After writing all about herbs last week, clever me thought it would be a great idea to follow that up with a post all about spices! Then I thought about spices. I came up with 20 spices, and that’s probably not all of them.
Well this is gonna be a long one… Might have to split it into two :)
Remember I said that herbs are the leaves of a plant? Well spices are the seed, fruit, root or bark (thanks Wikipedia) of a plant. They’re what gives your food depth, and flavour; Even if it’s just a pinch of pepper, it can make all the difference. Read this for a crash course in spices - from where they’re from to what to use them in. In case you’re looking for it, salt isn’t on this list… Because it’s a mineral!
Cumin is an amazing spice. It’s usually dried in the fruit that contains it, then sold either as seeds or as powder. It’s earthy, slightly spicy and to me, it’s that distinct curry flavour (although that definitely not all there is to curry powder or curries!). It is native to India, and is used in many curries, but it’s also great in chillies and even in cheese!
Coriander seeds are the dried fruit of the coriander plant, where fresh coriander (or cilantro) comes from. Again you can get it whole or powdered. It’s strong… Really strong, but tastes pretty different to fresh coriander. It’s got a bit of heat, but the overwhelming flavour is almost citrus-like. Coriander is another spice thats great in curries, but apparently it’s also often used in brewing beer!
Did you know that cardamom is the world’s third most expensive spice? It’s worth it though! Once again, it’s great in curries and quite unique in both appearance and flavour. It’s really strong and almost medicinal in taste, and although it’s great for flavour you really don’t want to bite into a whole one. Although it’s usually bought whole, you can find powder, which is great for more unusual uses, like our Orange Blossom and Cardamom Iced Buns.
Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice and although it’s native to India, it’s used in virtually every cuisine all over the world. It’s so popular that it’s even been used as currency! It’s spicy flavour is perfect for adding a kick of flavour to your food and comes in whole peppercorns of different colours, depending on the ripeness of the fruit when picked, and in ground form.
Cloves are the one smell that never fails to remind us of Christmas. You never need to use much, because it’s seriously aromatic and is awesome in dishes like mulled wine, or even a classic béchamel. These little flower buds are native to Indonesia and in addition to adding a great flavour to dishes, are also great for your health. They’ve got anti inflammatory properties and are full of anti oxidants. They can also be used as a mild anaesthetic and to freshen your breath. Talk about a superfood!
Cinnamon is another fragrant one! It can be seriously strong, so use it sparingly. Use whole sticks to infuse the flavour into sauces, or use it in a powdered form if you’re really looking to get a strong flavour. Cinnamon has a load of health benefits, but remember it’s also got a Tolerable Daily Intake too, so don’t go adding too much to your cinnamon rolls!
Saffron is well known as the worlds most expensive spice! By weight it’s more expensive than gold, and if you know where it comes from then you might understand why! Saffron is the dried stigma of a flower, and need to be hand picked from thousands of flowers just to get a little of the precious spice. It’s best steeped in hot water before adding to a dish like Paella to give it that distinct, floral, almost metallic flavour.
Nutmeg is another of those spices that are used all over the world to create completely different tasting dishes. It’s fantastic in meat. From sausages, to burgers, to haggis… It gives them a real depth of flavour. Don’t forget pumpkin pie as well. Like sage, it lifts pumpkin to another level… It becomes delicious and incredibly moorish!
Allspice is not all the spices! :) It’s actually a berry, and got it’s name by having a flavour like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Unsurprisingly that means that it’s great in sausages and even cakes, but the absolute best thing to use allspice for is Jerk seasoning! It’s one of a few ingredients that add to the unique flavour, but it really is the star of the show!
Now this is a great looking spice! It looks just as it sounds, like a star! It’s usually used whole, and infused into sauces, soups and even a lot of alcohol. One of the most well know uses is in Vietnamese Pho, but it’s also ground into garam masala and Chinese 5 spice.
There you go! 10 ways to spice up any dish this week! Remember, there are 10 more coming up soon but just in case we haven’t thought of your favourite, which should we be including next time? Go forth and spice up you food!