Quick Recipes and Easy

A Spicy Encounter – Part 1 of 4 – The Basics of Spices

Spices brighten up our meals and give us those fabulous aromas we expect of modern day cooking. To early traders spices were as valuable as gold and a certain luxury only the extremely rich could afford. Luckily today we can all delight in their rich aromas and flavors.

Spices come from the buds, bark, stems, roots, berries and seeds of plants. Generally every part of the plant that we use in cooking is termed a spice, except the leaf. The leaves are classified as herbs.

This sometimes results in the same plant giving us both spices and herbs, like cilantro (coriander).

While we often prefer to use herbs fresh, spices we tend to use dried. As it is the drying process of spices, that causes natural occurring enzymes within the plant to activate and form volatile oils. This in turn is what makes the aromas and exotic flavors.

Whole spices tend to keep longer than ground spices. So it is often best to buy the whole spice and grind it yourself especially if it is a spice you don’t use often. Plus the aroma of freshly ground spices are delectable.

When storing your spices, make sure you keep them away from direct sunlight. Also try to avoid extremes in temperature and humidity.

Spices are generally grouped into five categories based on flavor – sweet; tangy; pungent; hot and amalgamating. How we combine them and in what quantities, is what gives us our incredible range of tastes.

In order to become proficient at using spices, we need to know a small about each group. And in turn how to mix them, it’s simple. Just reckon of how we mix sweet and sour and how we use salt and pepper.

Sweet Spices
Well just as the name says these are the ones we associate with sweet dishes and desserts. They are also added to savory recipes to balance up other spice flavors. They do vary in strength and one can determine this with a quick sniff.

Sweet spices include allspice, aniseed, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.

Tangy Spices
These spices tend to have a distinctly acidic flavor thus the tangy name. When using these spices you can reduce the amount of lemon juice or vinegar in the recipe due to their own acidic flavor.

Each of the tangy spices have a distinct flavor which is unique and combines well to produce exotic flavors.

Tangy spices include sumac and tamarind.

Pungent Spices
These spices add a vibrant element to a dish. Some are strong and only a small amount is needed but don’t let this place you off, as they are very useful.

Characterized by a strong flavor the pungent spices include cardamom, cloves, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, nigella seed and saffron.

Hot Spices
These should be used sparingly. It is often the hot spice that causes a dish to be termed “spicy”.

The first hot one we reckon of is probably chilli but also included is horseradish, pepper and mustard.

Amalgamating Spices
Called amalgamating spices because they fit in well with nearly every other flavor. They are generally mild tasting but perform an vital role in uniting flavors.

These include coriander seed, fennel seed, paprika, poppy seeds and tumeric.

Until our next Spicy Encounter
Delight in Cooking!

Lisa “The Crock Cook”

Lisa likes food and enjoys cooking special meals for family and friends. She also likes the internet. So, she combines the two at a-crock-cook.com a-crock-cook.com, where she makes mouthwatering a-crock-cook.com” target=”_blank Crock Pot Recipes.

**Webmasters – Please feel free to add this article to your site. Just remember to ensure the links remain live and static. Regards Lisa**

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