Sie sind auf Seite 1von 338

Herbs&Spices

Herbs&Spices
Jill Norman

Photography
Dave King
For Paul, who made it possible

DK INDIA
Senior Art Editor Ivy Roy
Project Editor Janashree Singha
Art Editors Sourabh Challariya, Tashi Topgyal Laya
Managing Editor Alicia Ingty
Managing Art Editor Navidita Thapa
DTP Designers Satish Chandra Gaur, Anurag Trivedi
Pre-production Manager Sunil Sharma

DK UK
US Consultant Monita Buchwald
US Editors Allison Singer, Jill Hamilton
Managing Editor Dawn Henderson
Managing Art Editor Christine Keilty
Senior Jacket Creative Nicola Powling
Producer, Pre-Production Rebecca Fallowfield
Senior Producer Jen Scothern
Art Director Peter Luff
Category Publisher Peggy Vance

Original 2002 Edition: Project Editor Frank Ritter,


Editor Hugh Thompson, Project Art Editor Toni Kay,
Art Editor Sara Robin, Managing Editor Gillian Roberts,
Category Publisher Mary-Clare Jerram, Art Director
Carole Ash, DTP Designers Sonia Charbonnier,
Louise Waller, Production Controller Joanna Bull
First published in the United States in 2002 by DK Publishing,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

A Penguin Random House Company

This revised edition published in the United States in 2015 by DK Publishing.

15 16 17 18 19 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
001 259428 May/2015

Copyright 2002, 2015 Dorling Kindersley Limited, London


Text copyright 2002, 2015 Jill Norman
The right of Jill Norman to be identified as Writer
of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance
with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved
above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or
introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means (electronic, methanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise),
without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Published in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Limited.
A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN 978-1-4654-3598-9

DK books are available at special discouns when purchased in bulk for sales
promotions, premiums, fund-raising, or educational use. For details, contact:
DK Publishing Special Markets, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
or SpecialSales@dk.com.

Color reproduced by BurdaDruck


Printed and bound in China

A WORLD OF IDEAS:
SEE ALL THERE IS TO KNOW

www.dk.com
Contents
Herbs
Introducing herbs 14 Pungent and spicy herbs 86
Oregano and marjoram 86 Rosemary 90
Fresh and mild herbs 18 Sage 92 Thyme 96 Savory 100
Parsley 18 Purslane 20 Miners lettuce 21 Micromeria 103 Cilantro 104
Borage 22 Salad burnet 23 Perilla 24 Culantro 106 Rau ram 107 Arugula 108
Mitsuba 25 Orach 26 Watercress 110 Wasabi 112 Horseradish 114
Epazote 116 Mugwort 117

Sweet herbs 27
Sweet cicely 27 Marigold 28 Basil 30 Preparing herbs 118
Asian basils 34 Bay 36 Myrtle 38 Stripping, chopping, and pounding herbs 119
Angelica 39 Scented geranium 40 Drying and rubbing herbs 121 Making vinegars,
Lavender 42 Woodruff 46 Pandan 47 oils, and butters 123

Citrus or tart herbs 48


Bergamot 48 Lemon balm 50
Vietnamese balm 51 Lemon verbena 52
Sassafras 53 Houttuynia 54
Rice paddy herb 55 Sorrel 56

Licorice or anise herbs 57


Agastache 57 Chervil 58 Tarragon 60
Dill 62 Fennel 64

Minty herbs 66
Mint 66 Calamint 70 Catnip 71

Oniony herbs 72
Garlic 72 Welsh onion 77 Chives 78
Chinese chives 79

Bitter or astringent herbs 80


Celery 80 Lovage 82 Hyssop 84 Chicory 85
Spices
Introducing spices 126 Bitter or astringent spices 204
Capers 204 Fenugreek 206 Ajowan 207
Nutty spices 132 Mastic 208 Safflower 209
Sesame 132 Nigella 134 Poppy 135
Mahlab 136 Wattle 137 Pungent spices 210
Pepper 210 Cubeb 215 Aromatic leaves 216
Sweet spices 138 Mountain pepper 218 Grains of paradise 219
Sichuan pepper and sansho 220 Fresh ginger 222
Cinnamon 138 Cassia 140 Coriander 142
Dried ginger 226 Allspice 228 Cloves 230
Juniper 144 Rose 146 Vanilla 148
Asafoetida 234 Mustard 236 Chile peppers 240
Akudjura 152 Pink pepper 153 Paprika 154

Acidic and fruity spices 156 Preparing spices 250


Tamarind 156 Sumac 158 Barberry 159 Bruising, grating, slicing, and shredding
Pomegranate 160 Kokam 162 Amchoor 163 spices 251 Dry-roasting and frying spices 254
Grinding, crushing, and making spice pastes 256
Citrus spices 164 Preparing fresh chile peppers 258 Preparing
dried chile peppers 259
Lemongrass 164 Makrut lime 166
Galangal 168 Lemon myrtle 171 Citrus 172
Salt 260
Licorice or anise spices 174 Early history 260 Sources of salt 261
Star anise 174 Anise 176 Licorice 177 Uses of salt 261

Warm and earthy spices 178


Saffron 178 Cardamom 182 Black cardamom
184 Cumin 186 Caraway 188 Nutmeg 190
Mace 194 Turmeric 196 Zedoary 198 Curry
leaves 200 Annatto 202
Recipes Cooking with herbs
and spices 304
Blending herbs Soups, small plates, and salads 304 Fish 310
and spices 266 Meat 314 Vegetables 319 Pasta, noodles,
and grains 321 Cakes and desserts 326
Herb mixtures 266 Spice mixtures 270
Sauces and condiments 289 Marinades 302
Index 328

Acknowledgments 336
8 INTRODUCTION

Introduction
Since publication of the first edition of this book in 2002, our willingness to
try new foods has grown. Pomegranates and mangoes, fennel, kale, many
varieties of potatoes, salad greens, and fresh herbs are readily available.
The range of spices and blends has extended online and in stores. Sauces
from Japan and Korea...fresh Mexican chile peppers...chile and herb
pastes from Peru...khmeli suneli from Georgia...all are there, showing
our interest in these cuisines. Wasabi cultivation has spread to North
Carolina and the saffron crocus is grown in Pennsylvania.
Food scientists are creating new spice colorants without chemical
synthesis. These experiments are in their early days, but freeze-dried
and ground rock samphire, Crithmum maritimum, also known as sea fennel,
produces a vivid green powder with salty, aromatic notes of celery, green
citrus peel, and ordinary fennel. Pasta flavored with this powder turns a Geranium

delicate green and makes a fine dish with a seafood sauce.


In the first edition, I wrote about food companies producing aroma-
fingerprints (p.128). Flavor drops that extracted flavor tones from edible
plants were developed for the NASA space food program. The use of these
concentrated, natural products, extended initially to molecular gastronomy, are
now sold to everyone on the internet. The range is extensive, and includes fruits,
spices, champagne, and other drinks. A similar range of concentrated natural
herb and spice flavor pastes is available too.
I am not recommending that you use these in place of herbs and spices, but you
might want to experiment with one or two, if cooking a large quantity of a dish,
for which only one drop, much diluted, may be needed.
Information on individual herbs and spices has been updated where
necessary; more spice and herb mixtures, sauces, and condiments have been
added, and a short section on salt. Salts of different colors and textures, from
all parts of the world, are now sold widely, and salt is a frequent companion
to herbs and spices. The recipe chapter is longer and contains several new
recipes, reflecting the wider use of herbs and spices in everyday cooking as
well as recipes for dishes from spice- and herb-producing regions.
INTRODUCTION 9

What are herbs and spices?


The definition of what constitutes an herb or spice is not as straightforward as it
might seem. Broadly, we think of herbs as plants used by cooks for their flavor
and aroma. The word herb derives from the Latin herba, meaning grass or, by
extension, green crop: it was originally applied to a wide range of leaf vegetables
in addition to the plants we now call herbs. Most of the culinary herbs we use
grow in temperate climates. Spices, on the other hand, are products of tropical
plants: aromatic roots, bark, seeds, buds, and fruits, usually used in dried form,
whether whole or ground. Again our word derives from Latin, where species
meant specific kind but, in later use, goods or merchandisespices certainly
being an important commodity even at the time of the Romans.

