Spices can add amazing flavour to your food. They are also generally in-expensive and fat free!
Two in particular below have awesome health properties. Turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory spice. Cayenne Pepper is also great for your blood and circulation.
There are many spices that can be irritating to your stomach - the main culprit being black pepper - which is why we do not use pepper in any of our food at Revive (although we do supply it on the tables if you would like to use it). Note that this is different to cayenne pepper which is not from pepper but from chillies.
Here are my 13 favourite spices. I recommend that you go to an Indian grocery store - where they will have plenty of fresh spices for you to buy in bulk bins - you are best getting smaller quantities and having it fresher. Try to avoid those little packets that you find in the supermarket that are often old and horrendously priced. Also I find that the staff in the Indian stores are very friendly and more than willing to recommend other spices - so make sure you ask them.
Generally most need to be cooked to release and activate their flavours so make sure they are added at the beginning of your dish.
How much to add? Generally most recipes for 2 people start with half a teaspoon of powdered (except the hot ones use a pinch) and see how they go. Remember it is fairly difficult to take it out once it is in the dish so start smaller and add more if necessary.
My stock standard 13 spices that every pantry must have:
- Cumin. The most versatile spice Good for curries, stews and dips when you want an Indian or Middle Eastern flavour.
- Turmeric. Great for making things yellow - use in any dish.
- Coriander. This even good for sweet dishes. Goes well especially with the 2 spices above.
- Star Anise (aka Aniseed). Buy powdered or grind up the whole in a coffee grinder - think hot cross buns.
- Smoked Paprika. This has an amazing flavour and adds a nice warm smokey flavour. Important that you get this one fresh, and it should be bright red.
- Cayenne Pepper. Great to add another dimension to a dish - just a little sprinkle may not actually add much heat - but can enhance the other flavours.
- Garam Masala. A combination Indian spice mix for an authentic taste. I find that it can be quite bitter so may need to add honey or just a little sweetener.
- Cajun Spice. This is a nice mix for something different - great with Caribbean style curries, pineapple and potatoes.
- Fennel Seeds. Very nice with any non-tomato based pasta recipe and bakes - make sure they are cooked first in a little oil with onion.
- Curry Powder. Good all purpose seasoning (usually mild) for many dishes - great with potatoes, fritters and even some stir fries.
- Brown/Black Mustard Seeds. These are nice in curries - make sure you cook them until they pop in oil at the beginning of the dish.
- Cinnamon. Can add a difference to some curries - especially with sultanas and apricot in them.
- Nutmeg. Great in pumpkin soup, however use very sparingly.
There are many more but the above will get you started. Just try them out and have fun!