Foodtalk | The Masala Dabba #1. Exploring the Indian spice box

The Masala Dabba #1, Jan 2016 {Nigella, Fenugreek, Caraway}“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go.”
Erma Bombeck

The Masala Dabba. A name that paints a spicy picture. A fun food styling experiment born out of a conversation one day in December last year. Spices are something that intrigue us, and are sometimes challenging to shoot. So Dolphia floated the idea, and it was instantly lapped up by Simi and lazy me. It’s always great to have something that gives us inspiration, or maybe focus to shoot. The idea was to shoot the spices, in sets of three, month after month.
The Masala Dabba #1, Jan 2016 {Nigella, Fenugreek, Caraway}Doing something creative as a group is always fun. Makes you want to reach out for the elements time and again. Makes you also impatient to see how different minds style and shoot. It’s another new creative start, one that should see a few months of spicy good fun! This month we each picked a spice…

Nigella {not Lawson ūüėČ}¬† sativa or kalonji
Fenugreek or methi daana
Caraway or ajwain

The Masala Dabba #1, Jan 2016 {Nigella, Fenugreek, Caraway}A step back into the history of the world, and in many ways spices were central to exploration of uncharted territories, to discovering exotic lands. Spices led to wars and empires being built, and then eventually being lost! Nowhere in history would you find the same ingredient common to being celebrated as an aphrodisiac, holding proven medicinal qualities,yet being an inherent part of the ‘recipe’ for embalming! Such great properties can only be SPICEY!!

The Masala Dabba #1, Jan 2016 {Nigella, Fenugreek, Caraway} Spices are an integral part of the Indian kitchen and each one adds punch and flavour to the pantry. Even though I’ve never used the three of these together, individually they pop up every now and then when I cook. Ajwain shows up a great deal in radish or mooli ke paratha, in root vegetable stir fires and in curries. I use it often as a substitute for oregano in my pasta sauces, giving the seeds a good rub between the palms before throwing them in. They have huge digestive properties.

Kadhi, Indian vegetarian yogurt curry with dumpligsFenugreek finds itself more often than never in pickles and curry powders. My mother’s aam ka achaar or mango pickle always had fenugreek, and I still remember the slightly bitter aftertaste after biting into the soft firm seed once pickled. I use fenugreek the most in the tempering or baghaar for kadhi, a yogurt curry with dumplings, which is a huge favourite at home. Fenugreek too offers great digestive properties, is used to treat diabetes, reduces bloood pressure, congestion and a host of other illnesses.

Nigella of course lands up most often on the naan, sometimes in a ‘paani ke station wale aloo‘ ki recipe {a water based no oil potato curry served with puri at railway stations in India}, and an inherent part of paanch phoron. Paanch phoron is a five spice blend quintessential to Bengali cuisine. Nigella satvia is one of the five, the others being fenugreek, mustard, fennel and cumin, all seeds.

The Masala Dabba #1, Jan 2016 {Nigella, Fenugreek, Caraway} Shooting spices is always challenging but quite addictive. Already looking forward to what we can do next month with the spice girls!!

Do stop by and explore the dabbas/spice boxes of my other two partners in crime spice
Simi @ Turmeric n Spice
Dolphia @ Story of Cooks

…and if you’d like to learn a bit of food styling, do check out my next workshop with Darter below

Food Styling Workshop Delhi








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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India


  • 9 months ago

    Gorgeous images and love the write up !!!

  • 9 months ago

    Loved the Write Up and as usual in Love with your styling.

  • 9 months ago

    Beautiful shot Deeba, Our Nigella always hits the spot. love the write up too..

  • 9 months ago

    Through the best spicy ingredient we can make delicious food, it can make our food very tasty.

  • 8 months ago

    Beautiful post Deeba. So thrilled to be a part of this little spicy project and even more excited to be doing it with the three of you. You have me however craving form my mum’s kadhi and I think I think I am going to give it a whizz!

  • 8 months ago

    What gorgeous images Deeba! Love each and every one of them. Beautiful write up too!

  • 6 months ago

    Great information about spices..Thanks for sharing such an information. Spices are very integral part of Indian food be it be in hotel or at home…

  • 6 months ago

    Great images and love the writing style

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