Often mistaken as the Bay Leaf leaf of the Laurel tree used in Western cooking, these are actually three veined leaves of the tree belonging to Cinnamonum group of trees. Cinnamomum tamala or the Tamalpatra tree in my home in India Tej Patta or Tamalpatra as it is called in Sanskrit are used to flavor different curries and rice.
The leaves are aromatic with a slight hint of the fragrance of cinnamon. Ajwain has very strong flavors and the smell and the taste bears close similarity to Thyme. They have a sharp and slightly bitter taste on the tongue. In Indian cooking, the Ajwain is rarely used raw. They are usually dry roasted lightly or tempered in hot oil or ghee and used for seasoning a dish.
Besides culinary uses, it is used for medicinal purposes to aid in digestion and also as an antiseptic. Cinnamon Darchini — Cinnamomum zeylanicum: The cinnamon sticks or quills are the dried bark of a tree. There are two popular varieties of cinnamon; from Chin and from Ceylon. They both have similar flavors but the cinnamon from Ceylon has a sweeter aroma and is found more as sticks than a rolled up quill. The Ceylonese cinnamon is also not so easily available in local markets.
Often times a few bits of broken sticks are added as the oil heats up; this way the oil is flavored and the food is cooked in this fragrant oil. Sometimes it is dry roasted in a skillet before cooking, which intensifies the aroma.
The warm sweet flavors make it a popular spice for desserts in the western world, especially during the holidays. It is one of the ingredients of Garam Masala. Cloves are dried up flower buds. Clove is extensively used in Indian cooking. The flavor it imparts to food is strong and warm. Clove is mostly used to flavor spicy food where the whole clove is cooked in oil or ghee.
Clove is also a part of Garam Masala in the ground form. Use of clove in desserts is not very common in India, though not unheard of. Light brown or golden in color, the seeds are kind of hollow and crunchy and has a nice earthy, nutty flavor. The seeds are used whole for tempering, but more often they are ground into a powder to flavor food.
Do yourselves a favor and stop yourself from buying store bought coriander powder. The best way go about it, is to grind the seeds when you use them or store them in an airtight container only for a few days.
I use the coffee grinder or the spice grinder to powder the seeds. The seeds are powdered either by roasting them first in a dry skillet or without roasting them. The roasted seeds powdered have a darker shade and a different flavor than the other. Both are used in Indian cuisine. The seeds are usually used in the ground form to be a part of various spice mixes, like Garam Masala , Sambar Powder etc. Coriander seeds are ground to make coriander powder. The powder is used in Indian cooking for flavor.
Avoid store bought packaged coriander powder. They sit on the shelves too long and lose all its freshness. Grind up coriander seeds at home in a spice or coffee grinder and store in airtight containers for a couple of months. Cumin or Jeera is a very commonly used spice all over India.
Known for its warm earthy aroma, it is used in the raw form, or cooked in hot oil or ghee to release its aroma. Sometimes the raw seeds are ground and sometimes the seeds are briefly roasted in the skillet and ground into a powder. The roasted and fried cumin seeds imparts a very unique, smoky flavor to food.