Cooking With Spices

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The use of spices and aromatics in our everyday cookery allows us to transport ourselves to far off places with the mere twist of a spice mill. We now enjoy the availability of spices from across the globe and can fill our kitchens with the intoxicating aromas of South East Asian, North African, Indian and Caribbean food to name but a few.

Ground Turmeric

Cooking with spice is nothing new of course; the practice goes back thousands of years and spread with the routes made by the early traders. It is easy to associate spices with Asian food and particularly that of the Indian sub-continent but spices have played an integral part of many cuisines without us perhaps realising it.

Maybe it is a question of what we consider to be a spice; for many that conjures up thoughts of chilli and curry powder, of garlic and ginger. But what about a pinch of nutmeg in a simple cheese sauce, vanilla in our custard or the turn of the pepper mill? Spices turn up in baked goods and breads, think of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and anise. The subject of spices and their use in cooking is a vast one, each cuisine has developed its own methods for using them, from the masalas of India, the chilli hot pastes of Thailand, to the fish cookery of the Scandinavians, the preserves of the English and the stews of North Africa, Europe and America.

Gradually build up your spice larder (see spices-choosing and storing for more information) and buy the largest and heaviest pestle and mortar that you can find or afford, the bigger the better. The recipes for pastes and mixes will invariably make more than you will immediately need but they do keep and the sight of a left over paste will only encourage you to cook more. The recipes in this section are based on foodstuffs rather than geographical locations, for dishes from a particular region please click on Global Food Market and for a quick and/or in depth guide to individual spices please click on The A-Z of Spices.

Rice and Vegetables

Content and picture Miles Collins