A To Z Of Spices
ALLSPICE: These small dark, reddish-brown berries are so called
becausetheir aroma and flavor resemble a combination of cinnamon, cloves and
nutmeg. Use berries whole in marinades; for boiling and pot roasting
meatsand poultry; in fish dishes, pickles and chutneys. Also available
ground and excellent for flavoring soups, sauces and desserts.
ANISE: Commonly called asniseed, these small, brown oval seeds have the
sweet, pungent flavor of licorice. Also available ground. Use
seeds in stews and vegetable dishes, or sprinkle over loaves and rolls
before baking. Try ground anise for flavoring fish dishes and pastries
for fruit pies.
CARAWAY: Small brown, crescent-shaped seeds with a strong liquorice
flavor and especially delicious as a flavoring in braised cabbage and
sauerkraut recipes, breads (particularly rye), cakes and cheeses.
CARDAMOM: Small, triangular-shaped pods containing numerous small black
seeds which have a warm, highly aeromatic flavor. You can buy green or
black cardamoms although the smaller green type is more widely
CAYENNE: Orangey-red in color, this ground pepper is extremely hot and
pungent. Not to be confused with paprika which, although related, is
CHILI POWDER: Made from dried red chilies. This red powder varies in
flavor and hotness, from mild to hot. A less fiery type is found in chili
CINNAMON & CASSIA: Shavings of bark from the cinnamon tree are
processed and curled to form cinnamon sticks. Also available in ground form.
Spicy, fragrant and sweet, it is used widely in savory and sweet dishes.
Cassia(from the dried bark of the cassia tree) is similar to cinnamon,
but less delicate in flavor with a slight pungent 'bite'.
CLOVES: These dried, unopened flower buds give a warm aroma and
pungency to foods, but should be used with care as the flavor can become
overpowering. Available in ground form. Cloves are added to soups, sauces,
stewed fruits and apple pies.
CORIANDER: Available in seed and ground form. These tiny, pale brown
seeds have a mild, spicy flavor with a slight orange peel fragrance. An
essential spice in curry dishes, but also extremely good in many cake
and cookie recipes.
CUMIN: Sold in seed or ground. Cumin has a warm, pungent aromatic
flavor and is used extensively in flavor curries and many Middle Eastern and
Mexican dishes. Popular in Germany for flavoring sauerkraut and pork
dishes. Use ground or whole in meat dishes and stuffed vegetables.
FENUGREEK: These small, yellow-brown seeds have a slight bitter flavor
which, when added in small quantities, is very good in curries,
chutneys and pickles, soups, fish and shellfish dishes.
GINGER: Available in many forms. Invaluable for adding to many savory
and sweet dishes and for baking gingerbread and brandy snaps. Fresh
ginger root looks like a knobby stem. It should be peeled and finely
chopped or sliced before use. Dreid ginger root is very hard and light beige
in color. To release flavor, 'bruise' with a spoon or soak in hot water
before using. This dried type is more often used in pickling, jam
making and preserving. Also available in ground form, preserved stem ginger
MACE & NUTMEG: Both are found on the same plant. The nutmeg is the
inner kernel of the fruit. When ripe, the fruit splits open to reveal
bright red arils which lie around the shell of the nutmeg - and once dried
are known as mace blades. The flavor of both spices is very similar -
warm, sweet and aromatic, although nutmeg is more delicate than mace.
Both spices are also sold ground. Use with vegetables; sprinkled over egg
dishes, milk puddings and custards; eggnogs and mulled drinks; or use
as a flavoring in desserts.
PAPRIKA: Comes from a variety of pepper (capsicum) and although similar
in color to cayenne, this bright red powder has a mild flavor.
PEPPER: White pepper comes from ripened berries with the outer husks
removed. Black pepper comes from unripened berries dried until dark
greenish-black in color. Black pepper is more subtle than white. Use
white or black peppercorns in marinades and pickling, or freshly ground
as a seasoning. Both are available ground. Green peppercorns are also
unripe berries with a mild, light flavor. They are canned in brine or
pickled, or freeze-dried in jars. They add a pleasant, light peppery
flavor to sauces, pates and salad dressings. Drain those packed in liquid
and use either whole or mash them lightly before using. Dry green
peppercorns should be lightly crushed before using to help release flavor,
unless otherwise stated in a recipe.
POPPY SEEDS: These tiny, slate-blue seeds add a nutty flavor to both
sweet and savory dishes. Sprinkle over desserts and breads.
SAFFRON: This pice comes from the stigmas of a species of crocus. It
has a distinctive flavor and gives a rich yellow coloring to dishes,
however, it is also the most expensive spice to buy. Available in small
packets or jars(either powdered or in strands - the strands being far
superior in flavor). This spice is a must for an authentic paella or
Cornish Saffron Cake. Also an extremely good flavoring for soups, fish and
SESAME SEEDS: High in protein and mineral oil content, sesame seeds
have a crisp texture and sweet, nutty flavor which combines well in
curries and with chicken,pork and fish dishes. Use also to sprinkle over
breads,cookies and pastries before baking.
STAR ANISE: This dried, star-shaped seed head has a pungent, aromatic
smell, rather similar to fennel. Use very sparingly in stir-fry dishes.
Also good with fish and poultry.
TURMERIC: Closely related to ginger, it is an aromatic root which is
dried and ground to produce a bright, orange-yellow powder. It has a
rich, warm, distinctive smell, a delicate, aromatic flavor and helps give
dishes an attractive yellow coloring. Use in curries, fish and shellfish
dishes, rice pilafs and lentil mixtures. It is also a necessary
ingredient in mustard pickles and piccalilli.
All spices should be stored in small airtight jars in a cool, dark
place, as heat, moisture and sunlight reduce their flavor.