Last but not the least as 2023 comes to an end, its time for the salt and pepper to put up their appearances in the series.
Well, I know for sure salt is not a spice but as salt and pepper always go together, as often said, the inseparable partners found together on the dining tables and in the kitchens, found in all cuisines the duo helps to enhance each other’s flavours. Of course, salt is a mineral that is added to all our dishes to enhance the taste while pepper is the spice that adds a sharp bite and a touch of heat. Then again it depends when the pepper corns are added, while cooking, or later as freshly crushed over soups or salads. With Finland rather full of snow at this time of the year, it a nice warm feeling to sit down for a nice, warm, and spicy meal, or perhaps a tangy meal like our hot and spicy rasam and Venn Pongal. It was especially enjoyable after a nice walk in the snowy covered streets in the reeling sub-zero temperatures. Venn in Tamil language means white clarified butter and pongal is abundance.
Pongal is made with rice and split moong lentils. They are washed, and later soaked for some time, drained and roasted over ghee. They are then cooked in double the water, along with some black pepper, chopped ginger, and salt. In another pan add some ghee, and as it heats up, add in mustard seeds, and as they start to splutter, add in asafetida, and curry leaves. Then, add this seasoning over the cooked mixture, mix it well, and it is ready to serve. The feel of the pepper in some bites brings you back to reality as one enjoys the hot pongal with some pappadam and rasam (Rasam is a soup made with tamarind,lentils,tomatoes,warming spices and herbs, Soulful soups-Mega – http://www.megamedia.fi/media/mega_v4221_netti.pdf , page 4) on the sides.
A nicely spiced coffee or tea also does make a difference. And what made me think and look again was the ever-present black pepper making its presence felt in both the dishes. Yes, you read it right, black pepper in coffee and that too along with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, ginger, cardamom makes the festive spirit just come alive. This recipe is shared by a friend of mine and must say it is the ideal Christmas coffee mix for the season. But then again, remember spices are to be used sparingly and in right amounts else the taste may just backfire.
Similarly, the chai masala, the tea spice blend is made by dry roasting cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamom in a pan. Grinding that mixture after its cooled down and then adding in ginger powder and nutmeg. This can be stored and used to make the masala chai, as in spiced tea. Just a little bit of this mixture added to milk and water along with black tea leaves and then boiled together, with sugar maybe added as per taste. This tea is soothing, rejuvenating, and helpful to get one going when one is tired or restless. I love that little “me time” to spend and inhale the aromas of the boiling mixture, relaxing, and taking me back in time to the tea times with my parents or friends. Like a warm hug taking you back to the times with a loved one.
As we wrap up, just the right lines by Daniel Gilbert, “The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.”
So, here´s to savouring life´s interesting experiences and enjoying the spice of variety.
And Season’s greetings to you all. Hyvää Joulua! God Jul!
Engineer by education, passionate photographer & food enthusiast from India,
living in Vaasa, and is happy to contribute to this column which combines her love for food & photography.