Spice Trail

Indian Spices have been a heart to Indian culture and its fame is much older than Indian history. Spices have played an important role in the country's civilization and commerce as it was accepted worldwide due to its aroma and its medical benefits. A notable use of spices and herbs in very early times were in medicine in the making of holy oils and unguents. Traditionally, India was known as the legendary land of spices, and the West Coast of India, and was maintaining very active trade relations with the Western world, starting from ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman times. 

Spices play a significant role in the way we cook and consume food around the world. Every spice has its own flavoring and essence, and its addition and omission can literally make or break a dish. There are many spices we use in our day to day cooking, these include popular ones like cumin, black pepper, turmeric and coriander seeds. In the ancient times, India attracted traders from remote parts to of the world in search of exotic spices. Many of these traders went back with their share, while some even settled down and brought in some of their own home-grown spices. Such is the role of spices in Indian culture. Spices are known to have several health benefits; in fact, its the addition of a bouquet of spices, that make traditional Indian home cooked food one of the healthiest meals eaten around the world. Spices come with notable nutritional values and provide some major health benefits.

So... let's begin with our wonder spice CINNAMON

Interesting Facts:
1. Cinnamon comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree.
2. The Cinnamon tree can grow up to 60 feet.
3. Cinnamon sticks are also called Quills.
4. The two most popular types of Cinnamon are: Ceylon and Cassia.
5. Cinnamon compliments both sweet and salty dishes (and drinks).

Health Benefits:
1. Cinnamon is high in fiber and calcium which helps improve colon health.
2. Cinnamon reduces inflammation and is a powerful antioxidant.
3. Cinnamon lowers cholesterol and diabetes.
4. Cinnamon boosts metabolism and reduces bad breath.
5. Cinnamon is used in beauty products, global cuisines and also helps reduce weight.

Home Remedies:
1. Cough and Cold - Soothe that scratchy throat by sipping on some cinnamon infused water. Soak a cinnamon stick in warm water and drink it with a drop of honey about two to three times a day. You can also boil cinnamon sticks and inhale the vapor to relieve congestion.
2. Acne and Dry Skin - Cinnamon can be used as a homemade acne treatment. Mix some cinnamon powder with rose water and apply. Leave on for 10 minutes, wash off and pat dry. The anti-microbial properties prevent the growth of acne causing bacteria. It tightens your pores and makes your skin smooth. Antioxidant rich cinnamon can also be used to make a scrub for rough skin along with honey to restore shine and softness. 
3. Hair and Beauty - Cinnamon is known to improve blood circulation of the scalp, strengthen hair roots and promote hair growth. Use two teaspoons of cinnamon powder in a hair mask with one tablespoon of warm olive oil and one tablespoon of honey. You can even add an egg for conditioning. Apply on wet hair, leave it on for 10-15 minutes and rinse. The anti-bacterial properties of cinnamon also help in preventing tooth decay and gum disease. This is probably why cinnamon oil is often used in chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpastes and breath mints.
4. Diabetes - Consuming as little as 1 gram of cinnamon per day reduced blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in those suffering from type 2 diabetes. Mix a pinch of cinnamon in water, bring it to a boil and consume this drink about half an hour before your meal. Cinnamon can improve your glucose metabolism and boosts satiety. IT controls the sudden spike in blood sugar that we experience after meal.
5. Digestive Aid - Cinnamon improves digestion and absorption. It is an anti-bacterial and heals infections in the gastrointestinal track. If your suffering from an upset stomach or cramps, cinnamon tea can bring much relief. For diarrhoea, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder mixed with yogurt will make you feel better.
6. Natural Anesthetic - Cinnamon can act as a pain reliever in certain cases. For a sinus headache, you can combine 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder with water to make a paste and apply it on your forehead. A combination of cinnamon powder and honey or ginger can help treat arthritis pain. It is a good source of manganese which helps in building bones and other connective tissues. Hence it is helpful in arthritis and osteoporosis. A mix of cinnamon powder and ginger when applied as a paste can reduce post workout muscle soreness.

