Thursday, 2 October 2014

Using Spices For Frugal Flavour

When it comes to turning a few basic ingredients into something spectacular with barely any cost at all spices are your go to guys in the kitchen.

I love all the different colours of spices

People often say that they don't like spicy food but what they really mean is that they do not like 'heat'.  
Spicy and heat are not the same thing and to say you do not like spice is almost like saying you do not like flavour.  You also need to remember that chilli's range in their heat intensity from mildly hot to off the charts hot.  Spice and chilli can be a marriage made in heaven but many dishes can be cooked with very little or no chilli at all and still be delicious.

I have a really good range of spices in my pantry and I use them for both sweet and savoury dishes.  We both enjoy ethnic foods with strong flavours from different parts of the world and are particully fond of Indian, Thai and Middle Eastern foods.  Spices are not expensive to buy and as long as you store them correctly they will last a long time (although the flavour will diminish a bit 

Some of my spices and dried herbs.

If you are new to using spices or need some tips on which spices to try with which meats here are some of my suggestions:

For me cumin is the go to spice for lamb but you can also use coriander, sumac, paprika and cardamon as well as the spices listed in the mixes below.  There are a couple of spice blends that are great with lamb, Ras el Hanout which is a Moroccan blend and Baharat a Lebanese blend that often includes nutmeg, paprika, cloves, cassia, allspice, cardamon, pepper and sometimes mint and chilli.
Basic Spice Rub for Lamb Chops: Dry roast some cumin seeds until they are just fragrant and grind them then add some sumac and salt.  Rub into the chops and grill. You can also grind cardamon seeds with salt and use that as a rub.

Pork and fennel go hand in had but I am also a fan of smoked paprika and oregano with salt as a rub and caraway seeds add an interesting flavour.

All spice and juniper makes a great addition to any sort of stew.  Cumin, paprika coriander and ginger all add interesting flavours to steak.

Cinnamon and allspice go really well with chicken as does fenugreek. A great marinade for chicken is preserved lemon, ground coriander and oil all mashed together and rubbed into the meat.

Aniseed type flavours work well with  fish so try fennel and star anise combined with different citrus. Turmeric and saffron and paprika all work well with fish as well as imparting their colour to the fish.

There are so many different spices out there and it is all a matter of taste so try new combinations and if you find one you like write it down so you can use it again.  

Do you have any favourites spice combinations?


  1. We stopped buy burritto spice packets, now I use cumin, coriander seed, paprika and chilli flakes with some cornflower. I also love curry powder (I'm not sure what's in it!) for chow mein.

    1. Hi Liz Yes I used to buy them too until I realised I could make it much better myself.

  2. I like to buy whole spices then roast and grind them as needed. They keep the flavour better. If you have room in the freezer that also keeps spices fresher for longer. I always do that with my curry powder from South Africa. They say in a good curry you can taste the layers of flavours, not just the heat.... oh yum, now I want to go and make a good spicy curry :)

    1. I have not made South African curries yet so will have to add them to my list of things to try.

  3. I'm always telling the kids that when they say they don't like spicy! They love spices but Buddy in particular associates the word with heat. I buy some of my spices through our bulk foods because I use them so often. They're also fresher than what you get at the supermarket. My bulk ones are cumin, sweet paprika, chilli, ginger and tumeric. I don't have as large a range as you though!

  4. Indian Food - YUMMMMMM I have to eat my meat slow cooked so it really is soft and the best way is in an indian curry. I dont like hot either but i do like spicy flavour. You should write a budget cookbook.


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