Spice Spice Baby

We’re taking our game from salt and pepper to spices from all around the world. While a little salt and pepper make all the difference, incorporating new spices into your culinary endeavors can ignite your taste buds and really bring out the flavours of the ingredients you’re working with. Spices come in many different shapes and forms, they can be used whole (like peppercorns and nutmeg) or ground. We’ve put together a list of the top 5 herbs and spices you should consider adding to your cooking arsenal.

1. Basil

While not technically a spice, basil is an herb that can be used both fresh or dried. Basil pairs excellently on white meats, in combination with fruits like raspberries and strawberries, or added in stir-fries. The trick to using basil efficiently is to add it at the end—cooking with basil from the beginning takes away the flavour.

2. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper takes the title as the spice with the most heat. Cayenne pepper is best when used sparingly, but pairs well with most vegetable stews, hot and sour dishes, vinegar-based sauces, works well with all types of meat, and is especially keen with lemons in marinades.

3. Dill

Also known as salmon’s best friend, Dill is a fantastically aromatic herb. Dill also pairs nicely with tomatoes and cucumbers, and is a great addition to any soup, or yoghurt based dish.

4. Cilantro

Cilantro is one of the rare herbs that is never available in a dried form. Cilantro adds a citrusy zest to dishes like bean stews, Spanish-style tomato sauces for enchiladas, curried vegetable stews, and corn dishes like corn-stuffed peppers. Cilantro is also great for chip friends salsa and guacamole, and when combined with lemon or lime, makes a great marinade.

5. Coriander Seeds

Coriander is a complex spice that lands somewhere in the middle of sweet and spicy. Coriander adds great depth to fish and smoked meats, corn and cabbage, as well as vegetable relishes and hot-sweet chutneys.

In addition to these spices, here are some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your spices:

  • When buying herbs and spices in bulk, try to buy only what will fit into your designated spice jar. Stocking up on spices in large quantities isn’t advised, as spices are best used within one year of purchase.
  • Be sure to store your spices away from heat and moisture. Choose airtight seals in places like cupboards.
  • When using fresh herbs instead of dry, the rule of thumb is to use about three times the amount of fresh herb as the dry.
  • Introduce dried herbs and spices into your recipe as early in the cooking process as possible, with the except of basil, so that they have a chance to develop and enhance flavor. Add fresh herbs toward the middle or even the end of the cooking if you’d like to retain their flavor.

Photo Courtesy of Veg Kitchen

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