a pinch or pack of perfect spices...

Cubeb berries are a “red” alternative to black pepper. They are bitter, peppery, and pungent, with traces of camphor and nutmeg in their aroma. They go well with meat, cheese and vegetable dishes.

Cloves, especially when ground, can easily overpower a dish, so only a few need be used. They are the main flavour of Worcestershire sauce.  Just a few cloves help to aromatize rice, curries, baked ham, hot apple cider and mulled wine, and have even been used to flavor tobacco.

Black cumin grows wild in Iran and Kashmir. Called royal cumin, or kala jeera in India, the small, dark brown, curved seeds are highly aromatic, with a resinous, astringent flavor that’s sweeter and more complex than common cumin. It’s preferred for northern Indian meat kormas and shows up in savory dishes of North Africa and the Middle East.

A powdered version of the familiar and often maligned vegetable. Try it in soups and stews or in a vinaigrette to add great color and mild sweetness. With mild thickening properties, it can used to add body to a sauces.

Used for shorter cooking times, the California Bay hints at camphor and eucalyptus. The large dried leaves of the bay laurel tree are one of the best herbs for soups and broths, rice, and sauces, giving a mild, delicious savory taste. Bay leaves are among the oldest known cooking herbs.

Urfa Biber is a unique chile with a smoky, ‘raisin-like’ taste, mild heat with a lasting build. Traditionally used in meat dishes and yogurt sauces, but try it sprinkled on steamed vegetables for an added kick. Because of its fruity overtones, it is becoming popular in to use in sweet dishes in North America, in everything from hot chocolate to ice cream!

A thickening agent with more thickening power than flour or even cornstarch. It has the unique characteristic of adding a glossy sheen to sauces, much like finishing with butter, but without the fat. Has a faint savory taste, but can still be used in desserts.

Annatto is used for its red-orange color in cheeses, confectionery, butter, meat dishes and stews. It is popular in the Philippines, Central America and the Caribbean. Annatto has a very mild taste: slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg.

This dried, star-shaped fruit grows on small trees in China and Vietnam. Its smoky, licorice flavour makes it a distinctive ingredient in Chinese five spice, Peking Duck, Vietnamese Pho, and Malaysian curries. Also nice in homemade chai. The lovely pods make a great garnish.

Anise is primarily associated with cakes, biscuits and confectionery, as well as rye breads. It is used in much the same way as fennel to flavour fish, poultry, soups and root vegetable dishes. Anise is not related to true licorice, although it has a similar taste and is often used to flavor black licorice candy.

Traditionally root was chewed or brewed into a tea for the immune system.  The Chinese species is Dong Quai, famous for alleviating menstrual cramps. Roots sometimes used in making absinthe.

Made of dried pomegranate seeds, this spice has a mildly fruity, sweet and sour flavor. Used in India to sour chutneys and curries, they are also used in pastries and breads in the Middle East. Try grinding them and sprinkling over salads or vegetable dishes.

Unripe mangoes are sun-dried and ground to a powder which is used to give a sour tang to many East Indian dishes including meats, vegetables and curries. Often added to chutneys, pickles and some stir fries much as vinegar is used in other parts of the world.

The whole berry of the pimento bush, Allspice is the size of a large pea and has a deep rich-brown color. Clove and pepper flavors are very pronounced, especially when freshly ground. Used widely in Jamaican jerk and Caribbean dishes. Also nice in holiday pastries.

With a taste similar to thyme, although more powerful with notes of celery and pepper, Ajwain is an exciting and unusual spice. Native to southern India, Ajwain is most commonly added to chutneys, curried dishes, breads and legumes. It’s related to cumin and parsley, and is also known as carom and bishop’s weed.

This is similar to the guajillo chile, only smaller and more potent. It has a fruity flavor that’s good in stews, soups, dips, chutneys, casseroles, cooked vegetables, use as a seasoning for salsas and sauces. Add flavor to breakfast burritos, tortilla soup and to fish entrees.

Its name means small, and refers to the tiniest chiles – which are usually among the hottest. There are many varieties, some round and some conical. Others are called Bravo, Mosquito, Pequeno, Turkey Pepper, Grove Pepper, and Pring-kee-new, Birds Eye, Chilpequin and Chiltipiquin.

Negro is an elongated, flat chile, measuring 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The pasilla’s wrinkled body curves into an arc. The color of this pepper is dark purple-black; similar to the color of an Eggplant or a Raisin. This thin fleshed chile has a berry flavor with herbaceous tones. Use it in traditional Mexican recipes. Be adventurous and add it to meat loaf, beef stew or corn chowder. Great in sauces, salsa and soups. This chile is a flavorful ingredient for cream sauce dishes.

Used in tamales and quesadillas, and can be interchanged with the poblano in many instances. In Spanish, pasilla means little raisin, and this pepper is so named because of its deep black color and raisin like aroma. It is mild with a smoky flavor.

Used extensively in Southwestern cuisine, the whole pods are often seen in decorative chile bundles called ristras that have become the symbol of New Mexico. Pureed in traditional sauces, combined with tomatoes or tomatillos, in stews, soups and casseroles you won’t spend a half hour in Santa Fe without running into these versatile chiles. Convenient crushed form.


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