Our aim is to get everyone eating delicious, well-cooked food cheaply; not exactly easy when you require an enormous range of spices to bring a zing to your dishes in the cold winter months (or a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi). We’ve thought about the 5 essentials you need for your dishes but also where you should go to buy them. Our three top tips when it comes to spices are:
– Go to local markets and ‘ethnic’ grocers to buy spices instead of supermarkets. We would be bankrupt if it wasn’t for Aziz Cash and Carry on Electric Avenue in Brixton.
– Buy in bulk when you can so long as you can store it. Old jam jars are ideal and if you start to expand your range of spices this will be obligatory for the more obscure things you use.
– Buy a pestle and mortar: there is no point to buying two set of the same spice – just grind one up yourself and you have saved space and (most importantly) money.
Mexican or Indian – there could not be a clearer front runner for the first essential spice on our list. Buying cumin in seed form allows you the most flexibility when cooking. You can bash it up in your pestle and mortar or fry it off with onions to add some tang to a daal. Equally important for middle eastern recipes as well, you dare not be without this somewhere in your kitchen.
Great as a good alternative to fall back on when you have none fresh in the house, ground ginger is also good for adding to dishes that would otherwise be a little bland and you want to spread a little warmth throughout. We’ve added them to canned tuna fish cakes with salad and a little sweet chilli sauce to brighten up dinner.
We add so much coriander to our cooking as a herb but sometimes neglect the seeds as well which also serve to perk up your cooking with a fresh flavour. Ground in a pestle and mortar it brightens a chilli no end along with lime and chopped coriander. You can also lightly crush the seeds to rub into chicken and pork to be grilled for a quick dinner with a little extra flavour.
Possibly the biggest essential of all, yet there are so many varieties it’s hard to choose what one to go for. From your concentrated extract of scotch bonnet to the sweetest, most inoffensive variety, all chilli powders have their own qualities and flavours. As an essential though, the old motto applies: ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out the kitchen.’
Paprika is made from the dried fruits of the chilli family so can often have the same qualities as chilli but often has a lot more depth and a certain smokiness, because of this it is used more to season dished rather giving them a kick. One of the highest naturally occurring sources of vitamin C, we often use paprika in salads dressings. Try with a little virgin olive oil or unrefined sunflower oil over the top of some halloumi and rocket leaves – ideal for a summer lunch with crusty bread and gazpacho.
All prices taken from Aziz Cash and Carry on Electric Avenue, Brixton, SW9
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