Buying the best quality ingredients

If you really want to build up an excellent seasoning collection that will allow you to add high quality, exciting flavours into your cooking, then you’ll need some advice on where to start with choosing how to buy your ingredients. There are too many options around to know what you’re looking at without some guidance, so here are some key points we have learned from years of experience. (more…)

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How to source the best spices

We have already covered what you should be looking for as a sign of quality spices, and what you might be doing wrong so far when building up your collection of flavouring ingredients. But what is one to do when looking for ways of sourcing excellent quality spices? We have some wisdom to impart about the best ways to find great spices.

Buy spices online

If you’re looking for something very specific it might be difficult to track down in shops, so you might want to research cooking spices online and find somewhere you can purchase what you’re looking for. Quality spice merchants will know what they’re talking about so you can ask questions about the products before placing your order. Many online stores carry a huge collection of the best cooking spices, herbs and blends for Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese dishes.

Visit ethnic markets

To find spices for a specific sort of cooking or something that originates from a particular country, you might be best visiting an authentic market for those goods. These prices are likely to be fair and the products will usually be the best quality around, plus they will be restocked much faster than those in supermarkets and other big retailers.

Find a local expert

If you want a single place you can visit to get advice on cooking as well as a full range of high quality spices, you might be able to find a local spice specialist. A merchant who is an expert in the field will be able to help you find what you’re looking for and assure you that the products you’re buying are of the finest quality. (more…)

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How to look after your herbs and spices

To ensure your cooking is always top quality, it’s really vital to start with a great herb and spice collection. But once you’ve figured out where to buy your seasonings and how to choose the best ones, your efforts might still be wasted if you don’t store and look after your collection properly. Here is some of our tried and tested advice regarding the best ways to look after your spices.

Review your storage cabinet

First of all you need to review and analyse your collection closely. Do you have a load of spices that can’t be used any more because they’ve been left too long and gone stale? If you’ve had them for more than a few months, chances are they’ve either gone off, or they have too many preservatives in them to be considered good quality. There are a few exceptions which will keep for years, but for any particular spice make sure you throw it out when it’s too old rather than spoil your food.

Keep everything organised

If you enjoy tidying up and keeping things in order then you’re the perfect seasoning connoisseur in the making. You don’t have to obsessively label everything, but it’s a good idea to mark things with the date you purchased them, and also to group things by theme or based on what you use them for. Ones you rarely use might end up at the back of the cupboard but you need to be careful they don’t get lost and go off.

Choose where to keep them

If your herbs and spices are too close to the oven, chances are they’re going to be weakened faster. Heat, light and air getting to them will make the flavours evaporate faster and they’re more likely to be unusable. You can put your seasonings and condiments in a dedicated cupboard, or keep them mobile in plastic containers or glass jars that you can move around your kitchen as needed.

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Top 5 herbs and spices you should try next

If you’re building up a collection of herbs and spices you’re well on your way to cooking a wide variety of exotic and exciting dishes to enjoy at home. However, it’s easy to get into habits with food and if you find a few useful ingredients that work with many dishes you’ll probably find yourself sticking to your comfort zone. If you want to improve your cooking skills you should focus on trying new things rather than going over the same recipes trying to get them perfect.

As such, we have a few suggestions for some of the best herbs and spices you can use in various styles of cooking. We highly recommend trying these ones next if you haven’t managed to yet.

Turmeric

Notable for its vivid golden yellow colour, you have to be careful with turmeric because it will stain your skin and clothes easily. It’s often found in Indian cooking but is also present in American mustard and many more things, tasting something like spicy ginger. Use this with curry, soup, rice dishes, chicken or pretty much anything vegetarian for great results.

Smoked Serrano Chilli Powder

Serrano chillies are famous for being spicy and flavourful. When dried and ground into  a powder, they become a powerful, smoky spice that’s very versatile and suits a range of cooking styles, including Mexican and South American.

Saigon Cinnamon

Of all the varieties of cinnamon available, this is considered the finest flavour as it’s both hot and sweet. You can use Saigon cinnamon for your favourite winter baking and coffee blends, and it also works brilliantly with seafood, chicken and lamb dishes.

Herbs de Provence

The Provence region of France is famously home to a variety of useful herbs including thyme, basil, lavender, rosemary and more. These can easily be found in a single blend which makes it a simple process to add these to your roast or grilled meat. Herbs de Provence can also add a lot of depth of flavour to hot recipes.

Vanilla Paste

Although vanilla extract is widespread in recipes, there is a new trend for vanilla paste because it’s made without wasting the pods that have to be ground up to make the extract. It’s easier to use than starting from the actual beans so you can easily add it to homemade desserts.

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11 amazing cooking facts you never knew

Adding flavour and excitement to our cooking requires fresh ingredients, great seasoning and skillful cooking, whatever style we choose. We might think we know a lot about the origins of the ingredients we’re cooking with today, but what about their history and the science behind them? Here are some interesting facts about some of the items in your kitchen cabinets which might open your eyes. (more…)

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