When using spices in Indian cooking the first rule is to not use them raw. The second rule is to never use burnt spices. There are two ways to cook spices, tarka and roasting. Tarka is done by heating oil over a medium-high heat and adding the whole seeds, allowing them to sputter or pop for about 30 seconds. The second method is toasting in a dry skillet heated medium-high for a few moments.

Masalas are spice mixtures.

Garam Masala:

- 1/3 whole nutmeg
- 1 1/2 t cardamom seeds
- 1 1/2 t black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 t black cumin seeds [shahi jeera]
- 1 1/2 t coriander seeds
- 2-inch stick cinnamon
- 1/2 t whole cloves
- a curl of mace

Break the nutmeg into pieces by whacking it with the bottom of a mug. Toast all of the ingredients in a medium-high skillet for a few moments until fragrant, and cool. Grind to a very fine powder and store in a air-tight light-proof container.

Shahi Masala:

- 12 whole green cardamom pods
- 1/8 t cardamom seeds [seeds from approximately 5 green cardamom pods]
- 1 1/2 t black peppercorns
- 1 t coriander seeds
- 2 dried hot red chilies
- 1 t fennel seeds
- a large pinch ajwain seeds
- a large pinch ground asafetida
- 1 t turmeric

Toast all of the spices except the asafetida and turmeric, cool, and grind. Add the last two ingredients, mix, and store.

Panch Phoran:

- 1 t fenugreek seeds
- 1 t kalonji seeds
- 1 t cumin seeds
- 1 t fennel seeds
- 1 t brown mustard seeds

Mix evenly, and be sure to shake before using as the mustard seeds settle to the bottom. Usually infused in a tarka.

Sambar Powder:

- 2 T coriander seeds
- 3/8 t cumin seeds
- 1/8 t fenugreek seeds
- 4 dried hot red chilies
- 1 t black peppercorns
- 3/8 t urad dal
- 3/8 t moong dal
- 1 1/2 T turmeric
- 1/2 t ground asafetida

Toast the coriander, cumin, fenugreek, chilies, and black peppercorns, cool slightly, and grind. In the same skillet toast the 2 dals until just slightly browned. Powder the dals, and add them and the turmeric and asafetida to the rest of the spices. Store tightly and darkly.

Ghee is toasted and clarified unsalted butter.