My mother had one small spice rack in her kitchen that contained tins of mustard powder, white pepper, mild paprika, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, marjoram, thyme, sage and a couple of others. Cinnamon was probably the most commonly used one for baking and mixed with sugar for cinnamon toast. As far as I knew, the paprika was only ever sprinkled over mashed potatoes for colour. Curly parsley was probably the only fresh green herb that we knew.
Today I probably have over 40 different herbs and spices in my kitchen. All these are necessary to prepare the different types of cuisine that I make. Indian cuisine is one of the most fascinating for its unusual blends of spices and herbs. It is not unusual to use a combination of 5-10 different herb and spices in one dish. Some recipes call for the spices to be dry heated in a pan first. Some call for the herbs to be cooked in the dish then added fresh to the completed dish as well for two different tastes.
Beef Do Piaza (Beef with onions cooked in two different ways)
2 large onions
20 mL (1-½ Tbsp) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) freshly grated ginger
1 mL (¼ tsp) chilli powder
7.5 mL (½Tbsp) ground coriander
7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) ground cumin
2.5 mL (½ tsp) ground turmeric
2 cardamom seeds, crushed
600 g beef, chopped into cubes
125 mL (½ cup) yoghurt
200 g can crushed tomatoes
15 mL (1 Tbsp) fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
15 mL (1 Tbsp) fresh mint, chopped
6 mL (¾ Tbsp) garam masala
Thinly slice one onion and dice the other. Heat half the olive oil in a large pan, add the sliced onions and cook until lightly browned. Remove onions from pan and reserve. Heat remaining olive oil and add the diced onion, garlic and ginger; cook, stirring until onions are lightly browned. Stir in spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add beef and brown on all sides. Add yoghurt in about 4 batches, stirring well after each addition. Add undrained crushed tomatoes; simmer, covered about 30 minutes or until beef is tender. Just before serving, add reserved onion slices, fresh herbs and garam masala; stir until heated through.