Herbs & spices

herbspice.jpgOver the years , I like many people have used more and more spices.Growing up in the 50’s I had hardly heard of a spice except perhaps cinnamon or mixed spice on the top of a rice pudding ! Now the amount used in cookery and food is amazing and new spices come to light every day.We are so lucky to live in an age where so many  herbs and spices are available to us.A lot of this of course is because of the wonderful amount of Asian restaurants in Britain now and the fact that we have become more adventurous.

Preserving  herbs



Most herbs can be preserved one way or the other , below is the way to keep a few of them.


  • Spread the mint leaves on to kitchen paper and lay in the microwave.

  • Put on medium for about 2 minutes and the mint will go crisp…a bit longer if needed.

  • Crumble up with your fingers and put into jars.

  • This will keep for about a year .


  • Basil does not keep easily, the best way is to put a leaf or two into ice cube trays and freeze.

  •   you can  pack leaves with some tender stems into a half-cup measure and whirl  them in a food processor with a quarter cup of extra-virgin olive oil. This created a nice paste that froze well and popped right out of the ice cube trays. When thawed the basil oil was excellent for whipping into a salad dressing or adding to cooked recipes. 


  • The best way to preserve this wonderful herb is to hang in large bundles in your kitchen to dry (this also keeps away flies)

  • Crumble up and keep in containers.


  • Hang in bunches in a warm, dry place away from strong sun.

  • When dry, crumble and store in airtight containers.

  • To freeze, pack in small plastic bags.

  • To store more than three months, blanch before freezing.


  • Cut stems 6 to 8 inches above ground when plant starts to flower.

  • Hang upside down in warm, dry, dark room, or dry individual leaves on cheesecloth or kitchen paper. When dry, leaves crumble easily. Store whole or crushed in airtight containers.

  •  To freeze, wash leaves, pack in ice cube trays and fill with water. When frozen, remove cubes and store in plastic bags.

  • Defrost in a strainer and use as fresh

Coriander or fennel seeds

  • Cut off seed heads and dry in an airy place on mesh over cloth-lined container.

  • When seeds are dry, shake out of heads and store in airtight containers.

  • Flavour improves if stored a month before using.


  • Chives lose their color and flavour when dried.

  • To freeze, wash and chop finely and put in ice cube trays and freeze.

  • When frozen take out of trays and keep in plastic bags in the freezer till needed.

Making your own spice mixes


Many people do not realise that they  can make spice mixes like Garam masala with the spices they already have in their store cupboard.They don’t have to be exact either , you can play around with the spices if you don’t have one of them.

Garam masala

This  is an Indian spice used in meat and fish dishes – curries ,tandoories and grills , also rice and pulses.It also blends well with yogurt

1 – 3 tsp ground cardamom seeds

1 – 2 inch piece cinnamon stick ground

1 – 2 tsp ground black cumin seeds

1tsp ground nutmeg or 2 tsp ground pomegranate seeds

1 tsp ground black pepper

  • Mix all the ingredients together,

  • for a sharper ,tarter garam masala use the pomegranate seeds and lower the amount of the other ingredients.



Milder and more delicate than  curry dishes,there are lots of different korma dishes but they all share the same cooking method ,braising.Korma dishes usually have almonds or coconut and uses yogurt or cream as the braising medium.Here is a basic Korma mixture using ground spices.

2tsp ground almonds or 4 tsp dessicated coconut

1 – 2tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp ground chilli powder or cayenne to taste

half tsp ground cinnamon

half tsp ground cloves

3 – 4 garlic cloves peeled and chopped

half tsp ground ginger or small piece of ginger root grated

1 and half tsp ground turmeric or saffron(optional)

1 – 2 tsp ground coriander (optional)

  • For a simple Korma ,combine the spices with the yogurt

  • But for authentic results follow individual recipe instructions since cooking methods vary

  • Some recipes will combine all the spices ,others will mix the ginger and garlic to a paste which is used separately from the rest of the spices.

Madras mixture


1 – 3 tsp ground chilli

8 tbs ground coriander seeds

3 tbs ground cumin

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds

1tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp turmeric

4 whole curry leaves

  • Mix together all ground dry ingredients,

  • then proceed according to recipe instructions adding the curry leaves directly to the cooking pot.

Vindaloo mixture


This is a classic vindaloo mixture ,choose between two methods .

1tsp whole cardamom seeds

3 inch piece cinnamon stick

1tsp whole cloves

2 tsp whole cumin seeds

1 tsp whole fenugreek seeds

1 tsp whole mustard seeds

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

3 tsp whole coriander seeds

10 garlic cloves chopped (or to taste)

1 inch piece ginger

half tsp turmeric

1 – 5 tsp ground chilli to taste

1 tsp salt

1tsp brown sugar (optional)

2 – 4 fl oz vinegar

175g/6oz onions peeled,chopped,fried and pureed(optional)

Method 1

  • Lightly roast the first 10 ingredients together

  • then grind and add the turmeric , chilli, salt,,sugar,vinegar and onion to make a vindaloo paste marinade.

  • Use according to the recipe.

Method 2

  • Lightly roast together the first seven ingredients

  • Grind and add the chilli.salt,sugar,vinegar and onions.

  • Use this as the vindaloo paste marinade

  • Then blend together the garlic and fresh ginger ,adding a little water if necessary

  • Fry this and add the turmeric and coriander.

  • Use according to recipe instructions.





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