanzo/kidney) less gassy. I was sold.
I bought it freshly ground from a store just a day before leaving Bangalore. I put the bottle of hing in the outer pocket of the suitcase, which still smells of hing after two months. At first I was terrified that the smell would take over the entire house.
But then, it wasn’t that hard to isolate it, I encased it in a bottle containing lavender and tea bags.. Incidentally, I learned that used tea bags absorbed odors and smells of all kinds…I open the cap just a little bit, sprinkle it and snap it shut right away. All you need is “just a pinch.”
Now, that I have started using hing in my spice blends – Goda Masala, Sambhar Masala and daal & cholle, I have no idea how I lived without it. It adds a distinct flavor, and you can get away without adding garlic and ginger – makes life simpler!
My Vegetable Makhani – (beans, carrots and cauliflower simmered in cashew milk ,tomatoes and a blend of spices) was rather bland. And I was going to be serving it to 40 people at a formal dinner. I tried adding extra coriander, coconut and cumin, but to no avail, something was still missing.
So, I added a touch of Goda Masala and lo-behold the dish magically transformed into a tasty dish with oodles of flavor. I finally ran out of my little stock of Goda Masala, so I made my own following Sujatha’s recipe..
2 1/2 C Coriander seeds
1 C Cumin
1 C dry red chillies
1/2 C shredded coconut
1/4 C Sesame
2 -3 Bay leaves
1 t Black Pepper
1 t Black Cardamom
1 t Cinnamom sticks
1 t Black cumin
1 t Hing
I t Poppy seeds ( brown)
1 t Fenugreek seeds
1 t Mustard seeds ( black)
1 t Cloves
Dry roast all the spices separately for 1 – 3 minutes
Blend them together and let cool
Crush them in a coffee grinder
I plan on using this Goda Masala in the chicken dish and the rice dish that I will be making for the dinner at the Creperie on the 12th of September.
My next post will be about – Sujatha’s kitchen & her delicious Masale Bhaat ( rice dish) and Aamti ( daal).