Nirmala’s 3 Favorite Spices of Life
01/21/2013 | 03:22 PM
We asked our global spice girl, host of new show Nirmala’s Spice World, to share some of her top three favorite spices and how she uses them in the kitchen, and for staying beautiful! Here are a few of Nirmala’s all-time favorite spices of life.
Favorite #1: Cloves
My grandfather always carried cloves in his pocket – it was the spice he used to balance to his Dosha. As a little girl, I would press my nose against his shirt pocket…the sweet scent of cloves never left me. Some thirty years later, it rekindled its power upon me while on top of clove tree in the exotic spice island of Zanzibar. This memory ultimately led me to quit my corporate job for a marketing and communications firm – henceforth Nirmala’s Kitchen was born, fusing cultures through spices.
What dishes do you cook with cloves?
I take ground cloves with black sesame seeds and a bit of argan oil, coat tofu then grill and stuffed in pita pocket with spicy arugula and drizzle liberally with my homemade Tunisian Harissa. Tofu never tasted better.
Tell us how you use cloves for beauty.
Ask any of my friends or colleagues and they will tell you I smell like cloves. My obsession with making homemade beauty products from the spices we cook with began as a little girl, making lipstick with annatto seeds, and making my own perfume with cloves and fresh jasmine flowers, which grew in abundance in our home garden.
Share with us your first Ayurvedic experience with cloves.
We never had toothbrushes; we used twigs from the black sage bush of about 4-inches long. We chewed the tip and made into a brush-like form before actually rubbing them on our teeth. A whole clove was chewed after brushing, for fresh breath, and its antibacterial properties are found in its essential oil, eugenol.
Favorite #2: Black Pepper
I am such a fan of “heat” in all my spice mixtures. When I cannot find the hottest chili for my meals, I liberally add dashes of ground black pepper. This prized spice, once just like gold, was used as medium of exchange and dates back as far as the 4th century B.C. Today, one of my favorite destinations in sourcing black pepper is Cochin India – there is a stock exchange just to trade peppercorns. How cool is that?
What dishes do you make with black pepper?
One of my all-time favorites is a savory mango lassi with roasted ground cumin and generous pinches of freshly ground black pepper; garnish with a crisp stick of celery. It’s honestly my hangover cure.
We heard you use black pepper to make beauty products, tell us about it.
As a world traveler, my feet are the most important part of my body. I look at them as the gateway to my body, mind and soul. So to take care of them, I make a foot scrub with fresh ground black pepper, brown sugar and olive oil. The black pepper stimulates my blood vessels, the brown sugar exfoliates and the olive oil heals, softens and moisturizes.
Share with us your first Ayurvedic experience with black pepper.
One of my numerous domestic duties as a little girl was to make Ayurvedic oils for Mardhana (massage) one of many massage techniques used in Ayurveda. At night before bedtime, my three brothers and I were treated to Udvartana massage; it’s a rubdown with coconut oil I soaked with whole long pepper or black peppercorn. This massage stimulates our body while sleeping and helps remove perspiration; it also removes fat and revitalizes Kapha and Vata Doshas. It tones and is a great anti-aging as it strengthens and tightens the skin.
Favorite #3: Wattle Seed
Many years ago on my first trip to Australia, I headed to the outback where I spent over a month living with the Aborigines to learn and discover “bush foods.” One morning I was awoken to the most sensually, rich, toasty aroma that was faintly like coffee with hints of roasted hazelnuts and cacao. That day I would say a spice found me, it was wattleseed or as the Aborigines refer to it as, mugla. For centuries, the indigenous Australians have been using wattleseed. There are several hundred acacia species native to Australia but only a few are edible.
How do you use wattleseed in cooking?
One of my favorite or I would say any girl’s best friend in any season is a decadent crème brulee. Mines are always infused with wattleseed. You can use wattleseed like you would coffee. Wattleseed are highly nutritious and has no caffeine.
Do you have any wattleseed beauty secret?
Of course, I make a body polish with several Australian “bush food” like wattleseed, wild limes, and quandongs. The nutty protein rich wattleseed gently exfoliates, the wild lime rich in vitamin C enhances my skins firmness and the quandongs with essential fatty acids boost my complexion and brightens my skin tone.
Share with us your first “bush food” experience with wattleseed.
The indigenous Australians are known as hunters and gatherers. Their “bush food” diet is generally low in energy density but high in nutrients, therefore high in protein, fiber and micronutrients and low in sugars. The carbohydrate in most traditional plant foods is of low-glycemic index, producing lower glucose and insulin levels than similar Western type of foods. On a day of gathering “bush food” we took leftover wattleseed grounds, mixed it with wild lime peels, and placed it around disturbed green tree ant nest, this mixture kept the ants from scattering. We collected the green tree ants, and ground them and make it into a tea, which helped with the cold nights and get rid of terrible headaches, both of which I was experiencing.
About Nirmala Narine
Nirmala's Spice World
Treat a Toothache With Clove Oil