The Joy Of Cooking With Cinnamon:
You may probably have some cinnamon powder or sticks hiding in your kitchen cupboard. Let is show up in your meals. A pinch of cinnamon can make your desserts shine. Bake with it, not just rolls but even breads, muffins, tea cakes, and anything your heart fancies. It lends a certain depth to meat. Spice up your curries with cinnamon. I enjoy sipping on my cinnamon tea or just adding a pinch to my smoothies. Cinnamon powder is used for marinades, stews, soups, cakes and pies. Sprinkle some over yogurt, fresh fruits and on your breakfast cereal too!

Fun With DIY's:

1. Cinnamon Scented Candles 

  • Pillar candle, at least 3-inches in diameter
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Floral shears
  • Hot glue gun
  • Dish or Coaster

    • Measure candle height; cut cinnamon sticks to size with floral shears. You'll need about 20 lengths per candle.
    • Run hot glue along cinnamon stick; affix vertically to side of the candle. (Use low temperature setting to minimize melting.)
    • When first stick is dry, glue next stick snugly against it; repeat to cover candle.
    • Place finished candle on a dish or coaster.

    2. Cinnamon Sugar Scrub

      • 1 cup brown sugar 
      • 1/2 cup coconut oil melted
      • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 

        • Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Transfer in a pretty jar and decorate with ribbons
        • When in the shower, rub your skin gently with the scrub and rinse with warm water
                You could also use variations with cinnamon and  
                sugar mixture like apple sauce, ground coffee and    
                vanilla extract.

        Recipes You Should Try:

        1. Indian Style Cinnamon Tea 

          • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
          • 2 teaspoon tea powder
          • 2 cups water
          • 1/2 cup milk
          • sugar to taste
          • Bring one cup of water to boil, then add the tea powder, cinnamon stick, milk and sugar
          • Let it boil on low flame for 5 minutes and switch off the flame. Strain the tea into cups and serve.

          2. Arabian Cinnamon Chicken Pilaf 

            For Marination

            • 350 grams chicken breast 
            • 2 garlic cloves crushed 
            • 4 tablespoon natural yogurt
            • Juice of 1 lemon 
            • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
                   Other Ingredients 
            • 200 grams basmati rice (washed & soaked for 15 minutes)
            • 330 ml chicken stock 
            • 1 tablespoon butter
            • 1 onion finely chopped
            • 100 grams green peas 
            • large handful finely chopped parsley for garnish
            • lightly toasted almond flakes & pine nuts for garnish
            • salt to taste

              • Marinade chicken breasts with given ingredients for 15 minutes and keep aside. 
              • Melt the butter in a medium saucepan then add chopped onion and fry till translucent. 
              • Add the marinated chicken and fry until lightly brown.
              • Add the soaked basmati rice along with green peas. 
              • Add the chicken stock, mix all gently and cook till one boil. 
              • Cover and keep on low flame till fully cooked. 
              • Lastly garnish with parsley, almonds and pine nuts.

              3. Cinnamon Almond Milk

              • 20 almonds 
              • 1 teaspoon honey 
              • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
              • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
              • 3/4 cup milk

                • Combine almonds, honey, cinnamon and vanilla essence with milk in a mixer and blend till smooth.
                • Refrigerate and serve chilled. 


                Interesting Facts:
                1. Cardamom is known as the Queen of Spices.
                2. Cardamom is one of the world's most ancient spices.
                3. Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world after vanilla and saffron.
                4. Cardamom is the most common spice in India and is also used in cuisines across the world.
                5. Cardamom was used by the Greeks and Romans in their perfumes and the ancient Egyptians as mouth fresheners.

                Health Benefits:
                1. Cardamom is rich in vitamin A and C, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, riboflavin to name a few.
                2. Cardamom cures cough and cold and is anti-inflammatory.
                3. Cardamom lowers cholesterol and prevents heart disease.
                4. Cardamom helps in detoxification and digestion.
                5. Cardamom removes cavities and bad breath.
                6. Cardamom is good for diabetes and lowers blood pressure.
                7. Cardamom reduces cancer cells and is an anti depressant. 

