It is no secret that I love spices and I find the wonderful world of spices fascinating, it is a topic we will discuss in full in my 1:1 kitchen cleanse consultations, more info, click here
When I am talking about spice, I don’t mean heat, but fragrance. Spices are not always Indian, think Mexican, Spanish and Middle eastern, they all have there own unique spices.
Spices play a vital role in my everyday cooking and I have a well stock cupboard. It is important to note that spices, apart from flavouring food, also have nutritional benefits.
The flavour compounds of spices, is stored in little fat molecules, in either the seeds (fennel, cumin, coriander), stems (think cinnamon), fruit (pepper) flowers (star anise, clove) or the root (turmeric) . I consider curry leaves, lime leaves and bay leaves spices as well.
These compounds will normally be release with heat and exists to help the plant fight diseases, predators or to reproduce. Grinding whole spices also releases the flavour.
As with anything in life, WHERE you source is just as important as WHAT you source as most spices are radiated or pasteurised, extending the shelf life but killing any flavour and health benefits.
Here is my quick buying guide, Ideally we are looking for,
- non irradiated
- preferably organic
- country of origin specific to the cuisine, i.e turmeric from India and paprika from Spain
- look at the sell by date
- small quantities rather than large quantities
It can be a bit overwhelming standing in front of the all these jars of spices and not knowing what to buy. I know from personal experience that most of these jars end up at the back of a cupboard somewhere never to be used again. I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of ESSENTIAL spices to start your BASIC cupboard.
We should differentiate between ground and whole spices, both release very different flavours into food.
These are the spices that I use weekly if not daily.
- Smoked Sweet Paprika – Spanish BRAND
- Garam Masala – BRAND Komati – its just the best masala. There are many masala mixes, some containing more warming spices, some more pungent etc. I only cook with this one as it contains no chilli and is sweet & warming rather than ‘in your face’
6. Cumin Seeds
7. Fennel Seeds
8. Coriander Seeds
9. Ground Cinnamon
10. Whole Cardamom
Don’t hide your spices in a cupboard where its hard to find. Embrace them! In glass bottles are fine but don’t store them anywhere near heat (that drawer next to the oven is not a good idea, don’t ever store your oil there!) and away from direct sunlight.
How to use:
As mentioned most of the flavour of the spices is released through heat. What I normally do is heat my spices, ground or whole, in a small pan (dry no oil) on a med/hot heat for a minute or until I can smell them, tip on a clean plate (to prevent the spices from burning) and use. You will need a mortar and pestle to grind whole spices and I love this one from Woolworths here.
I make my own spice mixes for various dishes, and mark these in glass jars, for instance CHILLI CON CARNE, RED LENTILS, CHICKPEA CURRY etc ready for use.
Some Homework for your kitchen:
My recommendation would be to have a look at the expiry dates on your current spices, if they are expired, we have two options here, we can either give them away OR we can dry roast in a pan before using them which should bring out the last of their flavours.
I would then make a list and replace with organic spices which are normally inexpensive.
My Chilli Mix:
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
- pinch of cinnamon (opt)
Heat in a dry pan until fragrant and use. Also good as a fajita mix.
Recipe: Spiced Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpeas
In a bowl mix cauliflower florets and one can of drained chickpeas with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper and a few tablespoons of the chilli mix, combine, roast in a pre-heated oven 200c for 20min or until caramelised and crunchy. So good with warmed tortillas, microgreens and yogurt.
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