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The 12 Herbs & Spices No Discerning Chef Can Live Without

1 16-03-2024
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Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are essential for adding flavor to almost every recipe you can think of, and without these in their pantry, many chefs would struggle to create dishes that are tasty and vibrant.

If you’re a budding chef or an enthusiastic home cook, here are 12 top rated spices and herbs to include in your rack:

  1. Ginger: Used both in sweet and savory dishes, ginger can be used fresh or dried, and makes a wonderfully delicious marinade for chicken, fish or vegetables. Used a lot in Asian cuisines, crystallized ginger can even be used to make desserts with a sweet but warming flavor.
  2. Cumin: Produced from the seeds of a plant in the parsley family, cumin seeds are dried to produce a spice with a pungent, earthy and somewhat nutty aroma and taste.  Popular in Indian, Asian, Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisines, it can be used to season most meats, eggs. Chickpeas, lentils and more.
  3. Basil: The fragrant leaves of the Basil plant have a more subtle flavor that is delicious when paired with certain foods, such as tomatoes. Eat the leaves fresh or cook them, this versatile herb is fantastic in Italian cuisine.
  4. Bay leaf: Aromatic and woody in flavor, bay leaves are often bought and sold dried, but when fresh, they are even better when added to stews, soups and marinades; just remember to remove them before serving! Popular in Mediterranean cooking in particular, it is also used in Middle Eastern. Indian and European cooking.
  5. Turmeric: Native to Southeast India, turmeric is most often bought in powder form, and is said to have many health benefits and antioxidant properties. With a color mimicking that of saffron, it has a full-bodied flavor and gives off a rich, red color.
  6. Black peppercorns: Exceptionally versatile and widely-used, black pepper has several different varieties. Whole peppercorns give the best flavor, and while its uses are limitless, it is commonly used to make beef jerky.
  7. Oregano: With a strong flavor profile that holds up well against other acidic or strong ingredients, Oregano is an Italian must-have herb for dishes such as meatballs or pizza, and can be bought fresh or dried.
  8. Mustard seeds: When roasted or dried, mustard seeds pop and release their full flavor, and are great for use in stir-fries or seasoned rubs and marinades. Buy them in yellow, black and brown varieties, and when toasted, the seeds give a nutty flavor and pleasing texture to a dish.
  9. Cinnamon: Delicious and versatile, cinnamon can be used to great effect in both savory and sweet dishes. With a distinctly warming flavor and aroma, it comes into its element when combined with other spices such as nutmeg, cloves and allspice. Widely used in the cuisine of North Africa, Asia and the Middle East, it is a wonderful addition to a range of dishes and hot beverages.
  10. Rosemary: Used fresh or dried, rosemary can be overwhelming, so discretion is needed when adding it to a dish. Added to meat or vegetable dishes to enhance them, rosemary is delicious in marinades or braises, and is often paired with lamb to complement the gamey flavor.
  11. Cardamom: Often used in Indian spice blends that include ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander, cardamom is a luxurious spice with a pleasing aroma. Used to flavor coffee in Middle Eastern cuisine, it also often makes an appearance in Scandinavian baked goods.  
  12. Coriander seeds: Giving a dish a warm, citrusy and aromatic taste, the seeds of the coriander plant are completely different to the fresh leaves of the plant. Frequently used in Indian cuisine, they also feature in dishes from the Mediterranean, Asia and the Middle East. With its subtle but pleasing flavor, coriander seeds can enhance both savory and sweet dishes.

The most popular spices and herbs in the world are so because of their distinct flavor profiles and ability to enhance different dishes, and if you haven’t yet stocked up on the 12 mentioned above, perhaps a trip to the store is in order! 


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