Tag Archives: spices

Uses for spice mixes…

Picture the scene: you’ve got a selection of spices mixes in your cupboard that you’ve made or bought for a particular recipe and never used again…or someone has bought you a great set of spice mixes from the lovely people at Spice Kitchen, for example, and you don’t know what to do with them, here’s some ideas for you. In fact, this is why I love making spice mixes because you can use them so easily.

Whatever the spice mix, whatever the origin, these ideas will work with whatever you’ve got to hand..

An easy dip

Stir a teaspoon of any spice mix into a small bowlful of natural yoghurt, ideally Greek yoghurt, or a mix of half yoghurt/half mayonnaise. Allow at least an hour for the flavour and colour to develop before serving. Stir again before serving. 

Pimp your homous:

Add a teaspoon of any spice mix to a pot of shop bought homous, or a small bowl of homemade homous. Allow at least an hour for the flavour and colour to develop before serving, it will be even better the next day. Stir again before serving. I particularly like using my Moroccan spice mix or harissa spice to do this. 

Eggs:

Sprinkle a pinch of spice mix over cooked eggs prior to eating.

Stir half a teaspoon of spice mix into scrambled eggs or an egg mixture prior to making an omelette. Try a Mexican spice mix for starters. 

Eggs and tomato sauce in one!

Tomato sauce:

Make an easy tomato sauce and add any of the spice mixes as it cooks.

Soups:

Add a teaspoon of the spice mix to any premade soup, or add several teaspoons to your own homemade soups as you cook the base ingredients.

I’ve made a lot of soups recently, for example, this soup above is made of olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots, water and baharat spice mix. I’ve made similar in the past with Mexican and Indian spice mixes. 

Whereas this soup is made with cauliflower and a Japanese curry powder. 

Roasted chickpeas:

Drain a can or jar of chickpeas and toss with a tablespoon of oil and a couple of teaspoons of spice mix and roast in a single layer at 180C until the chickpeas look roasted and tasty, and before they start exploding in your oven.


Roasted nuts
:

Pretty much the same as above, more details on my post here. 


Rice/grains
:

Stir some spice mix through any cooked rice or grains prior to serving.


Salads
:

Mix a pinch of spice mix with homemade or shop bought salad dressing, or just sprinkle some spice mix over a salad just before serving.

Salsas:

Finely chop fresh mixed herbs, garlic, maybe a chilli, with olive oil, lemon juice/your choice of vinegar, and add some spice mix.


For marinading
:

Cut 2 your choice of vegetables or meat into chunks, put them into a plastic bag (preferably one without any holes) in it, add 2 heaped teaspoons of spice mix and shake the bag to mix it round and cover all of the chicken. Leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour, maximum 24 hours before cooking. 

Alternatively, mix a couple of teaspoonfuls of spice mix with a couple of tablespoons of oil and create a paste. Add you choice of veg/meat and thoroughly stir it through the paste. Leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour, maximum 24 hours before cooking. 

Or, add a couple of tablespoons of spice mix to a couple of tablespoonfuls of natural yoghurt, below, and marinade as above. 


These work well if you are then grilling/broiling or barbecuing the vegetables/meat.


Roasting vegetables

Toss prepared vegetables in a drizzle of oil and a couple of teaspoons spice mix and roast until ready. More details here

OR…..throw some spice mix into your bread dough! 

I’m taking my spice mix ideas along to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Ginger and Suzanne

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Spices: where to begin…with whole spices…

Following on from my last post about where to begin cooking with spices, using the same collection of spices from the masala dubba (spice tin) from Spice Kitchen UK that I based that post on, this time I’ll refer to the ‘whole spices’ in the collection..

If you are just venturing into the world of using spices, I would, personally, suggest that you start with some good quality ground spices first; these are spices that have already been ground for you. Whole spices may seem even more daunting than the ground versions, and may be something to come onto later..that’s what I did! 


In this tin, we have brown mustard seeds, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Used whole, these are often utilised in India cooking to flavour the oil and add extra layers of flavour to any number of savoury dishes; the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are also used widely in baking worldwide, and it may be that usage that you are more acquainted with; any whiff of cloves and cinnamon take me straight to Christmas time! And cardamom is often used in cakes and biscuits and buns. 