How the book is organized


I have followed standard European usage in defining herbs and spices, and have
grouped both according to their dominant aroma and flavor. Some fitted easily
into a specific category; others were difficult to define and could have been put
into more than one group. Marigolds, for instance, are basically sweet, yet have a
bitter note. Some Asian basils are more piquant than sweet. Ginger is pungent
but it is also earthy and warm. Another difficulty is that the way we express our
awareness of flavors and aromas varies from individual to individual. Your
perception of aromatics may not be the same as mine, and a different term may
come to your mind from the one that came to mine. In the US, the American

Lemon balm Licorice


10 INTRODUCTION

Wasabi Mace

Spice Trade Association defines any dried plant used primarily for seasoning
purposes as a spice; this includes dried herbs, even dehydrated onions. In
Southeast Asia, any aromatic plant used fresh is an herb, but once the same
substance is dried it is classed as a spice. I have followed European usage and
classified all herbs as herbs and all spices as spices, whether fresh or dried.

Health benefits of herbs and spices


The early use of herbs and spices was medicinal, and in many regions where they
grow they are still valued for their medicinal properties. Often their use in cooking
owed as much to their perceived ability to promote health, combat flatulence, or
help digest fatty foods as to their appetizing fragrances. Fresh herbs and spices
provided mineral salts and vitamins long before our need for these was understood.
In tropical countries the vitamin C contained in chile peppers remains just as
important to the diet as the lift that the chile peppers give to it.
Most cultures recognize the importance of providing a balance in food. Indian
cooking follows Ayurvedic principles in using herbs and spices to provide flavor
and to create physical and emotional well-being. In China, nutrition and medicine
have long been integrated. Chinese cooking is based on a theory that well-being
INTRODUCTION 11

is brought about by the careful balancing of the five flavorssweet, salty, bitter,
sour, and pungentwith the texture and color of the food. Yin herbs such as mint
and parsley slow down the metabolism, whereas yang spices such as chile and
ginger activate it. Similar principles are followed in Iran, where the cook strives
to maintain a balance between ingredients classed as hot or cold. In the West
herbs and spices add flavor to low-salt and low-fat foods, and some evidence
suggests that garlic may help lower cholesterol.

Flavorings rooted in tradition


In the past, herbs and spices were also important for their preservative
properties: before the arrival of refrigeration, their volatile oils and other
compounds prolonged the useful life of many foodstuffs. Pickled or salted meat,
fish, and vegetables would last through the winter months, and aromatics were
used to improve their flavor. Although we no longer need these methods of
preserving, we still use many of them simply because we have come to like the
taste they impart to foods.
All around the world, traditional flavor combinations, using local ingredients, have
come to characterize the foods of those regions. Saffron, pimentn, garlic, and nuts
dominate in Spain; wine and herbs in France; basil, garlic, olive oil, anchovy in Italy.
In Britain, it is parsley, thyme, sage, and mustard; in eastern Europe, sour cream,
dill, and caraway. The Middle East uses lemon, parsley, and cinnamon. In northern
India, ginger, garlic, and cumin are the most important spices; in the south, it is
mustard seed, coconut, chile, and tamarind. Thailand has fish sauce, lemongrass,
galangal, and chile; China uses soy sauce, ginger, and Sichuan pepper. Mexico
remains faithful to its chile peppers, cilantro, and cinnamon.
Herbs and spices stimulate all the senses through their aroma, flavor, texture,
and visual appeal, but dont use them to excess. Too much can ruin a dish.
Experiment with combinations that appeal to you, and you will find that herbs
and spices bring subtlety, harmony, and complexity to your cooking.
Herbs
14 INTRODUCING HERBS

Introducing
herbs
Fresh herbs are now so widely available from supermarkets, garden
centers, and specialized nurseries that the most common ones often
form part of the weekly shopping. Herb specialists usually sell
several varieties of basil, mint, thyme, or marjoram, and herbs like
rau ram and Chinese chives have been adopted. There are still
someperilla, mitsuba, Vietnamese balm, rice paddy herb, epazote
that remain hard to find, although it is possible to order seeds online.

New markets for fresh herbs


Today international trade brings herbs grown in Turkey, Cyprus,
and Israel to my supermarket shelves as a matter of course.
Frequent deliveries from Japan, Thailand, and Singapore bring
Scented geranium tropical herbs and fresh spices to specialty stores and some
supermarkets. Demand from immigrant communities and
restaurants may still account for the biggest sales, but many more
local enthusiasts now buy regularly. Fresh spices like makrut lime
leaves, lemongrass, and chile peppers can also be found in the
freezer section. These plants will not grow in northern Europe, but
in parts of the US, and in other countries with sufficiently warm
climates, several tropical herbs are cultivated to meet the demands
of the immigrant communities and a wider public. Perhaps in a few
years my markets, too, will sell bunches of fresh culantro, rau ram,
and epazote alongside familiar Western varieties.
Garlic
INTRODUCING HERBS 15

The Western tradition


Many herbs remain essential in classic European cuisines: tarragon,
thyme, bay, and garlic in France; basil, sage, and rosemary in Italy;
oregano in Greece; dill in Scandinavia; parsley, sage, thyme, and
bay in Britain. The traditional uses of these herbs are still reflected
in daily meals, as travels in Europe or visits to a French, Italian,
or Greek restaurant confirm, but uses beyond the traditional
are increasingly common, as cooks explore different flavor
combinations and try new interpretations of standard dishes,
partly thanks to the availability of fresh herbs year round.
If you are a novice in cooking with herbs, start with classics such
as chicken with tarragon, guacamole with cilantro and chile, grilled
cod or tuna with salsa verde, roasted potatoes with rosemary and
garlic, or a beef stew with a bouquet garni and red wine. Once you
begin to appreciate how the blending of flavors affects a dish, you
will be inspired to experiment and adapt or devise combinations to
your own taste.
We are rediscovering many herbs that once were in common
use but have long been forgotten or neglected as weeds. In
17th-century Europe, salad herbs were grown and used widely.
In 1699, John Evelyns Acetaria recorded more than 30 salad herbs,
including arugula, basil, balm, chicory, corn salad, clary sage,

Rosemary Flat-leaf parsley Chives


16 INTRODUCING HERBS

various cresses, dandelion, fennel, hyssop, mallow, mint, orach,


purslane, and sorrel. In 1731, Philip Millers Gardeners Dictionary
instructed gentlemen gardeners in herb cultivation. Some herbs
have become easily available once more, in season and even all
year, but otherssuch as sweet cicely, clary sage, and hyssopyou
will have to grow yourself. Specialty nurseries are constantly
extending their stocks to meet the demand for a wider range of
herbs. But there is also a trend to overuse certain herbsarugula
and chervil are currently the worst affectedwhich I hope will not
lead to their disappearance once the fashion changes.

Choosing and using herbs


Generally, herbs are used to add fragrance and flavor rather than
to provide the dominant taste. The light flavors of dill, parsley, and
chervil are good with fish and seafood; the more pungent rosemary,
oregano, and garlic will flavor braised or baked lamb or roasted

Tarragon pork beautifully. Root vegetables respond well to thyme and


rosemary, eggplant to Provenal herbs, green peas to chives,
tomatoes to basil and parsley. It is important always to balance
delicate and hearty flavors, and to use herbs judiciously.
The wealth of fresh herbs now available has had the beneficial
effect of banishing from many kitchens a lot of small packets of stale
dried herbs. Some herbs that are sold dried, such as basil and
parsley, are never worth having; their aroma is musty at best, and
their taste insipid. Such herbs are meant to be eaten fresh. The
clean, herbaceous notes of fresh parsley, and the complex, sweet
scent of anise and clove wafting from a bunch of basil, beguile first
the sense of smell and later also the tastebuds. Unlike many herbs,
these two are not overwhelming if used in large quantitiesas they
are in the basil sauce pesto and the parsley salad tabbouleh. Robust
herbs, such as oregano, thyme, sage, savory, mint, and rosemary,
respond well to drying, which preserves and often concentrates
Mountain mint
INTRODUCING HERBS 17

Pounding leaves
Herbs intended for sauces or pastes can be pounded
in a mortar. Other ingredients may be worked into the
crushed herbs.

