I am asked quite a few questions about how to cook with spices. Many do not understand the difference between spices and herbs. They want to know how to use spices; which spices to use with which foods. According to some research, getting in the habit of cooking with spices everyday will offer health benefits of spices to your diet.
Because today, spices are so readily available in our grocery stores we are unable to truly appreciate their value throughout history. Spices have had close connections to the gods; have been used for currency and for medicinal purposes (still today used for health). The Egyptians prized them as rare jewels and the search for them have actually changed the face of history.
You should know the difference between spices and herbs if you are going to learn how to cook with spices. Spices are parts of plants that usually grow in tropic regions. The parts are like the bark, leaves, seeds, shells, stamens or any other part suitable for seasoning or preserving. Herbs are always the leaves of temperate zone plants. So many of the familiar favorites like rosemary, basil, parsley and mint are herbs. For the most part we often generalize by classifying both herbs and spices as spices; for now that is what I am going to do in this writing.
Spices are an accessory to everyday cooking. They give that added flavor or “punch” to your recipes; whether it is mild or a little more tang. Knowing how to use spices is an art that every good cook has had to learn. If you are a new cook, you will also be able to learn this with experience to where it will just come automatically when cooking. Spices should be chosen with care so they accent and improve your flavor rather than overwhelm the flavor.
As a new cook, I started out with a few basic ground spices for two reasons. First, I was on a limited budget so I had to consider the expense of purchasing them, but it also gave me a chance to work with a few at a time. These were salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, oregano (because I loved spaghetti & pizza), cinnamon, ginger and cloves (the last three I loved baking with). I stuck with ground spices because they had great shelf life, because of the condensed flavor it took very little for flavor and I couldn’t afford to vary my spices at this time.
These spices below will help you learn more about how to cook with spices:
History of Spices takes us to early civilization and many uses for health and seasoning with recipe for smoothie.
Early people knew How to Dry Herbs as a way of preserving; spaghetti sauce recipe and basil pesto.
Cooking with Fresh Herbs is my favorite; recipes included.
Cooking with Spices in fig cake recipe, zucchini salad, no bake fruit cake, spicy potatoes and Wassail punch.
What is Allspice? Medicinal uses and cooking in a recipe for apple raisin cake.
What is Anise? Learn important facts plus a recipe for anise fruit salad.
What is Caraway? History of medicinal use and recipes for blue cheese spread and caraway seed cake.
What is Cardamom? History and medicinal uses plus recipe for lamb shish kabobs.
What is Cayenne? Health benefits and caution in using plus recipe for hot pepper butter.
What is Chili Powder? Make homemade and use in chili con carne recipe.
Cooking with Cinnamon offers a delicious flavor; recipes for cinnamon carrots and cinnamon crisps.
What are Cloves? Learn about health benefits plus how to cook with it in Indian biryani recipe.
What is Coriander? Coriander has uses for health, beauty and adds great flavor in cooking; recipe for coriander salad.
What is Cumin? Offer vitamins and minerals for health plus great seasoning in many recipes like curried potatoes.
What is Dill? Adds health benefits to the diet and great flavor to recipes like baked trout or cod, dips, salads, vegetables or bread.
What is Fennel? Great benefits of fennel and great flavor in fennel apple salad
Cooking with Garlic when learning how to cook with spices offers many health benefits ; recipe for grilled mushrooms
Cooking with Ginger offers health benefits plus great flavor; recipes for moo goo gai pan, ginger snaps, and ginger bread.
What is Horehound? This is a natural cough remedy; make horehound candy recipe.
What is Mace? About mace and sister spice nutmeg and uses in recipes for chocolate cherry chews and nutmeg crisps.
What is Oregano? Has medicinal characteristics and used to season delicious foods like pastas, pizza and others; recipe for baked tomatoes.
What is Paprika? This popular spice is used in a wide variety of recipes like turkey casserole.
White, green and black peppercorns when Cooking with Pepper; peppercorn sauce recipe.
What is Saffron? History and cooking with saffron; recipe for meatballs and saffron sauce.
What is Sage? History, benefits and cooking in recipes like turkey loaf.
What is Sumac? Cultivation, medicinal value and cooking with sumac in recipes like Syrian bread salad.
Cooking with Thyme, types of thyme and benefits; recipe for garlic thyme marinade.
What is Turmeric? This ancient flavorful spice has health benefits and is great flavoring to make curry powder and in recipes like turmeric cake.
When learning how to cook with spices, remember to start out being over cautious; you can always add more but you cannot decrease the strength. If you are trying something new, taste it with the tip of your finger. If it is strong and pungent, that is a sign to use it sparingly. Some spices are light and mild in flavor so it is not as bad if you get too much, however a good dish is perfection. Most recipes will direct to exact amounts; I always put “optional” if I feel it is a personal taste, like hot pepper.
I cooked with my basic spices a couple of years and I gradually added more to my collection as I learned how to cook with spices. I have powders, minced, flakes and whole spices. It is amazing how the same spice can have different flavors by the different processing. Now if I find a unique spice, I can’t wait to buy it and take it home to try. I am sure you will be the same.
Here are a few combinations when learning how to cook with spices for you to try in your cooking.
FAVORITE SPICE TEA
If you are learning how to cook with spices, don’t overlook the many possibilities of spice teas. This is my favorite SPICE TEA RECIPE. I bought Chai tea for many months. Although I really liked the flavor, it was very expensive; each box only making ten cups. Chai tea is known to have health benefits like aiding in digestion and helping with heartburn. I do not have these problems but it is very delicious. When you are cold it is very warming. This homemade recipe is much cheaper than purchasing the commercial brands; this is an added benefit of learning how to cook with spices.
NOTE: Ground spices do not do this tea justice; you need fresh. Fresh dried spices can be purchased in bulk at health food stores and they are usually much cheaper.
Combine all spices and teabags in a teapot; cover with water.
Bring to just a boil (Watch so it doesn’t boil over).
Turn off heat and let tea steep and mixture will settle to bottom of pot.
Pour through a strainer into cups.
If desired sweeten with cream and honey; I like it without.
NOTE: When the pot is empty, I add more water and brew another pot with the same spices. You might want to add a couple more teabags if you like strong tea.