So, we agreed in part one of my spice ramblings that whole spices are the key to increasing the flavour of our food. They are no more expensive, difficult to access or use. The only question remaining is which spices to keep on hand.
Now for the Kitchen Playground must have spice list:
from the top, left to right, pickled chillies, candlenuts, cinnamon quills, caraway seeds, cinnamon bark, cardamon pods
Largely used as a thickening agent in Asian cuisines, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia. A must have in my kitchen, particularly in laksa paste and satay. Also used frequently in Hawaiian cuisine.
Originating in northern Africa, caraway is widely used across Europe, particularly Germany, Austria, Hungary, Holland and Scandinavia. Possibly it’s most well know use is as an essential flavour of rye bread. It often used in blends such as garam masala and is a common component in harissa.
These little bundles of flavour come in brown, which are generally from China and green which are generally from India. So it stands to reason that they are used frequently in Chinese and Indian recipes. They are also commonly used in Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Turkish, Russian and Scandanavian cooking. A general rul of thumb is that 10 pods is equivalent to 1 1/2 teaspoons. Often in Indian cookery they are used whole. To use ground, take the seed from the pod and grind, discard the pod.
Not only do I have a constant supply of dried (red) chillies but I also have pickled chillies in the fridge (red and jalapeno) and fresh chillies in the fruit bowl (small red and very spicy). We use a lot of chillies. In fact, most of the world uses a lot of chillies. With the exception of Hungary and the Mediterranean countries, chilli is not a traditional spice but for most other areas of the world, some variety of chilli is used. There are many varieties of chilli available and what you choose to keep a stock of will depend on your favoured cuisine and level of heat.
Cinnamon quills and Cinnamon bark
I’m grouping these two together even though they are two different beasts. Whilst I have had both on hand for a long time and have always had quite definite uses for both based on flavour, I only recently learnt the technical difference whilst reading the very excellent post on creme brulee porridge over at Steamy Kitchen. My simple uneducated policy has always been to use the finer, lighter coloured quills in sweet dishes and the coarser, darker coloured bark in savoury. It seems that my tastebuds did not lead me astray. For further information on the whys and wherefores, I humbly direct you to the aforementioned post at Steamy Kitchen. Largely because I’m both lazy and busy.