Bal’s Spice Kitchen

Written by Tracy Turlin

Bals Spice Kitchen

Variety may be the spice of life but spices could just be the variety you need to see you through the last leg of this long, cold winter. Bal’s Spice Kitchen is just the thing to inspire you to cook the savoury, warming dishes that will banish the last of those winter blues.

Bal Arneson is all about fresh food with exotic flavours. As a young girl she began cooking over a barbeque pit in her small village in India. Her family didn’t have a lot of money, so she learned to use seasonal ingredients from her garden and experimented with her own blends of herbs and spices to produce deliciously innovative meals.

Bal_useHere in Canada, Arneson found herself raising her young daughter on her own. To make ends meet while she furthered her education, she began catering and teaching others to cook the dishes of her childhood. Arneson proved that Indian food could be light and healthy and she worked to demystify Indian spices. Two television series and three cookbooks later, she is the cook Canadians look to when we want to bring masalas, chutneys and rotis into our kitchens. Her smile and welcoming manner are as warm as the spices she loves.

She now lives in Vancouver with her son and daughter and records her television show, Spice Goddess (Food Network Canada), in her home kitchen. Her cooking techniques may have changed but her love of spice has remained.

Her third book, Bal’s Spice Kitchen, is less about traditional Indian food than her previous efforts. She often uses Indian spices in classic North American and European dishes, even including an Indian twist on Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

Arneson shares her own spice blends (masalas) with us. A glossary of spices includes a photo of the most common forms (whole or ground) and fantastic descriptions of the aromas and flavours of each. This is helpful, as she encourages us to substitute them to suit our own tastes. Don’t care for heat? Reduce the chilies. Enjoy floral tastes and aromas? Increase the cardamom. Love the taste of lemon? Coriander seed is the way to go.

The book is peppered with tips such as how to cook lobster perfectly, and how make your own paneer (fresh cheese). Many recipes offer a suggested wine pairing. Photographer Tracey Kusiewicz has captured the food so beautifully that I wish there had been more photos of the finished dishes to inspire readers.

The featured recipes are a perfect way to jazz up your dinner this spring. The winter blues will melt away even if the snow never does. Fresh mangoes add a touch of summer sweetness to the earthy, smoky warmth of Chicken with Cashews and Mango Sauce. Try a dish of Lobster with Prawns and Paprika Coriander Dressing and you can almost imagine you are sitting on the patio enjoying lunch in the sunshine. Add some spice to your next meal, and Bal’s Spice Kitchen to your cookbook collection.

Tracy Turlin is a freelance writer and dog groomer in London. Reach her at


Recipes from Bal’s Spice Kitchen© 2014 by Bal Arneson. Published by Whitecap Books. All rights reserved.

prawn and lobster saladLobster with Prawns and Paprika Coriander Dressing

My daughter Anoop’s love for seafood inspired me to create this recipe. Once the lobster and prawns are cooked, the rest of the steps are very simple. You just throw everything together for a very elegant salad. If you like this half as much as Anoop does, you’ll be eating it all the time!

Serves 4

4 lobster tails, steamed and meat removed 
20 cooked prawns (see directions)
1 medium purple onion, finely chopped
1 cup (250 mL) basil leaves, chopped

Combine the lobster, prawns, onion and basil leaves in a salad bowl.
 Paprika Coriander Dressing

½ cup (60 mL) flaxseed oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp (5 mL) smoked paprika
½ tsp (2 mL) ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly whisk the oil, lemon juice, paprika, coriander, salt and pepper in a bowl.

To serve: Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

How to cook prawns:

In a skillet, heat 2 Tbsp (30 mL) grapeseed oil on medium heat. Add 20 prawns, deveined and shells removed, and cook until they curl up and are just firm, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Suggested wine pairing: 2010 White Lie by Serendipity Winery


Chicken w Cashews Mango (2)Chicken with Cashews and Mango Sauce

Because of my love and passion for mango, I decided to incorporate it into this recipe. The warm earthy flavours from the cumin seeds combine very well with the mango’s sweetness.

Serves 4

2 Tbsp (30 mL) grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp (30 mL) grated garlic
1 Tbsp (15 mL) grated ginger
1 Tbsp (15 mL) cumin seeds
2 tsp (10 mL) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 mL) fenugreek seeds
1 tsp (5 mL) smoked paprika
½ cup (125 mL) cashews
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
½ cup (125 mL) plain yogurt
2 cups (500 mL) mango chunks

1 Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-high.

2 Add the garlic and ginger and saut. for about 1 minute.

3 Add the spices then the cashews and toast for 10 seconds.

4 Turn down the heat to low and add the chicken.

5 Cook until it is nearly done, about 8 minutes.

6 Add the yogurt and finish cooking the chicken, about 2 more minutes, then stir in the mango chunks.

7 Serve with rice or rotis.

Suggested wine pairing: 2009 Merlot Reserve by Mission Hill Family Estate


About the author

Tracy Turlin

Tracy Turlin is a freelance writer and dog groomer in London.
Reach her at