What is the difference between herbs and spices?
If you ask someone, "What spices do you like to use?" they may not specifically mean spices. Colloquially, herbs are often also classified under spices. There is also no official definition, but chefs often differentiate between the two. The most common distinction made is that everything that made a plant leaf is an herb and everything else is a spice.
Spices have very different origins: fruits (chili pepper), seeds (cumin, coriander), roots (turmeric, ginger), nuts (nutmeg), tree leaves (bay leaf, kaffir), flower bud (clove) flowers (hibiscus, lavender), bulbs ( garlic), berries (black pepper, juniper), bark (cinnamon) and even pistils of the flower (saffron). Sometimes salt is also seen as a spice.
What is the best way to store my herbs and spices?
Actually, it is best not to keep them, but just use them 🙂 The taste of herbs and spices comes from the essential oils they contain. These oils are quite volatile and subject to light, oxygen, and temperature. Therefore, we recommend protecting your herbs as much as possible. It is preferable not to store your herbs near a window where the full sun is on, or right next to your stove. But also not so far in your kitchen cupboard that you might forget about them ...
How do I know if my spices are still ok?
There may be an expiration date on your jar, but dried spices should keep well for much longer. Not the taste though! Use your herbs as soon as possible. Open your jar, smell it, look at the color - does it give off little flavor, do you smell little or does it look colorless or gray? Then it is probably time to replace them.
What should I do with spices that have not yet been ground?
We prefer to use whole spices. The essential oils that give spices their flavor are best preserved when they are in their original form. By grinding them just before use you will get the best taste. There are several ways to grind your spices. You can use a mortar and pestle for example, or an electric coffee grinder (don't grind too long, because it will get too hot), or a manual coffee grinder. You can even use an old pepper grinder for some spices.
For some spices, such as cumin and coriander seeds, it may be useful to toast them for a minute or two on medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. This makes it easier to grind them. See the toasting instructions below.
How do I best toast my spices?
Preferably use a pan with a good thick bottom, such as a cast-iron (frying) pan. Let it heat up over medium heat and then add the spices. Toast them for 1-2 minutes while you let them move around in the pan. If you can smell the aromas of the spices, remove them from the pan.
I am afraid to use spices. What can I do?
If you are not (yet) familiar with the use of herbs and spices other than salt and pepper, they can sometimes seem intimidating. But that is not necessary at all. Here are a few tips for getting familiar with herbs and spices:
- Look up several recipes for a dish. See if you notice any differences in the use of the herbs and spices and experiment based on the differences.
- Try replacing some spices in dishes that you make more often. For example, put a little bit of paprika on your fried egg, a pinch of chipotle powder, and ground cumin in your stir-fried spinach or a little andaliman in your gin & tonic. Start me a little, taste, and add if necessary. more.
- And as said: taste it! People sometimes forget this, especially if they follow a recipe. Taste your dish regularly - is it missing something? Add a little bit at a time and see what it does to the taste.
Do I have to roast all my spices first?
No. Only unground spices with high oil content, such as cumin, coriander, cardamom and cloves can benefit. But you don't have to - a slightly different taste will develop, which you may not always want. And if your dish is still exposed to considerable heat during cooking, for example when roasting cauliflower with spices in the oven, then it is probably better not to roast them beforehand as well.
What is the best way to grind spices?
It depends on the spice, but there are a number of methods. Some people prefer the traditional mortar and pestle. This works well for things like cumin and cilantro (and if you have some muscle). You can also use an old pepper mill or one you bought at the supermarket. We often use a coffee grinder ourselves, both manual and electric. If you're using an electric one, make sure to no grind too long, because this will produce too much heat and the flavor will be lost. And realize that after that you will probably never be able to use it for coffee again (unless you like coffee with clove flavor, for example).