by Phyllis Louise Harris
Award-winning cookbook author and cooking teacher Raghavan Iyer was the youngest of seven children. So as he was growing up in Mumbai (Bombay), India, there was always someone in the kitchen preparing food. His mother, grandmother and sisters all took part in the daily ritual of preparing three meals a day from scratch. And, they always roasted and ground each spice blend for each dish just before they used it.
It is a habit he has tried to instill in the 25,000 students he has taught over the years throughout the United States and in Canada. Now, he has made that chore much easier with his Turmeric Trail line of Indian spice blends.
“While I still believe the best way to season food is with freshly roasted and ground spices,” commented Iyer, “we wanted to make the chore easier for busy cooks.” The result is his new line of Turmeric Trail spice blends already roasted and ground, ready to use.
“Whole spices can be kept for months without losing their flavor, but ground spices have a shorter life,” Iyer advised, “so when we created the ground spice line we packaged it in 2.5 ounce packages and suggest a shelf-life of 2 – 3 months maximum.” The smaller packages providing flavorings for 10 – 12 dishes are intended to be used up in a month or two to assure the best possible flavor.
Garam Masala, Mumbai Masala, Madras Masala and Chai Masala are the first four blends in the Turmeric Trail line. Each blend is designed to enhance certain types of food.
Garam Masala is a warm blend of spices that may include cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaves. It is used for meat and poultry rubs, sprinkled on stir-fries and mixed into soups. It can also be used as a coating for fresh fruit that is to be grilled.
Mumbai Masala, named after Iyer’s hometown, blends the fire of red chilies with the coolness of coconut and the texture of sesame seeds. Add it to any type of curry or sprinkle it on hot buttered popcorn for a particularly flavorful snack.
Madras Masala is named after the famed city now called Chennai that exports large quantities of curry powder all across the world. This blend is composed of roasted spices and yellow split peas that work well with vegetables or may be sprinkled over stir-fries.
Chai Masala is the seasoning behind India’s famous tea. It is brewed in milk for a rich creamy texture then combined with the tea. The seasoning is also used in or on desserts for something unique.
Turmeric Trail spice blends were introduced at Kitchen in the Market at the Global Market in Minneapolis on October 27 and are available for purchase there or through the website www.turmerictrail.com.
*Iyer received the International Association of Culinary Professional’s Award of Excellence for Cooking Teacher of the Year in 2004. He was also a finalist for the James Beard Journalism Award in 2005 and his “660 Curries” received the 2008 Best Asian Cookbook in the USA by World Gourmand Awards. He is the author of four cookbooks and co-founder of Asian Culinary Arts Institutes.
The Hmong New Year will be celebrated in several venues this month. One will be November 5 and 6 at the Mall of America Field (Metrodome), Minneapolis. For information go to mnhany.org. Another celebration will be at the St. Paul River Center, November 26 and 27.