Selects the most useful spices to keep in the storecupboard to add depth and flavour to your home-cooked dishes.
The bark from an evergreen tree. The flavour is sweet, fragrant and warm and goes especially well with chocolate, milky desserts and fruits, such as apple, pear and rhubarb.
The ‘nut’ of an evergreen tree originating from Indonesia. It’s very aromatic, sweet smelling and warm and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes. Buy it whole rather than ground.
This sweet, nutty spice is used extensively in Indian and Middle Eastern recipes. The seeds make an interesting addition to the pepper mill.
Also fresh (root) and crytalised, or in syrup (stem). Used to flavour cakes and flapjacks. Add to pastry and in glazes with orange and honey.
Has a strong spicy-sweet smell with a slightly pungent taste. A little cumin added at the end of cooking time boosts the flavour.
Brown mustard seeds
Small seeds from a plant related to the cabbage. Although they have hardly any smell they have a powerful flavour once cooked.
These add pure mouth-tingling heat, so be sparing. As they reconstitute they get hotter so, depending on the heat you’re after, they can be added at the beginning or end of cooking.
A star-shaped fruit from a small oriental tree related to the magnolia. They add a liquorice flavour to Chinese dishes, fruit desserts and jams.
Highly perfumed seed pods from a shrub native to South India and Sri Lanka. Use in Indian dishes, biscuits and milk puddings.
Small berries used extensively in Jamaica and the Caribbean, especially for jerk dishes. A useful alternative to ground mixed spice.
HOW TO KEEP SPICES FRESH
- Buy them in small quantities and, if they’re loose like cinnamon sticks or in open packs, transfer them to small airtight storage jars to stop them losing their flavour and colour.
- Although it’s convenient, don’t keep spices to hand near the oven, they’ll last longer in a cool, dark cupboard, away from the heat and humidity.
- Whole spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg, keep their flavour longer than ground because their essential oils have not yet been released. For ultra-fresh spice buy them whole then grind them yourself just before using to get the most intense flavours. Use a pestle and mortar or a coffee grinder.
- Spices don’t “go off”, they just lose potency. As a guide, use whole spice after a year and ground after 6 months.
image above: K-pra spices