Indian dishes are best made with freshly ground spices. The aroma and flavors in dishes made with fresh ground spices will encourage you to grind them yourself.
Fortunately, you can grind and mix your own Indian spices using a mortar and pestle. This handy kitchen tool can become your go-to gadget if you enjoy cooking Indian food.
Mortar and pestle vs. spice grinders
Most people are familiar with spice grinders. They work the same way as pepper grinders do, and tend to be expensive.
Spice grinders are not as versatile as a mortar and pestle because they can’t grind ingredients with water content, such as garlic or onion. So, if you want a new kitchen “gadget” that’s going to be useful in many ways, you might try a mortar and pestle. They can be found in most stores that carry a wide selection of kitchen items, but you can also find less expensive sets at antique malls.
Using a mortar and pestle is easy. Look at all of your Indian recipes and see which spices you use often. For instance, mustard seeds in vindaloo. Pour about a tablespoon of mustard seeds into the mortar (the bowl, which can be made with wood, marble, ceramic, or other materials), and then use the pestle (the grinder, which typically has a wider, fatter end and a tapered end) and use the fatter end to grind down the mustard seeds. You can crush the seeds by pounding them, or by gently swirling the pestle around the mortar. Place the mustard seeds into a bowl, and repeat the process with another spice if needed.
Some spices, such as cardamom, are more difficult to grind down because they have a coating. If you need to grind cardamom, use a pounding motion to crush the cardamom pods into smaller pieces. Then, switch to a swirling motion and remove any of the outer shells that come off. Place the ground cardamom into its own bowl or jar.
Another common spice used in Indian cuisine is coriander. These are the seeds of cilantro plants. Grind these using the same techniques you used for grinding the cardamom pods, except these do not have a thick outer coating. Place the ground coriander into another jar. Try not to mix the spices until you are ready to do so.
It’s easy to use a mortar and pestle to grind spices at home and then mix the spices up later for any Indian dish that you want to create.