Indian recipes are known for their spices. In addition to contributing flavour and aroma, spices contribute to the colour, piquancy, heat and texture of the finished dish. They also act as preservatives, an added benefit since dishes can be prepared ahead and refrigerated for several days without any change in flavour or appearance.

Spices must be cooked to be easily digested, so add them early in the cooking process. You can also use precooked spices by toasting them whole, grinding, and then sprinkling them over the finished dish. Most spices should be purchased whole and stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.

Spices release more fragrance when crushed. So grind small quantities as needed in a spice mill, coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Remember that spices and herbs are like perfume: they must be handled with a delicate touch-just enough to tease the palate, leaving behind a trail of exotic intrigue and haunting secrets.