Chopping herbs Drying herbs


Chop herbs just before they are neededfreshly chopped herbs Some herbs can be dried at home and their leaves
have the best aroma and flavor. stripped and kept in an airtight jar.

their flavor. Whether fresh or dried, these herbs should be used sparingly or they will
overwhelm other flavors in the food instead of complementing them.
Herbs added early in cooking will release their flavors into the dish. Dried herbs should
always be put in at the beginning, and herbs with tough leaves, such as rosemary, lavender,
winter savory, thyme, and bay, will withstand long cooking. If you add sprigs of herbs to a
dish, remove them before serving. To restore the aroma of herbs used in a slow-cooked
dish, stir a few finely chopped leaves into the pan toward the end of the cooking process.
Strongly flavored herbs, such as mint, tarragon, fennel, marjoram, and lovage, can be added
at any stage during cooking. The essential oils of delicate herbs, like basil, chervil, chives,
dill, cilantro, perilla, and lemon balm, soon dissipate when heated. To keep them fresh in
taste, texture, and color, add them just before a dish is served.
18 FRESH AND MILD HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Parsley has a lightly spicy aroma
with hints of anise and lemon;
Parsley
its taste is tangy and herbaceous, Petroselinum crispum
and has a light, peppery note.
Flat-leaf parsley has a more Probably the only herb considered indispensable by most
persistent and finer flavor than
curly parsley and a finer texture. Western cooks, parsley is a truly versatile biennial, native
Both bring out the flavors of
other seasonings. to the eastern Mediterranean region. Today it is cultivated
throughout most of the temperate world. Parsley root, which
is valued for its root rather than its leaves, was first grown in
PARTS USED Germany in the 16th century.
Fresh leaves are the most
used, but stems are good for
flavoring stocks; parsley root Culinary uses
is grown for its roots.
Parsley is liked for its clean, fresh taste parsley at the end of cooking time for a
and is rich in iron and vitamins A and fresh flavor. Sprigs of dark green, deep-
C. It is used in sauces, salads, stuffings, fried curly parsley make an excellent
BUYING / STORING and omelettes in many parts of the garnish for fried fish. Parsley root is
world. In Anglo-Saxon cultures its use used in soups and stews, but it can
Buy a pot of parsley for your
as a flavoring ingredient (except in a also be blanched and then roasted
windowsill; or buy a bunch,
wrap it in plastic, and store it parsley sauce) rather than simply as a or cooked in other ways as a root
in the refrigerator. Discard any garnish is quite recent. Add chopped vegetable. It mashes well with potatoes.
sprigs that look slimy and it
should keep for 45 days.
Parsley can be chopped and
frozen in small containers or
in ice cube trays with a little
water. Dont buy dried parsley.

GROW YOUR OWN


Parsley seeds take some weeks
to germinate, but soaking them
overnight in hot water helps
speed up the process. Sow in
the ground, and thin seedlings
when they are big enough. Sow
seeds every year, so that when
one batch goes to seed in its
second year a new batch is
ready to use. Harvest from
late spring.

Curly parsley P. crispum


Good for garnishes, curly parsley also gives a
light, herbaceous flavor and an attractive green
color to mayonnaise and other sauces.
FRESH AND MILD HERBS PARSLEY Petroselinum crispum 19

Flat-leaf parsley FLAVOR PAIRINGS


P. c. var. Neapolitanum Essential to a number of
traditional flavoring mixtures:
Also called French or Italian parsley,
French bouquets garnis, fines
flat-leaf parsley has the best flavor
herbes, and persillade;
for cooking, and is most widely Italian gremolata and salsa
used throughout Europe Stems verde; Lebanese tabbouleh.
and the Middle East. Parsley stems are Good with eggs, fish, lemon,
coarser in flavor than lentils, rice, tomatoes,
the leaves. Tie them in most vegetables.
a bundle and use in Combines well with basil, bay,
long-cooked stocks capers, chervil, chile, chives,
and stews; discard garlic, lemon balm, marjoram,
the stems when mint, oregano, pepper, rosemary,
cooking is completed. sorrel, sumac, tarragon.

Parsley root
P. c. var. tuberosum
Mostly cultivated in central and northern
Europe, parsley root, also called Hamburg
parsley, is no more difficult to grow than
leaf parsley. It looks like a small parsnip or,
if round, a turnip. Its flavor combines those
of parsley and celery, with a light nuttiness.
The leaves have a coarse flavor and texture.
20 FRESH AND MILD HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Purslane has little aroma; the
fleshy leaves and stems have
Purslane
a refreshing, lightly piquant, Portulaca oleracea
astringent, lemony taste, and
a crunchy, juicy texture. Purslane is a sprawling annual that grows wild throughout
much of the world. It has been used as a food plant for
centuries in southern Europe and the Middle East. An
PARTS USED
important source of iron and vitamin C, purslane is also
Leaves and young shoots. The
flowers can be added to salads. one of the best plant sources of Omega-3, one of the fatty
Purslane is always eaten fresh. acids that help to maintain a healthy heart.

BUYING / STORING Culinary uses


Fresh purslane will keep for Young leaves make an agreeable a good thickening for soups and
23 days in a plastic bag in addition to a salad. In the Middle stews. In Turkey, large bunches of
the vegetable crisper of the East, chopped purslane with a purslane are used in a traditional
refrigerator. In summer Greek garlicky yogurt dressing is served as lamb and bean stew, and all around
and Turkish markets usually an accompaniment to grilled meats. the Mediterranean it turns up in
have large bunches of purslane.
The herb is also a standard ingredient soups. The Mexicans cook it with
In Mexico, you find it readily
in markets. of fattoush, the Lebanese salad. pork, tomatillos, and chile peppers,
Blanch older leaves to use as a especially smoky chipotles (p.245).
vegetable. Cooking emphasizes their Purslane combines well with spinach
mucilaginous content, which provides tossed in olive oil and lemon juice.
GROW YOUR OWN
Purslane does best on moist, Fresh sprigs and flowers
light soil in a sunny position.
Green purslane has oblong, thick, succulent
Seeds can be sown outdoors
from early summer, and the leaves and a round stem tinged with red.
leaves are ready to harvest Golden purslane (P. sativa) is a smaller
around 60 days later. In hot, plant and is less hardy.
dry weather it will need more
watering than other herbs.
Cut purslane a little above the
ground, leaving two leaves for
regrowth. For salad, harvest
young leaves regularly because
older leaves become tough.
Yellow flowers appear in
summer, but only open for
a short time around midday.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with beets, cucumber,
eggs, fava beans, feta cheese,
new potatoes, spinach,
tomatoes, yogurt.
Combines well with arugula,
borage, chervil, cresses, salad
burnet, sorrel.
FRESH AND MILD HERBS MINERS LETTUCE Claytonia perfoliata 21

Miners lettuce TASTING NOTES


Miners lettuce is not
aromatic. It is mild, with
Claytonia perfoliata a clean, fresh flavor.

Miners lettuce, also called claytonia and winter purslane,


is a delicate-looking annual that makes an excellent winter PARTS USED
salad herb. It is called miners lettuce because miners in the Leaves, young stems,
California Gold Rush ate the wild plant to avoid scurvylike and flowers.

the unrelated purslane (Portulaca oleracea) (p.20), miners


lettuce is high in vitamin C.
BUYING / STORING
Miners lettuce can be
Culinary uses gathered from the wild in
shady grasslands in North
Leaves, young stems, and flowers make a useful and pretty America, its native habitat, but
contribution to the salad bowl. I particularly like miners lettuce it is less commonly found in
for its winter usefulness, when other salad greens can be dreary. Europe. It is best picked and
The leaves and stems can be cookedtry them alone or with used at once, but can be kept in
other greens, stir-fried with a little oyster sauce. a plastic bag in the refrigerator
for 12 days.

