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Gujarati Cooking Basics: The Masala Tin

Every Indian household will have one of these – A steel tin with a number of round compartments, each filled with a delicious spice that gives our curries their wonderful fragrant flavour. Every dish starts with this little tin. Here’s a picture of mine, and I’ll take you through each ingredient.

Rai / Black Mustard Seeds

First up is Rai (Black Mustard Seeds). These tiny little black seeds are added into hot Thel (Oil) right at the beginning of most curries and add a nutty flavour.

Jeeru / Cumin

Jeeru (Cumin) has an earthy, smoky flavour and is also added directly to the oil to help release its flavours into the dish.

Dhana Jeeru / Ground Coriander and Cumin

Dhana Jeeru (Ground Coriander and Cumin) adds a warm, slightly tangy flavour. I love this stuff so generally add it in heaped teaspoons.

Haldar / Turmeric

Haldar (Turmeric) is known for its medicinal properties and bright yellow colour. It has a bitter, peppery flavour. Don’t get this stuff on anything white though, it’s also used as a dye and will stain almost anything!

Lal Chutney / Red Chilli Powder

Lal Chutney (Red Chilli Powder) adds the kick to any curry with its fiery flavour. I sometimes swap this for fresh chillies, depending on the dish or what’s available.

Nimak / Salt

Nimak (Salt) is a staple across all cultures and as one of the primary basic human tastes, is used to add balance and depth of flavour.

Garam Masala / Ground Spice Mix

Garam Masala (Ground Spice Mix) is a blend of a number of spices with ratios that often vary family to family but ready-made garam masala spice mixes can be found in most supermarkets.