Garlic – Basil – Anise – Saffron – Cinnamon – Coriander – Clove – Cumin – Curry – Dill – Tarragon – Peppermint – Mint – Nutmeg – Oregano – Paprika – Pepper – Rosemary – Sage – Thyme
A great historical heritage
While their role has today been reduced to flavouring and colouring many dishes in every world’s kitchen, spices were longly wished for millennia. Left in wills as inheritance, used by ancient physicians to cure and by witches to celebrate religious ceremonies, spices have opened up routes and empires. They appear in the Bible as currency and in countries like China and India there is no recipe where they are not.
Coming mostly from Asia, spices have been considered actual treaures in ancient times. .
Perhaps the reason they were so valued in the ancient world lie on the characteristics attached to them,
because it was believed that they possessed magical properties, as aphrodisiac and healing.
Their conservation is very simple. It is enough to keep them in a cool dark
place in airtight jars to avoid losing the properties that make them so attractive.
|Where do spices come from?|
The most important spice plants - cinnamon, pepper, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, are native to the Asian tropics, allspice, vanilla, and peppers come from the West Indies and Central America, the Mediterranean basin has produced many of the aromatic seeds - coriander, fenugreek, fennel, anise, poppy, mustard-and colder regions have contributed with caraway, dill and juniper.
|Ápices in the kitchen|
Used with care and moderation, spices enrich our plates giving them colour and flavour and enhancing their flavours. They are very present in the Mediterranean gastronomy, such is the case for rosemary, basil, etc.., As well as in the exotic cuisine from distant cultures which boom has been taking place in recent years in our country, like curry, cinnamon etc..
|What are spices?|
They are Vegetable substances that are used in small amounts to provide meals with hot , spicy or exciting flavours. Spices come from dried aromatic roots, bark, buds, seeds, berries and other fruits.
Spanish legislation defines aromatic spices or seasonings as "plants or parts thereof, fresh or dried, whole, chopped or ground, that given their colour, aroma and characteristics flavours are used for the preparation of food and beverages, to enhance them with features, making them more palatable and tasty, and therefore, enabling a better use of them. "
Legislation also considers prepared condiments or seasonings, which it defines as "the product obtained by simple mixing of various spices or seasonings and / or with other food substances, specifically authorized by this Regulation.
Besides gastronomy, spices also have qualities dealing with health and well being. In fact, history shows that their use since ancient times has responded to the need to preserve food, making it more digestible and more nutritious. Each spice brings a different benefit to our body in terms of its own characteristics.
SPICES: FEATURES AND QUALITIES
It is a bulbous plant with flat sheets, native to Central Asia, that grows in hot countries.
Garlic is sold fresh, dry or powdered and is used in small quantities to enhance the flavour of meals. Its flavour is dispersed at high temperature,but so care must be taken so it will not burn. Its use is very varied, in soups, sauces, meats and fish, salads and all kinds of exotic dishes. It might also be rubbed in baking trays and salad bowls. Garlic oil and garlic butter are exquisite.
Contrary to what might be thought, its flavour and aroma do not necessarily outstand in the dishes where it is used. In Chinese cuisine, along with ginger it o sine of the most used spices; it is also used in Indian and Western kitchens: it adds taste to all types of meats, fish and vegetables. It is essential in Mexican cuisine and in the Southern area of, it is also a fundamental ingredient in French cuisine, where we find garlic butter (served with snails), garlic mayonnaise and garlic soup.
It contains vitamins A, B and C and reduces the level of blood cholesterol, it can be used to fight infections of thr digestive and the respiratory systems and it activates the circulation.
The part used are its leaves, either fresh or dried, whole or chopped. There are over 40 different types of basil.
Its fresh flavor pairs well with dishes made from eggs (omelets, scrambled eggs),
fish like mullet and lobster, and especially with vegetables such as eggplant,
peppers and tomatoes. The dried leaves are used extensively in liquid (stews, soups or juices)
as they have a minty aroma.