Fresh sprigs and flowers


Miners lettuce leaves totally encircle the
smooth stems. The tiny, white flowers are GROW YOUR OWN
borne on thin stems from early summer. A few herb nurseries now
stock miners lettuce, but
it is also easy to grow from
seed. Seeds sown in spring
will produce plants for
summer use; summer
sowing will produce plants
for winter picking. Miners
lettuce does survive near-
freezing temperatures. It
prefers a light soil, but is
adaptable. Miners lettuce makes
a pretty garden edging plant.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Combines well with arugula,
chives, sorrel, watercress.
22 FRESH AND MILD HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Borage has a gentle aroma
and a somewhat stronger
Borage
flavor of cucumber. It is Borago officinalis
cool and fresh-tasting,
with a slight saltiness. This robust, annual herb, native to southern Europe and
western Asia, is now naturalized throughout Europe and
North America. It is worth growing just for its dazzling,
PARTS USED
blue, starlike flowers. The old herbalists held that borage
Leaves and flowers. Avoid the
bristly stems. made people cheerful and courageous; it is now known to
stimulate the adrenal glands and have mild sedative and
antidepressant effects.
BUYING / STORING
Borage is best used fresh.
Leaves can be kept for a day or Culinary uses
two in the vegetable crisper of Borage is essentially a salad herb. with bread crumbs, egg, and
the refrigerator, either wrapped Shred the young leaves because their Parmesan cheese to stuff ravioli and
in a damp paper towel or placed
inside a plastic bag. Flowers are
hairy texture is disagreeable if they are cannelloni. The Turks add the leaves
best used soon after picking or left whole. Combine the shredded to green pea soup. The flowers will
they will wilt. Freeze them in ice leaves with cucumber tossed in yogurt impart a delicate cucumber note to
cubes and serve in drinks. or sour cream, and add them to salads, and they look wonderful
dressings and salsas. Tough older floating on a creamy soup or flavoring
leaves can be sauted, or cooked in a summer punch. They can also be
water and treated like spinach. The candied to decorate cakes and
GROW YOUR OWN Italians use borage with spinach or desserts. Use borage sparingly.
Grow borage in well-drained
soil in a sunny spot. It is a large,
ungainly plant and will self-seed Fresh leaves and flowers
easily. Plant borage only where Of borage species, only B. officinalis
you intend it to grow because it is edible. The white-flowered
has a long taproot and does not cultivated variety B. o. Alba
like to be moved. Harvest young
can be used in the same
leaves in spring and summer,
way as the blue- or purple-
and pick the flowers as soon
as they open. flowered varieties.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with cucumber, eel and
other fatty fish, potato salad,
white cheeses, yogurt; Pimms
and other summer drinks.
Combines well with arugula,
chervil, cresses, dill, garlic, mint,
salad burnet.
FRESH AND MILD HERBS SALAD BURNET Sanguisorba minor 23

Salad burnet TASTING NOTES


Salad burnet is not aromatic,
and has a mild, lightly astringent
Sanguisorba minor flavor reminiscent of cucumber
with a hint of nuttiness. Old
Salad burnet is a graceful, bushy, perennial plant with leaves become bitter and
are best cooked.
sharply toothed, deep-green leaves. Although delicate
in appearance, it is actually sturdy, its evergreen leaves
often pushing up through a light covering of snow. PARTS USED
Native to Europe and western Asia, salad burnet was Leaves and young stems.
brought to North America by early European colonists
and is now naturalized.
BUYING / STORING
Salad burnet will keep for a
Culinary uses day or two in a plastic bag in
The subtle flavor of the young, combine with tarragon, chives, and the vegetable crisper of the
feathery leaves is best appreciated by chervil for fines herbes. The leaves refrigerator. In some parts of
Europe, you can buy bunches of
eating them raw. Add them to salads are good scattered over soups and burnet in the market, where they
they are particularly good in fall and casseroles, and made into sauces are sold alongside other herbs
winter, when interesting salad leaves and herb butters. Burnet is often and salad leaves.
can be in short supply. Chop as a recommended to flavor vinegar,
garnish for vegetables or egg dishes; but I have found this disappointing.
GROW YOUR OWN
Easy to grow from seed, salad
Fresh sprigs burnet flourishes in light, well-
The tender, young leaves have the
drained soil in sun or light shade.
best flavor. The pretty red flowers Remove the flowerheads and cut
have no taste. leaves regularly to encourage new
growth. Divide after the second
year to maintain tender growth.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with cream cheese,
cucumber, eggs, fava beans,
fish, salad leaves, tomatoes.
Combines well with chervil,
chives, miners lettuce, mint,
parsley, rosemary, tarragon.
24 FRESH AND MILD HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Green perilla is sweetly yet
strongly aromatic, with notes
Perilla
of cinnamon, cumin, citrus, Perilla frutescens
and anise basil, and a pleasant
warmth on the palate. Red The aromatic leaves of perillaor shiso, to give the plant
perilla is less aromatic and has
a more subdued flavor. It is its Japanese nameare widely used in Japan, Korea, and
faintly musty and woody
with cilantro, cumin, and Vietnam. More recently they have been discovered by cooks
cinnamon overtones. in Australia, the US, and Europe. An annual herb, related to
mint and basil, perilla is native to China. The flavor of dried
perilla only palely reflects that of the fresh.
PARTS USED
Leaves, flowers, and growing
sprouts. Seeds are harvested Culinary uses
commercially for their oil.
In Japan, red perilla is mostly used substitute dried if necessary. In recent
for coloring and pickling umeboshi years I have become accustomed to
(salted and dried plums). Green growing perilla, and while I mostly
BUYING / STORING perilla is served with sushi and use the red in salads and as a garnish,
sashimiit is said to counteract I increasingly extend my use of the
Fresh perilla leaves are sold
parasites in raw fish. The leaves are green. I add it to slices of lemon or
in Asian markets. They keep
for 34 days in a plastic bag also used in soups and salads and to lime in the cavity of fish to be roasted
in the vegetable crisper of the wrap rice cakes. Coated with batter on or steamed, to sauces for fish and
refrigerator. Growing sprouts one side only, they are deep-fried for chicken, and to salsa verde instead of
are sold by some produce tempura. The Vietnamese shred green basil. Sometimes I use it instead of basil
markets and supermarkets. Red perilla and add to noodles; they serve with tomatoes, or with pasta or noodles.
leaves are also sold pickled in
meats, shrimp, and fish wrapped in Oil extracted from the seeds is a rich
vacuum packs. Dried perilla is
available from Japanese markets. leaves with a dipping sauce. source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Chopped green perilla gives a
wonderful flavor to cooked rice;

GROW YOUR OWN


Perilla is not demanding about Green perilla P. frutescens
soil or situation, but does not Green perilla has soft, downy
like to be waterlogged and does leaves with a crinkly edge.
not tolerate frost. Well-drained, They look somewhat like
light soil is best and a sheltered stinging nettle leaves.
spot in sun or partial shade.
Pinch out the tops to produce
bushy plants. Perilla self-seeds
easily, especially the red variety.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with beef, chicken,
fish, mooli, noodles, rice,
tomatoes, zucchini.
Combines well with basil,
chives, fresh and pickled ginger,
lemongrass, mitsuba, parsley,
sansho, wasabi.
FRESH AND MILD HERBS MITSUBA Cryptotaenia japonica 25

Mitsuba TASTING NOTES


Mitsuba has little aroma but a
distinctive, mild, restrained,
Cryptotaenia japonica and agreeable taste, showing
elements of chervil, angelica,
Mitsuba is also known as Japanese parsley, Japanese chervil, and celery, with something of
the astringency of sorrel
and trefoil. This cool-climate, elegant perennial grows wild in and a hint of clove.
Japan and is used extensively in Japanese cooking. It is now
cultivated in Australia, North America, and Europe, initially
to supply Japanese restaurants but increasingly to sell to PARTS USED
herb enthusiasts. Leaves and stems.

