Herbs and spices are so underappreciated in the average kitchen, but with the right supplies, you can create flavours like never before.
One of the many advantages of cooking with herbs and spices is that they have the power to transform the most ordinary recipes into exciting taste sensations. They can also be used to stretch your budget. Using herbs and spices in everyday cooking will transform cheap, staple ingredients into something really special.
Fresh herbs and spices are great for your health too! Many provide sources of concentrated vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to unlock a bevvy of benefits for your health and wellbeing. Some even have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory qualities to boost immunity; actively protect you from colds, flu and other nasties; and even ease symptoms of existing health conditions. If you struggle with digestion, herbs can help with that too, providing easy digestion and settling upset stomachs whilst improving absorption of essential nutrients.
As we uncovered in a recent blog post on surprisingly unhealthy foods, added salt and sugar is out, and adding herbs and spices for flavour is in! By experimenting with herbs and spices, people are less likely to add salt and sugar to dishes to achieve a better taste and are all the more healthy for it.
Read on to discover the essential herbs and spices you should have in your kitchen, and exactly how to use them…
A combination of pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, allspice is a brilliant spice investment, whether you purchase it in its whole berry or ground form. This essential spice is a real winner when creating any savoury dish, particularly if you’re cooking with chicken or pork. Soups, stews, marinades, pies and even sweeter creations like cakes and cookies all get a flavour boost with a sprinkle of allspice.
At this time of year, in particular, allspice is a game-changer in the kitchen. It’s great for adding an aromatic twist to autumn-inspired dishes. From this autumn salad and an autumn fruit relish to a warming glass of hot mulled apple juice and the classic pumpkin cake, every course, side and drink can be enriched with a sprinkle of allspice this season.
Another herb that’s a big hit during autumn and winter is thyme. It’s light and minty taste creates a flavour explosion when used with tomatoes, beef, chicken, fish or lamb. It can also be easily cultivated at home and harvested all year round so if you’re looking to become more self-sufficient, growing thyme is the perfect place to start. Gardeners’ World shares their top tips for growing your thyme:
“Thyme is evergreen and can be used all year round. It makes lovely oils and butters. Plant in a well drained soil in a sunny spot. Thymes do not like wet winters or sitting in water, so make sure that the soil has adequate drainage. To grow in containers, use a soil-based compost mixed with horticultural grit.”
Thyme is so flavoursome you can use it to create your own savoury bread. This olive and thyme focaccia will transform your lunches and is a great, restaurant-style starter when paired with a good quality olive oil.
We couldn’t mention thyme and leave rosemary out of the picture. As well as using it to create this classic combo, rosemary’s woody, lemony and pungent taste makes it a great addition to any dish in its own right.
If you’re still not over the summer barbecue season, why not create a vegan barbecue classic indoors? These vegan kebabs with avocado dressing are easy to make and the rosemary guarantees that rich, wonderful BBQ flavour, whatever the season.
Cumin is the key to creating that warm and smoky flavour that’s always a hit during autumn. It has the power to transform both beans and meats and is popular in Middle Eastern, Asian and North African dishes. Cumin is also your route to one of the most incredible side dishes you’re ever likely to taste – cumin potatoes.
Cumin may be a part of the parsley family but its dominating taste means it should only be used sparsely.
Spices aren’t just perfect for savoury cooking, they’re staples in baking too. And things don’t get much more iconic in the baking spice world than with cinnamon.
Sweet and warm, cinnamon is a versatile ingredient that can be used in cakes, cookies and pies. You can even transform breakfast time with a delicious and utterly indulgent helping of cinnamon sprinkled French toast.
With cinnamon, you can also mix sweet and savoury to create several crowd-pleasing chicken and lamb mains.
Herbs and spices are excellent ways to liven up tried and tested recipes, and enhance new kitchen creations, without adding additional salt and sugar. So, which herbs and spices are staples in your kitchen? We’d love to know. Start the conversation with me and your fellow Goodness followers by sharing your favourite herbs and spices (and the dishes you’ve created with them) on Facebook or Instagram. Don’t forget to tag me in @webofgoodness.