Basil is known for being one of the main components of Italian pesto sauce.
If you like Thai food and Vietnamese you will find in many of their dishes the taste of basil.
Popular culture advises to put fresh basil in the window, since it keeps mosquitoes away with its scent. The spice has been an excellent medicine to facilitate digestion and one of the most popular smells in kitchens.
There are three varieties of anise, green anise, star anise and spicy anise. The first one is the most popular in Spanish cuisine, while the last two are more popular in China.
Spain is one of the largest producers of anise and together with Malta, offering one of the most aromatic and appreciated varieties in the world.
Widely used by bakers and confectioners in cakes, pies, bread, sweets and desserts. It is a common ingredient in desserts and sweet dishes. In the kitchen also flavours fish dishes, like bouillabaisse soup.
In France, Italy and South America it used in the preparation of liquors as well as in Spain, where they make the famous anise liquor. China, by contrast, applies the star anise to pork, duck, chicken or beef dishes.
It is recommended to add some anise seeds to soften the taste of bitter infusions
Christened as "red gold" for being the most expensive spice of all.
It has been used as dye, was used as an aphrodisiac and perfume, but the areas where it has specially outstand are gastronomy and medicine.
In Spain there is a long tradition of saffron production, and it is recognized as the country that produces the best quality saffron.
It is the star seasoning of a typical dish in our kitchen, paella as well as bouillabaisse soup. It matches all meals based on rice and fish. In addition for year it was the natural colouring used for butter and many other dairy products.
Abroad saffron is more used in pastries, such as on eastern rice sweets and saffron cakes and doughnuts, typical in Britain.
Cinnamon is extracted from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. It is one of the most widely used spices in the world, including its uses in cola soft drinks .
It is used in the preparation of cakes, apple tarts and sweets. It is exquisite on desserts such as rice pudding or custard. It combines perfectly with dishes that include fruits, such as salads or compotes.
Cinnamon also flavoures hot beverages such as punches or wines. It's delicious sprinkled on pork ribs and added to dishes of ragout style meats.
Mexicans used it as flavouring for liquid chocolate.
Use a stick of cinnamon as a spoon to stir in your tea and coffee cups, the content will gain aroma and flavour.
A spoon of powdered cinnamon diluted in water will ease heavy digestions.
Coming from the Mediterranean, coriander is now cultivated worldwide. Its medicinal and culinary use have been known for three thousand years, its name appears in papyri dated the year 1550. C., in Sanskrit literature and the Bible. Hippocrates, "father of medicine", used it as a drug, and the Romans extended the use of this spice throughout Europe. It was one of the first plants of spices that came to America and was cultivated in Massachusetts before 1670.
Coriander is used for both sweet and savoury dishes. It is an essential ingredient of curry. In The Middle East it is popular for seasoning ground beef, sausage and stews, in Europe and America it is for .The vegetable dishes prepared "the Greek way " are seasoned with coriander.
Its essential oil perfumes chocolate liquor and other beverages.
Cloves are actually the unopened and sun-dried flower of atropical tree.
The spice is often used in meat dishes, nailing directly into it before cooking. It is also added to vegetable dishes and vegetable purees. Ground, it is used in cakes, in many fruit desserts and spiced bread making. Try it in stews and roasted meats adding while cooking an onion pricked with 1 or 2 cloves, the dish will win in taste.
Clove is present in European, African, Arab and American cuisine.
Nail cloves on a lemon to scare away mosquitoes and if you store them it in the fridge, they will remove the bad smell of some food. Also, keep a clove in your mouth will fights bad breath.
It is one of the most widespread spices worldwide.
Cumin is the essential ingredient of curry. Besides curry, it is often used in marinades and stews (mixed with cinnamon and saffron) and offers very good tastes added while cooking boiled cabbage.
It is the spicing of cheeses, sausages, cakes and breads, such as rye.
Cumin is very popular in African blends of spices. Turkish use it in dishes og grounded meat and chopped vegetables. In Texas is the basis of many Tex-Mex food and of the emblematic chilli with meat.
