Food and Ingredients News

Indian cooking and the spice of life

I think we’ve all been there at one time or another and had a disastrous experience with too much spice. It may well cause a moment of hilarity, when one or the other of our guests is calling for water, lots of it and quickly, but it begs the question: “why do we use spices?”

One of the first things that you’ll learn at any Indian cookery course is that spices are not just for flavour. To many peoples on the subcontinent, fresh and organic spices are not just to give their food a bit of a kick. The marriage of more mundane ingredients with exotic herbs and spices, traded in local markets for centuries, is as much to do with ensuring that their bodies stay nourished as it is with anything to do with simply flavour.

The old adage, we are what we eat, has never been truer than with the concept of the n=majority of Indian cuisine. Collated over many centuries, the various indigenous peoples of regions of India have developed harmonious recipes that blend affluent, local spices to produce the dishes we know and love in the UK as our favourite take-away food.

Ayurveda is much more than the technique developed of marrying ingredients to one another, as sworn by by the populace of many Indian townships. It is an out and out science that draws upon the chemistry between ingredients, developed through time-honoured practises (in the absence of any scientific equipment), passed down from generation to generation.

Okay, it may not pass a stringent examination under controlled conditions in a lab as a health benefit, but many of the blends we taste in our favourite Indian dishes have remained fervent in their respective cultures due to the belief that such time-honoured combinations as we’re now used to seeing accompanied with rice, naan, chapatti and roti have the added benefit of helping to stave off disease.

So not only are many of the Rogan Josh, Jalfrezi and other spicy dishes mouthwateringly tasty, but it’s the common belief of the people who uphold the traditions of their preparation to a traditional recipe that each curry or balti we have is doing our body good in a way that we perhaps do not even realise.

The scarcity of food in such tropical zones is well documented and the way of thinking that has been enforcedly adopted over time is: what benefits are my meal going to deliver my body and mind? Necessity is the mother of invention and many of the combinations of onions, chilli, red meat and spices that make up the basic ingredients of your common or garden curry dish are the results of using combining what ingredients were available to help stave off the effects of malnutrition and pestilence in times gone by.  A blessing in disguise as we look back, one may hasten to say.

So the next time you’re sitting down with your Biryani, mostly unknown on home shores sixty years hence, just think of the journey that traditional dish has had to get onto your plate today.

Spices are a truly fascinating culture on their own – and can be quite lethal if served in inappropriate doses but a boon when you know how to get the best from them.
The quickest and easiest way to acquaint yourself with their benefits is take on one of the many popular Indian cookery classes on offer, many available from those on our cookery course home page. Get to grips with your corianders, cumins, turmerics and cardamoms once and for all so that next time the boss comes round for a curry, you end up giving them too much of a chilli reception, whether they deserve it or not.

Cookery Courses London News

Muck in with Maunika at an Indian cookery class Bombay-style

Freelancer food writer and self-styled Indian cookery chef Maunika Gowardhan is taking her culinary expertise offline and wrapping it all up in a cookery course in London, far from her adopted home town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and a lot further away from Bombay, where she was born, raised and learned to cook using plentiful local ingredients and handed down recipes and techniques from her family.

Bombay offers one of India’s most diverse cross section of sub-continent styles, techniques and recipes and Maunika was fortunate enough to have the opportunity, with the assistance of her mother and grandmother, to indulge in many of the influences that give rise to the region’s reputation as a veritable melting pot of Asian delights.

It is this insight into the way that the many communities use the plethora of local and traded ingredients available in close proximity, and then blending those spices in their own unique way, that Maunika is hoping to share with the students in her one-off cookery course next month.

The cookery course is designed to be fun and interactive with Maunika very much inviting queries from the students who take advantage of this unique opportunity. As well as the memorable experience the cookery class itself promises to deliver, drawing upon over a decade of Maunika’s experience in sharing and preparing authentic Indian dishes, there will be the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour both on the day and time and again at home with all of the cookery class menu on recipe cards that you can keep in a safe place at home ready to amaze and impress your friends and family when next you invite them around for a meal, which we’re sure you’ll be only too eager to do once you have experienced this very different, personal and traditional insight into Asian cookery with a twist.

So, if you want to know how to put all of the spices together from scratch and learn how each of the very distinctive tastes compliment or contradict another and also learn how to whip up the chutney dips and varies Indian breads so that you can justifiably call your curry, and your menu, your own, places are bookable online. The date is the evening of the 16th May, location Druid Street, London SE1. Full details at

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