I am focussing on their savoury uses for boosting the health and flavour of meals. 

Whole spices are used sparingly, a little goes a long way.

Brown mustard seeds
: the tiny seeds in the bottom right of the above picture, are actually dark yellow in colour, and have a pungent acrid flavour on their own; they are used to make Dijon mustard, however, that does not mean that your dish will therefore taste of mustard. They are typically heated carefully in oil until they start to sizzle at the start of cooking, before having more ingredients then added to them; if you leave them for too long in the hot oil, they will start to pop and fly round your kitchen…I have learnt this the hard way…! 

Alternatively you can throw a few uncooked seeds over a salad.


Cardamom pods
: if you’ve ever eaten a curry and suddenly bitten into a strange little green pod, that’s a cardamom pod; again, they add to the flavour of a dish, but aren’t particularly nice to eat themselves. Cardamon is very strong and aromatic. It has a spicy, herbal, citrusy character and goes very well with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and other aromatic spices. Also with citrus such as preserved lemons, lemon or orange zest, etc, hence being used in sweet baking. 

One or two may be added to the oil along with the mustard seeds. Always remember to count how many you put in, in case you prefer to fish them out before serving. 

Alternatively, you can crack open the pods and remove the inner little black seed and grind to a powder and add the powder to a dish later on in the cook. 


Cloves
: the little brown sticks with ‘buds’ on the end, are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree, synonymous with so much at Yuletide, that give a warm, sweet, aromatic flavour to ginger bread and pumpkin spice. In savoury dishes they provide the same flavour in a new way. 

Again, they can add flavour to your oil, or you could grind them and use the ground spice later in a dish, but be warned, a little goes a long way! Start carefully and build it up. 


Cinnamon sticks
: come from the inner bark of Cinnamomum verum or cassia and again work well is savoury and sweet dishes, providing a lovely warm flavour and aroma. Cinnamon can also be a great way of adding sweetness for food in place of sugar. 

To use the actual sticks, again use sparingly and try adding them to the pan at the start of your cooking and heat for a little while until you start to smell the aroma, before adding your next ingredients. 

Or again, try grinding them to add to your dish.

All of these spices can be used in the same way, together or individually. Again, I would recommend trying them each individually in dishes that you know well to gauge their flavour, then start to play with them. It’s a great time of year for soups and stews, and adding any of these four, in whatever mix you like or on their own, can add a wonderful extra flavour and warmth to your soup. 

Cooking with spices does not mean that you suddenly have to embrace Indian cooking, these spices can be used to create many flavours and cuisines, as well as Indian. It’s all about how you put the ingredients together, which is all part of the magic. 

I add cardamom, cinnamon and cloves to my porridge each morning, along with turmeric, nutmeg and ginger, which brings wonderful flavour and warmth and goodness to the start of each day. 

My suggestion..

Going back to the idea in my previous post, try making a simple tomato sauce: heat some flavourless oil in a pan over a medium heat; add half a teaspoon of the mustard seeds, 2 cardamom pods, 2 cloves, and a finger length stick of cinnamon to the oil; heat them on their own for a minute, then add a tin of chopped tomatoes or a jar of passata. Cook it all together on a low heat for a few minutes and see how they whole spices add flavour to the tomatoes. 

You could then chuck in some of the curry leaves from the spice tin and see what they do to the flavour too – because the only way to understand what they bring to a dish, frankly, is to try them! It’s too hard to describe the flavour!! 

I hope this has been useful, I will continue into the world of spices again next time…until then, let’s join Quinn and Monika and everyone else at this week’s Fiesta Friday

Spices: where to begin..

This post is the result of 3 different friends of mine saying individually to me recently how they’d like to cook with spices, but wouldn’t know where to start…so I thought I’d try and provide some ideas from my experiences.

I use spices daily, but I was not brought up with a knowledge of spices; I have taught myself over the last few years, through trial and error, and from reading lots and lots of recipes. Reading recipes shows how spices can be used individually or how to use selections of spices together, and in what quatities, I find it very educational. 

