Spices from the spice islands
Paulie

Paulie

Spices

Spices. People have been using these for thousands of years. 4000 years ago trade routes existed through the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent. Spices such as Cinnamon, black pepper along with a selection of herbs.

In ancient Egypt, Spices were in great demand! Not only were they used in the mummification process but there are over 800 recipes and health remedies. All dated from around 3500 years ago!

In the middle ages, spices were the most expensive and the most sort after items in Europe even more so than gold!. Venice had the monopoly and because of this, it made the residents of the area rich and wealthy.

With the demand for spice being high, along with the prices paid for them, the war was inevitable. The Dutch English and the Spanish fought in the Indonesian spice islands for over 200 years to win the control of the production.

These days you don’t need to to the spice islands in Indonesia for an exotic array of spices! All you need to do now is just pop into your local supermarket! There are rows and row of them! If you have ever walked down the spice aisle and wondered what you can you these for then read on!

Below are 7 Spices and what to do with them.

Nutmeg

The spic nutmeg is a seed from a tree from the spice islands in Indonesia. It has a warming sensation and is also slightly spicy. It works really well with dairy and I usually put it into a cheese sauce or queso dip. Try using it in bechamel sauce and it goes well in cookies! Try to buy whole nutmeg rather than ground. Grate it as you need it for a better flavour.

Beware though! Nutmeg has Hallcugenic properties and is toxic in high amounts (2 to 3 tablespoons) It has been also been know to cause seizures!

Cumin

Cumin has a nutty earthy flavour with a warming sensation. It’s the most used spice after pepper. It comes from a plant related to the parsley family.

Cumin is native to the middle east. Altough thanks to all of the spices routes set up in the middle ages, it is used everywhere! Dishes such as BBQ sauces to Indian curries and Mexican dishes contain it. Use it in Guacamole, Queso sauce and chilli con-carne for a beautiful flavour.

Star anise

Star anise is so called because of its shape and its flavour! It has a strong Aniseed flavour with a mild liquorice scent. It is a fruit of an evergreen tree native to southern China and looks like a pointy star! It’s one of the spices in Chinese five-spice mix, hence it works really well with roasted or pan-fried duck.

Cloves

The spice cloves, also come from the Spice Islands in Indonesia. They also have some amazing health properties! There are claims that cloves help to kill E.coli bacteria and help to control the bacteria that cause gum disease! Cloves also have a numbing effect and clove oil has been used for a long time for the short term treatment of toothache. They are the unopened bud of a small evergreen tree.

When it comes to using these in cooking you will find that they have a lovely and warm spiciness to them. These work well in Southern Mexican Dishes, which have a deeper earthier flavour. and Indian curries such as Byiani. I like to stud a ham with these before baking it for Ham with a mild yet sweet and spicy flavour.

Cinnamon

Don’t confuse this spice with cassia! Cassia is Cinnamons larger and less delicate cousin! Cinnamon is from the Island of Sri Lanka and has a really distinctive warming delicate yet intense flavour. The Swedes use a lot of Cinamon, the most per capita in the world! Most of it is used for the making of there sweet tradition cinnamon buns! Use in Morrocan Lamb dishes and desserts! When using Cinnamon, allow the sticks to infuse into the food and remove for the best flavour!

Paprika

There are a lot of Spices that have heat! With Carolina Reaper being the hottest! Although My favourite ground spice for heat is paprika. It is used in America as a garnish but heating it up with oil will really bring out the flavours! Its a young spice with the earliest recording of this spice being in 1896. I love using this in everything that requires a little heat, as chilli goes it’s quite mild and has a sweet fruity taste to it. Traditionally it is used in rice dishes to season and colour them. Trypan frying a chicken breast with lemon zest and paprika with a warm salad.

Vanilla

vanilla is a spice that is expensive! With only saffron being more expensive! The best Vanilla comes from Madagascar and Tahiti. Due to the expense and the popularity of vanilla, a lot of vanilla is synthetic flavourings. My advice is to only buy whole vanilla pods. The difference in taste is unbelievable!

I don’t use a lot of vanilla and I buy it when I need it, this is because the pods can dry out which ruins the flavour. I have an Ice cream machine and I use it to make real dairy vanilla ice cream, not very often though! Try making a vanilla sugar syrup which is amazing in coffee. To use cut down the length of the pod and scrape out the seeds. Use the seed to flavour frosting on a cake! you can use the pod shell itself as well but discard this.

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*(OK not Strickly here, more like catch the how to video over there, to the left!)