Coriander and Cumin or The CC Powder

Being married into an Indian family, I learned a few things: Time is a flexible, fluid entity; when you have a few millennia of history underpinning your culture, what’s an hour here or there. You can always eat–and if you can’t, you’re probably not conscious. Spices to a cook are like essences to a perfumer. On this latter point, I would like to linger.

cc powder

I thought I knew spices before I went to India, but nothing prepared me for the dazzling array of flavors and the variety of techniques with which they can be brought to life. India is divided into 29 states, and each region has its spice signature; generalizing is all but impossible. For instance, Aai’s, my mother-in-law’s cooking combines the refined sweetness beloved in her native Gujarat with the robust spiciness of Maharashtra fare. These two states share a long border, but the cuisines are remarkably different. Gujarati cooking is rich in coriander, tamarind, with peanuts and sesame giving it a nutty flavor, while Marathi dishes have a sharp bite of garlic, chili pepper and mustard seeds. Cross into northern India, and the richness of cinnamon, clove and fenugreek color the local meals. Travel down the southern coast, and coconut becomes the main leitmotif.

Watching my mother-in-law taste vegetables and then open her masala dabba, a spice box, to find the right seasoning was mesmerizing. With a few judicious pinches, she’d amplify the sweetness of carrots or tone down the green tang of okra. “How do you know which spices go with which foods?” I kept asking, and she patiently explained. Some aromatics are sweet, others are bitter, and depending on what you want to highlight in your dish, you make your choices. It is part science, part alchemy. It’s cooking by the nose.

dabba

I also acquired a spice box for my kitchen. It’s a round, double-lidded metal container with 8 bowls for spices, and I usually keep it filled with paprika, hot chili pepper flakes, turmeric, cardamom, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander-cumin powder. The latter, also known in our household as the cc powder, is one of Aai’s favorite blends. Now it’s one of mine.

If you haven’t made your own spice mixes before, trying your hand at cc powder will be a treat for several reasons. First, it’s simple. You roast two spices, grind them and have a generous supply to see you through several months. Second, you get a marvelous scented experience as coriander and cumin change into something far richer, plusher, and warmer. Coriander gains a caramelized orange accent, along with a buttery popcorn nuance, while cumin loses its sweaty note and becomes nutty and incense-like. Finally, since spices are already cooked, you can use the mix in anything, from marinades to salads. Indian tradition frowns upon eating raw spices (cardamom and nutmeg are among the few exceptions), and so should you; lightly toasted spices taste infinitely better and more complex.

cc powder-vcc powder-vv

How to Use the CC Powder

On grapefruit: sprinkle cut grapefruit with salt and add 1/4 teaspoon of cc powder. If you’ve only tried grapefruit with sugar, the salty combination will be a surprise.

In salty lassi: mix 2 cups chilled yogurt, 1 cup cold water, 1 teaspoon cc powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste) in a blender. Garnish with mint leaves.

In salad dressings: combine lemon juice, olive oil, cc powder, black pepper, salt, grated orange zest (optional) and finely minced parsley, or another herb of your choice. A touch of orange zest will highlight the caramel orange accent of toasted coriander. Serve over green lettuce, cucumbers or tomatoes.

In marinades for fish and chicken: juice of one lemon, 1 teaspoon cc powder, 2 crushed garlic cloves, salt, a splash of olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of honey will be enough for 1lb of fish fillets. Roast in the oven or grill. Use a similar marinade for chicken, but instead of lemon juice, try orange juice or white wine. Increase the amount of honey and instead of crushing garlic, mince it and rub it into the skin. Basil leaves strewn over chicken at the last minute will add a licorice note.

In rice pilaf with cardamom and pistachios: melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan and add 1 chopped onion and 1 minced garlic clove. Cook, stirring, until transparent. Add 1 teaspoon of cc powder, 3 cardamom pods and 1/4 cup whole pistachios. Add 1 cup long grain rice and stir briefly over low heat until grains are coated with the butter. Add 1.5 cups of water, salt to taste. Bring to a boil, cover tightly with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the pilaf rest for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, discard cardamom pods and bay leaves. It also makes a great base for a cold rice salad.

cc-powder

The photo above shows the subtle color change you should aim for. Top to bottom: toasted cumin, raw cumin, toasted coriander, raw coriander.

CC Powder (Toasted Coriander-Cumin Mix)

Use twice as much coriander as cumin per volume. For instance, for every tablespoon of cumin add two of coriander.

1/2 cup whole coriander seeds
1/4 cup whole cumin seeds

Toast each spice individually in a dry pan. Start with cumin. Toss it on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to turn golden and emit an incense-like scent. Transfer to a bowl. Add coriander seeds to the same pan. Since the pan is already hot, toss the seeds vigorously to prevent them from burning. Coriander will barely change color; it will start smelling first like lemon and then like caramel oranges. This quantity should take you about 4 minutes to bring the spice to the right condition. Transfer coriander to toasted cumin seeds and allow them to cool. Use a coffee grinder to make fine powder.

