Cumin (Jeera): It can be recognised as the oval shaped ridged brown seeds. It is best used freshly ground to get the most intense flavour. The taste is bitter, but not hot. It is used to flavour rice, stuff vegetables along with many other savoury dishes and curries. It is widely used in beef dishes, usually with cilantro.
Cardamom (Elaichi): The taste is sweet, lemony and pungent when chewed. It can be recognised as the world's second most expensive spice. It is available as powder, dried pods, or loose seeds. It is used in curries, savoury and sweet dishes, ice cream and custards. It is often combined with almonds and saffron. It can be used to flavour tea and also goes well with black coffee. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to remove fat alongside being a cure for urinary and skin complaints.
Coriander Seeds (Dhoniya): It is related to the parsley family with the seeds from coriander plant being used. This spice tastes sweet and tangy, with a slightly citrus flavour. Coriander is usually sold in powdered form, although the whole seeds are also available. Coriander is used in fish and savoury dishes as a healthy alternative to salt, and it makes up one of the components of curry powder.
Garam Masala: A mixture of ground spices of cloves, cardamom, cumin, peppercorns, cinnamon and bay leaves. It is far better to grind and make your own garam masala than to buy the ready-made mixture. It is used in local traditional dishes with chicken, beef, lamb and fishes.
Fenugreek (Methi): Short, upright plant (related to spinach) with oval leaves. The entire plant has a strong, sweet aroma. The mature leaves have the bitter taste. Ground fenugreek (seeds) has a warm, yellowish-brown colour with a strong, curry-like taste. In powdered form, fenugreek is one of the main ingredients of curry powders. Fenugreek is used to add flavour to meat dishes.
Cinnamon (Darchini): A sweet-tasting spice, with a warm, woody aroma. The smell of cinnamon is pleasant, stimulates the senses, yet calms the nerves. The thinnest bark is the best quality cinnamon. It is available as a powder but is much better bought in sticks. It can be used in cakes, sweet dishes, fruit pies (especially apples). It can also be used in more piquant dishes, such as curries, and combines perfectly with chicken.
Cloves (Lobongo): Small, dried, reddish-brown flower bud of the tropical evergreen tree of the myrtle family. It has a strong, sweet aroma and hot, pungent taste. Cloves are best bought whole and ground. It is frequently used to flavour meat dishes, curries, and soups.
Black peppercorns or white peppercorns (Gol morich): Peppercorns have a pungent, woody aroma and hot taste. Black pepper is more aromatic, white is stronger and hotter. Pepper is the only spice that is used to flavour food before, during and after cooking.
Saffron (Zaffran): The most expensive spice of the lot, saffron has a distinctively pungent, honey-like flavour and aroma. It is available as whole threads or in powdered form. When ground they form a russet powder. The filaments can be lightly roasted, crumbled in a little hot water and left to infuse to bring out their full strength. Saffron is used to colour rice dishes, sweets, puddings, sauces and soups to give a bright yellow colour.
Mustard seeds (Shorisha): Brown mustard seeds are more commonly used but black seeds contain a higher proportion of the volatile mustard oil, having the strongest flavour. The larger yellow variety known as white mustard is much less pungent.
Nutmeg (Joyfol) and Mace (Jayitri): Mace is the fleshy lattice covering of the nutmeg (hard nut), which is golden brown in colour. Nutmeg has more robust flavour than mace, but they are otherwise very similar. They have a nutty, warm and slightly sweet flavour. Nutmeg is used to add sweet and savoury flavour to dishes such as pies, custards, puddings, cakes, soufflés, vegetables, egg dishes, lamb, fish and beverages. Like nutmeg, mace is a sweet and flavourful spice, which can be substituted for nutmeg or cinnamon to complement a variety of foods. Mace is also used in sauces for fish and pickle chutneys.