Spices in the kitchen…….
Throughout the world, the cooking of every country is distinguished by the way in which spices are used to give it a unique character. With so many spices now readily available, cooking can be a great adventure that will transport you to any part of the world that takes your fancy.
Imagine the smoky scent of grilled potatoes infused with cumin and garlic or the fragrance of coriander and garlic from a gently simmering curry. Even before you taste the food the evocative aroma of spices stimulates the appetite and heightens the anticipation of what is to come. Indian cooking, though not necessarily hot, is distinctively spicy and is characterized by the use of a greater range of dried spices than any other cuisine in the world. Up to 15 spices may be blended to flavour one dish. India is a vast country and the style of cooking varies enormously from region to region, but the spices most often used include coriander, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom, cloves, garlic and ginger. Chillies are valued for both fire and flavour, some Indian dishes extremely hot, but in others spices are used with rare subtlety.
Chinese cooks use liberal quantities of fresh ginger and garlic. They favour spices such as sesame seeds and star anise, which is the predominant flavour in their famous 5 spice blend. The spices in this blend are finely ground so that they release their flavour in stir-fried dishes.
Thai food tends to be very hot, with the tiny-and fiery- Thai chillies appearing in many dishes. The heat, however, is tempered by the fresh light flavours of lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves and the shooting effect of coconut milk.
Mexican food is also characterized by the liberal use of chillies. Several different types are often combined in the same dish. Each chilli contributes its own distinctive flavour as well as the fire for which they are famous.
Around the Mediterranean, it is the warm spices such as cinnamon, coriander, saffron and cumin that create the typical flavours that so readily conjure up memories of holidays in Turkey, Greece, and Morocco.
Many European dishes are flavoured with spices like caraway, dill, cardamom and fennel. These spices are equally at home in sweet or savoury dishes. Although Europe has had a long tradition of using spices, particularly in preserves, pickles and sauces, their use in everyday cooking has been moderate until comparatively recently.
In recent years, we have been rediscovering the ways in which spices and aromatic flavourings can enhance all types of dishes from soups to sweetmeats. As we travel more and explore more exotic locations, and restaurants spring up in every town offering food from all over the world, we are becoming familiar with a wide variety of different cuisines. We are taking the tastes home too, becoming more adventurous in what we attempt to recreate in our own kitchen.
Mixing and blending spices is the part of the pleasure. So…..experiment to discover the combinations you prefer, and that way you can personalize your own cooking and see that spices can make a world of a difference!!!!!