Spice Up Your Life

Posted by Emily Eades on 12 April 2016

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Don’t know your curry powder from your cumin or your turmeric from your paprika? Fear not. Once you’ve decoded what’s what in the spice rack, you’ll discover how easy it is for those colourful little jars to bring seemingly past-its-best food back to life.

Curry powder

What is it?

Most shop-bought curry powders contain a combination of up to 20 premixed spices such as coriander, cumin and turmeric.

What does it taste like?

This traditional Indian spice mix touches on all the notes you need to recreate your favourite curry dishes.

What does it go with?

‘Currying’ tired veg or beans is a brilliant way of giving items a punchy new lease of life. It also adds a flavour kick to egg mayo sarnies, tomato-based sauces or that 80s favourite coronation chicken.

Top tip! Curry powder will provide you with an authentic Indian flavour – then add fresh chilli or chilli flakes for extra spice.

Curry powder
Shutterstock / Olha Afanasieva

Cumin

What is it?

An aromatic, mellow little number available both ground and as seeds.

What does it taste like?

Warm and earthy, cumin is traditionally used in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.

What does it go with?

A pinch will add musky tones to roasted vegetables, dark meat and curries.

Top tip! Adding a teaspoon to roasted vegetables is a brilliant way of infusing flavour into wilting veg. Slice, oil and scatter with cumin before roasting for a tasty meal.

Shutterstock / hongchanstudio

Paprika

What is it?

A vibrant orange-red powder made from ground sweet red pepper pods.

What does it taste like?

Paprika has a smooth and gentle heat that can be sweet, smoky or spicy depending on the variety you purchase.

What does it go with?

Use it to season meat, seafood and vegetables. Try it as a delicious garnish on devilled eggs, add it to tomato soup and sauces for depth of flavour and toss a teaspoonful in baked eggs for added punch.

Top tip! A sprinkling of paprika really livens up scrambled egg dishes.

Paprika powder
Shutterstock / SMDSS

Five-spice

What is it?

As the name suggests, this fragrant powder is a combination of five Chinese flavour components – most commonly, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and black pepper.

What does it taste like?

As a medley of five spices, there are real layers of flavour in this powerful little number. Used primarily in Chinese and Asian cooking, it is warm, aromatic and sweet.

What does it go with?

Delicious rubbed on meat as a pre-cook marinade.

Top tip! Put away the takeaway menu and experiment by adding some Chinese tang to roasted lamb, spare ribs or stir-fry chicken instead.

Five-space
Shutterstock / Richard Griffin

Black peppercorn

What is it?

Black, white and pink peppercorns all come from the pepper plant. Once full, fleshy fruit, they shrivel and harden under heat to become the table-top favourite we all know and love.

What does it taste like?

As anyone who has accidentally bitten into a whole one will know – these guys taste hot, sharp and smoky on their own. Milled, they add a spicy, aniseed flavour.

What does it go with?

This is arguably the most reliable weapon in your spice arsenal. Grind over salads, steaks, soups, stews, soups - and anything lacking lustre.

Top tip! Freshly ground is best for real flavour.

Black peppercorn
Shutterstock / Aleksandrs Samuilovs

Chilli powder

What is it?

A fiery powder of dried chilli peppers and often mixed with garlic, salt and oregano.

What does it taste like?

Chilli powder is not as spicy as you might imagine. It has a rich, sweet heat.

What does it go with?

We wouldn’t make chilli con carne without it.

Top tip! Use a teaspoon or more to add richness of flavour, but always add fresh or flaked chilli if it’s real heat you’re hankering for.

Chilli powder
Shutterstock / merc67

Ground ginger

What is it? The dried, powdered cousin of the knobbly ginger root.

What does it taste like? Earthy to taste, with a delicate kick to it and a gentle sweetness that fresh ginger lacks.

What does it go with? Use with honey and mustard to make a great marinade for chicken. In baking, it adds light spiciness to shortbread, biscuits or sponge. Or give a limp-looking salad a neat awakening by stirring a pinch into homemade dressing.

Top tip! Ground ginger works equally well in savoury and sweet dishes and is even used in hot drinks, often medicinally, to soothe colds, nausea and bloated bellies. 

Ground ginger
Shutterstock / Mamma mia

Cinnamon

What is it? A mid-brown spice derived from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree (try saying that after a glass of wine).

What does it taste like? Warm, aromatic, bittersweet and a little bit like Christmas.

What does it go with? It tastes sweet and tangy in pies, cakes, cookies and muffins – a great way of adding flavour to recipes if you’re out of dried fruits, nuts or choc chips. Also adds earthiness to stews, chillies and curries – use sparingly to avoid over-sweetening.

Top tip: Try using cinnamon instead of sugar to sweeten milkshakes or yogurt, as an alternative dessert for little ones.

Cinnamon
Shutterstock / Chamille White

Mustard powder

What is it? A fine dull-yellow powder, made from ground mustard seeds.

What does it taste like? It’s a big, bold flavour that tastes a lot like shop-bought mustard, though perhaps even punchier.

What does it go with? Mustard powder makes a great rub for fish and meat, gives impact to simple vinaigrettes and adds jazz to bland cheese sauce.

Top tip! No need to dash to the shops – dried mustard can easily be turned into spreadable mustard if you’ve none to hand in the fridge by adding a little water, salt and vinegar.

Mustard powder
Shutterstock / 13Smile

 

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