For me learning to cook with herbs and spices is something that has come only with experience in the kitchen. I started out very quietly and uncertain of what I was doing, where now I’m quite happy to be putting handfuls of this and handfuls of that in if I think it will suit the dish I am making.
In no particular order, these are some of my favourite ingredients that I reach for time and time again to add flavour, to enhance, and to balance out the dishes I make in my kitchen.
I’m pretty sure that if I’m making something savoury, then some cracked black pepper will find its way into the dish somehow. Sometimes out of habit, but often because I’m just looking for that bit of extra bite that pepper can bring.
2. Dried Oregano
I’m very fortunate to be able to use a bio-dynamic dried Oregano that is sold at the Apollo Bay market down along the Great Ocean Rd, in Victoria. Whilst I no longer live in Victoria, it’s pretty much the first and only thing that I will ask my family to bring up with them when they are planning a visit to Brisbane. I think part of the appeal is that its grown by the sea on someones local farm, it’s fresh, tastes amazing and I’m supporting a local supplier.
Fresh, it goes wonderfully with fish, potato’s, egg….. I always think of it as Scandinavian, but am learning that it’s also a part of Chinese dishes where it adds a great flavour to dishes like Chinese slaw. I love that my favourite flavours go into my favourite cuisines…. who would have thought.
I love sesame seeds! If I have an option to have bread, bagels, actually anything with sesame seeds then its always my choice. I add them to salads, stir fries, muesli.. the list goes on. I also love a little bit of sesame oil to add that little bit extra flavour in my Asian dishes… and of course who can go past tahini in your humus…. so all in all, this humble little seed holds a very special place in my kitchen one way or another.
Be it the root, the fresh leaves, or even the dried seeds, coriander is a herb that lends a very distinctive flavour to dishes. I love the fresh leaves stirred through my dips, torn up and tossed through an asian salad, chopped finely and part of a salsa, added to rice paper rolls, or finishing off a laksa style soup or a curry. It goes well with Mexican, Indian and Asian dishes so there is plenty of uses when you have this herb in your kitchen. coriander does tend to polarize people, either they love or hate the flavour passionately. Clearly you can see which side of the fence I’m sitting on.
Want to make something with this ingredient? Try Cloudberries Chickpea Salad,
This is a pretty big passion of the other half of my household. The more the better! I tend to be one of those chilli users that likes it to warm my palate and enhance the flavours in my meals. Thing is, chilli is addictive…the more you use, the more you want, the more you get used to it, the more you use…..Great as part of salads, curries, soups, stirfries. We tend to use the small birds eye chillies most of the time, but I will specifically use the larger green ones when I’m cooking Thai food, and in salads tend to go for the milder large red chilli’s and remove the seeds. Just enough to give the food zing without making you cry.
Watching Jamie Oliver’s 15 min meals on the TV a few nights ago cooking seafood and adding in cinnamon to his seafood pasta I may find even more uses than I already do for cinnamon. I already use this spice in almost all my baking, but to see some of the uses for savoury dishes had us adding it to a pork marinade with fennel and garlic last night and it was delicious. experiment with cinnamon as it’s just as good as part of a curry base as it is sprinkled over toast with a touch of sugar and added to your baking.
Yum! To say that I love Cardamom is an understatement. I really discovered this spice as part of my cinnamon bun recipe, but since then I’ve started using it on my porridge, adding it to smoothies, as part of curries and marinades.
Flat leaf or curly? I have not very fond memories of bowls of tabouli made with curly leaf parsley. Coupled with it being used ad nauseam as a garnish in the catering companies I worked at in my early 20’s and I have to say I’m not a fan. Now flat leaf (continental) parsley on the other hand….love it! Chopped up and added last-minute to a pasta dish, risotto or salad, it really makes the flavours sing. Parsley with a seafood marinara sauce on pasta is my idea of one of the perfect flavour marriages that exist in the culinary world. If you haven’t tried it, then you must (really I insist).
I think I can probably best explain my passion for Basil by directing you to one of my earlier posts.. put plainly, it’s simply the number one fresh herb in my kitchen. There is very little I won’t try to put it into, be it Asian inspired salads or stir fries, rice paper rolls, cocktails, pasta dishes, sandwiches, or even just with a slice of cheese on my toast in the morning. We have maintained at least half a dozen plants in our garden devoted to this herb because we use so much of it, although the numbers have dwindled slightly in the new garden as they adjust to the new climate.
Dried or fresh? The juice or the flesh? Sweet or Savory? Ginger will add a zing to so many meals.
What herbs and spices do you have in your kitchen that you can’t live without?
Happy Cooking & Happy Experimenting,