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 😉}  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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“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
Henry James
It’s time for Monthly Mingle, Meeta’s little baby that she so lovingly created in 2006. It’s being hosted this time by Aparna @ My Diverse kitchen. The Monthly Mingle call this month is for high tea snacks, something I used to find quite challenging not so long ago. No longer though since blogging has opened untold avenues. ‘Don’t know what to make’ is passe! Now it’s more like, “shall I make this, this, this, or, oooooh this”!
The call was for ‘High Tea Treats’, & I immediately got transported to the Ritz, a hotel we oft halted outside often while wandering around Central London. Never did we step in, for in those days the pockets were empty, and so The Ritz intimidating! Known for it’s afternoon tea service, the picture in my mind of The Ritz is a whimsical one … well laid tables, dainty linen, polished silver, fine china, delicate pastries, elegant petit fours, scones, clotted cream, jam … !

Reading Indulge-100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark led me into the kitchens in the basement of The Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly where she worked as a pastry chef in 1984. I quote from her book, “I dreaded the run up to the weekend, when the hotel held its famous tea dances. We would slave away all week constructing the intricate, delicate and elegant pastries to give ourselves time to make, roll, cut and bake vast amounts of scones on the day.”

I associate British cuisine with high tea, a tradition as elegant as it is beautiful. My first exposure to this lovely tradition was back in the 80’s when a bunch of us girlfriends had gone over to stay in a castle up in North England that was being restored by a Scottish lady. The memories are quite faint now, but I vividly remember a couple of things … the huge gate-posts made of stone with carved lion heads, early morning mist, beds of lavender, the beautiful guest rooms in hues of pastel pinks & lilac, interiors daintily done up in hand-made lace and linen made by Irish nuns … & fresh scones for tea!
I made ‘Coffee-glazed Chocolate chip scones’ almost exactly a year ago from Ari‘s Baking & Books, and some ‘Dark Chocolate, Craisin & Walnut Scones’ from a David Lebovitz recipe more recently. So this time, for the Monthly Mingle, I explored BBC Good Food for tea snacks, and found plenty of eye candy there. Beautiful options from the Olive Magazine amongst others, but I eventually settled for this rather rustic roll … Fruity Spices Swirls. I had all the ingredients on hand, & the recipe seemed simple, allowing me room for change. It’s very difficult for me to stick to a recipe to the T, as my mind tends to wander off marking its own path. These fruity swirls are something like an apple strudel, but sans the hard work of rolling paper thin pastry. Then again, something like a Swiss roll, but with rustic pastry. The pastry isn’t flaky & buttery, but is still light & full of apple, raisin & nuts tossed in a spiced sweet butter… These are an entry for the episode of Monthly Mingle that you are hosting Aparna. No eggs is just how I know you’ll love these. I even substituted the egg yolk wash for a glaze with milk to make them a 100% vegetarian! This was a fun recipe, and the resultant swirls were delicious eaten warm with tea. Big hit with the hub & kids too. I sliced 15 portions as against the 10 in the original recipe as one of the reviewers said that the portions were big. I stored the leftovers in the fridge, and the daughter devoured them back from her camping trip. I was told they tasted good cold too!
Fruity Apple Spiced Swirls
Adapted from this recipe at BBC Good Food
2 tsp pie spice
3 tbsp demerara sugar
4 tbsp soft butter
1 eating apple , peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried black grapes
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
350g flour
Πtsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
85g cold butter , cut into cubes
4 tbsp demerera sugar
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk, to glaze


Toss chopped apple in lime juice & add raisins, black grapes & walnuts.
Beat 1 tsp pie spice and 2 tbsp demerara into the butter, then stir in the apple and raisins.
Mix the remaining spices in with the flour.
Put the flour mixture, 1 tsp pie spice, salt and baking powder into a food processor, then whizz in the butter until it disappears. Pulse in the sugar, tip into a large bowl, then make a well in the middle. Warm the yogurt, milk and vanilla together in the microwave for 1 min or in a pan; it should be hot and may well go a bit lumpy-looking. Tip into the bowl and quickly work into the flour mix using a cutlery knife. As soon as it’s all in, stop.Put a flat baking sheet in the oven at 220C. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, then roll to about 40 x 30cm. Spread with the fruity butter, then roll up from the long side, tucking the ends over neatly. Cut into 1″ slices. Brush with milk and scatter with 1 tbsp demerara. Flour the baking sheet, then bake for 14 mins until golden and risen.

Eat warm, with more butter if you dare. (We didn’t!)

♄ Thank you for stopping by ♄

As I wrap up, I’d like to thank 2morrowknight for the including my name is his list of 10 top foodies tweeters in his article on The Huffington Post here10 World Class Chefs on Twitter Who Make it Sizzle. Thank you!!

“The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe.
You have to make it fall.”
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

There’s a great foodie blog I recently discovered & I absolutely love what she does. She bakes WONDERFUL stuff, mainly cakes, & I’m really having a hard time keeping up. Seem to get into a bookmarking frenzy each time I get to the Food Librarian, and the Dorothy Mae Brown Apple Spice Cake was no exception.

This cake is one I bookmarked off her blog on Friday, the 13th, quite the minute I laid my eyes on it. I felt an instant ominous ring to my bookmarking because of the date, LOL, but everything went along just fine.I love apple cakes, especially after the earlier Apple Almond Cake I had made from a recipe @ Dragon’s Kitchen. Dorothy Mae Brown’s cake was called spicy & I planned to make it ASAP. I had apples on the counter, & wanted to pair this up with pumpkin pie spice, nuts & raisins.

As the Food Librarian said, Dorothy Mae Brown’s Apple Spice Cake is one of the most popular recipes on Martha Stewart’s website. Didn’t make the caramel syrup to top the cake, since I wanted to cut back on sugar, and substituted a bit of wholewheat flour for plain flour, which is something I often do. Also used pumpkin pie spice in the cake as I like the flavour. If you check out the pictures on that post at the Food Librarian, you might just get tempted to make the caramel syrup as well coz it looks really nice on the cake. Her cake is much prettier than mine.

Mine was not too pretty, but it was certainly pretty delicious. Was absolutely wonderful served warm, & kept very well for the couple of days that it lasted. It made for a fine dessert with a dollop of delicately spiced pumpkin pie spice cream …. very indulgent indeed!

as taken from the Food Librarian
adapted from Apple Spice Cake on Martha Stewart’s website
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 to 4 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 cups)
1 cup chopped assorted nuts, such as pecans and walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup green & black dried raisins
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Caramel Sauce (I didn’t make this, just gave my cake a dusting of powdered sugar & pumpkin pie spice)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.
  • Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Reserve in a bowl.
  • Beat vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until lemon yellow. Beat in extract.
  • With mixer on medium speed, gradually shake in dry ingredients until just incorporated. I had to finish it off by hand because the mixture became very thick.
  • Add apples and nuts to batter; mix to combine.

  • Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack.
  • Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack, and serve drizzled with caramel sauce, or just a light dusting of powdered sugar & pumpkin pie spice.

I served a few special slices with a pumpkin spice flavoured whipped cream! This one if off to Bookmarked Recipes, an event started by Ruth @ Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments. The event now has it’s very own spot on the net, & is a nice tribute to thank someone or something for a recipe that you’ve enjoyed making.

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