Part one introduces my thoughts on why only whole spices should grace your pantry and parts two, three and four feature the beginnings of my essential spice list.

Part 5 concludes the Kitchen Playground essential spice list.


Saffron threads

At the Kitchen Playground, saffron is used a lot in Spanish cooking as well as appearing in Middle Eastern, general Mediterranean and some Asian cooking. It is expensive but is used sparingly. I always feel luxurious when I add saffron to a dish. Good for a girl’s soul.


Sesame Seeds – white and black

While the black sesame seeds are used primarily in Asian cooking, Japanese, Chinese and Korean in particular, the white variety get used in a myriad of ways. They are also used widely in Asian cooking, as well as baking and in Middle Eastern cookery. In fact, with a thermomix, making your own tahini, a ground paste of sesame seeds is quick and easy.


Star Anise

These incredibly fragrant little beauties are a magical aromatic component throughout Asia. My beloved pho would not be half the soup it is without it. Confectionery, meat, poultry, stocks, soups and a vital ingredient in Chinese five spice.


Szechwan Pepper

Only used in Chinese and Tibetan dishes and of course a critical component of Chinese Five Spice. I do like to have it on hand as neither black, green nor white pepper are particularly good substitutes. It is much milder than black or white pepper, more on the hotness scale of the green peppercorn. Besides, it keeps very well.


Turmeric Root

Beware. This stuff stains! You don’t get that brilliant vibrancy of colour without some risk. So much more flavoursome than the ground stuff in jars, which seems to have no flavour at all, only colour. One of the most widely used spices in my kitchen, turmeric gets a workout in Asian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Indian foods. It is used as much for its colour as it’s flavour. It is absolutely vital in curry powders and pastes.


Vanilla Beans

Vanilla is solely for the sweet things in life. Desserts, baking, confectionery and very nice steeped in vodka for a period of several months.Also great to store inside a sugar jar, the result is delicious vanilla sugar. Split it opena dn scrape the beans out to extract the vanilla-y goodness.

Chinese Five Spice

Totally out of alphabetical order I know but I decided that if Garam Masala was being included as it is frequently found dried out and tasteless in pantries, so too should this be. Not surprisingly, it is used extensively in Chinese cuisine and here is a simple recipe to make your own super flavoursome Chinese Five Spice.

2 teaspoons Szechwan peppercorns
8 star anise
2 cloves
2cm piece cinnamon bark
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1. Dry toast Szechwan pepper in a frypan over low heat for about 3 minutes or until the aroma is released
2. Combine all ingredients and grind as finely as possible in thermomix or with mortar or pestle. Coffee grinders will also do the trick.
3. Store in a dark place in an airtight container and use it up quickly!

And thus ends my spicely lecture. If you are still with me, thank you.