You know the feeling – you read a recipe for a mouth-watering Moroccan vegetable tagine and it features a long list of exotic spices. So what are they all for?
Spices conjure up the mysterious and the opulent – colours, heat and flavours that turn chickpeas into that Moroccan tagine, cauliflower into aloo gobi, and fresh white fish into zesty Mexican tacos. There is also so much that we take for granted about these delicious and colourful staples.
Beneath the obvious influences of flavour and colour, these dried fragments of seed, root or vegetable also house myriad health benefits – keeping meat fresh and even acting as a disinfectant.
Find out more facts about some of your favourite spices here:
Cinnamon – according to Body & Soul, cinnamon can sooth an upset stomach and is high in antioxidants and so helps aid digestion and blood sugar levels. A perennial childhood favourite because it is so often paired with sweeter treats – which makes so much sense when you combine this spice’s ability to level out sweetness with nutty, woody flavours and digestive balance.
Cumin – imparting a smoky, woody character on food, cumin is one of the ancient spices that is still in use today. Over time it’s been used as commonly as pepper (it was kept on ancient Grecian tables as a standard additive to all meals) and is grown in as diverse locations as England, China, Egypt, Mexico, Syria and India. It is widely used throughout many countries to aid digestion, prevent heart disease and enhance immunity.
Paprika – a spice derived from the capsicum family, paprika comes in many different styles, including sweet, hot and smoky. Much paprika is actually grown and sourced from The Netherlands, where it is cultivated in greenhouses for the commercial market. It’s chilli-like qualities result in health benefits it’s an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory anti-oxidant. We’re all for that.
Cardamom – used in both sweet and savoury dishes, cardamom is native to India where it grows wild and over time has been used as a toothpaste and a perfume. One of the more expensive spices, cardamom is described by The Epicentre as “warm, pungent and aromatic” that is known as both an aphrodisiac and a diet-pill.
Turmeric – widely touted for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant benefits, turmeric is a fantastic way to add colour to your dish. The Kitchn lists some fantastic recipes that showcase this magnificent orange spice, including a Malaysian beef curry and spicy breakfast poha. The images alone will have your mouth watering.