I fully believe that spices are your friend. 

Spices are health enhancing, food enhancing, gifts from nature. 

Spices can take a meal from bland to tasty, from being just okay, to being truly amazing. 

If…you like the full on flavour you get from food you eat out and you’d like to recreate it at home, spices are your answer.

If…you’re making changes to your eating habits, and you have any concerns about healthy food being bland, spices are your answer. 

If…you’d like to enhance your eating habits by adding health boosting and immunity strengthening properties, spices are your answer.

BUT….if the thought of cooking with spices makes you nervous and you don’t know where to start, I am here to help; consider this a starting guide to cooking with spices….

It’s too easy to get carried away when buying spices, so for my purpose, I am basing this post on a typical Indian housewife’s ‘masala dubba’, or spice tin, using the photos from my lovely friends at Spice Kitchen UK (I am not being paid or sponsored or strong armed to do so, I just like the company and their products) as I think this provides a good beginners introduction to spices. The quality of the spices is wonderful, and the quantities are small enough not to be overwhelming, whilst being large enough for lots of cooking.  And to save you from buying large quantities of spices you might never use! 

This collection includes ground coriander, ground turmeric, ground chilli powder, cumin seeds, garam masala spice mix and mustard seeds, as well as a few whole spices: cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks and curry leaves. 

I am not suggesting that cooking Indian food is your only option with spices, or even with this selection, it’s just a case of starting somewhere!

Let’s start with the ground spices and cumin seeds…


Ground coriander:
don’t confuse this with fresh leaf coriander; even if you hate fresh coriander, you won’t therefore dislike ground coriander. Ground coriander has a light citrus flavour, providing a lovely flavour to, rather than overpowering, a dish.

Ground turmeric: turmeric is a root, its very distinctly coloured, and will turn anything and everything yellow if you’re not careful. It’s packed full of goodness, and is a real health booster. It’s flavour on its own it’s not particularly nice, but once cooked into a dish, it’s good. And adds a golden tint to everything. If you can add 1/2-1 teaspoon to as many meals as possible, it will only do you good 😉

Ground chilli powder: chilli powder adds the heat to your dish. You need to experiment with chilli powder/s to gain an understanding of what level of heat you  like. Build it up gently, don’t go all maverick and pile it in in the first instance.

Cumin seeds: this is one of my favourite spices; the flavour is difficult to describe, they bring a warmth to cooking, although they’re bitter if you tried to eat them raw. They add a lovely flavour to roasted vegetables, or to an oil (cook them gently though, burnt cumin seeeds aren’t nice), they’re even better lightly roasted. You can leave them whole, or grind them yourself and use them as a powder.

Garam masala: this is an Indian spice mix, used widely in Indian cooking. ‘Masala’ means ‘mix’ so whenever you see masala against an Indian spice name, you known it’s a ready prepared spice mix. Garam masala typically includes black peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, brown cardamom, nutmeg, and green cardamom, adding a warmth rather than heat to a dish.

If you want to test the flavours of each spice and gain an idea of how it can flavour foods, try adding half a teaspoon (maybe just a quarter of the chilli powder) of one each at a time to some of your typical meals/dishes: try them in your soup, in your baked beans, in scrambled eggs, something that you’ll be able to detect a change of flavour in. 

Then, try making or using a standard tomato sauce, or maybe just a small saucepan of passata, and add a teaspoon of the coriander, cumin seeds and garam masala, and half a teaspoon of the turmeric and chilli powder, cook it briefly and allow the flavours to infuse, and you’ll already be creating a curry flavour. The aroma will be amazing! And if you leave it to eat the next day, the flavours will have developed further – I highly recommend doing this.

Rest assured, that you can’t really get it wrong with spices, the flavours just chop and change, the key is to play; just give it a go on a small portion of something and build from there. 

Hopefully this will show you how easy it is to add spices to your cooking and take out some of the fear factor.

In my next post I’ll talk about the whole spices in this tin, then I’ll move onto some different spices, then making spice mixes, and on and on with more ideas…in the meantime, I hope this has been helpful, have fun experimenting..and Happy New Year!