I keep some cc powder in my spice box and store the rest in the freezer to preserve flavor.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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112 Comments

  • Debbie H: I love this post. The only problem is that I’m now hungry. 😀 August 5, 2015 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 Thank you, Debbie. August 5, 2015 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Michaela: Divine!
    Now I have to make cc powder! Thank you so much.
    Your mother in law must have a perfect nose and assisting her must have been an incredible experience.
    Thank you for the article, for the very useful pictures (it’s easy to say how much to roast but it’s much easier to see), and for the information. I never knew there are so many and so different Indian cooking styles. August 5, 2015 at 8:29am Reply

    • Michaela: The spice box is cleverly done and lovely, enjoy it! August 5, 2015 at 8:32am Reply

      • Victoria: It’s sold at Indian shops for about $10-15, and I’ve had mine for 6-7 years already. It’s plain, but it’s functional, and the double lids keep spices fresh. August 5, 2015 at 2:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: Most Indian women cook by their nose, and in Orthodox Hindu households no food is tasted during cooking, because it first needs to be offered to gods. So, women rely entirely on their other senses to cook. This is not the case with us, but my MIL has a finely attuned nose and palate when it comes to spices. Comes from many years of experience. I’m lucky because she also taught cooking, so she explains things really well. August 5, 2015 at 2:32pm Reply

      • Michaela: I can hardly imagine how one can cook without tasting. They must have a great experience in smelling and a very good memory!
        Things become easier when you have a god teacher, yes, you are lucky.
        I tried this powder yesterday, and, it’s a surprise. Much better than the cumin or coriander (raw) I was used to. I tried it in the salad dressing with steamed red beet roots and I found they go great together. Thank you for the recipe. August 6, 2015 at 6:48am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, practice and ability to judge doneness by color, sound and smell. It’s a real skill. I don’t think I’d like to cook this way, because tasting is one of the privileges of a cook. 🙂

          So happy to hear you liked the results. Yes, the change in flavor that a short roasting gives is huge. August 6, 2015 at 2:27pm Reply

  • limegreen: What a delight to see this, Victoria, thank you! I can almost smell the fragrance of the spices, it’s mouth-watering. (caramelized oranges and incense, what a combination!)
    And your mother-in-law’s spicing technique seems very intriguing, a deep understanding of the balance of all the elements.

    My only foray into making any kind of spice blend was when I once made garam masala (from the classic Moosewood cookbook, I think) and could not believe how much work it was to gather all the spices since I did not already have them in my kitchen, and then I made enough of a batch to last a lifetime since I didn’t cook with it regularly! I did love how it smelled though.
    Thanks for the inspiration, I’ll have to try this cc powder — seems so versatile. August 5, 2015 at 8:34am Reply

    • Victoria: When I open the grinder and transfer the spice powder into another container, it’s such a heady experience. Cumin really changes, but coriander becomes downright gourmand. I keep thinking that I should experiment with a shortbread recipe using toasted coriander powder and vanilla.

      My favorite garam masala recipe comes from one of Julie Sahni’s books, and it made sense to try it, because it contained ingredients stores would never include–saffron, cardamom and nutmeg in large enough quantity. I’ve doctored up my MIL’s garam masala to include saffron, because it adds such an intriguing note. Garam masala is also versatile. It can be used in much the same way as the cc powder. August 5, 2015 at 2:37pm Reply

      • limegreen: Between lavender and violet cake and now coriander shortbread, afternoon tea at your place seems delectable!

        (And add Karen’s award-winning lavender jam!)

        I had lavender shortbread and rosemary sorbet once and thought it was the height of innovation, now there are even more combinations. 🙂 August 5, 2015 at 4:40pm Reply

        • Victoria: I haven’t been baking much lately, since it’s hot in Brussels, and our apartment gets overheated easily. But once it cools, I’m planning to experiment. Plus, a new season of the Great British Bake-off has started, and that show makes me want to try everything they’re making. August 6, 2015 at 1:35pm Reply

      • zari: Coriander is my most favorite spice I think, for its headiness and citrus flavor; followed by cumin for its pungency and turmeric for its earthy, nuanced taste. I’m hungry now :(! August 5, 2015 at 10:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: A bit of turmeric in lentil soup makes such a big difference. Yes, it’s one of my favorites too. August 6, 2015 at 1:41pm Reply

  • spe: Fascinating information and thank you for the cc recipe! We have some Indian restaurants here that are delicious and now I’m excited to attempt some of your suggestions. And thank you for the photos! August 5, 2015 at 8:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad to hear that you liked! I’m passionate about the subject of spices, so I’m only happy to talk about them. August 5, 2015 at 2:37pm Reply

