Starting A Spice Rack From Scratch
The power of spice is renowned worldwide for giving food flavours that transform a dish from bland and flavourless into an explosion of deliciousness for all to enjoy. But there are very few actual guidelines for what you should have in your home, and this is fine, up to a point. But for those of us who are totally new to the world of spices, here are a few that you should never be without.
Smoked Chilli And Paprika Powder
The basis of most dishes with a bit of body to them, chilli powder also adds colour to meals. The smoked variety is delicious and can be picked up from health food stores. Best kept in a glass jar or china honey pot. Add it to everything.
Smoked Garlic Powder
One of the harder to find ones, a sprinkle of this along with salt will bring the traditional garlic flavour to any vegetable dish if you don’t have cloves to hand. Goes really well with onions, or sprinkled over vegetables alongside other seasonings.
With curry powders, it’s often up to you to find the one that works best. Garam Masala is an old favourite, but there are many more to try, such as Jamaican curry blend and other pre-packaged types.
Difficult to find but worth it, a good Cajun seasoning adds a hearty, almost meaty flavour to veg dishes. One of the best spice blends around.
This bright yellow powder adds less in the way of spice but more of a savoury feel to dishes it is added to, and of course can also be mixed with water to make the eponymous hot dog sauce. Also great mixed into mayonnaise or cream cheese as a dip for fries.
Chinese Five Spice
A welcome addition to anything, five spice is customary to be included in any spice rack simply because it is delicious. Goes great on instant noodles.
‘Bouillon’ Style Vegan Stock Powder
This powder, while salty, adds body to any broth. In fact it can be used instead of salt in soups in around the same quantity, it’s just that good.
Cinnamon Herbal Tea Bags
In winter having good triple cinnamon tea bags means you have the option of a nice calming evening tea, or also the ability to throw one into a pan with the wine or cider of your choice for quick go-to mulling.
Premade Salt/Pepper Blends
There are loads of these around, but usually come in a small tub which can be applied to almost anything. Much easier than buying both separately, and also have the advantage of being of higher quality.
While not technically a spice, this malty powder is the quickest for bread making. Mix it into flour and water in a jar and leave in the dark for 3-5 days – this pungent batter can be added to more flour, water and yeast to make a sourdough style bread dough.
Really, really easy to make at home. Just get a clear swing top bottle, add chilli slices and extra virgin olive oil, and leave it for a few weeks. The spice will then blend into the oil. You can also experiment with adding other bits and pieces to the bottle, such as chilli flakes and seeds.
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
Apply this to a well oiled piece of meat, a large squash, or anything else that would benefit from oil and seasoning for roasting. Really easy to get hold of, and also goes surprisingly well with breakfast food such as eggs.
Again, not strictly a spice, but in cold weather (or in the fridge over summer), this fatty block of coconut can simply be grated into any dish in the absence of coconut milk to make a serviceable curry sauce. If it gets too warm it turns into a paste.
Turmeric and Ginger Powder
Two very closely related roots which are renowned in Chinese medicine – will work in just about any dish requiring a bit of citrusy tang, as well as in soups and stocks. Keeps for ages and can be found anywhere. Best bought in small paper bags and kept in the dry.
The best type of cheese, because it only gets better the more dry and gnarly it gets. Last on the list because again, it’s definitely a spice, but since it provides instant cheesiness and keeps a while we thought it’s worth mentioning. Wrap it up in cloth and keep in the fridge for maximum longevity.
And The Rest…
Is up to you! Get out there and search out spices that you’ve never come across, and always bring them home. A lot of places will sell you as little as an ounce of a blend for under £1, or anywhere in that region. It’s much cheaper to buy it bagged at health food stores than in store bought glass containers.