The first step to creating a great curry is knowing how to select quality spices

Recipe and content supplied by The Spice Emporium

Edited by Galia Hillhouse – Durban Routes

The Spice Emporium is one of the oldest and largest stockists of authentic South African and Indian spices, rice, grains and more. Here they share some tips and advice on how to purchase and make the most of your spices.

Spices are an incredibly versatile addition to any pantry. With such a wide array to choose from (Spice Emporium stores stock over 100 varieties), where to begin can seem daunting. However, armed with some basic knowledge, you’ll find that cooking a curry is not only easy, it’s budget friendly and will open you up to a whole new culinary experience.

Keep in mind that not all spices are made equal, so we’ll share some of the tips and guidelines we’ve learnt in the 60 years of being in the spice trade.


The freshness and quality of spices play a big role in determining the not only the depth of flavour, but the quantity required – the better the quality of spices, the more potent they are, and the less you have to use. Fresh spices should be pungent.

Trust your nose… If you take a deep whiff of it and your face scrunches up (and perhaps your eyes even start to tear!), you know you’ve found a good spice!

A palette for your palate… A good way to tell the quality of a spice is from its colour. Good quality spice powders are rich and vibrant in colour. For instance, if turmeric powder is made using fresh, Grade A-quality turmeric, the powder will naturally be a deep, golden yellow. However, if the turmeric is of inferior quality, when ground, it will be a dull yellow.

Never better in bulk…

It is preferable to buy small quantities of spices regularly, rather than in large quantities. Over time the spices begin to lose their flavour and colour. However, storing them in cool, dark place – in an airtight container like a masala dubba, can keep them fresher for longer. Remember that with good quality spices, a little goes a long way.


Spices should only add flavour, so if your curry starts to thicken when you add your spices, it’s likely that a thickening agent like corn flour or rice flour has been used to ‘bulk-up’ the spices.



3tbs oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

3 curry leaves

2 whole dry chillies


2 large tomatoes, liquidised and strained

1 onion finely chopped

1 level tsp turmeric powder

1½ tsp coriander (dhania) powder

½ tsp cumin (jeera) powder

1 tsp chilli powder

¾ tsp crushed green chilli

½ tsp crushed ginger

½ tsp crushed garlic

Salt to taste

1 cup broad beans boiled until soft


1 tsp of fresh coriander, finely chopped

Pinch of garam masala


Soak the broad beans overnight and drain.

Boil the beans in 2½ to 3 cups fresh water until soft

Heat oil on medium to high heat. Add mustards seeds, when they begin to pop, add dry chillies, curry leaves and onions.

Reduce heat and cook onions until transparent.

Add the liquidised tomatoes and all remaining spices. Cook until tomato moisture has evaporated and thickened into a paste.

Add the cooked beans (with the water) to the tomato mixture, add a little extra water if necessary.

Cook until gravy has thickened.

Garnish with fresh coriander and garam masala.

Serve with basmati rice, roti and papad.

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