                Home Remedies:
                1. Bad breath, mouth infections and ulcers - Chewing a cardamom pod after every meal will ward of bad breath, infections and ulcers.
                2. Cold and Flu - Having cardamom tea twice a day can help prevent cold and flu symptoms.
                3. Detoxification - The rich mineral content in cardamom acts as a blood purifier to remove toxins and excess urea and calcium from the kidney. The detoxifying properties help cleanse the body and prevent from cancer. Adding some crushed cardamom seeds to your morning tea can help detoxify the body. 
                4. Improves digestive health - Cardamom improves appetite and indigestion, belching, acidity and stomach cramps. Consume plain seeds, sprinkle cardamom powder on your food or have a healthy cup of cardamom tea. 
                5. Regularizes Heart Rate - Add a teaspoon of cardamom powder to a little honey and have once or twice a day. 
                6. Asthma, Whooping Cough and Bronchitis - Cardamom is highly beneficial for asthma and is a natural remedy for whooping cough and bronchitis. Inhaling steam infused with essential oil of cardamom will provide relief from a blocked sinus.
                7. Fights Anaemia - Cardamom has powerful antioxidants that helps replenish vitamins lost during an anaemic condition. It has copper, iron, manganese, and essential vitamins like riboflavin, vitamin C and niacin which are good for fighting symptoms of anaemia like fatigue and weakness. Add a pinch of cardamom powder and one teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of warm milk and drink it every night.

                Recipes You Should Try:

                1. Cardamom and Rose Ice Cream

                • 3 cups full fat milk
                • 1 cup fresh rose petals 
                • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
                • 1 cup pouring cream
                • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 
                • Fresh rose petals and crushed pistachios to garnish
                • Bring full fat milk, pouring cream, condensed milk and rose petals to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. 
                • Add the ground cardamom to it and blend with a hand blender.
                • Mix well and set aside to cool in fridge for 1 hour.
                • Either churn in an ice cream maker following the instructions OR cover in cling film and freeze for 6-8 hours.
                • Garnish with fresh rose petals and crushed pistachio.

                2. Cardamom Orange Pancakes


                • 135 gms plain flour
                • 135 ml milk
                • 1 large egg, beaten
                • zest and juice of 1 large orange 
                • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
                • 2 tablespoon castor sugar
                • pinch of salt 
                • Hershey's chocolate OR honey (optional)
                For the pancake batter

                • In a bowl mix plain flour, milk, egg, zest and juice of orange, ground cardamom, castor sugar and salt. 
                • Mix through until well combined. 
                • Let it rest while getting ready to cook the pancakes.
                • In a frying pan over low heat, grease lightly with butter.
                • Using a ladle, pour a spoonful of the pancake batter into the pan and swirl around to get an even spread.
                • Let it cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbles appear on surface.
                • Flip the pancake over and continue to cook further until lightly golden. 
                • Repeat this process with rest of the pancake batter.
                • Roll up two pancakes for each serving.
                • Serve with lighted dusted castor sugar over the pancakes and orange segments at the side OR
                • Serve with Hershey's chocolate poured over the pancakes and a dollop of fresh cream at the side OR
                • Just serve with the all time favourite 'honey' poured over the pancakes is yummy enough!

                3. Cardamom Honey Chicken

                For Marination

                • 1 whole chicken cut into parts or 4 chicken breasts/thighs
                • 4 tablespoon honey
                • 2 tablespoon sherry 
                • 1 teaspoon crushed cardamom
                • 1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns
                • 2 tablespoon olive oil
                • salt
                • Crushed garlic cloves
                • Slices of 2 lemon
                • Chopped onions, carrots, and potato wedges
                • Marinate the chicken with all above ingredients for few hours or refrigerate overnight for best results.
                • Preheat oven to 200 degrees. 
                • Heat olive oil in a pan, add crushed garlic and fry lightly.
                • Sear marinated chicken pieces for 20-30 seconds until golden brown. 
                • In a baking tray, cover with foil and drizzle olive oil and add the fried chicken pieces over it. 
                • Add the chopped vegetables all around the sides.
                • Brush with marinade all over chicken and vegetables.
                • Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. 
                • Check often. 
                • Remove from oven and keep to rest 10 minutes. 
                • Pour out drippings from the baking tray onto the chicken and vegetables and serve.
                • You can also serve the chicken with rice, mashed potatoes or couscous.

