Making the most of herbs and spices
Herbs and spices can liven up any dish, we love adding them to recipes to give them a new twist.
The use of herbs and spices dates back as far as 50,000BC, although their use is thought to have developed around 2000BC when cinnamon, pepper and other herbs were widely used. The Egyptians used herbs for embalming, while by 1000BC herbs and spices were used as medicine in China, Korea and India.
During the middle ages spices were among the most demanded and expensive food items available in Europe, and regarded as balancing the ‘humors’. Popular spices back then included black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.
It was not until the 19th century and the discovery of the New World that spices such as allspice, chilli peppers, vanilla and chocolate were discovered. Fast forward to the 21st century and we are still mad about herbs and spices. Understandably so when they can make such a difference to a dish!
Here are some of our herb and spice rules and ideas:
- Familiarise yourself with a range of herbs and spices. Give them a good sniff, get to know their flavour and texture, which will help you to understand what they will go with.
- Generally, robust red meats match with robust herbs like rosemary, sage and bay. While lighter meat and fish need a more delicate touch, like dill, tarragon or thyme.
- Always try to grind your own whole spices as this will give you the real flavour. Ready powdered spices loose their freshness rapidly so you might be disappointed with the result.
- Whole spices need to be cooked for longer than powdered spices, so make sure you add them earlier on.
- Experiment! Don’t be afraid to give new combinations a go; just don’t throw a whole teaspoon in if you’re not sure!
To help you get to know your herbs and spices we are running a herbs and spices masterclass that will help you to understand some of the basic principles of working with them.