Culinary uses BUYING / STORING


In Japan, mitsuba is used to season is added for a few seconds at the You may find mitsuba is
soups, simmered dishes (nabemono), end. Small bundles of stems can available in a Japanese or an
and savory custards, in salads, and be tied in a knot below the leaves Asian market; otherwise, buy a
with fried or vinegared foods. It adds and fried for tempura. Mitsuba is plant from a nursery. Leaves
its highly individual, delicate flavor often blanched quickly to tenderize keep for 56 days if wrapped in a
damp paper towel or placed in
to matsutake no dobinmushi, a dish the leaves, or added to stir-fried foods
a plastic bag in the vegetable
made only for a few weeks when at the last moment; overcooking crisper of the refrigerator.
the much-prized pine mushrooms destroys the flavor of the leaves.
are in season. The mushrooms are The sprouted seedlings are good
simmered in a broth and the mitsuba in salads.
GROW YOUR OWN
Fresh leaves Mitsuba is a woodland plant and
Mitsuba means three leaves in Japanese, is easy to grow in light shade. It
from the three leaflets that make up the seeds itself readily. In summer
mitsuba bears insignificant white
leaf. The meaning is echoed in the English
flowers above the leaves. Leaves
name trefoil.
and slender stems are harvested
from spring through to fall or
winter. Mitsuba is not long-lived;
I have found it necessary to
replace mine after 45 years.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with eggs, fish and
seafood, mushrooms, poultry,
rice, and as a garnish for
most vegetables, especially
sweet roots such as carrots
and parsnips.
Combines well with basil,
chives, ginger, lemon balm,
lemongrass, marjoram, sesame.
26 FRESH AND MILD HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Orach is not aromatic; the
leaves have a mild, agreeable,
Orach
spinachlike flavor, which Atriplex hortensis
contrasts well with more
pungent salad herbs. Orach belongs to the goosefoot family, as does epazote
(p.116). It grows wild in Europe and much of temperate
PARTS USED Asia, and was formerly gathered and also cultivated for use
Young leaves. as a vegetable. Its old popular name was mountain spinach.
Out of fashion for a long time, orach has been rediscovered
as an attractive salad herb.
BUYING / STORING
Seeds and plants are available
from specialized suppliers. It is Culinary uses
best to use leaves straight after
picking, but they will keep for Orach is best used as a salad herb, but it can also be cooked
a day or two in a plastic bag with spinach or sorrel (it alleviates the acidity of the latter).
in the vegetable crisper of the The triangular leaves, particularly of red orach, make an
refrigerator. Orach is sometimes attractive addition to the salad bowl, and an ornamental
included in gourmet mixtures asset in the garden (harvest leaves regularly).
of salad leaves.

Fresh leaves
Green orach may have red-tinged stems;
GROW YOUR OWN red orach has deep plum-colored leaves
Orach produces bigger leaves if and stems.
planted in rich, well-drained soil.
Red orach benefits from partial
shade, where the leaves will not
scorch in hot sun. It grows fast,
and it is best to sow seeds in late
spring and again in summer for
a continuous supply of young
leaves. Orach has a tendency to
grow tall and straggly, but the
plants should remain bushy if
you harvest leaves regularly and
remove the flowerspikes as they
begin to form. Orach is a self-
seeding annual.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with catalogna
(puntarelle), corn salad, lettuce,
mizuna, mustard greens, and
other salad leaves.
Combines well with arugula,
borage, chicory, cresses, dill,
fennel, purslane, salad burnet,
and sorrel.
SWEET HERBS SWEET CICELY Myrrhis odorata 27

Sweet cicely TASTING NOTES


Sweet cicely has an attractive,
musky aroma with notes of
Myrrhis odorata lovage and anise; the flavor
tends more to anise with a
Sweet cicely is an underrated herb, a natural sweetener hint of celery and a pleasing
sweetness. The whole plant
with a fine flavor, and its leaves remain green and edible is aromatic. The unripe seeds
have the strongest flavor and a
from early spring to late fall. A perennial indigenous nutty texture. The glossy, black,
to upland pastures from the far west of Europe to the ripe seeds have less flavor and
are fibrous and chewy.
Caucasus, it has long been naturalized in northern Europe
and is now cultivated in other temperate zones.
PARTS USED
Culinary uses Fresh leaves, flowers, and
green seeds. In the past raw
The leaves and green seeds it is best to add it at the end of the roots were added to salads or
reduce the tartness of fruits such cooking time. Young leaf tips give boiled and eaten as a vegetable.
as gooseberries and rhubarb when a subtle flavor to green salads and
cooked together, although the flavor cucumber, and to cream and yogurt
of the herb itself is dissipated. Leaves sauces made to accompany fish or
and seeds add an anise note to fruit seafood. Chop leaves into omelets BUYING / STORING
salads and cream-cheese desserts, and clear soups, and stir them into a Plants are available from
and sweetness and a hint of spice to pure of carrot, parsnip, or pumpkin herb nurseries, and can also be
cakes, breads, and fruit pies. Sweet to enhance the sweetness. Use leaves grown from seed. The leaves
cicely is a useful herb for savory as a garnish for cheese, and flowers will keep for 23 days in damp
dishes too, but to retain the flavor to decorate salads. paper towels or a plastic bag
in the refrigerator.

Fresh sprigs
By late spring the large, feathery plant
bears sweetly scented, lacy, white flowers, GROW YOUR OWN
followed by large, attractive seedheads. Sweet cicely is easy to grow
and prefers semi-shade. Cut
back the whole plant after
flowering to encourage new
growth. Cut leaves between
spring and fall, flowers in
spring, and green seeds
in summer.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with apricots,
gooseberries, nectarines,
peaches, rhubarb, strawberries,
root vegetables; chicken,
scallops, shrimp.
Combines well with chervil,
chives, lemon balm, lemon
verbena, mint, and vanilla.
28 SWEET HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Pot marigolds have a sweet,
resinlike aroma; French
Marigold
marigolds, a distinctive Calendula officinalis and Tagetes species
muskiness with light citrus
notes that reminds me Marigolds are used in many different ways. The dried,
of coriander seed. Fresh
marigold petals have a ground petals of pot marigold (C. officinalis) and French
delicate, aromatic bitterness
and earthy taste. The leaves marigold (T. patula) are prized in the Georgian republic;
are slightly peppery. in Mexico and the southern US, Mexican mint marigold
(T. lucida) is used as a tarragon substitute; in Peru, huacatay
(T. minuta) is an essential flavoring; and in Europe, fresh
PARTS USED
petals are used as a garnish and in salads.
Fresh and dried petals, fresh
young leaves.
Pot marigold C. officinalis
This marigold is a long-lived annual with pale
BUYING / STORING green, lance-shaped leaves and single or double
flowers. The petals and young leaves should be
Marigold petals can be dried used immediately after picking.
in a low oven and then ground.
Dried pot marigold petals can
be bought from some herb and
spice suppliers; dried marigold
powder is less easily found.
Store dried marigold petals and
powder in airtight containers.
The leaves of Mexican mint
marigold will keep for a day
or two in a plastic bag in
the refrigerator.

GROW YOUR OWN


Marigolds thrive in any
Dried petals
soil, but do best in a sunny
Dried pot marigold
position. Picking the flowers
prolongs flowering, but if petals from Georgia
a plant goes to seed it will have a sweet, musky
readily self-seed. Pot and aroma with hints
French marigolds are annuals. of citrus peel.
Mexican mint marigold is a
perennial, but should be taken
indoors to overwinter where
not hardy.
SWEET HERBS MARIGOLD Calendula ofcinalis and Tagetes species 29

Culinary uses
Apart from adding a lively note to aromatic stapleschilies, garlic, marry well with tarragon. They
salads, marigold petals have long walnuts. Georgians prefer the also combine well with melon,
been used to color food and give French marigold, and the flavor summer berries, and stone fruits.
it a slightly pungent flavor. Fresh blends particularly well with Huacatay, also called black mint,
petals can be added to cookies and cinnamon and cloves. They call it is strongly aromatic with citrus
small cakes, to custards, savory Imeretian saffron after the province and eucalypt notes and a bitter
butters, and soups. Dried petals of Imereti, where the dried petals aftertaste. Black mint is hard to
were often used to adulterate saffron; are highly appreciated. find fresh outside South America,
they can be used as an inexpensive Mint marigold leaves are used although jars of black mint paste
substitute for coloring rice. with other indigenous American are available online. Widely used in
In Georgia powdered petals are foodssuch as avocado, corn, Peruvian cuisine, often combined
an essential flavoring, used in squash, tomatoesas well as with with aj amarillo (p.247), it flavors
spice mixtures and with other fish, chicken, and other foods that sauces, meats, and stews.

Mexican mint marigold T. lucida


The long, narrow leaves of Mexican mint marigold
smell more of anise than mint, with light notes of
hay and some spicy warmth.The plants other
common names, winter or Mexican tarragon,
refer to its tarragon-like taste.

