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They don't call it the Spice Coast for nothing. Every kitchen includes these spices. (How bland must European cooking have been before they started trade routes here!)

In the small bowls on the left, clockwise from the top, are ground chile, ground coriander, mustard seed, chopped chile, black pepper, turmeric -- and salt in the middle. The platter to the right includes cinnamon, fenugreek, black dhal, cloves, cumin seeds, whole chiles and other kitchen essentials.

We took a cooking class in Cochin and employed all these ingredients to put together two fantastic vegetable masalas. Buon appetito.