  • Sofie: Cooking by the nose, now there’s a title for a cookbook :-). It’s something I’ve learned doing thanks to a very unreliable oven. I love baking, but our house came with a very old oven that doesn’t listen to recommended baking times. So now I use my nose. Same with cooking. It’s not that long ago that I really started using herbs and spices in cooking. It makes such a difference! and sniffing things out when you’re cooking makes it a very in-the-moment experience rather than just another task. I will defenitely try this mixture, thank you. August 5, 2015 at 8:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Would it be a fun cookbook? You’re right, you can cook so much reliably using your nose. A baked sponge cake really smells in an unmistakable way, and once you pay attention, it becomes easy. Plus, you enjoy cooking even more, since you get your rewards before you even start eating. August 5, 2015 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Hamamelis: Lovely post, thank you! I can almost smell the spices from my screen 😉
    I am going to make a batch this evening, can be used immediately as I am planning something curry like. Inspired by your previous cooking post and cookery books I bought some Turkish red pepper flakes (Pul Biber), they are absolutely delicious, but you have to like it somewhat hot. I haven’t commented often lately, very busy jobwise in the weeks preceding our road trip (and I will make a fragrant report as promised!). We have opened our first studio outside of the Netherlands…in Brussels! August 5, 2015 at 8:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Congratulations! 🙂 This is exciting. So, you’re somewhere close by?

      I love Turkish peppers, red and black smoky ones. The red has such a wonderful apricot-like flavor that I haven’t encountered in other pepper varieties. August 5, 2015 at 2:42pm Reply

      • Hamamelis: Thank you! It is very exciting, and it seems we are making momentum (and many hours…)

        I just made a curry with chicken, CC powder, spinach, and used the Pul Biber as well. My husband loved it.

        The studio is run by a very kind man (IMO, he is a Dutchman) who will expand the business in Belgium. It is located in Quatre Bras, but he is planning to open 4 more studio’s in Brussels. I don’t know where you are, if you are interested I can mail you the English website (with the Brussels address). I believe it is such a good fitness method, although it seems too good to be true, it really isn’t, it is just out of the current fitness box! August 5, 2015 at 2:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: Please email it! I’d be happy to take a look. And congratulations again.

          Your chicken dish sounds wonderful. What did you use for the sauce/gravy, or was your curry a dry one? August 5, 2015 at 3:03pm Reply

          • Hamamelis: For the gravy I used very finely ground onion, fresh ginger, garlic, and the Turkish pepper, almost to a paste, and chicken broth (first frying cardamon, and cinnamon stick, adding onion paste, browning the chicken, adding CC., taking out the chicken, adding spinach, once it is wilted adding chicken broth and put chicken back. Let it cook for 25 mins till chicken is cooked, I used ‘drumsticks’).
            I will mail the site! August 5, 2015 at 3:24pm Reply

            • Victoria: Sounds so delicious, and I can just imagine all of the flavors. Chicken and spinach are among two of my favorite foods (the list is long, of course). August 5, 2015 at 3:29pm Reply

    • limegreen: H — Glad you won’t forget about the scent diary even though you’ve been busy with work!
      Did you go, or are you going to Barcelona? August 5, 2015 at 4:44pm Reply

      • Hamamelis: Hi Limegreen, on the way back we will spend a night close to, but not in Barcelona, it is closer to Girona. We don’t have so much time to explore, so Barcelona has to wait till another time. August 6, 2015 at 10:15am Reply

    • Michaela: You opened your studio in Brussels on purpose! 🙂 August 6, 2015 at 4:34am Reply

      • Michaela: Congratulations! 🙂 August 6, 2015 at 4:35am Reply

        • Hamamelis: Thank you Michaela! It was just a happy coincidence that the first one is in Brussels. August 6, 2015 at 10:11am Reply

          • Karen: Adding my congratulations, too! August 6, 2015 at 1:01pm Reply

  • Rebecca: I never liked pre-made curry mixes, but it never occurred to me to make spice blends myself. It looks so easy.

    On a totally dif topic, can you please do a post about coriander in perfume? I like this note in Agent Provocateur and I’d love to learn more about it. August 5, 2015 at 8:59am Reply

    • Rebecca: *shyly* and cumin too. I need to know what to avoid. 🙂 I like it in food but in perfumes it always smells wrong on me. I hope you don’t mind me pestering you like this. I love your posts about perfume notes. August 5, 2015 at 9:02am Reply

      • limegreen: Second! I love the perfume notes posts, too!

