Be Hot on Spices...

It has been found clear evidence that spices have been used in food preparation and preservation for thousands of years.

They were primarily used as food flavouring then their use expanded to medicine and cosmetics;

they have always been rare, exotic and expensive and represented a symbol of wealth.


Spices can come from the following plant parts: roots, rhizomes, stems, leaves, bark, flowers, fruits, and seeds.

India is the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices and the trade in spices between historical civilizations started in Asia, Northeast Africa and then moved to Europe.

Spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, and pepper for example, were used in antiquity for commerce in the Eastern world.


Today I would like to consider a few spices which, personally, I have started using with my food only more recently.


Star Anise


Made from the fruit of a Chinese tree. It has a flavour similar to licorice and the shape of a star!

It’s well known for its presence in the Chinese “5 spice” and Indian “Garam Masala” blends.

It makes a great addition to sweet dishes and desserts, such as baked fruit, pies, quick bread and muffins.

Its dense supply of flavonoids and polyphenols, makes it a source of several bioactive compounds which may contribute to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.



Cardamom


Made from the seeds pods of various plants. The seeds are small and black. It has a piney and fruity aroma with hints of lemon and mint. Mainly used for stews and also for some kind of rolls and breads - ground cardamom is also used to prepare desserts.

Contains Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, calcium, iron, magnesium and it si used to help with digestion.

It also has diuretic and antioxidant properties.



Fenugreek


It has a spicy smell and an aromatic bittersweet taste. Used as an herb and a spice in dishes like sauces, soups, vegetable dishes and curries. It is part of the blends for Indian curry powders. As it can reduce the sugar level of the blood, it is used in diabetes in conjunction with insulin. It also lowers blood pressure.

Fenugreek relieves congestion, reduces inflammation and fights infection.

It contains natural expectorant properties ideal for treating sinus and lung congestion and loosens and removes excess mucus and phlegm.

Fenugreek is also an excellent source of selenium.



Juniper Berries


They come from an evergren plant or tree. The most common culinary use is, as we all probably know, to flavour gin.

They are used with medicinal purposes, as an essential oil and also as dry fruit. They have a light piney flavour with a touch of pepperiness. The dry fruit and the oil have diuretic properties and are used to releive stomach upset.

Used as a flavouring in pickled food, candy, frozen dairy desserts, meat products, baked goods.



Mustard seeds


They are small round seeds of various mustard plants and have a sharp and hot flavour. Packed with vitamins and a mineral called selenium they are good for your bones. They also help strengthen hair, nails and teeth.

They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Can provide relief from headache and are good for digestive health and for the skin.

You can also add mustard seeds in your salad dressing, pickle or chutneys.



Saffron


It comes from the flower of Crocus Sativus, commonly known as the "saffron crocus". Used as flavouring and colouring agent in food. It is the most expensive spice in the world. Why?!! Because of its labor-intensive harvesting method, making the production very costly.

It contains a variety of compounds that act as antioxidant and one of them the 'saffranal' give the saffron its taste and aroma. It is used in small doses in dishes as paella, risotto or other rice dishes. The best way to draw out its flavour is first to soak it in hot - but not boiling water - then also add the water to your dish.



Spices Blends