For an Indian from India, it is sometimes hard to understand the Trinidadian names of foods and spices that are of Indian origin. The names resonate of some thing familiar yet time and distance have distorted them, though not, at least yet, beyond all recognition. Masala, of course, means "spices," but amchar is curious. Achar is the word for 'pickle, "so these could originally have been pickling spices. Indeed, such spices are used for pickling in India. Aam is "mango," so this spice could originally have been used for pickling mangoes and later, the words aam and achar got put together to become amchar. This, however, is just a guess. We may never know how this spice mixture got its name. Today, it is sprinkled on Indian-type dishes toward the end of the cooking period.
¼ cup whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
Put all the spices in a small, cast-iron frying pan and set over medium heat. Stir and roast for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the spices turn a shade or two darker. Remove from the skillet, allow to cool, and then grind as finely as possible in a clean coffee grinder or other spice grinder. Store in an airtight jar in a dark cupboard.
MAKES ABOUT 8 TABLESPOONS