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The Spice of Life
Spices and herbs are the spice of life, they can be used as both food and mood enhancers as well as for healing purposes. Anyone can grow them even in a window box or on a balcony, you only need to go to your local garden centre to find out which ones are able to be grown in your area, when is the best time for planting and how to grow them, garden centre’s are a mine of information and are only to pleased to help you even if it is the first time you have attempted to grow anything. Otherwise most herbs and spices can be purchased fresh or dried at your local supermarket or greengrocer. I personally like to grow my own as there is nothing better than to go to your herb garden and pick them fresh just before cooking.
There are so many that I will list the most often used ones and give you as much detail as I can about each one.
All spice (ground) resembles a peppery compound of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
It can be added to meatball mixture especially cocktail ones, soups such as chicken, minestrone and tomato, also an ideal additive to fruit cocktails and French dressing.
Most Christmas cakes and puddings have this as an ingredient. My daughter likes to add this to her oatmeal porridge as well as on fruit toast after buttering it.
Basil leaves have an aroma similar to cloves with a mild aniseed flavour. It can be used in pizza and pasta dishes, added to soups such as tomato, minestrone and zucchini as well as dressings such as tomato, Italian and is the key ingredient in basil pesto. Add to vegetables such as tomato, zucchini, potato and peas. Basil can also be used in omelettes, scrambled eggs, cheese sauces and spreads. It can also be added to beef and chicken casserole, lamb chops, pork and veal stuffing, fish stuffing, tomato and pasta sauces as well as in a marinara mix.
When chopped has a delicate peppery and onion flavour, though some varieties have a garlic like flavour and is an ideal garnish. It can be used in dips and spreads as well as added to lentil, minestrone and tomato soups. Can be used in all egg dishes and adds a little something extra to fetta cheese triangles or sprinkled over haloumi. Add to tomato, potato, coleslaw and yoghurt dressing, all meat sauces as well as hollandaise sauce and fish and chicken casseroles.
Ground cinnamon has a sweet, mildly pungent and spicy flavour. It can be used on spiced nuts, chicken soup, Waldorf and fruit salads and added to pumpkin, squash, spinach, carrot, sweet potatoes, Indian rice and vegetable curries. It is also nice on cinnamon and French toast as well as fruit toast and on oatmeal porridge. Add to baked and boiled ham and sweet and sour sauce, chicken curry and savoury chicken pie. Cinnamon can be added to apple dishes, grilled bananas, chocolate and fruit cakes, scones, doughnuts and rice puddings.
Cloves can be used ground or whole and has a strong pungent and sweet almost hot taste. Can be added to tomato juice, spiced nuts, hot or iced tea, mulled wine and fruit punch. Also add to seafood soup and tomato and pineapple dressings. Add cloves to vegetables such as baked beans, red cabbage, carrots, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, pickles, chutneys and Chinese rice. Devilled eggs and creamy cheese spreads will be enhanced by the addition of this spice. Add onion stuffed with whole cloves to beef casseroles, pot roasts, studded ham and roast pork. Use in chicken or turkey pies, roast duck, pickled herrings and baked fish. The following deserts and baked goods will be enhanced by having cloves added, all apple dishes, fruit pies, plum pudding, fruit and coffee cakes, ginger bread and meringues.
Garlic can be used whole or minced when fresh also purchased as ground or salt, has a very pungent taste and distinctive aroma. Garlic can be used in pates and dips, most soups especially tomato as well as tomato and salad dressings. Great added to capsicum, green beans, potato and zucchini as well as stuffed eggs and cheese dishes. Sprinkle over meats before roasting; add to beef and lamb casseroles, marinades and Italian sauces. Sautéed with prawns, include in stuffing and marinades for fish. Mixed with butter, spread on bread then warmed in the oven, this makes a great entre.
Sweet flavour with cold after taste, mint can be used in appetizers such as fruit punches, pineapple and grapefruit cocktails, dolmades and samousas and adds a lift to split pea soup. Use in salads and dressings such as cucumber and Yoghurt, and tossed green salad as well as in herb dressings. Vegetables such as carrots, peas, tomato and potato are also improved by adding mint; also add to quiches and cottage cheese. Add mint jelly or mint sauce to roast lamb after serving. It is a good idea to serve these separately and allow each diner to add as much as they like. When poaching fish, mint will add an extra dimension. Add to fruit salad, cantaloupe and chocolate pudding.
As you can see, we have only scratched the surface there are so many more herbs and spices to be covered, that I have decided that I should write another article in the next edition of the magazine continuing on from where this one has left off. If you want to keep them together, either print this one or save to a document and next time you can do the same so you have all the details together. I hope this encourages you to try to add herbs and spices when you cook to add more exiting flavours to your meals.