When I started this project, I asked my mom what seven spices I should keep in my masala dabba; of course, every cook has a different idea of what spices are the most necessary, but these seven are the most necessary to my mom (and by extension, to me):
- garam masala (curry powder)
- methi (fenugreek) powder
- hing (asafoetida) powder
- bay leaves
- elaichi (cardamom)
- saunf (fennel seeds)
- gurl (jaggery, or unrefined cane sugar)
There are too many herbs and spices used in Indian cuisine for me to list them all, but the ones I have listed above are a good starting point.
My mom believes the key to dhania powder and jeera powder is to roast the whole spices yourself and then grind them into spices. It is a simple process that requires a bit of heat and some elbow grease.
When my husband and I returned from India a few months ago, we stopped in Dubai and spent some time in the local spice market and I purchased my first mortar and pestle. I can't believe I ever lived without one of these! It is a great tool for grinding fresh spices.