Top ten herbs & spices

16 10 2009

Sometimes in this modern world we get into bad, lazy habits. The decline in the use of herbs and spices is an example of this. For the past few years I have been making curries using no actual herbs and spices.


I got into the habit of using curry pastes and just stuck with it. However, last weekend I made a basic curry from scratch using paprika, cumin, turmeric and coriander. It was epic to say the least and also a lot cheaper than a ready made sauce.

The one problem I think is that people no longer know how to use herbs and spices.  That is why I have decided to do a list of the top ten herbs and spices that you need in your kitchen.

1. Tamarind

Usually bought as a paste. Add just a dash to glazes, curries and barbeque sauce. Tamarind can also be used to make homemade cola.

2. Oregano

Buy it dried or fresh. Can be used in all Mediterranean dishes. Use for tomato sauces, fried vegetables and grilled meat. Also vital for Greek salads and kebabs. Oh and don’t forget to sprinkle oregano over your homemade pizza.

3. Sage

Buy it dried or fresh. Used in most Western cooking. It adds flavour to lamb, duck, chicken and sausages.  Sage is also used in Italian cooking. Fry some with butter and add to pasta. It is particularly good with fatty meats.

4.  Cinnamon

Buy as sticks or as a ground up spice. Add a sprinkle to your dough when baking sweet foods. Pop a cinnamon stick in your coffee and hot chocolate. Add cinnamon when making fruit pies.

5. Paprika

Buy as a dried spice. Use it to season and colour rice. Paprika is often used in Hungarian cuisine to spice up dishes such as goulash. In Spain paprika is often added to stews and sausages. It can also be added to curries, potato salads and to chicken marinades.

6. Turmeric

Buy it as a powdered spice. Sprinkle over popcorn or add to natural yoghurt as a side dip. You can also add turmeric to curries especially fish curries. It is also good in Moroccan dishes and should be sprinkled over meat and grilled vegetables.

7. Tarragon

Use as a dried herb or fresh. Tarragon is primarily used in French food. Use it in sauces for fish and poultry. It can also be used to flavour butter, omelette’s and salads.

8.  Thyme

Buy as a dried herb. Goes great with lamb, tomatoes and eggs. Use it for stuffing and in Bolognese sauce.

9. Dill

Best used fresh but can be used dried. Dill is best added to sauces and pastas at the end of cooking. Dill really tastes good with mustard and  can be added to sauces for fish.

10. Coriander

Use dried seeds and fresh leaves. Coriander is a vital ingredient in curries. It also goes great with game and with sausages. Try frying sausages with a few coriander seeds.

So there you have it, my top ten herbs and spices. Leave me a comment if you think that I’ve not picked the right ones or if you have more ideas on how to use them.




2 responses

17 10 2009

I think you’ve picked the right spices and I don’t have anything constructive to add re uses but just want to say that I appreciate the info and, between your cocktail and spice suggestions, you are adding a lot of innovative ideas for my palate. So, thanks!

3 11 2009

I’ve never worked with tamarind before, but I’m definitely adding it to my shopping list – it sounds like a very versatile spice (I saw your drink recipe in another post… yummy!).

I agree with the others on the list – one other one I find myself using frequently is basil – my daughter (only 14 but already quite the chef) likes to use it in a simple chicken dish. She cooks the chicken in a pan with a bit of EVOO and lemon and when it’s almost done, she adds fresh chopped basil and thyme (sometimes cilantro as well, if we have it on hand). She cooks up a pot of jasmine rice in the rice cooker, and adds a bit of lemon to the water before she turns it on. In no time, we have a quick and delicious dinner.

Thanks for the tamarind tip!

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