(PS If you’d like more inspiration, check out Sanjay and his lovely Mum with the Hairy Bikers in their new series ‘Home Comforts’ on 3rd January at 3.45pm, the episode is called ‘Spice it up’ – I’ll be watching!) 

I’m taking my spice tips to the last Fiesta Friday of the year, co hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls and Ginger

Spiced nuts..

 Whilst I’m on the theme of spices, I thought I’d share my recent spiced nut adventures..

This week I made roasted nuts with my rose harissa spice mix, some with the Mexican spice mix from www.spicekitchenuk.com,  some with garam masala, and finally some cashews with chilli powder.. 

To make your own spiced nuts, start with raw nuts; 

Heat the oven to 190C and spread the nuts on a baking tray in a single layer;

Roast until they start to brown;

Keep checking them and move the nuts from the outside edges into the middle and around the tray so that none of them get overdone; 

Whilst they roast, pour 1 tablespoon of olive or rapeseed oil into a bowl and stir a tablespoon of your chosen spice mix into the oil – of course, this may vary depending how may nuts you’re roasting, you need to gauge it yourself; resist the temptation to use any more oil, the oil is only to help the spices stick to the nuts and too much will make the nuts greasy;

Once they start to brown, take the tray out;

Mix the nuts with the oil and spices then put them back on the baking tray and back in the oven for another 10 – 15 minutes or until you feel they are sufficiently done. 

Depending on your tastes, you may wish to add a sprinkle of salt. 

* Don’t put the spices in right from the start of roasting the nuts or you could burn the spices and they will become bitter. 

Mexican spiced 

Chilli cashews 

Garam masala spiced 

Rose harissa spiced 

    
  I thought I was making these rose harissa spiced nuts below for me when I first made them and suddenly my boys had eaten the lot! That’s success in my book 🙂  

Enjoy!

Happy Sunday x

Pimp Your Veg part 2: spices are your friend! 

 If you have ever read any of my blog then you know that I love spices; these beautifully coloured aromatic powders have the power to not only nourish and heal our bodies, but to completely change any meal. 

Just a teaspoon of the right spice can take a dish from bland to grand! 

When it comes to embracing vegetables and learning to add more of them to your meals, I think spices are your secret weapon. You can bring all the flavours you love to your plate via your vegetables and make them sing.

Likewise you can use dried herbs, but for me, it’s all about spices, that’s where I would begin…and again, I know that lots of you use spices regularly and know far more than me about them, so please pass this onto to anyone you think might find it useful 🙂

Please keep in mind, this is a starting point for anyone looking for ways to pimp their vegetables. And of course, spices can boost any dish, for now, it’s just all about the veg! 

So, where to start? If you stand in front of a selection of spices in any shop it can be overwhelming so this is my advice…

You don’t need to have a huge library of spices immediately; my vast collection has grown over a number of years, but to begin with, I only bought those I needed for particular recipes; as I am not talking about anything so prescriptive, I would start with spice mixes. You don’t need to make your own like I do, (not to begin with anyway, you might fancy trying that later?) for starters I’d look at what is available in your local shops. All I would say is, for me, shop bought spice mixes usually have too much salt, but that’s just me and my tastes, try some and see what you think. 

If you think of the flavours that you like, go with them:

If you like Indian flavours, buy spice mixes with names that you recognise – tandoori, korma, madras, rogan josh, tikka, garam masala (masala means mix). Think of dishes you’ve enjoyed and choose based on those flavours.

If you like Mexican or South American food, try taco/fajita mixes, or creole or cajun, or just smoked paprika. For me, a creole mix is really user friendly, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it. 

If you like Middle Eastern flavours, try baharat, ras el hanout, za’atar or harissa. Or try some lovely citrusy sumac. As a note…many Middle Eastern flavours include cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and/or cloves, what we might consider Christmassy spices in the UK. If you try baharat or ras el hanout you’ll find these flavours, and they can be quite strong so don’t be heavy handed with these spice mixes until you get to know them .

If you like spicy food, try some chilli powder. 

