Food & Wine

Cooking with freshly ground spices

gitika baveja/special to the town crier


Spices are one of the cornerstones of Indian cooking. There’s nothing better than cooking with spices you have freshly ground yourself. Working with fresh spices brings more flavor than can be achieved by using dried, boxed spices.

The same type of tool used to grind coffee beans can be used to grind dried spices, but I strongly recommend not using the same grinder for both. Using a designated spice grinder eliminates the possibility of flavoring food with tastes and aromas from remnants of coffee beans.

A simple dish to make using freshly ground spices in the comfort of your kitchen is northern-style chickpeas from Punjab, in which the legumes are laced in a delicious sauce and freshly ground spices that give them a signature taste. Punjab, a northern state of India, is popular for its tasty food. For me, the name is synonymous with luscious gravies and vegetables rich with cream and aromatic spices. You will enjoy this dish, not only because it is cooked in low-fat olive oil, but also because the fresh-ground spices make it authentic and delicious.

Punjabi Chickpeas (also called Chana or Chole)

Condiments to grind for fresh spice powder:

2 whole cloves

1 small piece of cinnamon

1 small red, whole, dry chili (to

reduce heat, you can omit)

5 whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon dried pomegranate

seeds (also called anardana)


Roast the above ingredients on dry griddle on medium heat until they start turning brown. Do not burn. Remove immediately from heat and grind in coffee grinder to fine powder.


Sauce for chickpeas:

3 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas

1 chopped red onion

1 teaspoon fresh ginger paste

1 teaspoon fresh garlic paste

3-4 tablespoons tomato puree

1/2 teaspoon dry mango powder

Salt to taste

Pinch of brown or regular sugar

Pinch of garam masala powder

1 teaspoon finely chopped cilan

tro and onions


Heat oil in a pan. Add onions and fry until light brown. Immediately add freshly ground spice mix and fry for 1 minute or so. Add garlic and ginger paste and sauté for a few seconds so that it does not burn. Add tomato puree and cook until oil starts to separate. Add chickpeas and season with salt. Mix in sugar and dry mango powder and 1/2 cup water.

Cook chickpeas until water dries up and chickpeas are soft and well coated with sauce and spices. You might want to slightly mash the chickpeas with a potato masher. Garnish with garam masala and cilantro and onions. Serve hot with boiled Basmati rice or Indian bread.

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