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Six Essential Spices to Have in Your Pantry

Spice is a key element in assisting food to taste ‘authentic’ in many cuisines.

November 21, 2017

Six Essential Spices to Have in Your Pantry

Six Essential Spices

Spice is a key element in assisting food to taste ‘authentic’ in many cuisines.

Widely used around the world but noteably in Mexican, Indian and Moroccan cuisines.

Sometimes left whole as in an Indian Pilau Rice where the ground version is unwanted and a more gentle infusion is preferred, or ground and toasted as in a curry to give a ‘complete’ flavour throughout.

  • Cumin

A classic curry spice. Earthy and pungent, this has to be one of the most recognisable aromas in the kitchen. It is used far and wide around the world and is included in many spice blends including Berbere (pronounced berberay), Panch Phora and Curry Powder.

Fry peeled sliced carrots in butter for a few minutes, until softening. Sprinkle in cumin seeds and continue to cook for a minute or so to release their aromatics. Season to taste and stir through salty, olive oil mash to make the rustic Croatian Zeje.

  • Coriander

Best mates with cumin, this spice has sage and lemon fragrance with top note sweetness. It balances out the earthy-ness of base note cumin and is an important inclusion in cooking, as gentle as it is.  The seeds have a different taste to the fresh coriander plant. Due to the sweetness, coriander can be used in baking.

I have a delicious old-fashioned Coriander and Caraway biscuit recipe from England which I will share another day.

  • Paprika

Hungarian Goulash and Spanish Paella rely on this deep burnt orange hued spice for their classic flavours and colour. Spanish style paprika is ground from sun dried sweet varieties of capsicums. Different varieties of capsicums will result in mild, sweet or hot paprika.

Add paprika to salt when tossing par-boiled potato chunks in oil with salt before roasting crisp golden in a hot oven.

  • Turmeric

Bright sunset yellow, it’s obvious the rhizome turmeric’s addition to dishes is colour. But, the flavour is as important. Two varieties, Alleppy is more true to fresh flavour but Madras is the most common and easy to source. Well known for its’ medicinal qualities, turmeric latte is now a popular hot drink alternative to tea and coffee. Blending with other spices turmeric has amalgamating properties to bring flavours together.

A perfect example of this is tandoori chicken.

  • Cardamom

Pungent, camphor-like taste with a eucalypt sweetness of an aroma that’s almost shocking. Very powerful the world’s third most expensive spice should be used with care. It can overpower if not understood. As at home in sweet dishes as savoury, cardamom is best purchased as pods. This way you always have any form of this spice available. Pods, whole seeds and ground.

Include half a dozen seeds to sugar syrup when poaching as many pears and add a citrus scent with 3 to 4 strips of orange rind.

  • Garam Masala

A blend of fennel seed, caraway seed, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper. Garam means spice and masala means mix. This blend adds flavour and depth to curries without the curry spice of cumin.

Make a very simple vegetable curry by adding garam masala and turmeric to a fried wet masala of onion, ginger and garlic. Roughly chop chosen vegetables and add them to pan depending on time taken to cook (e.g. carrots before cauliflower) then simmer in coconut milk, until tender. Season with salt to taste and serve with fresh coriander leaves.

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Tracey Cotterell

Tracey Cotterell
Tracey Cotterell


Tracey has been in the food industry since completing her Diploma in Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management in 1982 in the UK. She worked for an outside catering company in London, then joined her parents in rural West Sussex running

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Tracey Cotterell

Tracey Cotterell


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