                4. Cardamom and Lemon Cookies

                • 2 cups plain flour
                • 230 grams softened butter
                • 3/4 cup castor sugar 
                • 1 lemon, zest only
                • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom 
                • 1/2 cup roughly chopped almonds
                • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios 

                  • Preheat oven to 190 degree celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.
                  • In a food processor pulse the flour, butter, sugar, lemon zest in a large bowl until dough forms.
                  • Add the cardamom, almonds and pistachios and pulse again until well combined.
                  • Roll the dough into 24 balls, place on tray and bake for 10-12 minutes until pale brown (make sure you leave space between each one).
                  • Cool on the baking tray for few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 
                  • They will crisp up as they cool.
                  • Store the cookies in an airtight container and eat within 7 days.


                    Interesting Facts:
                    1. Turmeric was called 'Indian Saffron' by the people of the Middle Ages because it was often used as a less expensive alternative to saffron.
                    2. Turmeric is a natural antivenin for King Cobra snake bites.
                    3. India is the world's largest producer and consumer of Turmeric.
                    4. It is a ritual in Indian weddings to apply turmeric paste of the bride and groom's face and arms.
                    5. Turmeric is the ingredient that gives out a vibrant yellow colour in foods.

                    Health Benefits:
                    1.Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that provides relief from arthritic pains.
                    2. Turmeric contains a power compound - curcumin which promotes repair in the stem cells of the brain - the same stem cells that can help in the recovery of neurodegenerative diseases like stroke and Alzheimer's.
                    3. Turmeric aids in digestion.
                    4. Turmeric has healing properties. It's antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties makes it an effective disinfectant.
                    5. Turmeric helps boost immunity. Lipopolysaccharide - a substance in turmeric with anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties helps stimulate the human immune system.
                    6. Turmeric helps your liver detox. It is known to increase the production of the vital enzymes that detoxify our blood in the liver by breaking down and reducing the toxins. Turmeric is instrumental in promoting good liver health. 

                    Home Remedies:
                    1. Treat ulcers and digestive problems - Mix one teaspoon turmeric powder in a cup of boiling water, let it cool and then drink (you can sweeten with sugar or honey).
                    2. Relieves sore throat - Mix a teaspoonful of honey with a teaspoon of turmeric and swallow about 4 times a day. OR Mix 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle in the throat.
                    3. Treating acne - Smear a mixture made from a tablespoon of milk and a bit of turmeric, apply on face at night and wash well in the morning.
                    4. Quick healing of wounds and stop bleeding of cuts - Make a thick mixture of turmeric with a bit of water and apply on wounds and bleeding cuts for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
                    5. Relieves asthma attacks - Mix 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of hot water and drink in small sips.
                    6. Harsh PMS or cramps - Mix a teaspoon and a half of turmeric in a glass of hot milk and drink while warm.

                    Recipes You Should Try:

                    1. Golden Turmeric Milk

                    • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder or small piece of crushed fresh turmeric root
                    • 1 cup milk
                    • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
                    • 1 teaspoon honey
                    • Heat the milk in a saucepan and bring to boil.
                    • Add the turmeric power or fresh turmeric root and let it simmer on low flame for few minutes.
                    • Remove from flame, add freshly ground pepper and mix well.
                    • Allow to cool until lukewarm then add honey and mix well.
                    • Drink immediately.
                    • Golden Turmeric Milk is best for common cold, cough, flu, sore throat and insomnia.

                    2. Middle Eastern Lentil Soup (Shorba)


                    • 2 tbsp olive oil
                    • 1 large onion, chopped
                    • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
                    • 4 cups chicken stock
                    • 2 cups water 
                    • 1 1/2 red lentils 
                    • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat 
                    • 1 teaspoon cumin
                    • 1 teaspoon turmeric
                    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
                    • 2 tablespoon tomato chopped or paste 
                    • salt and pepper to taste 
                    • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
                    • parsley for garnishing
                    • Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion and garlic till lightly golden.
                    • Add cumin, turmeric, cayenne, tomato and mix well. 
                    • Add chicken stock and water and bring to simmer. Add the red lentils and bulgur wheat and boil well for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally till fully cooked.
                    • Take the soup off the heat and blend till smooth puree.
                    • Pour in a bowl and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
                    • Garnish with parsley.