        I know what you mean about cumin (in fragrances) — we just have to make sure it’s “toasted” so it’s more incense and less sweaty. 🙂
        (P.S. The cumin in Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger does not have the same sweaty effect on my skin so I learned that not all cumin is to be avoided. But maybe FdO is dreadful for you.) August 5, 2015 at 10:02am Reply

        • Victoria: My husband can detect cumin instantly, better than I can, so I use him as my cumin-detector. Stuck a wrist scented with FdO under his nose, and he said, “cumin and white flowers.” 🙂 But I love it, and I don’t get anything untoward out of it. August 5, 2015 at 2:49pm Reply

          • limegreen: 🙂 Well, of course! Your husband grew up with delicious cc powder and pure cumin, too.
            My husband is very selective about what he notices — only the cumin in Bigarade Concentree (he called it “eau de bathroom”) but it was in a warm car with the windows up, before the A/C got going.
            Since then, on the recommendation of an insightful Malle SA, I’ve layered BC with Bois d’Orage (aka French Lover) and it’s toned down the eau de cumin. It’s reportedly the cardamom in BC but I swear it’s cumin, though neither note is listed! August 5, 2015 at 4:56pm Reply

            • Victoria: 🙂 Their noses get honed around us. I bet you my husband didn’t notice as many scents before. But the aromas he’s familiar with, like cardamom and cumin, he will pick up instantly. And also orange blossom water and rose water in food. August 6, 2015 at 1:38pm Reply

      • Victoria: Not at all! Please ask anytime. If I have means, I will always cover what you guys ask me about. The only problem is that I sometimes forget–there is a lot in my drafts folder. If that happens, please don’t hesitate to give me a nudge. I don’t mind at all. August 5, 2015 at 2:44pm Reply

        • limegreen: I think I speak for everyone here that we would love to read whatever is in your drafts folder!!! (Highly doubt they are “drafts”!) 🙂 August 5, 2015 at 4:58pm Reply

          • Victoria: Hmmm, many of them are in such rudimentary stages that calling them drafts is an overstatement. August 6, 2015 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Elisa: Good idea for an article! August 5, 2015 at 12:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I will do! It’s a good idea, since it’s such a great and interesting ingredient. August 5, 2015 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Nikki: I encountered Indian culture while studying for my Masters in the USA. It truly is one of the great cuisines of the world. It is interesting to note how some spices seem to evaporate into the air through one’s skin, quite unusual for European noses used to different spices and scents.

    I love your comment about time. One of the most remarkable scenes I witnessed at that business school was of a female Indian business student rolling around in the wet mud during the first drenching Monsoon summer rains in the desert. I still think to this day that it was a gift to see an otherwise analytical right brained student let go and be one with the elements. I am sure it would be a great exercise in one of those leadership programs…

    East and West really do belong together, and it is a privilege to be able to get to know both.

    Nice post, V!

    p.s. I am wearing Gardenia Passion by Annick Goutal now as it is Monsoon season here. August 5, 2015 at 9:26am Reply

    • Victoria: All aromatics we consume affect our body chemistry, not just spices. There is a reason why Europeans stank of rancid butter to Chinese when they first encountered them.

      Gardenia Passion would bloom so well in warm, humid air. You smell wonderful. August 5, 2015 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Annikky: A lovely post and great pictures, too. If nothing else, I need to make that lassi for J, he’s a great fan of the salty ones. I love spices, which is sometimes a bit confusing for people, as I cannot handle the hotness of chili and consequently have to look for the “non-spicy” items on the menu in restaurants. I’m in it for the flavours rather than the capsaicin kick 🙂 August 5, 2015 at 10:34am Reply

    • Victoria: For lassi, you can also use just the roasted cumin, which is more traditional. But another great addition is grated lemon zest. I’ve tasted lassi in India with crushed lemon leaves, roasted cumin and ginger, and that was amazing. Of course, one of the best drinks in the world is freshly pressed sugar cane juice with ginger. I’d go to India just for that. Not sure where you can find this sort of thing here.

      True, there is plenty of difference between spicy and hot. I can even very hot food, but even in India, the level of heat varies. In Gujarat, the food is fairly mild (spicy but not hot). Sweetness tones it down. In fact, a common India cure for a mouth on fire is to suck on a piece of sugar cube. August 5, 2015 at 2:53pm Reply

  • Sandra: My mother in law is also Gujarati- she watches after my daughter while I am at work and is already turning her into an Indian eating baby at 8 months! I found tumeric stains on her little onesies!
    I am non- Indian- and I have to say my favorite is the way she makes her chai masala tea! August 5, 2015 at 10:36am Reply

    • Victoria: How does she make it?

      My MIL also makes a delicious hot milk with lemongrass. It’s too warm to attempt it now, so I’m waiting for the cooler days to bring out this recipe.

