Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Becoming a Spice Girl

Although I'm quite happy to cook most of the time without a recipe, I'm useless with herbs and spices.  I sometimes put a tiny bit of chili powder into something or a sprinkle of whatever green stuff (herb) is at hand, but I don't really know what goes with what.  I usually forget all about it unless it's garlic, which goes in with the onions and olive oil, the starting steps for most things I seem to cook these days.  Bill is far more adventurous in his use of spices.

As we have a cupboard full of the stuff, I figure I may as well use it.  Also, some spices have some health benefits.  According to Runners World magazine, chilies increase your metabolism and turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.

In the back of one of my older cookbooks is a chart, but it names dishes I don't normally make (and they don't seem to know beans exist).  However, I used it to start a chart of my own, which fits in better with how I cook.  Actually, I made an index card for each type of food, to make it simpler for me to chose a spice or herb.

Funny enough, in Britain, they pronounce the h - as in Herb and they think it's amusing that Americans say 'erb.  Language is a funny thing, eh?  Anyhow, see if this list does anything for you:

Beans:  bay leaves, cumin, chili, cayenne, garlic, parsley

Poultry:  basil, bay leaves, celery seeds, cumin, dill, ginger, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon

Fish:   bay leaves, caraway seeds, cayenne, curry, mace, marjoram, paprika, parsley, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme

Cheese:  basil, caraway seed, celery seed, mace, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, sage, savory, thyme
   Cream cheese:  caraway seed, cayenne, curry, dill, marjoram, paprika, thyme
   Cottage cheese:  anise, caraway seed, cumin, chives, dill sage

Eggs:  basil, celery seed, chili, cumin, curry, mace, marjoram, mustard, paprika, rosemary, savory, thyme

Vegetables:  allspice, basil, bay leaves, caraway seed, celery seed, chili powder, chives, cloves, curry, dill, ginger, mace, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, sage, savory, sesame seed, tarragon, thyme

Winter veg, (ie sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin):  allspice, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg.  I'm very interested in this, as I'm not fond of the veg, though they are very good for you.

Rice:  cumin, curry powder, parsley, saffron

Pasta:  chives, Parmesan (yes, I know that's a cheese, but this is in the cookbook chart)

Potatoes:  paprika, cayenne, chili, garlic, parsley

Fruit:  allspice, aniseed, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mace, mint, nutmeg, rosemary.  

When we visited Slovakia, ages ago now, we were introduced to a professor at the university who was fond of making small trinkets from wood; he gave us several pens on which he'd burned 'Greetings from Slovakia'.  In return, Bill gave him a new English word:  treen.   Having that new word for his hobby pleased the professor no end and I was proud of Bill for being able to give it to him.  The professor gave us coffee and mentioned that he loved putting cardamom seeds in his coffee, but they were hard to get in Slovakia.  We tried it when we got home and decided it was pretty interesting, but we're not major coffee buffs (Bill might say I should speak for myself...).  We sent back a package of cardamom seeds because he was such a nice man.

Actually, I just found an even better chart, and this website has loads of interesting and useful information! 

Do you have favourite herbs and spices that you use a lot?


Jg. for FatScribe said...

this will sound lame, but i am a man with two sons. i always use garlic and onion (spices and from the ground) on everything i cook. fish, chicken, steak ... all sauteed in a pan with olive oil. i always get a great and crispy skin, and then i cook up some asparagus in olive oil with sea salt to slightly crispy. then potatoes in olive oil ... you get the picture.
artichokes boiled and then the butter with salt and pepper. my kids love when dad cooks dinner (they don't know any better!)

Shelley said...

Jg - ??Lame?? Are you kidding? When can we come over for dinner?! I don't know any better either!