French marigold
T. patula
This marigold species is a bushy
annual with divided, toothed leaves
and flat single or frilly double flowers
that vary in color from yellow to
deep orange.
30 SWEET HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Sweet basil has a complex
sweet, spicy aroma with notes
Basil
of clove and anise. The flavor Ocimum species
is warm, peppery, and clovelike
with underlying mint and anise Lightly brushing basil leaves releases an aroma that
tones. Purple (opal) basil, bush
basil, lettuce basil, and Ruffles promises warmth and sunlightin every Greek village the
basils have rather similar
flavors (pp.3133). intoxicating fragrance of basil fills the air. Basil belongs to
the mint family, as is clear from the minty, anise notes that
accompany its sweetness. Native to tropical Asia, where it
PARTS USED has been cultivated for 3,000 years, it is now grown almost
Fresh leaves; add buds from everywhere the climate is warm enough.
flowerspikes to salads or use
as a garnish.
Sweet basil O. basilicum
Also called Genoese basil, this plant has large, bright green, silky
BUYING / STORING leaves and small, white flowers. Good for all Western cooking, it is
the best basil for pesto, pistou, and tomato salads. It combines very
Most basil leaves bruise and well with garlic. One way to preserve the leaves is to put them in a
wilt easily, so avoid bunches
jar with an airtight lid, layer lightly with salt, and cover with olive
with drooping or blackened
oil. Kept in the refrigerator, the leaves eventually blacken, but they
leaves. Store for 23 days in
a damp paper towel or a flavor the oil beautifully.
plastic bag in the refrigerator
vegetable crisper. Thai basil
(p.35) is more sturdy and will
keep for 56 days. Sweet basil
and Thai basil plants are sold
in many supermarkets. Basil
leaves will freeze well for up
to 3 months; one of the best
ways is to pure them with
a little water or olive oil and
freeze in ice cube trays.

GROW YOUR OWN


Most basils are tender
annuals. Basil grows easily
from seed, and needs a
sheltered, sunny position
in rich, well-drained soil.
In cooler climates it prefers
a greenhouse or a window
sill. Delay flowering and
encourage bushiness by
pinching out the tops.
Harvest until the first frost.
SWEET HERBS BASIL Ocimum species 31

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In Western cooking, basil is the raspberries. Purple basil makes Essential to pesto and pistou.
natural companion of tomatoes, a pretty, pale pink vinegar. Good with beets, fresh white
cheeses, corn, eggplant,
whether in salad, sauce, or soup. Sweet basil turns black when
eggs, lemon, olives, pasta,
It is a good flavoring for poultry cooked in a tomato sauce or other peas, pizza, potatoes,
toocombine softened butter acid medium, but retains its flavor. rice, tomatoes, white
with chopped basil, garlic, grated It quickly loses its aroma when beans, zucchini.
lemon peel, and a few bread crumbs, cooked, so use it in a dish for depth Combines well with capers,
then work the mixture under the skin of flavor, then stir in a little more chives, cilantro, garlic,
of a chicken or chicken pieces before to add fragrance when the cooking marjoram, oregano, mint,
baking or roasting. Use basil with is finished. Basil leaves can be torn, parsley, rosemary, thyme.
fish and seafood, especially lobster or chopped or shredded with a knife,
and scallops, and with roasted veal but cutting bruises them and they
and lamb. It also has an affinity with darken quickly.

Purple basil
O.b. var. purpurascens
This handsome plant, also called opal basil, has purple
or almost black leaves and pink flowers. It is highly aromatic,
with clear notes of mint and clove. Use with rice and grains
and to add a splash of color to salads.
32 SWEET HERBS

Other basils
There are many different basils, some of them with names that indicate their
aroma or appearance. All have the underlying sweet, warm, clove-anise aroma
of sweet basil, but different aspects are dominant: a pungent warmth in Ruffles,
a peppery note in bush basil, anise in lettuce basil. In Mediterranean cooking,
basils natural partners are garlic, olive oil, lemon, and tomato. The herb is best
known as the key ingredient of Genoese pesto and the related pistou of France.

O. b. Purple Ruffles
Purple Ruffles is an ornamental plant with
large, shiny, purple-maroon leaves with a ruffled
edge, and pink flowers. Its flavor is warm and
licorice-like. Green Ruffles has big, lime-green
leaves with a frilly edge and white flowers. Use
both as sweet basil (p.30).

Bush basil O. b. var. minimum


Also called Greek basil, this grows as a compact bush
with small leaves, white flowers, and a peppery aroma.
It is easy to grow in a pot. Use as sweet basil; add
whole leaves to salads.
SWEET HERBS BASIL Ocimum species 33

O. b. Cinnamon
This variety is native to Mexico. The leaves
are flushed purple and the flowers pink. It
has a pronounced, sweet scent with clear
cinnamon notes rising above hints
of camphor. Serve it with bean
and legume dishes and with
spicy, stir-fried vegetables.

O. African Blue
This variety has become one of my favorite basils for its
striking appearance and excellent flavor. The leaves are
mottled green-purple, the flowers purple. It is strongly
scented with peppery, clove, and mint notes and
a hint of camphor in the background. Use it
with rice, vegetables, and meats; it is very
good in potato salad and makes
an outstanding pesto.
Unlike most basils,
it is a perennial as
long as it is kept
frost-free.

Lettuce basil
O. b. var. crispum
This basil has large, floppy, wrinkled leaves with
a soft texture. It is excellent in salads, or chopped
and mixed with diced tomato and extra virgin
olive oil to make a pasta dressing. Lettuce
basil is much prized in southern Italy.
34 SWEET HERBS

Asian basils
Asian basils (many are Ocimum basilicum varieties) are as numerous as Western basils,
and herb nurseries now supply some of the common ones. Their flavors differ from
those of Western basils because of the different chemical constituents of the essential
oils. The dominant aroma constituent of sweet basil (p.30) is linalool (floral) with some
methyl chavicol (anise) and a little eugenol (clove), but in Asian basils methyl chavicol
is dominant with some eugenol and a little camphor.

Culinary uses Lemon basil O. b. citriodorum


Basil flavors Southeast Asian salads, This bushy, compact basil has a clean, lemon fragrance.
stir-fried dishes, soups, and curries. In Indonesia, where it is called kemangie, it is fried with
It is added at the end of cooking so fish and seafood. Add it to salads, and scatter over
that the aromatic leaves balance the poached scallops, grilled fish, or pork kebabs.
spices in the dish. It is also used in
Thai green curry paste.
Good with beef, chicken, coconut
milk, fish and seafood, noodles,
pork, rice.
Combines well with chile, cilantro
leaf and root, galangal, garlic, ginger,
makrut lime, krachai, lemongrass,
tamarind, turmeric.

Holy basil O. sanctum


Holy basil, or bai gaprow, is intensely aromatic
with a spicy, sweet pungency, hints of mint and
camphor, and a touch of muskiness. If you cant
find it, use sweet basil and a few mint leaves.
The flavor is enhanced by cooking; when raw,
the taste is slightly bitter. It
is the essential ingredient
in a Thai dish of stir-fried
chicken with chile
peppers and basil,
and is much used
in meat curries.
SWEET HERBS BASIL Ocimum species 35

Lime basil O. americanum


This basil is similar to O. b. citriodorum,
but the leaves are slightly darker and
the aroma is decidedly of lime, not
lemon. Use in salads and with
fish and seafood.

Thai basil O. b. horapa Licorice basil O. b. Anise


Thai bai horapa has a heady, sweet, peppery aroma This decorative plant, also called anise basil has
backed by pronounced anise notes, and a warm, purple-veined leaves, reddish stems, pink flower
lingering, anise-licorice flavor. spikes, and an agreeable, anise-licorice aroma.
Use as Thai basil.

Thai lemon basil O. canum


Also called hairy basil, or bai manglak, this plant has an attractive
lemon-camphor aroma and a peppery, lemony flavor. Thai cooks
stir it into noodles or fish curry just before serving. The seeds are
soaked and used in a coconut-milk dessert and in cooling drinks.
It is sometimes sold as green holy basil.
36 SWEET HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Bay has a sweet, balsamic
aroma with notes of nutmeg
Bay
and camphor, and a cooling Laurus nobilis
astringency. Fresh leaves are
slightly bitter, but the bitterness The bay tree is native to the eastern Mediterranean, but has
fades if you keep them for a day
or two. Fully dried leaves have long been cultivated in northern Europe and the Americas.
a potent flavor and are best
when recently dried. It came to symbolize wisdom and glory to the Greeks and
Romans, who crowned kings, poets, Olympic champions,
and victorious generals with wreaths of its glossy, leathery
PARTS USED leaves. Although there are several varieties of bay, only
Fresh and dried leaves. L. nobilis is used in the kitchen.

