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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MEDICINAL: It helps with digestion and sweetens the breath, so it is chewed after meals in parts of Europe, the Middle East and India.
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.
Medicinal: A warming spice that gently aids sluggish digestion. Extracts from star anise are used to make the anti-influenza medicine “Tamiflu.”
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.
ORIGIN: Central America
MEDICINAL: Once used to control fevers, dysentery and kidney diseases, though is now used mostly as a dye in medical preparations such as ointments and plasters.
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.
ORIGIN: West Indies
Use in minuscule quantities, adding directly to cooking liquid, frying in oil, or steeping in water. Asafoetida is used mostly in Indian vegetarian cooking, where the strong onion-garlic flavour enhances many dishes. It is also suited to many fish dishes and some pappadums are seasoned with asafoetida. Please note that asafoetida resin often contains gluten.
MEDICINAL: Known as an antidote for flatulence and is also prescribed for respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough.
Tomato sauces call out for a dash of this intense dried form of the common herb. Egypt produces an intensely flavored basil with hints of an anise flavor and a mild sweetness. Its aroma is released fully in cooked dishes, but it is also delicate and overcooking will dissipate it.
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.
This Mediterranean bay leaf is excellent for longer cooking times as it has a potent aroma.
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.
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.
MEDICINAL: Helps build your immune system
Dried limes and lemons are very traditional, special ingredients from the Middle East. The highly aromatic, tart and slightly fermented flavor notes in black limes complement chicken and fish particularly well. Add one or two whole to soups, stews or in the cavity of poultry before cooking, piercing them lightly with a fork to allow the flavors to infuse.
Smoked black pepper is boldly aromatic with a mild smoke taste that goes great anywhere you want a bit of spicy smokiness: BBQ, omelets, Latino food, spiced nuts, etc!
Caraway is an essential taste in sauerbraten, sauerkraut and rye bread. It figures prominently in the cuisines of Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. It seems to have a special affinity for apples, pork and sausages. It is also popular in Middle Eastern and North African cooking.