I would also pick up some cumin powder, it’s a lovely starting point, and some paprika, as it’s so useful.

Be drawn by flavours and names you recognise. 

Where to buy spices? 

You will find lots of spices mixes in supermarkets, but I would also suggest visiting an Asian or Middle Eastern supermarket if you have one nearby, their spices are good quality and they have a fast turnaround, or look online at www.spicekitchenuk.com – they have perfect sized little sachets for an ideal introduction to spices (definitely try their Mexican blend!) and their fresh spices are lovely. 

As a basic starting point for using spices, ignore the directions and recipes on the packets for now and go back to my post about roasting vegetables; once you’ve sprayed the vegetables with oil prior to roasting, sprinkle over a tablespoon of your spice mix and stir it through the vegetables then roast as before. 

Alternatively, in large bowl, add a tablespoon or two (depending on your quantity of vegetables) of olive or rapeseed oil, stir in your spices, then add the prepared vegetables and toss them in the oil and spice mixture. Then roast as before.  

I will come onto other ideas for marinating and seasoning vegetables, but for now, why not throw some spices over your vegetables this weekend and see what you think? Try it with vegetables you’ve never really liked and see how they become something wonderful – for example, try roasting brussel sprouts (outer leaves removed and each one cut in half) in one of the Indian spice mixes, they’re so good! Make sure you roast them until the edges get crispy 😉 

These pics from my kitchen might also give you some ideas…

Above are carrots roasted with cumin and Aleppo chilli flakes. If you’re not a chilli fan, just try carrots with cumin. 

Above are aubergine slices about to be roasted with chermoula spice mix over them. Alternatively try these with ras el hanout or Harissa spice. 

Above…I roasted courgettes and aubergines with a selection of spices…try any one of the Indian spice mixes and see what you think..

Above is kohlrabi, carrot, sweet potatoes and shallots roasted in my own Moroccan spice mix. Try it with cumin, paprika and a sprinkle of salt. Replace the kohlrabi with parsnip or swede (rutabaga) and see just how different they can taste.  Above is mushrooms, red onion, leeks and kale roasted with olive oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Try a good sprinkle of sumac as something different (for sumac I’d sprinkle over a couple of tablespoonfuls). I threw this together the other day with our dinner..mushrooms, red peppers, red onions and garlic cloves with paprika. Nice with a sprinkle of chilli powder? 

This butternut squash above it roasted with za’atar spice. Butternut squash and sweet potato are great with a Mexican spice mix, especially a creole or Cajun mix. If in doubt, just try a sprinkle of paprika or smoked paprika as a first step and see what you think. 

Basically, be brave! A little makes a lot of difference and you can build it up as you get more confident. If in doubt, just ask 😉 

I’m sharing my spiced vegetable ideas with everyone at Fiesta Friday this week – I hope they like them! Check out what everyone is cooking this weekend with co hosts Judi and Quinn.

Have fun! 

Coming next in the series: getting crunchy! 

What would you feed me…Chitra? 

 This week’s guest post comes to you from the powerhouse that is Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen. I say powerhouse because Chitra posts healthy, wonderful recipes daily, her recipe log is massive, you are guaranteed to be inspired! Chitra’s aim is to share healthy recipes, often her healthy version of typical indian recipes, always complete with nutritional information, which, of course, highly appeals to me 🙂

So, this week, Chitra, what would you feed me?   

 When Elaine approached me for guest post, I was really thrilled and it was a great honour for me to be here. “What would you feed me” is a series of guest posts initiated by Elaine and I am glad to be part of it. It is a great opportunity given to me by her to meet new people thru her blog.

I get inspired by Elaine’s Vegetarian healthy recipes mainly Salads and Dips variations. Knowing Elaine’s inclination towards spices and sugar free dishes. I wanted to try something which fits to ‘What would you feed me’ series, as well her healthy blog concept, so tried this Spiced Kiwi Lassi instead of Sweet Lassi.


Thanks again Elaine for the opportunity.