BUYING / STORING
Culinary uses
Bay leaves yield their flavor slowly, so first), or add them to a pilaf. Bay is
Fresh leaves can be used they are useful in stocks, soups, stews, always included in a bouquet garni,
from a tree, but are less bitter
if kept until wilted. To dry
sauces, marinades, and pickles. Put a and to flavor the milk for bchamel
completely, lay leaves flat in leaf or two on top of a homemade pt sauce. It goes well with beans, lentils,
a dark, well-aired place and or terrine before baking it; add bay to and tomatoes, especially to flavor a
leave until brittle. If stored in any fish stew, or combine with lemon tomato sauce.
an airtight container, dried and fennel when filling the cavity of The Turks use bay in steamed
leaves will keep their aroma a fish to be baked; thread leaves onto and slow-cooked lamb dishes,
and flavor for at least a year;
stale leaves have no flavor.
kebabs (soak dried leaves in water the Moroccans in chicken and

GROW YOUR OWN


Although bay does best in
warm regions, it will survive
in a sheltered, sunny position
in cooler climates. It is a good
container plant, and growing
it like this has the advantage
that it can be moved indoors
for the winter where not
hardy. In warm climates it
produces small, yellow flowers
in spring, followed by purple
berries (which are not edible).
Leaves can be picked throughout
the year.

Fresh leaves
Fresh leaves need to be crushed or
rubbed to release their aromatic
compounds. Bay is indispensable in
French and Mediterranean cooking.
SWEET HERBS BAY Laurus nobilis 37

lamb tagines; the French partner it Two or three bay leaves flavor a dish FLAVOR PAIRINGS
with beef in Provenal daubes. Bay for four to six people; if you put in too
Essential to bouquets garnis,
also gives a pleasant, unusual, spicy many, the flavor will be too strong. bchamel sauce.
fragrance to baked custards and rice Remove the leaves before serving. Note
Good with beef, chestnuts,
pudding and to poached fruit dishes. also that in India, parts of the Caribbean, chicken, citrus fruits, fish,
In Turkish spice bazaars, boxes of dried and South America, leaves of other game, lamb, lentils, rice,
figs are often lined with bay leaves. species may be called bay leaves. tomatoes, white beans.
Combines well with allspice,
garlic, juniper, marjoram,
Bouquet garni oregano, parsley, sage,
A bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs used savory, thyme.
to flavor slow-cooked dishes. The classic
includes a few sprigs of thyme and parsley
with a bay leaf (recipes, p.266).

Dried leaves
Dried bay leaves should remain a mat,
sage green, and not turn yellow or
brown. Crumble or grind the leaves
only when you need them.
38 SWEET HERBS

TASTING NOTES
All parts of the plant are
aromatic. The leaves are
Myrtle
slightly resinous with a Myrtus communis
sweet, orange-blossom note;
they taste juniper-like and Myrtle is native to the hilly regions of the Mediterranean
astringent. The berries are
sweet with notes of juniper, basin and the Middle East, where for centuries it was
allspice, and rosemary.
The flowers are more used as a flavoring. Although mainland Europe came to
delicately scented. prefer imported Asian spices, myrtle continued to be an
important flavoring on the Mediterranean islands of Crete,
Corsica, and Sardinia.
PARTS USED
Leaves, flowers, berries.
Leaves, flowerbuds, and Culinary uses
berries can be dried.
Use myrtle flowers picked straight to impart a juniper-like flavor. Place
from the plant, in salads or as a myrtle berries and a clove of garlic
garnish. The leaves make a good in the cavity of squab or quail to be
BUYING / STORING flavoring for pork and wild boar, roasted or fried, or use them as you
for venison, hare, and squab. Use would juniper berries. Crush dried
Myrtle plants can be bought
very sparingly and add toward the buds and berries, and use as a spice.
from specialty nurseries. Use
leaves fresh from the plant end of cooking if you are making a Myrtle leaves are still used in southern
or dry them in a dark, well- stew. Combine with thyme or savory Italy as a wrapping for small, newly
ventilated place until brittle, to flavor meat and game, or with made cheeses; as the cheeses cure,
then keep in an airtight fennel to flavor fish. When grilling the leaves absorb their moisture, at the
container. Dry buds and meat, add a few sprigs to the charcoal, same time giving them a subtle flavor.
berries in the same way,
and then store.
Fresh sprigs
Common myrtle is
most frequently used,
GROW YOUR OWN
but the compact M. c.
Myrtle is an evergreen subsp. tarentina, native
shrub with small, shiny, to Corsica and Sardinia,
oval leaves. It bears scented, where it is used
white flowers with pretty with chicken and
yellow stamens in summer pork, has the same
and purple-black fruits in fall. aromatic qualities.
In cooler climates a young
myrtle plant is best grown in
a container and taken indoors
in winter. Once established it
can be planted out in a sunny,
sheltered site. Myrtle leaves
can be harvested throughout
the year.
SWEET HERBS ANGELICA Angelica archangelica 39

Angelica TASTING NOTES


The whole plant is aromatic.
When rubbed, young stalks
Angelica archangelica and leaves have a sweet, musky
scent; the taste is musky and
A statuesque biennialflower stalks may be over 612 ft (2 m) bittersweet, slightly earthy,
and warm, with notes of celery,
highangelica does best in cooler climates and is hardy anise, and juniper. The flowers
have a honeyed fragrance.
enough to grow in northern parts of Scandinavia and Russia.
Although it needs a lot of space, it is worth growing for its
showy clump of bright green, serrated leaves and large
PARTS USED
domes of tiny, yellow-green flowers.
Young leaves and stalks.
Essential oil, distilled from
the seeds and roots, is used
Culinary uses to flavor drinks such as
vermouths and liqueurs.
Young stalks are candied. Young leaves Angelicas musky sweetness has
and stalks can be used in marinades a natural affinity with rhubarb for
and poaching liquids for fish and compotes, pies, and preservesuse
seafood, or cooked as a vegetable a handful of sliced young stalks or BUYING / STORING
boiled or steamed angelica is very chopped leaves to 214 lb (1 kg) of
Fresh angelica is not available
popular in Iceland and northerly parts rhubarb. Angelica can also be infused
commercially, so it is necessary
of Scandinavia. Leaves can be added in milk or cream for ice cream or a to grow your own. Young plants
to salads, stuffings, sauces, and salsas. baked custard. are available from some herb
nurseries; it can also be grown
from seed. Young stalks will
keep in a plastic bag in the
refrigerator for up to a week;
leaves will wilt after 23 days.

GROW YOUR OWN


Angelica grows best in rich soil
and partial shade. It produces
long, tubular stalks in the first
year, dies down in the winter,
then comes back vigorously the
following spring. Purple-tinged
flower stalks rise up and open
spectacular flowerheads. These
set to seed, after which the
Fresh leaves and stalks plant dies. The plant will
Young stalks and leaves are best cut self-seed easily.
during the first summer or early the
following spring.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with almonds, apricots,
hazelnuts, plums, rhubarb,
strawberries; fish and seafood.
Combines well with anise,
juniper, lavender, lemon balm,
nutmeg, pepper, perilla.
40 SWEET HERBS

TASTING NOTES
There are hundreds of varieties
of scented geraniums, smelling
Scented geranium
of apple or citrus fruits, Pelargonium species
cinnamon, clove, nutmeg or
mint, roses or pine. The best Scented geraniums offer a profusion of perfumes that echo
for cooking are rose- and
lemon-scented plants. the scents of other plants. The plants were carried to Europe
from South Africa in the 17th century and had reached
America by the 18th. Their commercial potential was realized
PARTS USED in the mid-19th century when the French perfume industry
Fresh leaves. Flowers have found a way to use oil from rose-scented geraniums in place
little fragrance, but make a
pretty garnish for desserts. of imported and costly attar of roses.
Although leaves retain their
aroma when they die on the
plant or are dried, they are
not good for cooking.

