Jazz up your food with own spice blend

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page - by Becky Krys­tal

Spice blends! You can make them ex­actly the way you want, de­pend­ing on what you like or what they’re des­tined for. Plus, your blend will be fresher than any­thing you can pick up at most stores. Here are some tips to help you get blend­ing with the best of them.

Use good spices. Spice ex­perts, and many home cooks, will tell you that you get the best flavour by grind­ing whole spices your­self. But I’m a re­al­ist, and I re­alise you’re prob­a­bly like me and have a bunch of ground spices in jars. If you have the whole ones, great. (Toast them in a dry skil­let first over low heat for ex­tra flavour.) If you don’t have whole spices, don’t worry. As long as your jars are not too old (a year is a good cut­off) and still smell strong - the volatile oils in spices grad­u­ally dis­si­pate over time, espe­cially once ground - you’re fine. Plus, a blend means even if one spice is slightly wan­ing in flavour, it can be propped up by the oth­ers.

Pick a point of em­pha­sis. The first thing you want to ask your­self is what you want the blend to taste like, says Linda Bernard, team man­ager at Wash­ing­ton’s Bazaar Spices. What do you want the pri­mary

flavour to be? Spicy? Smoky? That can help you di­rect you to one ini­tial spice that you can build the rest of your blend around. Or pick a par­tic­u­lar type of cui­sine that might drive your choice of spices, whether it’s an In­dian masala or Amer­i­can bar­be­cue.

Mix your flavours. Bernard likes to break the flavour op­tions into a few main cat­e­gories: sweet, spicy, salty and bit­ter. Try to hit on at least a few of those groups to achieve bal­ance. Bernard does have some words of warn­ing, though. “Don’t make it too spicy be­cause the last thing you want to do is numb your mouth,” she says. Other spices can quickly over­whelm, in­clud­ing gin­ger and gar­lic. Salt can also wash ev­ery­thing else out. Bernard cau­tions to be espe­cially care­ful with smoked salt. She prefers to keep blends in a savoury di­rec­tion, so don’t get car­ried away with sugar, ei­ther. Add just enough to round out the flavour.

In her two-vol­ume “Spices,” author Fa­bi­enne Gam­brelle talks about an­other help­ful way to clas­sify spices, as de­scribed by botanist Michel Viard. First are “soft” spices, which can be al­most sweet or “cosy,” Gam­brelle writes. Those might in­clude cin­na­mon, vanilla, ca­cao, anise, saf­fron and poppy seeds. Next are “heady,” which tend to be strong and aro­matic. Think car­damom, star anise, nut­meg, car­away, cumin, co­rian­der, turmeric and gin­ger. Last are “fiery,” the spices that can pro­voke “vig­or­ous, even vi­o­lent” re­ac­tions, ac­cord­ing to Gam­brelle. Chile pep­pers are the ob­vi­ous sus­pects, in ad­di­tion to all­spice and mus­tard.

Keep­ing a men­tal note of these la­bels can help you mix and match a range of spices, with­out dump­ing too many in from one group. Think be­yond typ­i­cal spices. Spice blends don’t just have to in­clude ground spices. “Don’t be afraid to add dried herbs,” Bernard says. “They re­ally do help bring the flavour along.” She’s a par­tic­u­lar fan of thyme, oregano and dill. You can get even more daring than that, though. Look at what else is in your pantry. You can play around with things in­clud­ing cof­fee beans, loose-leaf tea, nuts and dried cit­rus peel. Put it to­gether and taste it. Bernard gen­er­ally rec­om­mends work­ing in ta­ble­spoon amounts. – Wash­ing­ton Post.

Home-blended spices are gen­er­ally fresher than blends pur­chased.- Pho­tos by Tom McCorkle for The Wash­ing­ton Post

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.