  

Kiwi Lassi – Spiced:


About:

Smoothies/Drinks are quick and easy and are a real treat on warm days. This is a thick, rich, flavorful smoothie is cool and refreshing and can be taken as a light meal or can be served for breakfast. You can enjoy it any time of the day … Delicious and loaded with nutrients, I love that 🙂


Health Benefits:


Kiwi has more vitamin C than an orange and it’s seeds are rich in Omega 3 acids. Supports learning process, boost immunity system and helps your skin to glow.


Fennel seeds (Saunf) are very effective for digestive problems. These seeds can be chewed upon or had as a tea decoction for beneficial effects upon the stomach. In India, these are routinely chewed upon after meals to aid in digestion after a rich meal while acting as herbal mouth freshener.


Cardamom– Elaichi or cardamom not only does it add sweet taste and unique flavour to your dishesCardamom contains chemicals that appear to treat stomach and intestinal spasms and gas, and increase the movement of food through the intestine.


Yields -2 servings

Preparation time -10 minutes


Ingredients:

• Kiwi fruit- 4
• Plain greek yogurt-1cup
• Milk-1/2cup 

For Spices:

• Fresh mint leaves-8-10
• Cardamom-1pod
• Ground pepper-1/4tsp (or as per taste)
• Fennel seeds-1/2tsp
• Salt- a generous pinch ( I used black salt)

Procedure:

• Place all spices (ground pepper, cardamom pods, fennel seeds), salt , mint, in a blender and pulse until coarsely crushed.
• Now to this add kiwi fruit, yogurt, mint and continue to blend until smooth.
• You can add more milk to reach your desired consistency and ice if you like a frosty smoothie.


Enjoy.


Note:

• Spices can be personalised
• Consistency of Lassi can be altered too 

 

What a wonderful, fresh looking smoothie, and with the spices, a completely different take on fruit smoothies for me. Thank you so much, Chitra xx

My take on Christmas cakes…

IMG_5504.JPGI’m afraid I don’t like Christmas cake; I just don’t like heavy duty fruit cakes, even before I stopped eating sugar I didn’t like them. I do however like a lot of the elements: the spices, the dried fruit, the nuts, so many flavours that I love, just not packed into a heavy rich cake and fed alcohol 😦

So this year, I’ve made my own lighter, gluten free, sugar free, fat free version, designed for my palate, sure, but the recipe might also be useful if you have guests at Christmas with intolerances or if you just don’t fancy going completely mad for a change…?!

IMG_5505-0.JPGThis makes it look like the cinnamon sticks are huge, but it’s just the angle of the photo! The cinnamon sticks are indeed lovely though, another winner from Just Ingredients, I also used their lemon peel powder and orange peel powder (very cool) and with the nutmeg and allspice too, these smelt divine.

Ingredients

3 heaped tablespoons finely ground almonds
1 heaped tablespoon chestnut flour (it doesn’t have to be chestnut flour, it can be 100% ground almonds, or a mixture with another gluten free flour)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tsp lemon peel powder
2 tsp orange peel powder
200g mixed dried fruit, I used raisins, sultanas, cranberries
2 large eggs
2 tsp baking powder (I used a gluten free one)
2 apples
100g Greek yoghurt

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. I use a silicone mini loaf tray to make these cakes, you can use cupcake liners or a muffin tray of you don’t have one.

Mix all of the ground almonds and other flour, if using, in a mixing bowl with all of the spices and the baking powder.

Chop the apple up to remove the core and put it all into a small bowl blender. Process the apple to chop it up, keep scraping the sides down, and process again and repeat until the apple starts to become mushy and liquid.

Mix the apple mulch with the eggs and yoghurt then fold it into the flour mixture. Throw in the dried fruit and stir it through so that it’s all spread evenly through the mixture.

Spoon the mixture into your mini loaf/cupcake/muffin tray and bake for 20 minutes.

These are good straight out of the oven, like any cakes really, but they’re even better left to cool and eaten a few hours later, or even the next day, to allow the flavours to really come out.

IMG_5506.JPGI’m bringing my little baby goodness packed Christmas goodness cakes to this week’s Fiesta Friday, this week being co hosting by the divine and wonderful, Prudy, and the equally fabulous, Jess, come along and join in the fun…

IMG_5507.JPG