In Britain, the custom is to keep spices in a jumble of faded packets or sticky jars years out of date at the back of the cupboard. Spices, of course, need as much careful preservation as ground coffee or they quickly deteriorate to flavorless powders in indeterminate shades of beige.

Despite the widespread popularity of Indian and other spicy cuisines in the once bland British cookbook, it seems that many home chefs fail to keep the all-important spice ingredients proper conditions.

In contrast, in every Indian kitchen, there is a masala dabba — an airtight, compartmented box that is used to keep cooking spices fresh. This circular tin, with its neat glass-topped containers, can store 13 spices in the manner that they deserve and fits neatly into the typical domestic fridge.

Flavours & Spices Founded

It was her Kashmir upbringing that gave Sereena Walker a taste for the spicy and tangent foods of the Indian sub-continent. As Kashmir is located in northern India, Kashmiri food is delicately flavored with saffron and Kashmiri chillies. Kashmiri cuisine is characterized by the generous use of curds in the gravies, which gives dishes a creamy consistency.

With her sisters, Priya and Alexa, Sereena would watch her mother in the kitchen of the family home.

Indian Spices Fresh
Various spices spoons on stone table. Top view .

Their mother was always experimenting with different flavors and spices and the three sisters were chief tasters while their father was out at work. Gradually their mother started giving them practical cooking lessons, a memory that all three sisters cherish to this day, as they were so full of fun and ended with the family sitting down together to eat.

Sereena recalls how Flavours & Spices was born: “When I moved to the UK, I frequently cooked for my friends. I would always be asked to cook an Indian meal, as it was something that they would never try themselves because they felt it looked so difficult or never tasted really authentic.

“I explained to them that it was simple. I just went to my spice box, the masala dabba, which of course is a household item in India, for the required spices for each dish and found the other few fresh ingredients in my fridge and larder.”

The Cookbook Is Born

Like many domestic cooks, Sereena relied on keeping her favorite recipes in her head. They were memorized from years spent watching and learning from her mother. The moment of inspiration for the business came with the realization that the British could benefit from being able to acquire a masala dabba and a sophisticated cookbook combining all the recipes stored in Sereena’s memories.

She says: “This made me think that if I could provide my friends with a spice box containing all the relevant spices and a recipe book with step-by-step instructions on how to prepare and cook the recipes, then they could bring Indian cooking to their homes. With the invaluable help of my family, the recipes in this book were brought together.

“We think they provide the perfect mix; whether you want to fix a quick snack for lunch, a tasty family meal or something a little more special for a dinner party. All the spices are in the spice box and everything else you need to know is in the book.”

Perfect for the home chef, Sereena also considers the masala dabba makes an ideal gift for friends and family who enjoy Indian food. It’s ideal for so many occasions such as weddings, birthdays, Mother’s Day and housewarmings.