The other day I was in the Indian grocery store and as I was rounding the corner into the aisle with spices of all colors and sizes stacked higher than I can even reach, I realized that shopping for new spices is my favorite part of going grocery shopping. My pantry and spice cabinet are so well stocked that I can pull out almost any new recipe and I’ll have every spice that’s needed. That’s an exciting feeling for me. I feel like a real cook now.
My spice collection took on a life of it’s own only recently. For about six years all I had was the five or six basic spices I used on a daily or weekly basis which all fit in my lovely Indian style spice box (masala dabba in Hindi). Now, not only is my masala dabba full but I also have an entire three-tired cabinet devoted to spices The more and more bags of spices I got the messier they became for storage and the harder it became to find something I wanted. So I set out to find a system of organization for all my spices.
Once I got home I decided to admire my spice collection and thought it would be fun to share it with you all. Once I got started it turned into a complete kitchen tour including my make-shift pantry (which is actually supposed to be the bedroom linen closet), as well as inspired the new section of the blog The Indian Spice Cabinet.
Here is a picture of our kitchen from the real-estate listing brochure. The fact that it’s an open kitchen and a highly functional triangle was a huge selling point for Hubby and me. It’s still a small kitchen but since it opens to the living and dining room it feels much bigger than our previous kitchen which was a narrow galley kitchen, closed off to the living room.
Since we have moved in it’s gone through a number of different setups. I’ve tried the Julia Child inspired kitchen where all my tools are out on display and within easy reach. I loved the functionality but it always felt like a mess. I since learned that I like things tucked away but organized so I don’t have to dig around. The newest arrangement has most of the utensils and food stored out of sight. Although I keep the frequently used appliances in a neat set up on the counter.
Here is my main spice cabinet. The red-topped containers were my original collection which Hubby beautifully labeled for me. As the collection has grown I picked up the clear boxes at my local restaurant supply store and used small stick-on labels from office depot.
Then I have my more unorganized cabinet of cooking oils like coconut oil, mustard oil and my all-time favorite ghee. I got the fried onions (top shelf on the right) for a dish of rice that was garnished with the fried onions. I haven’t used them since. I use the corn starch to thicken my cream sauces.
You might notice the neat lines of bins on the bottom shelf. This is my collection of all the lentils and beans we like to eat. Let’s take a closer look…
Starting from the left we have red lentils (Masoor Daal), green lentils (Mung Daal), split chickpeas (Chana Daal), then we have dried garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas (chana), whole black gram sometimes referred to as black gram (Whole Urad Daal) and finally a container of freshly ground garam masala (a famous general spice used in almost every Indian dish) that we get replenished on our annual trip to Bombay. Hopefully soon I’ll find a great recipe for making my own garam masala at home but I have yet to find one that tastes right.
For the rest of the spices and dry ingredients we need to go around the corner to what is actually our bedroom linen closet that has been taken over for kitchen storage. This is the messiest cabinet as most of the stuff here is less stackable. Most of the bakeware on the top left belongs to my mother. It’s on a long-term loan and then I have my grandmother’s juicer that I have yet to use. On the bottom shelf I have a professional cake stand which I just love. I have a bulk bag of chocolate chips from Smart & Final. The clear plastic bin (courtesy of salad mix from Costco) holds all my seldom used spices or any leftover spices that didn’t fit into their containers in the kitchen. The wire basket holds all baking supplies. I transfer most things I get into sandwich bags or bigger clear Ziploc bags and label them so they can be kept air tight after being opened.
Let’s tour the rest of the kitchen while we are at it!
This is the chapati station where I keep my stand mixer and warming bowl on the counter. In the nearby drawer I keep my chapati rolling pin and board (I also keep the larger rolling pin for bigger dough projects) as well as my container of extra chapati flour for rolling out the dough and a towel for making the chapatis puff up.
In the cabinet below I keep a large bin of chapati flour on hand (behind which I store extra bags of bread flour and all-purpose flour).
At my stove I keep two small bowls of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. On the other side of the stove I keep a dispenser of olive oil (in a beautiful hand painted jar from my mother) and a container of Indian tea that is always within easy reach!
That’s about the entirety of my lovely kitchen laboratory. It’s small but mighty and I continue to be inspired in this little room every day.