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Get pound wise

india Updated: Jan 06, 2009 17:08 IST
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Are you the do-it-yourself type who loves making dishes from scratch? Rather than use store-bought masalas and mixes, you may prefer to concoct your own. To get cracking, you will need a good mortar and pestle.

This all-essential tool is made up of a bowl (mortar) and a heavy stick with a rounded base (pestle). It is used to crush or grind ingredients.

Found in almost all cultures from South American to Indian, almost every ancestral home has a large mortar usually made of stone. This is even used for home remedies to crush powders and herbs together.

Today, no matter what cuisine you’re trying out, a mortar and pestle can be a handy little gadget. You can use it to grind the guacamole and pesto sauce. Also for crushing nuts when baking or making sweets like marzipan (made from almonds or cashewnuts.) Traditional Indian masalas and essential add-ons like ginger-garlic paste can also be made using this.

Tough mettle
The mortar and pestle should be strong enough to withstand all the pounding. If the material used is too brittle, it can chip off and the flakes may find their way into the food.

Porous material is also to be avoided as bacteria may develop on the remnants of food stuck in the cracks and pores and cause food poisoning. Sometimes, the material may even absorb past flavours and transfer them to another dish. Marble or basalt are the preferred materials though porcelain and ceramic are just as popular for their clean finish. Unfortunately, these are delicate and stain easily.

You can use a carved stone mortar and pestle as a decoration on the dinning table.. or even as a replacement of a pepper grinder.