      Your baby is very lucky, all of these great sensory experiences at such a young age will enrich her world very much. August 5, 2015 at 2:54pm Reply

      • Sandra: I am not quit sure- I have asked her once but I couldn’t follow what she was saying. I will ask her again and then report back to you. August 5, 2015 at 5:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! I’d love to know. August 6, 2015 at 1:39pm Reply

  • Trudy: I love this post! I am going to make the CC powder and try some of the suggestions. The marinade, salad dressing, and rice look especially yummy. I love cumin and use it often so I’m looking forward to experimenting with this powder. A bit off topic, but I was wondering if someone can recommend a really good incense brand. Especially patchouli. I would like to purchase some as a gift to a patchouli lover and I haven’t had much luck so far. Suggestions would be appreciated. Sorry to venture off subject though. August 5, 2015 at 11:04am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Shoyeido, and you can find their full collection on their website. They may not have a straightforward patchouli, since Japanese incenses are complex, but there was a variety with a nice patchouli note. It might have been called Autumn Leaves. August 5, 2015 at 2:56pm Reply

      • Trudy: Thank you Victoria, Shoyeido sounds lovely. I will give it a try. August 5, 2015 at 11:52pm Reply

        • Karen: Adding another recommendation for Shoyeido. It is the only incense I burn as it burns really “clean”. There is not a stick, so the smoke is pure fragrance and there is not a lot of ash. They make a Magnifiscents series with different jewels as the titles, my personal favorite is Ruby (but I may be prejudiced since its my birthstone!). August 6, 2015 at 1:03pm Reply

        • Victoria: As Karen commented, their incense doesn’t produce smoke (or depending on varieties, very little), so you get a clean, rich scent. August 6, 2015 at 1:41pm Reply

  • Daisy: I love this post too! It comes at a good time for me as I have just finished Lizzie Collingham’s fascinating book on curry, Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. Have you read it? It can be a little messy at times (as history often is), but it’s really fascinating. Thank you for the photos with what the spices looke like after they are toasted! That is so useful and I wish more people and more cookbooks would do it! August 5, 2015 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve read it too and enjoyed, especially the part on how British tried to make Indian drink tea and what happened with the British tea habit met the Indian tastes–masala chai.

      I realized when I was making the blend that the color difference is subtle. If you take cumin to deep brown, you will get a bitter, smoky note. It can be pleasant, but it’s not what we want out of this versatile mix. Glad that the photos were helpful. August 5, 2015 at 2:58pm Reply

  • Elisa: Funny coincidence, I was *just* craving Indian food and making a list so I can make aloo gobi and tomato chutney this week. Cumin and coriander are probably my favorite and most used spices. They are also delicious in Mexican-inspired dishes — I always use them when I make beans and rice. August 5, 2015 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Perhaps, I should make aloo gobi this week, since I do have potatoes and cauliflower. It’s one of my favorite combinations, and it tastes so good with flatbread.

      We finally found a Mexican restaurant in Belgium that serves authentic food. Otherwise, we got our Mexican fix via my approximations using Diana Kennedy’s book. August 5, 2015 at 3:00pm Reply

  • Karen: This sounds crazy good! Thank you for the inspiration – even with tons of abundant fresh produce, I feel like I’m in a bit of a cooking rut, so this is perfect timing! August 5, 2015 at 2:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: It happens to me too time to time, especially when I’m preoccupied with other things. I’ve taken to jotting down ideas of dishes I want to cook in a little notebook. This way, I keep them as reminders for the future. August 5, 2015 at 3:01pm Reply

  • Aisha: Indian/Pakistani cuisine, to me, is comfort food.

    My mom makes her own garam masala which is outstanding. She learned how to make that as well as many other dishes, by watching her mother-in-law when she and my father lived in Pakistan. (My mom is of Japanese ancestry, by the way, and was born in Hawaii.) I’ve tried repeatedly to get my mom’s recipe, but she won’t share. She instead makes the spice blend and ships it to me. I’m hoping one day she’ll pass on her secrets. 😉 August 5, 2015 at 3:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your background is so fascinating, Aisha! Your mom’s unwillingness to give out her recipe made me smile. She will share one day, I’m sure, but for now she’s spoiling her child with care packages. 🙂

      Does your mom cook Japanese dishes as well? August 5, 2015 at 3:28pm Reply

      • Aisha: Oh, I hope you’re right. LOL!

        Her mom, who lived with us when I was little, made a few dishes like teriyaki and tempura. But it was mostly my mom who cooked. And no, she’s not a big fan of Japanese cuisine because it’s “too sweet” for her. She prefers spices and chilies. August 5, 2015 at 4:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 I do find myself sneaking chilies into the Japanese dishes when I cook just for the two of us. Some like teriyaki can take the heat really well, and the combination of hot, salty and sweet is so good. August 6, 2015 at 1:31pm Reply

          • Aisha: I add dried chilies and chili paste to almost everything. I try not to overpower a dish with too much heat, but I’ve got to be honest: I can eat chili paste right out of the jar with a spoon. August 7, 2015 at 4:28pm Reply

            • Victoria: I love heat too, but I need to build up my tolerance if I haven’t had any hot food in a while. I made cucumber, tomato and red chili salad yesterday, so I’m well on the way. 🙂 August 7, 2015 at 4:36pm Reply

