Last year I was lucky enough to visit Zanzibar, which is also known as “Spice Island” thanks to the abundance of spices grown there and exported around the world. I think herbs and spices are such an important part of cooking and I love experimenting with different combinations and flavours. Visiting not only the vibrant, bustling spice markets but also the spice farms, was a wonderful experience and learning about how the spices were grown was a fantastic insight. I try to visit food/ spice markets whenever I go somewhere exotic as I find them absolutely fascinating. The vibrant colours and smells and the noise and bustle always inspire me to try new flavours and dishes when I’m home.
Here are my top tips for herbs and spices:
- Experiment, experiment, experiment! This is the only way you’ll discover interesting new flavours and combinations and can be so much fun. Experiment with otherwise bland dishes like rice or when making crackers to see how different spices work
- Use fresh whenever you can! Buy smaller packets of spices so you don’t have old dusty jars lasting forever in your cupboard. Saying that, if kept out of the light and in sealed containers, spices will generally last quite a while. When it comes to herbs, most of mine come from my garden. Do try to grow a few on a window sill, even if you don’t have outside space. If you are buying herbs, buy the growing pots instead of cut herbs which don’t last long at all. If you do have cut herbs that you aren’t using straight away, put the stems in a glass of water and pop in the fridge door – the warmest part of the fridge, (except basil and mint which are best kept at room temperature, but still in water)
- Mix your own spices. Don’t buy every ready made mix on the go. Instead buy the basic core ingredients and mix yourself. You’ll gain much more of an appreciation of what spice mixes are made up of and what works together well.
- Don’t forget spices and herbs in sweet dishes. I love cardamom in cakes for example and basil and strawberries are a wonderful combination