My mother dry roasting Indian spices to make garam masala that later she would pound in the white marble mortar and pestle, which would be sprinkled on many a curry.

Sugar, spice & everything nice! Indian spices on the dessert menu is the sweet news this season.

– The Indian Trumpet’s Debut Edition

My grand mum would leave the juicy ruby red pomegranate seeds out in the sun and leave them to dry for days to make anardana, which we would later enjoy in each bite of our allu parantha (Indian flatbread stuffed with potatoes).

Our neighbour Mrs. Chellapa, would make and share her special madras curry powder blend with us and we would use it as a dry rub for our fish.

Does it sound really strange that my childhood evokes such spicy memories? And quite honestly as I write this I can actually smell each of the spices and it just warms me up and makes me all fuzzy. That is the power of spices. If India is called the spice nation it is for a valid reason. We are not just home to some of the most aromatic, mouthwatering and gorgeous spices of the world but also are firm believers of romancing these treats. We like to use them to bring out the complexities in a recipe (garam masala), to brighten a dish (turmeric & kashmiri red chilli powder) and to warm the palate (cinnamon & cloves) across our courses. Of course we are partial to using them for the main courses, however recently we have started using them in our desserts too.

Most Indian moms are obsessed with cooking and feeding their families, especially their children. We all have shared stories of how most of mums’ waking thoughts are about the next meal she will cook! Here’s our food editor reminiscing about her mum and her special, loving touch to all that she cooks for her children!

I believe the practice of using spices for desserts started some 500 years ago and it continues to date. But when it came to experimenting with spices we mostly stuck to the good old cardamom (kulfi, barfi, shrikhand and payasam, all with a hint of cardamom), sometimes khus khus and cinnamon and of course the exquisite saffron. However, lately, we have observed a change and are seeing a lot of interesting culinary experiments. A lot of spices that had not met desserts till now are being introduced to the sweet treats. The mint chilli hot chocolate milk, a recipe by the Michelin starred Chef Vikas Khanna where he uses a combination of chilli flakes and cinnamon with chocolate, raises the aphrodisiac quotient by tenfold (Just like in the Mexican Chilli, cocoa is used with the chilli to make it more delectable). This is just one of the many yummy examples.

Kali mirch (black pepper) is known for its heat and very recently I came across an article where Chef Kierin Baldwin, pastry chef at the Dutch, New York used it in a cake icing. That’s right! An icing made with freshly ground black pepper, kosher salt, sugar and egg whites! In fact, another interesting use of black pepper that I came across was in an ice cream where it has been successfully paired along with black cardamom that lends a smoky flavour to the ice cream. This innovative combination has been created by Chef Ethan Frisch who is the person behind Guerrilla Ice cream. Closer home, I remember watching Chef Vicky Ratani create some masala chai ice cream. I did try it out in my kitchen and the result was spectacular.

The trick lies in practising restraint and also experimenting and figuring out, which spices actually do justice and bring the dish a notch above. Usually, the ones that work well in savoury dishes work well together in sweet ones too, of course with some tweaking.

At home, I insist you try out the simple combination of strawberries soaked in a teeny bit of balsamic vinegar, sugar and some freshly ground black pepper. The result will be sublime, I promise. Or use cumin to flavour a loaf cake and watch the nutty cumin with its citrus notes really lift the taste of the regular loaf. Lime and black pepper cookies or lemon and poppy seeds cookies, anyone? But if you are too scared to experiment at home then I suggest get yourself a bottle of a ‘dessert sauce’ to get acquainted with new flavours. Paresh Tejura, MD at chutney & pickle producer, Curry Cuisine has developed a range of dessert sauces using spices that are associated with Indian cooking; mango, cardamom and ginger, cherry chocolate and chilli and lemongrass and ginger. These can be used over ice creams or even cheesecake toppings.

Leaving you lovely people with a recipe for cumin and dark chocolate truffles. Till we meet again have fun spicing up your desserts.

Find more recipes by the writer at orangekitchens.net.

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