    • Lavanya: Haha! That reminded me of my grandmother – whenever I ask her for her rasam powder recipe she says ‘ do you need some more. Tell me and I can send more through…’.. So i am sure your mother just wants to spoil you..:-) August 7, 2015 at 4:57pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: I love Indian cooking, I mostly use ready-made spice blends but you’ve now inspired me to try out new combinations. August 5, 2015 at 4:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can always add your favorite spices to the commercial fixes, for instance. But toasted coriander and cumin are easy enough to do, and they’re very versatile. August 6, 2015 at 1:29pm Reply

  • Iodine: Beautiful post, Victoria, thank you!
    Love what you say about your MIL smelling vegetables and choosing the right spice! I always try to do the same, and found some rather stunning combinations- coriander seeds in porcini mushroom risotto, for example. I love when Western cuisine takes this approach, using “exotic” spices in more traditional dishes. Of course purists complain, but I am all for contaminations! 🙂 August 6, 2015 at 4:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I have no time for such purists. No cuisine stays frozen in time, and it’s always fun to experiment and try something new. Makes life more interesting.

      I love love mushrooms with mint and coriander. Now, I will definitely try your suggestion in risotto. August 6, 2015 at 1:43pm Reply

  • The Nutmeg Lady: Thanks for another wonderful post. I loved your descriptions of how each region of India has a different flavour, and both India and Bangladesh – where I have my own origins – have a gorgeous array of spices (and exotic fragrant flowers!) as well as lovely range of sweeter, creamier desserts. In our own kitchen we have powdered versions of many spices like coriander; however, there are situations where whole coriander seeds in dishes are absolutely stunning.. Whenever we happen to bite into a coriander seed me and my sister always feel the need to express the wonderful burst of green freshness just experienced!

    I found your recommendation of grapefruit with cc powder interesting; while personally I don’t like mixing tropical fruits with spices, my dad always has his portion of mango with sea salt and paprika! August 6, 2015 at 4:40am Reply

    • Victoria: I just love your story of biting into a coriander seed. It made me smile and imagine the sharp burst of flavor.

      I had a colleague from Bangladesh, and his mother introduced me to beef cooked with bitter melon. It was spiced with cinnamon (and some other spices), and the marriage of bitter and sweet was downright addictive. August 6, 2015 at 2:23pm Reply

      • The Nutmeg Lady: Ooh, yes, well cooking with fruits or sweeter vegetables is another matter! My favourite dinner dish is my dad’s chicken & butternut squash curry. It’s divine. August 6, 2015 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Aurora: This was so interesting, thank you so much for sharing. I will make a batch of cc powder this weekend, I already have cumin (which I use on carrots, like your mother-in-law,with a little bit of olive oil to assimilate the vitamin A better).

    Judging by the several recipes you list cc powder is very versatile. I also like fresh coriander very much with lentils for eg. and in perfumes, while I struggle with cumin in perfumes (this is why I only use vintage Femme). August 6, 2015 at 5:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Carrots are a natural partner for coriander as well as cumin. I also make a carrot salad with the same vinaigrette I described in the article, and I might even add some honey for extra flavor.

      Do you like coriander leaves? August 6, 2015 at 2:25pm Reply

  • Aurora: Also, I love fresh dill this summer, I use it to flavour cucumbers (they are so beautiful this summer in the UK) in a creamy yoghurt sauce. August 6, 2015 at 7:46am Reply

    • Victoria: It sounds odd, but last year I tried dill flavored ice cream in Estonia, and I loved it. It really showcased the licorice flavor of this herb. Dill and cucumbers, on the other hand, is a classical combo of Ukrainian cuisine. 🙂 August 6, 2015 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Aurora: Yes, I love coriander leaves, I learned to serve it along with spring onion from the Iranian friends I have – I was reminded of this by your lovely post on the Iranian cookbook. August 6, 2015 at 2:31pm Reply

      • Victoria: I now make some version of this table salad almost every day. It’s such a fun way to eat. August 6, 2015 at 2:42pm Reply

      • Aurora: Sorry, of course, I should have realized that dill and cucumber was a traditional Ukrainian recipe, I first tasted it as a teenager in a lovely small Armenian restaurant in Paris, it was in Le Marais, it makes a little bit homesick to remember it (soon I will be off to Provence, fortunately). August 6, 2015 at 3:02pm Reply

        • Victoria: Oh, I only meant that in Ukraine it’s considered a classic, not that Ukraine has some claim on it. I’m sure it is a favorite combo in many other countries, where dill is used in food. One of my Palestinian cookbooks mentions a cucumber dill salad accented with garlic and green chili. It’s so good, especially with grilled fish.

