Allspice: similar to cloves, but more pungent and deeply flavoured. Often used in spice mixes.
Bay Leaf: adds a woody background note to soups and sauces.
Cinnamon: appears in Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and European and is perhaps the most successful of all spices in terms of wide spread use in both savoury and sweet dishes
Cardamom: for both sweet and savoury dishes cardamom is that flavour that really can make or break a dish. Too much and that highly fragrant taste will dominate everything. Essential to curries and chai we also are big fans of black cardamom that is dried over fire so is imparted with a wonderful smoky flavour
Caraway: not just for breads of Scandinavia but marries so well with carrots, brassicas, parsnips, pork and chicken. A few added in to a curry makes a sweet unusual flavour and when baked that natural woody flavour really bursts.
Cayenne Pepper: Made from dried and ground red chili peppers. Adds a sweet heat to soups, braises, and spice mixes.
Vanilla: the king of spices for sure and such an amazing one considering all the work it goes through to get to us. Hand pollinates, hand picked, dried and wrapped, each pod may be handled over 100 times before you split it open and infuse milk or sugar.
Cloves: sweet and warming spice. Used most often in baking, but also good with braised meat.
Cumin: an essential that will work with almost anything from meats to vegetables. Cumin marries perfectly with coriander both fresh and dried and one can’t imagine a good Middle Eastern dish with out it
Coriander: falling much into the same category as cumin, the sharper taste of coriander pairs so well with woody cumin seed and both make a curry perfect
Fennel Seed: Lightly sweet and licorice flavored. It’s excellent with meat dishes, or even chewed on its own as a breath freshener and digestion aid!
Fenugreek: Although this herb smells like maple syrup while cooking, it has a rather bitter, burnt sugar flavor. Found in a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.
Nutmeg: Sweet and pungent. Great in baked goods, but also adds a warm note to savory dishes.
Paprika: Adds a sweet note and a red color. Used in stews and spice blends.
Pepper: so common it is almost just as much an essential as salt and we wonder how we could ever have lived without it. We love that fiery intensity and bite when we coat a steak, simple flavours like eggs just need a whole lot of it and we may just not respect it nearly as much as we should
Rosemary: strong and piney. Great with eggs, beans, and potatoes, as well as grilled meats.
Saffron: Saffron has a subtle but distinct floral flavor and aroma, and it also gives foods a bright yellow color.
Star Anise: whole star anise can be used to add a sweet licorice-y flavour sauces and soups.
Sumac: zingy and lemony, sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that’s great in marinades and spice rubs.
Turmeric: sometimes used more for its yellow colour than its flavour, turmeric has a mild woody flavour. Can be used in place of saffron in a pinch or for those of us on a budget.
Ginger: the rhizome that brings us that punchy heat and heady fragrance both dried and fresh. What would Chinese cooking be with out but also in its dried format what would Indian cooking be with out it. So different in both formats it is an essential
Making your own spice blends is so rewarding and while they do take some time and patience, nothing compares to your own blended paste mix.
Here’s a beautiful Thai Green Curry Paste to get you started…
Makes ½ cup
1 Tbsp coriander seed
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
3 sticks lemongrass, woody parts removed
2 Tbsp chopped galangal (if using dried, rehydrate in a little hot water first)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp lime zest
4 small shallots, peeled
8 cloves garlic, peeled
6 bird’s eye chilles
2 Tbsp fresh coriander
2 Tbsp shrimp paste
2 Tbsp oil
Dry roast and pound to a powder the coriander, cumin and pepper. Place all the ingredients in a blender and pulse to blend adding in the oil to help loosen. To cook fry the paste first till aromatic before adding your preferred produce.