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The Spices Used In Cooking That You Need In Your Cupboard

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Often, especially when our schedules are at their busiest, we can find ourselves in a flavour rut with the foods we eat on a daily basis. While we may enjoy the same types of foods and preparations, there is something we can all do to pep up our daily fare. As we all know, meat and spices go together very well. But if you’ve grown weary of the same sprinkle of garlic powder and bit of cracked black pepper in your go-to dishes, here are several spices used in cooking to help you break free of your daily spice grind.

Spice #1: Smoked Paprika

Much like the jar of deep red powder many of us probably know is lurking in the spice cabinet, smoked paprika is made from ground peppers—Spanish varieties are labelled pimentón. And while we may occasionally use the neglected paprika, many don’t really know what to do with it. When it comes to spices used in cooking, smoked paprika is a cut above the rest. It often comes in sweet or spicy variants, which add different dimensions to your dishes, based upon the interaction with other flavours. The spicy variety does bring a little touch of heat and can make a fantastic addition to your breakfast eggs or your steamed green beans. The sweet variety adds a smoky dimension, and is the best choice for those who desire a spice flavour rather than heat.

Spice #2: Cardamom

This is a spice familiar to most of us as an aspect of Indian cuisine. It also features prominently in chai—a favourite, warming tea that many enjoy. As autumn waxes full and the weather becomes chill, cardamom makes a fantastic spice addition to your comfort foods—both savoury and sweet. Many chefs insist upon purchasing the whole pods and grinding them as needed for their cuisine, since that helps to maintain cardamom’s freshness. This should be a priority when cooking with spices like cardamom. But it’s available in pre-ground form for those who are pressed for time, which can also be economic if you’re experimenting with it for the first time. Experts of the kitchen realm say that it balances other spices used in cooking like cinnamon when you include it in breads or deserts, but it also helps to round out the strong flavours of meats like mutton, beef, and even goat.

Spice #3: Aleppo Chilli

While crushed red pepper flakes do spice things up nicely, going with this now-known sure thing can even feel bland after a while. It isn’t so much that they’re less flavourful or useful, but that your palate has become accustomed to their heat. Aleppo Chilli is sourced from Syria and the dried flakes of this crushed pepper bring something new to your taste buds. There’s a hint of smoky sweetness behind their respectable heat. While you can use a small amount or more, as you would with crushed red chilli flakes, they add new dimensions to your dishes, making the everyday vegetables or main courses more exciting.

Spice #4: Saffron

This spice has always carried a rather hefty price tag, but there’s an excellent reason for that. Saffron is the dried stigma of a crocus, and hence, the spice is often called threads for the resemblance to fine string. You can find excellent saffron from many countries around the world, and each will bring its own brilliance to your dishes, because the place in which the flowers grow offer different soil, water, and air conditions. While legitimate saffron, which has no additives or dyes, does cost a bit more, it’s worth it. You can add a thread or two to soups, bread dough, or sweets to evoke a floral, spicy flavour and a brilliant yellow hue. When cooking with spices like saffron, a small amount goes an incredibly long way. You can even soak it in a bit of liquid—broth, water, or wine—and then remove the threads if you’re making a cream sauce, a special soup, or even ice cream.

Spice #5: Vanilla Bean

While most of us are familiar with the extract—which is often an alcohol medium and unnecessarily sweetened—the vanilla bean pods are where the flavour is really concentrated. However, whole beans can be truly expensive and difficult to find. This is why some companies have turned their attentions to offering a high quality ground vanilla bean to their consumers. This allows you to access all the flavour benefits of the dried pod without having to pay the exorbitant prices attached to the whole beans. You can use it in cookies, oatmeal, ice creams or sweet deserts like crème Broulee, but it has other uses. Try including a tiny pinch of the ground pod in a dry rub for a roast or adding it to a favourite spicy dish filled with chilli and other exotic spices. The mellow roundness of the vanilla will enhance and support the other flavours, and add new dimensions to your dishes.

It’s actually surprisingly simple to add new dimensions of flavour to your favourite dishes. While many of us might have felt that such things required in-depth knowledge of spices, a culinary degree, or a deeply adventurous flair for the exotic, all we really needed were a few hints. A chilli flake here, a pinch of cardamom there and our Tuesday night dinner routine becomes something daringly delicious rather than more of the same.


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