Pictured above: seven spices every man should have in his pantry.

Every spice has different properties to look out for when you’re shopping, but a good general rule is to make sure you look for brightly coloured, plump spices. If they’re green then they should be vibrant green, brown spices like cumin should be a lovely deep golden brown, and so on. If they’re shrivelled then it’s likely they’re old and have lost most of their wonderful flavour. They should smell very strong; if you have to really get your nose in the bag to get a whiff then they’re probably a little past their date. Surprisingly, spices lose their potency and flavour quite quickly so it’s best to buy them whole and grind them yourself. Once they release their essential oils through grinding or heating they only last a few months. After that they’re not as strong as they should be.

Now stir up this combination for your very own braai spice, from scratch!

• 1 tsp cumin seeds
• ½ tsp turmeric powder
• 1 tsp coriander powder
• 1 tsp red chilli powder
• ½ tsp black pepper, coarsely crushed
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 3 tablespoons fresh coriander, roughly chopped
• Few sprigs rosemary, roughly chopped
• Salt, to taste

Q: What’s the best side dish to serve curry with?
A: Rice, it’s great to soak up sauces with. Basmati rice is best – it’s the least labour intensive and you can cook large quantities 
in one go.

Unleash the flavour!
Roasting spices is a great way to release their beautiful flavours. You can roast them in some oil on a gentle heat, or directly in a pan without any fat. Always cook spices on a low heat 
so they don’t burn. They’re done when you can smell their aromas in the pan. If they turn deep golden brown or black, then they’re burnt!

Veg Out!  
Herbivores coming for dinner? Make your curry veg-friendly.

It’s easy to cut out meat in a curry and replace it with veggies – and most work well. I like to use mushrooms and potatoes. They’re quite hearty and usually keep most meat eaters happy if they’re bummed about being subjected to vegetarian fare. Just make sure you cook your potatoes (and any other root vegetables, like butternut) for a little longer as they will need more time to soften. You may need to adjust any salt to compensate for the sweetness that the vegetables will bring to the dish. And don’t forget to add in the holy trinity of Asian cooking (garlic, ginger and fresh chilli) to make your veggie dish extra tasty.

Taste the sub-continent

1.] North
: Winters are severe and wheat is often the staple, along with butter, cream, ghee and aromatic spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and dried fenugreek leaves.
2.] East: 
The east is 
relatively poor with the staple being rice and common spices being 
mustard, turmeric, dried mangoes, fresh chillies and mustard oil.
3.] West
: The staple is chickpeas and the rustic cooking uses woody spices like cumin, coriander and dried red chillies. They also use tropical fruits such as mangosteen.
4.] South: 
The cooking of South India relies on coconut, coconut oil, milk, lots 
of fresh seafood, hot chillies, peppercorns and aromatic spices such as cardamom.

* Anjali Pathak