          Lucky you! 🙂 We are thinking of visiting lavender fields nearby, since none of us has enough vacation time left for Provence. August 6, 2015 at 3:09pm Reply

          • Aurora: The Palestinian salad sounds delicious!
            Nearby lavender fields is a lovely theme for a short vacation, I hope you and your husband will have a lovely time. I will be away the last week of August – I can’t wait – and will report back in the comments about any ‘discovery’. I’m going to Nyons again, so lots of olives and olive oil will be on the menu. August 7, 2015 at 5:48am Reply

            • Victoria: Nyons sounds wonderful all around. And olives! I have a jar of Nyons olives in my fridge right now, and they’re better than candy. August 7, 2015 at 10:01am Reply

  • Lavanya: Hi V! I enjoyed reading your post. I love coriander too. I never tire of smelling it while roasting it.
    This cumin-corriander powder is so versatile – I will try your salad dressing recipe.
    Also just add ground pepper to the cc powder and you can use it as a make-shift rasam powder (have you tried doing that?) August 6, 2015 at 10:02am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, thank you for a suggestion. I haven’t tried it this way, mostly because I still have a batch of rasam powder I made earlier in the year. But it’s good to know this trick.

      The salad dressing recipe also works on pretty much any boiled vegetable–zucchini, carrots, cauliflower. I should add it into the post. August 6, 2015 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Clover: This post is timely for me as I have been experimenting with Indian curries at home. I fumbled my way through an Indian grocery recently and imposed upon a woman who gave me a few pointers and insisted that I try grinding my own freshly toasted coriander seeds. I am now obsessed with it and wonder how I got by all this time in my cooking life without experiencing it. I have been using the freshly crushed seeds along with Penzey’s Maharaja curry powder blend (which includes saffron, by the way). But I have been wondering if it is time to upgrade to some of my own blends for more flavor building and customization. CC powder seems like a great place to start! It is a journey learning how to create the deep layered flavors in Indian curry. I still need way more practice and can only hope to one day replicate these beautiful flavors in my own cooking. I also learned from the kind woman who took her time to help me out that there are other ingredients beyond spices used to build the flavors (such as tamarind and another pungent paste I cannot remember the name of). Thank you for this post August 6, 2015 at 10:20am Reply

    • Karen: Penzey’s spices are really really good, aren’t they! Their Vietnamese cinnamon has to be one of my all-time favorites – I got a little hooked on it in my iced lattes one summer….. They have such a huge selection and somehow everything is really fresh. August 6, 2015 at 1:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Are you cooking through a book or a website? Indian cuisine is perfect for anyone who loves experimenting, and while the ingredient lists seem overwhelmingly long at first, it’s such an easy cuisine to adapt. The most difficult part is getting the phoodni/tadka (bursting spices in hot oil) right, since if you overheat the oil, spices will burn and will taste bitter. Not enough, and the taste is dull. But experimenting with your own spice blends will help you understand what you need to do for the optimal flavor. Ultimately, much has to do with your personal tastes.

      I love Penzey’s spices, and I still have a bag of their nutmegs that rivaled even the stuff I bought directly from a nutmeg farm. August 6, 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

  • Neva: Amazing! I love your cooking posts. They always inspire me to try out something new.
    I have coriander bought coriander seeds a while ago and used them sometimes, but I actually don’t like their taste. I prefer coriander powder. Now you gave me an idea how to use up the seeds 🙂 I’m sure cc powder will join my other favourite ingredients! August 6, 2015 at 4:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Coriander seeds in large enough quantity become unpleasant in a dish. A few grains here or other is ok, but nothing more than that. I still remember a marinade recipe from Ottolenghi that called for a large dose of coriander seeds. I then spent half the dinner taking them out.

      Powder is so much more versatile. August 7, 2015 at 10:06am Reply

      • Neva: I had to laugh imagining you taking the seeds out… 😀 I know how you must have felt because I tried it too, but they were in a stew and it was not possible to eliminate them all. Anyway, I tried with less seeds but it was still too much. Now they’ll be transformed into cc powder. August 7, 2015 at 6:28pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m ok with them in marinades, because then they get soaked and become kind of addictive. But usually, I prefer powder. August 9, 2015 at 10:46am Reply

  • Anne: Dhana-jiru! I share housed with a Gujurati girl for a decade and her Nani used to cook with me (She alas was not a cook… more of an eater). I am not sure what I would do without this spice mix …. no aloo saak for sure. Or Lassi. Or many other things. August 6, 2015 at 6:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s pretty versatile and no Gujarati cook would be without it. Another fantastic ingredient is a garlic-ginger-green chili paste. My MIL freezes it with some salt and then it’s always on hand to add a punch of flavor to any dish. August 7, 2015 at 10:03am Reply

  • Jackie: Victoria, it’s so funny (to me!) that you posted this just a couple of days after the “scent of the day” post, as after posting my SOTD, I realized I hadn’t mentioned the scent that was so all-pervasive I’d sort of forgotten about it – cumin!

    I love cumin and use it a lot and recently bought a large bag of it ground at a local Indian grocer.

