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Prior to shifting my diet to a more wholefood based template I had never really been big on spices. Now I use them almost daily to add an extra flavour kapow to most dishes. Even though I love using them, I do have a pretty refined list of what I classify as essentials and tend not to have many more. Spices can go rancid very quickly, especially when ground so less is more in my opinion so that you move the units before they go off.
Air, heat, and light are the enemies of fresh spices, so an airtight container in a cool, dark place like a cabinet is ideal for storage. Some hardcore spice people actually store them in the fridge to help preserve the freshness, I do not bother with this. The worst place to keep your spices is above the stove because the heat from the oven will destroy the essential oils in the spices.
Cinnamon – ground and also the quills. I eat cinnamon every day in smoothies, on yoghurt, in my tea but I also add it to curries, chilli con carne… the list goes on. Cinnamon is said to help stabilize your blood sugar, assisting with cravings so sprinkle this guy freely on your meals.
Fennel seeds – Definitely do not buy this one ground, freshly grinding with a bit of salt is the best. I love all things fennel and seeds are probably my favourite part. Grind them up with a generous pinch of salt and sprinkle on avocado with lemon, smoked salmon, eggs, fish and beef. Add a tablespoon of freshly ground seeds to beef mince for the best beef burgers ever. Trust me!
Turmeric – Ask most health freaks that they will tell you this stuff is a superfood and will add it to everything. Eggs, smoothies, kombucha… I am not joking people go mental for it. The main reason is due to the active ingredient in turmeric called curcumin which is meant to be a great anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is claimed that it can combat cancer, reduce risks of stroke and heart disease… it’s kind of a superfood. I like it for its colour and flavour in curries and marinades.
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Chili Flakes/Powder – Needs no real explanation. Good for making food spicey
Cumin – Great in spiced salads, in curries, in sweet potato/pumpkin soup. Really nice freshly ground and sprinkled on pumpkin and carrots then roasted.
Coriander seeds & Garam Marsala – This combo is great for Indian foods and marinades and I find that if I have these two I can make and Indian style curry with a touch of cumin. I know traditional proper curries require approximately 100 different spices but I find my simple curries do alright.
Smoked Paprika – I love foods with a smokey flavour – smoked salmon, smoked cheese… oh smoked oysters! Yum! Smoked paprika is a great way to add a delicious smokey warmth to dishes in particular Mexican food, marinades and a regular in our house Smoked Spiced Almonds.
Sumac – I love this spice so much I have written a blog post about it. Sumac has a tart/sour sort of flavour and prior to the introduction of lemons by the Romans it was used in middle eastern cuisine for a tangy flavour. It is used in lots of middle eastern spice mixes like za’atar. All I have to say is PUT IT ON EGGS WITH AVOCADO.
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Dried Oregano and Bay Leaves – Important for marinades, making stock or broth, Italian dishes and chilli con carne. The only kind of dried herb you should keep in the pantry.
Whole Nutmeg – Used in making the best mashed potato, some curries but mostly in baking or stewing fruits.
A couple of good spice mixes – I love Zatar, Dukkah and this Ras El Hanout one. You can use them to coat meats or fish before cooking, toss veggies in before roasting or sprinkle on top of dips. Don’t go too crazy on having a heap of mixes, just have a couple that you know you will use up. I buy my spice mixes from Gewurzhaus.
What spices do you keep in the kitchen? Any favourites that I don’t have?