Indian cooking is characterized by different forms of art. Grinding spices is one such art of cooking in which our mothers and grandmothers had a great deal of mastery. Whole species such as clove, star anise, cardamom, bay leaves, and peppercorns were ground using the mortar and pestle, and their real flavors and aroma used to make our pulao and curries flavorsome. This has been the practice for a very long time. But the recent commercialization has also touched our kitchen and thus packaged foods have entered there as well. Gone are those days when freshly ground spices were added into the curries; now packed ginger and garlic mixture has taken its place.
One such prime spice is Punjabi garam masala, which is made by a rich blend of cumin seeds, cardamom, peppercorns, bay leaves, and cinnamon. The flavor of this spice is enhanced only by the mortar and pestle. A sprinkle of this freshly ground spice in any curry is a tasty delish in itself. But sadly, Punjabi garam masala is now available only in the form of a packet. And these masalas can be stored till one year or so (thanks to the preservatives). So, where are the real health benefits? Our forefathers used to say Indian spices have digestive properties and also a cure for the common cold and cough. But none of them seem to work now because we are not grinding the spices correctly these days.
In most of the households, packaged spices have taken a front seat when compared to freshly ground spices. And thus, mortar and pestle have been shifted to the topmost inaccessible shelves of our house. Isn’t it? And of course, the most obvious answer is “We don’t have time”. But we must ponder on the hard truth that we are compromising our health for comfort. The authentic taste and flavor are missing from our hood owing to our lifestyle habits and pollution. Therefore, we must strive every day to work upon something, which will prove to be healthy in the long run.
Let’s bring that mortar and pestle again to the kitchen shelves where you can access it every day. Now, you know the advantage mortar and pestle has over the crusher. In mortar and pestle, all you need to do is gently press and then take out the innermost juices of the spice, which is used further in cooking. Whereas in crusher, that spice is beaten so hard that extraction of juice is very less. And this is the major reason why spices taste quite differently in mortar and pestle. Undoubtedly it goes without saying that mortar and pestle have greater health benefits when used over crusher.
Owing to the shortage of space in our house and paucity of time, people have shifted to the crusher. But nothing can beat the authenticity and flavorsome experience of mortar and pestle. Don’t believe us? You will be very soon.
Mortar and pestle are available in quite different materials. Ceramic ones are highly recommended. They can be a bit fragile but they work excellently well with the spices. Wooden ones are quite porous and so they need to be cleaned quite frequently. And last comes the stone ones. But the problem with stone mortar and pestle is that fine particles enter the spice mixture and are not fit for consumption.
With mortar and pestle, almost anything right from the spice mixture to dry fruits can be crushed, but with a crusher you can only work with a limited number of food products. With a crusher, you would need to crush the spices in small batches. This again would affect the final output as the consistency of the spice mixture would be highly variable.
Also, with mortar and pestle, you have a number of different options. For example, if your dish does not involve the spice mixture to be fully fine, with a mortar and pestle, you can play with the amount of fineness required. Also, if you are looking to crush your groundnuts for cake and you don’t want it to be fully grounded, then mortar and pestle is the ideal option as compared to the crusher.
Additionally, in case you require finely grounded spices completely in the puree form, it is easier to add water into the mortar and pestle and adjust the consistency rather than adding water into the crusher. And, in crusher, only a very small batch of whole spices can be done in one go. Thus, it becomes really difficult to adjust the consistency of water and spices mixed.
Mortar and pestle are highly recommended by our kitchen because this was the age-old secret which induced our way to a sustainable and healthy lifestyle. With crusher, the health benefits of the innermost juice of the spice mixture is missing. And thus, undoubtedly, crusher is economical both in terms of space and time, but there is no replacement of mortar and crusher. Especially when it comes to the health benefits. Let us know your final thoughts on the same.