    I brought that cumin home and everything else in the grocery bag had absorbed the smell, including cinnamon sticks! I put it another zip-lock bag and put it away but the smell persisted. So I put it in another heavy-duty zip-lock bag. The next morning, as soon as we all got out of bed, we could all smell it — and our bedrooms are upstairs. It began to make everything else in the kitchen take on the odour! So I put it in one more thick zip-lock and put it in a plastic container and put it in a bottom cupboard apart from everything else, and it still REEKS! I kid you not. I just went and picked up the container to count the baggies I’d used and now my hands smell of it! We just got back from camping and one of the plastic water bottles we’d taken had absorbed it, and it had been stored nowhere near the cumin! We probably don’t know we are carrying the scent around with us on our clothes….

    I love the smell, but not sure everyone does, so before we have a dinner party, I think I need to store it outside! Perhaps it will deter the raccoons!

    It’s been about two weeks now and it’s not died down. This must be some special kind of cumin! We still haven’t cooked with it. Kind of scared to! LOL

    Have you ever experienced anything like this with cumin? August 7, 2015 at 1:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Congrats on buying very fresh cumin! 🙂 Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Was it ground or whole by the way?

      I recommend storing it in a glass jar instead of a plastic bag. For extra safety, you can put the jar in a ziplock bag. But generally, my cumin doesn’t have such a powerful scent. I also don’t grind fresh cumin, since the oils are far too volatile. When it’s roasted, it changes in scent and flavor. August 7, 2015 at 4:22pm Reply

      • Jackie: It’s ground. Oh, storing it in a jar is brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?

        I’ve also been burning a lot of Japanese incense lately, which seems to be outdoing the cumin a bit. 😉 August 8, 2015 at 3:32pm Reply

        • Victoria: Ah, then this is the reason. Cumin contains lots of volatile essential oils. I don’t know how you can toast it without it losing all of its flavor. I don’t recommend it. I suggest storing in a glass jar in your freezer and taking out small amounts as needed. August 9, 2015 at 10:58am Reply

          • Jackie: I will do that, then, Victoria. Thank you for the great advice! August 10, 2015 at 12:56pm Reply

  • Jackie: Oh, and btw, when you walk into this grocer, you get hit with the most powerful heady mix! Cumin is definitely the dominant note, but it’s a heavenly blend of other Indian spices.

    In fact, I’ve mentioned here my youngest daughter who has an amazing nose (and memory, esp a mind-blowing scent memory), and she hadn’t been in that store since she was a tiny toddler – 2 or 2.5 (she’s now 8) – and as soon as we walked in, she said “Oh, now I remember this place. I remember the smell! Mmmmmm.” August 7, 2015 at 2:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Our Indian grocer smells pungently of asafeotida. It’s a type of resin with a oniony, garlicky, slightly rotten scent. It becomes addictive and delicious once it’s cooked. But raw it can make your eyes sting. 🙂 August 7, 2015 at 4:24pm Reply

  • Jackie: PS, Love your spice box and love your recipe for “The CC powder” and the generous gift of various ways to use it — I am definitely going to try it. Mmmm. Thank you! August 7, 2015 at 2:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Perhaps, roasting will tame your special cumin. But since yours is so strong, do have the vent on at full blast. Just in case. 🙂 August 7, 2015 at 4:25pm Reply

      • Jackie: I love the idea of roasting cumin (can you do so with ground?) and the transformation you speak of. Sounds so comforting!

        In any case, when using it I will blast the vent!

        I’ve never cooked with asafoetida, but will look for it now. Thank you! August 8, 2015 at 3:34pm Reply

  • Uttara: Use of C.C.powder will make Indian cooking much easy. You have given lots of nice suggestions to use the c.c.powder. Thanks for getting the secret out. I always enjoy reading your blog. So many new things to learn. Thanks. August 10, 2015 at 6:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much! 🙂 August 11, 2015 at 2:08pm Reply

  • Anka: Thank you so much for this post, Victoria! I am allergic to some spices and always happy to discover condiments that work and don’t give me a headache. I just finished my cucumber salad according to your recipe with CC powder (I cheated a little bit and used the cumin and coriander which is already powdered since I don’t have a coffee grinder), salt and mint, it’s delicious. August 15, 2015 at 6:00am Reply

    • Victoria: So glad that you liked it! Toasted cumin can be crushed easily with a glass bottle, and it also tastes good on its own. But coriander is too fibery for that, and you need a grinder of some sort. August 15, 2015 at 7:14am Reply

  • Nelly Zhaleyko: I bake a bread with this The CC Powder. Ironically, it’s Ukrainian Darnickiy. Without spices it’s too plain to me. )) October 18, 2016 at 5:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, what a genius idea! I did discover that blending butter, olive oil, salt and this cc powder makes for a great spread. I had it on rye bread for lunch, and yes, I can see why the cc powder works well in darnitsky! October 19, 2016 at 7:52am Reply

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