Argan

Argan oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the Argan tree. The argan tree is a very resistant tree which can live from 150 to 200 years. It is perfectly adapted to the aridity of the South Western regions of Morocco.

The fruits of the Argan tree are green. They look like an olive but are larger and rounder.
Inside, there is a hard shell nut which represents about one quarter of the flesh fruit weight. The nut can contain up to three kernels from which the argan oil is extracted.

The production of this oil is a demanding and laborious process which was until recently completely realized by hand.

This oil is very nutritive and has a lot of medical properties.It contains twice as much vitamin E as olive oil. It’s used in food, cosmetics, body care…

Argan Oil, has been sought after for years by chefs, top gourmets and enlightened home cooks for its delicacy. It’s not only healthy, but it has a characteristic nutty flavor and enhances the taste and aroma of many dishes. It is truly a rare and exotic treat. Argan Oil is used only for seasoning and never for cooking.

For centuries, Argan has been a well-kept secret known only to Berber women in Morocco who use it to nourish their skin, hair and nails.

Amchur (Mango powder)

The spice amchur is unripe or green mango fruits which have been sliced and sun dried. The name comes from Hindiam, mango. The spice is either whole or ground and sometimes seasoned with turmeric. The mango tree is native to the India-Burma-Malaysia region and is one of the oldest cultivated fruits. In India it has grown for over 4,000 years; the various uses of the fruit are probably ancient. After the European explorations during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it has spread to all parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world, especially Africa. The mango, apart from its place as a fresh fruit is most famous as a chutney or pickle ingredient. The mango retains a special place in Hindu mythology and ritual. Lord Gautama the Buddha was presented with a mango grove and the Mogul Emperor Akbar (1556-1605), ordered a huge plantation of 100,000 mango trees to be planted. The mango tree is a member of the family that includes the cashew and pistachio nut.

The dried slices are light brown with a rough surface. Ripe mango slices are also dried and are orange brown. Amchur powder is finely ground but with a slightly fibrous texture. It is beige in colour. Its flavour is slightlt sweet and acidic.

The use of amchur is confined chiefly to Indian cookery, where it is used as an acid flavouring in curries, soups, chutneys, marinades and as a condiment. The dried slices add a piquancy to curries and the powder acts as a souring agent akin to tamarind. It is particularly useful as an ingredient in marinades, having the same tenderizing qualities as lemon or lime juice. However, where, for instance, three tablespoons of lemon or lime juice are required, one teaspoon of amchur will suffice. Chicken and fish are enhanced by amchur and grilled fish on skewers, machli kabab, is well worth trying.

Spices

Spices have always been loved in oriental countries and present in all their food and even in other uses : medicine, religious rituals,cosmetics…

The earliest evidence of the use of spice by humans was around 50,000 B.C. The spice trade developed throughout the Middle East in around 2000 BC with cinnamon and pepper.

Spices were used for medical purposes throughout history. The rich were able to put spices in wine which was then drunk to cure or ward off different illness. The poor only were able to have a handful or a pinch of a spice and were more likely to get sick.

Spices were also used as aphrodisiacs and to help with reproduction. The most common aphrodisiac spice was cinnamon.

In Egyptian times spices were used when mummifying important pharaohs and other people. Spices were even left in the tombs for the dead person to take with them in the after life.

In Medieval times salt would be served on the table in huge blocks. The salt was set at the table closest to the richest guests. Poorer guests and servants would sit at the end of the table. The expression “Beneath the salt” came from this practice. Today salt is one of the most used spices.

India is the first country producer of spices, then comes China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

I’m gonna try in my next articles of this category, to present you different kind of spices existing in different areas of the world..

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