If you want to enhance the flavor of cumin, toast it separately before applying it to the preparation of the dish.
Curry is the most widespread food seasoning in the world.
It combines a mixture of 10 to 20 different spices. It was named by British and its name means "spice powder" mixed to be used when in cooking. The most frequent combinations contain pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander and turmeric.
It is one of the most distinctive flavours of Indian cuisine, its place of origin. There are three varieties of curry according to the intensity of its spiciness, the most popular is the Madras curry.
Prácticamente cualquier alimento puede ser preparado con una salsa de curry.
Almost any food can be cooked with a curry sauce.
It combines well with many flavours, it is usually added in soups, roasts, stews and vinaigrettes.
It is also often used when seasoning rice, fish, seafood, meat and vegetables. Dishes gain in colour and flavour.
It is used to season the famous pickles.
Use chopped dill leaves in salad dressings and as a seasoning for vegetables, seafood, fish and soups.
Accompany pasta and potatoes with chopped dill leaves.
Combine the dill with other aromatic herbs in your dishes, you will get great mixes.
In French cuisine the seeds are mostly used in cakes and pastries. When using dill in your their dishes, add it at the end of the dish preparation.
This plant is very healthy, even Italians have a habit of eating the young shoots as a vegetable.
Chewing dill beans prevents bad breath.
It is a perennial herb that has a moderate resistance to cold. There are two varieties, Russian tarragon, with more pronounced flavour, and French, which is lighter.
It has an aniseed flavour, slightly bitter and spicy, it goes very well in acidic media, especially with lemon juice and vinegar. It is used in salads, vinaigrettes and poultry and fish dishes. It combines very well with canned onions and pickles.
It is used in chicken dishes, duck, liver, eggs, soups and lobster, always with some caution because its flavour is very characteristic. It is essential ingredient of fine herbs.
It plays a star role in French cuisine. It is also an essential ingredient in Béarnaise and tartar sauces
Use dried to flavour vinegar bottle, placing the leaves and tender stems in wine vinegar and let it sit for two weeks
Of all varieties of mint, this is the one with strongest flavour and aroma.
Hybrid of Mentha aquatica Mentha viridis it was first ultivated in 1750. It is used in the same dishes that mint: for seasoning, yogurt sauces, in roasts, salads or as a garnish. It is also present in cocktails.
It combines particularly well in dishes of peas or boiled new potatoes. In Andalusia they added a sprig of mint to the “cocido” soup.
There are numerous varieties of mint. The best known and most commonly used are peppermint, spearmint, savory and mentastro.
It is ideal to prepare lamb, it matches very all goes well some specific strong flavoured meats such as duck and lamb. The aroma is distinctly summer like, combining well with summer vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, new potatoes and eggplants. It is also very good to be used in fruit preparations like raspberries or berries. Well dried, it is suitable to prepare best teas and tisanes ea. Its fresh flavour is popular in candies and drinks, but it is also used in many dishes.
The use of mint is very spread across India, Middle East and North Africa, it is also common in Spain and Italy, while in France it is considered a rather rough scent.
The part used for cooking are the fruits, that we can find powdered or in wholes.
Well known for being the spice used in Bechamel sauce and one of the main flavours in of the fried pastry.
It applies to a large variety of dishes. It is exquisite shredded in rice salads, scrambled eggs and fish recipes, vegetables, potatoes and cheese fondue. We can also use it in bakery, in milk puddings, egg custard and fruit cakes
It perfectly matches with cumin and coriander in savoury dishes.
Use the whole fruit and only grate it just before use. Do not overuse it; just a small pinch is enough.
Nutmeg is also present in the Italian cuisine. Try to use it in stuffing for meats, cheese sauce, spinach for tortellini, ravioli, and cannelloni.
It is a wild plant native to the Mediterranean basin. It is usually used dried.
Used to flavour cooked or raw foods, cheeses, salads, tomato salads, meat marinades, to preserve the broth, to preserve vegetables in oil and vinegar, in sauces and digestive liqueurs.
