Spices are store cupboard superstars. It pays to get familiar with them, store them well, and treat them kindly, in order to enjoy their warm aromas and exotic flavours to their fullest. These are our top tips when using spices.
Some recipes call for whole spices but where ground spices are required it is preferable to freshly grind whole spices yourself for optimum flavour.
You can use an electric spice grinder, coffee grinder (reserved exclusively for spices!), or a traditional pestle and mortar. Grind only as much or as little as you need so you know the spices are in peak condition.
If you prefer the convenience of ready-ground spices, buy them in small quantities, as their flavour intensity decreases over time.
Don’t feel you have to own every spice under the sun. It’s better to have a concise collection of spices that you know you’ll actually use.
Add ‘sort the spice rack’ to your to do list. Every now and then, it pays to have a good look through your spice cupboard right to the very back. Dispose of anything really antiquated; spices go stale and lose their potency after a while. Weed out any duplicates.
As with anything, it pays to seek out quality. The big producers put yield before quality so cheaper spices won’t always have the precise qualities you’re looking for. There are now specialist suppliers who source ethically produced and single origin spices.
Store spices away from direct sunlight, heat, and humidity. In other words, not by the stove, or in the kitchen window. Keep them in a cupboard or drawer, ideally in tins or opaque or dark jars.
Label the jars carefully - on the fronts if you have a spice rack, on the lids if you store your spices in a drawer. That way you can find what you’re after at a glance.
Toast your spices in a dry frying pan to reduce the ‘rawness’ and heighten aromas. You’ll know by the smell when they’re ready. Work quickly, though, if you burn your spices, they’ll taste acrid.
Spices can be very strong in flavour so follow recipes carefully when measuring to avoid overpowering the dish.
A sprinkling of Parmesan is a sure-fire way to give a dish that delicious savoury ‘oomph’. But what can you use instead if you’re cutting out dairy? Our plant-based alternative is a flavour bomb. It’s based on cashews and some other ingredients that may surprise you. Take a guess.
Leiths Online student Taoufik has completed a number of courses with Leiths Online. He chose the courses in order to tackle what he saw as gaps in his knowledge such as learning how to fillet a fish (a skill that intimidates many an otherwise confident cook).