A well used pestle and mortar can add the gift of ancient creativity to your kitchen. These sets have been around for thousands of years BC. and have traditionally been used for medicinal, pharmacology, alchemy and culinary arts.
In the kitchen this utensil set is used to crack spices like peppercorns, for crushing herbs and hand grinding roots. I love crushing tender herbs like basil to make pesto, or dry spices to make up a garam masala or jerk seasoning. Manually crushing aromatic ingredients allows their oils to be released, even dry appearing ingredients, like ginger or lemon grass, can be reduced to a paste through crushing. Theres something really satisfying about working this technique through your ingredients with your hands.
No raw food kitchen should be without it's pestle and mortar set, however there are certain features to consider that can make it an easy to use option for specific uses. Your well constructed pestle and mortar set will last for many years and is always convenient to use and easy to clean.
I opt for either a stone (granite) or marble pestle and mortar set. This is because I have found their substantial weight enables them to remain stable while you're pounding away at your spices, unlike the wooden one a purchased before realising this is an important feature the kind of use I wanted it for.
When the interior of the mortar is slightly rougher in texture, it allows for both wet and dry mixes to be worked on with ease.
I look for a wide base pestle, so that the base is broader than it's top.
A larger capacity mortar with a deep well is effective as a kitchen tool; if you're using it to make pesto for instance, you need it to be able to adequately hold all the ingredients, with room to mix them together as well. If you plan to use your pestle and mortar for small occasional jobs, then a smaller set will do.
It's so easy to use...
Here's a great instruction on how to use your pestle and mortar:
- Place your ingredients in the mortar and hold it in place with one hand.
- Hold the pestle in your fist with a firm but comfortable grip.
- Press the rounded end of the pestle down onto the ingredients and roll it against the mortar while applying firm pressure.
- Grind until you've reached your preferred consistency.
If you are making a paste, after grinding your ingredients, you can add a small amounts of liquid (oil, water, plant milk) at a time to get the desired consistency. You can get into your own rhythm from pounding the pestle against the mortar in the process of making a paste from scratch.
I find that a pestle and mortar allows me more control over preparing small quantities and herbs and spices also have an earthier flavour.
When you’ve finished using a mortar, whether it's granite or another kind, rinse it off with warm soapy water and immediately wipe the bowl dry, especially if it's wooden, before storing it away.
Try out a Handmade Garam Masala (gah-rum ma-saa-la) Blend Recipe
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds
- 3-4 cinnamon sticks
- 3-4 dried bay leaves
Crush out the spices adding a teaspoon at a time, until it reaches either a coarse or fine mixture as preferred. Store in an air-tight glass jar.
Translated the name means hot (garam) mix (masala). Garam Masala adds warmth (having a warming effect on the digestive system, as well as imparting a warm, spicy flavour).
It's a spice blend that is used in all sorts of Indian recipes, including tarkas, raitas, lassi drinks, teas, desserts. Growing up, we used Garam Masala to add flavour to our baked beans. You can also sprinkle Garam Masala onto fruits like watermelons and guavas, with a pinch of salt.
For your raw food recipes, you can add Garam Masala to your raw crackers, pate's, sauces and other savoury dishes.
The recipe ingredients for Garam Masala often varies according to its geographical region of origin.
Resources: (copy the links below and paste into your browser)
- A the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle is called a molcajete, used to crush and grind spices and to prepare salsas and guacamole.
- Ten Thousand Years of the Mortar and Pestle https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/01/mortar-pestle-object-lesson/423852/
- Mortar and pestle in history and heraldry
- Bird-shaped pestle
- "Grinding Stone to Art Object: The Mortar and Pestle from the Renaissance to the Present"
- Why Every Chef Needs a Mortar and Pestle
- Real Chefs Grind It With A Mortar And Pestle
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