It is a highly aromatic herb, scattered throughout Europe and with many varieties, but only in the southern regions it is possible able to acquire a complete wealth of perfumes and perfect aroma.
It is directly related to Italian food and one of the main ingredients of pizza and some pasta.
Paprika is the result of grating the fruit of the pepper mill after being dried. There are three varieties: sweet, sour and spicy.
It was named by Christopher Columbus, after discovering it on his expedition to America.
It is a very practical spice in the kitchen. We can use both sweet and spicy paprika for all kinds of stews and , sauces. It outstands particularly in meat dishes, legumes and vegetables. It is the traditional seasoning for Galician octopus and excellent seasoning for smoked salmon.
In Hungary it is known as paprika and it is the main seasoning for goulash.
Peppercorns can be green, black or white, corresponding to different stages of the maturation process.
The main data on the origin of pepper is mentioned in ancient Indian writings. From there, it was distributed by trade to Malaysia and Indonesia. Later, it also came to the New World.
In the early fifteenth century, Venice controlled the trade routes of pepper coming from Alexandria. This monopoly encouraged the Portuguese to seek a sea route to the west. After journeys and discoveries along the African coast, an expedition under Vasco de Gama reached Calcutta in late 1400 and Portugal took control of the pepper market.
In Africa the "Guinea pepper" is also cultivated, which during the fourteenth and fifteenth worked as a cheaper substitute for the original pepper. In the early seventeenth century England created the English Company of the West Indies, and Portugal lost the monopoly of pepper.
Later, at lower prices, Pepper became a spice affordable by everyone, and trade became more fluid.
White pepper is added to smooth and light in colour sauces, as Bechamel, while green and black are the basis of darker colour sauces , such as green pepper sauce, widely used in meat dishes.
It comes from a perennial shrub that reaches 2 feet tall. The leaves are needle-shaped and flowers are pale blue.
It is native to the Mediterranean, but in the nineteenth century it spread across northern Europe for medicinal purposes.
Dried rosemary leaves are used as a spice in a variety of dishes.
The pleasant scent of rosemary and its digestive properties make it an ideal condiment, especially for heavy and fat dishes, including roasts (especially birds), stews, marinades and stir-fries. It is also used to flavour soups and sauces. In the paella add a few whole sprigs to the rice. In the case of adding sprigs branches to stews, make sure they're easy to remove.
The spices with which it combines the best are laurel, garlic and thyme.
Putting some sprigs of rosemary in olive oil ,rosemary oil is obtained for seasoning salads.
Also, for rosemary vinegar, use a litre of white vinegar and add this spice leaves. The mixture should be left to marinate a month before using.
It is a plant native to southern Europe, which grows well in warm climates, but it is quite sturdy and survives in areas such as the Alps. It is also widely cultivated in North America.
Sage has a strong flavour, quite spicy and aromatic with a subtle taste of camphor, so you have to use it sparingly.
It is used in stews, vegetables, Italian pastas, cheeses and both meat and fish dishes. Se sage, minced with onion, is also used in the preparation of fillings for pork, sausage and chicken.
It is used in various ways: in Italy to flavor meat dishes (particularly the beef and calf liver) and fried in butter to flavour food. Germans used it to flavour eels and in the Mediterranean countries, they add it to some meat and vegetables dishes.
It is one of the most representative spices of Mediterranean cuisine. Its flavour and scent is spicy and with a reminiscent of oregano.
Thyme is a good flavouring for soups, stuffings and soups. It seasons fish and vegetable dishes, and regarding meats, it is applied to dishes of beef, lamb, chicken and game birds.
Add it at the beginning of cooking. It makes a good match with garlic, onion, basil, bay leaves or parsley.
Its use is widespread worldwide. Particularly, it is very common in French and American cuisine.
Traditionally it has been recommended as a digestive and to relieve discomfort (cough, sore throats, etc), using a mixture of thyme and honey. Try the thyme soup.