BUYING / STORING Lemon geranium


P. crispum
Nurseries have a good supply
of scented geraniums each This variety is a stiff plant with
spring. Freshly cut leaves are small, rough, crinkly leaves,
quite sturdy and will keep in a lavender flowers, and a fresh,
plastic bag in the refrigerator lemon scent.
crisper for 45 days. Flowers
are best picked just before
they are to be used.

GROW YOUR OWN


Scented geraniums are
tender perennials that will
wither at the first frost, but
they grow well in pots and
can be taken indoors or put
in a sheltered spot for the
winter. You can also grow
them indoors. Leaves can be
cut throughout the summer,
and cuttings taken for
propagation in early fall.

Fresh leaves
Geranium leaves
release their fragrance
when they are brushed
against or rubbed.
SWEET HERBS SCENTED GERANIUM Pelargonium species 41

Culinary uses
Sugar scented with rose geranium Strain and add 2 tbsp lemon juice rose geranium goes well with apples,
leaves can be used in desserts and for lemon-scented leaves, or blackberries, and raspberries; lemon
cakes. Bury a handful of the leaves 1 tbsp rose water for rose-scented geranium with peaches, apricots, and
in a jar of superfine sugar and leave ones. Store in an airtight jar in the plums. For ice creams and baked
for two weeks. Remove the leaves refrigerator for a week or so. Use custard, infuse 1012 lightly crushed
before use. scented sugar when cooking leaves in 2 cups heated heavy cream
Geranium-leaf syrup can be used blackberries or mixed berries for a or milk until cool, then strain and use.
to make sorbets and poach fruits, or summer dessert, or add a couple Rose geranium leaves can be
diluted for a refreshing drink. Bring of leaves to the pan. used to line the bottom of a cake
1 cup water and 34 cup sugar to a Macerate summer berries in wine pan before pouring in the batter;
boil, add 1012 lightly crushed or syrup with a few geranium leaves. this will give a subtle flavor to a
geranium leaves, remove from the When making preserves, add leaves plain cake. Remove the leaves
heat, and let cool. for the last few minutes of cooking; when the cake has cooled.

Rose
geranium
P. graveolens
This variety is an upright
plant with triangular, deep-
cut leaves and small, pink
flowers. The scent is a blend
of rose and spice, reminiscent
of Turkish delight.

P. Lady Plymouth
This variegated variety has triangular,
deep-cut leaves edged with cream, pink
flowers, and a lemon-mint-rose scent.
42 SWEET HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Lavender has a penetrating,
sweetly floral, and spicy aroma
Lavender
with lemon and mint notes; Lavandula species
the taste echoes the aroma
with undertones of camphor The sight of the deep purple-blue lavender fields shimmering
and a touch of bitterness in
the aftertaste. The flowers in the heat as you travel down the Rhne valley in France is,
have the strongest fragrance,
but leaves can also be used. for me, the first real indication of reaching the warm south.
Native to the Mediterranean region, lavender became a
popular garden plant in Tudor England. Today, lavender is
PARTS USED grown in many parts of the world for display, for the kitchen,
Fresh and dried flowers; leaves. and for its aromatic oils.

English lavender L. angustifolia


BUYING / STORING
The gray-green foliage and lilac, purple,
Lavender plants are widely or white flowers of this evergreen shrub
available. Fresh lavender flowers make it one of the most attractive garden
and leaves will keep in a plastic plants. Also called common lavender, it is
bag in the refrigerator for up to
the best lavender for the cook because of
a week. Dried lavender will keep
its lower camphor content.
for a year or more. To dry
flowers, hang stems in small
bunches or spread on trays;
when fully dry, rub the flowers
from the stems and store in an
airtight container.

GROW YOUR OWN


Lavender needs an open, sunny
position and well-drained soil,
whether in the garden or a
container. The flowers are best
harvested just before they are
fully open, when their essential
oils are most potent. Harvest
leaves at any time during the
growing season.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with blackberries, Fresh
blueberries, cherries,
mulberries, plums, rhubarb, leaves
strawberries; and chicken, Like rosemary,
lamb, pheasant, rabbit. lavender has tough
Combines well with marjoram, leaves that must be
oregano, parsley, perilla, savory, chopped finely; flowers
rosemary, thyme. also have a firm base, but
petals can be plucked out.
SWEET HERBS LAVENDER Lavandula species 43

Dried flowers
Soft, floral-scented, English lavender
Culinary uses
is no less prized for its oils than the Lavender is very potent and
intensely aromatic original lavender must be used sparingly. A few
from the Mediterranean. dried lavender flowers
immersed in a jar of sugar for a
week or so will give it a fine,
sweet aroma. Alternatively,
grind fresh lavender flowers
and sugar to a powderthis
gives a stronger flavor because
grinding breaks down the buds
and the sugar absorbs the
aromatic oils. Use the sugar for
baking and in desserts.
Fresh flowers can be
chopped and added to a cake
batter or sweet pastry or
shortbread dough before
baking. Scatter petals over a
cake or dessert to decorate it.
Add flowers to preserves
toward the end of the cooking
time, or to fruit compotes for a
sweetly spiced note. Infuse
flowers in heavy cream, milk,
syrup, or wine to flavor sorbets
and other desserts. Lavender
ice cream is very good, or try
adding lavender to chocolate
ice cream or mousse.
Lavender is successful in
savory dishes, too. Chop leaves
for a salad or scatter flowers
over the top. Fold chopped
flowers into cooked rice. Use
chopped flowers and leaves
to flavor a leg of lamb, or
roasted or casseroled rabbit,
chicken, or pheasant. Add
lavender to marinades and
rubs. Lavender also makes an
excellent vinegar.
Around the Mediterranean,
lavender is used in herb
mixtures. In Provence,
France, it is blended with
French lavender L. stoechas thyme, savory, and rosemary;
Also called Spanish lavender, this bushy shrub has narrow in Morocco, it is sometimes
green leaves and purple flowers topped by purple bracts.
used in ras el hanout.
Some varieties are hardy, others are half-hardy and may
survive the winter in a sheltered spot. L. stoechas has a
more pungent camphor note than L. angustifolia.
Lavender is grown commercially on a large scale, mainly
to be distilled for its aromatic oils. Long neglected in the
kitchen, the herb is slowly making a comeback as a versatile,
unexpected avoring in both savory and sweet dishes.
46 SWEET HERBS

TASTING NOTES
The fresh plant has a faint
scent, but cutting releases
Woodruff
the smell of newly mown Galium odoratum
hay and vanillin. Flowers
are more lightly scented As its name suggests, woodlands are the natural habitat
than leaves; the flavor
echoes the scent. of this low, creeping, perennial herb. Native to Europe
and western Asia, woodruff is now also found in temperate
North America. Its pretty, starlike white flowers and neat
PARTS USED ruffs of narrow, shiny leaves make it a most attractive
Leaves and flowers, garden plant in spring.
whole stems.

Culinary uses
BUYING / STORING The pleasant aroma of woodruff is at wine, sparkling wine, sugar, mint, and
Plants are available from its best when the herb has wilted. The lemon balm. Woodruff can also be
garden centers and herb principal traditional use of the herb is infused in marinades for chicken and
nurseries. Woodruff sprigs in the Waldmeisterbowle (Waldmeister rabbit, in dressings for salads, in wine
are best picked and kept for is the German name for woodruff) or to make a sabayon or sorbet. Use only
a day or two before using.
Maibowle. These are both names for one or two stems and remove before
The aroma strengthens when
the leaves are wilted or dried, a punch made to celebrate May Day serving or using the liquid. Woodruff
and the leaves keep their aroma (and other occasions too) using white flowers are decorative on salads.
when frozen. To freeze, spread
the woodruff on a tray, and
once frozen, store in a plastic
bag in the freezer.

GROW YOUR OWN


Woodruff can be grown from
seed, although it is slow to
germinate. Once established,
it spreads readily in shady
areas. Leaves and flowers
can be picked in spring
and early summer; later in
the year the fragrance is
less pronounced.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS Fresh leaves


and flowers
Good with apples, melon, Since woodruff contains
pears, strawberries. coumarin, a substance that may
cause liver damage if used in
excess and is now thought to be
carcinogenic, it should be used in
very small amounts. Luckily just
one or two stems will impart the
herbs heady aroma.
SWEET HERBS PANDAN Pandanus amaryllifolius, P. tectorius 47

Pandan TASTING NOTES


Pandan leaf smells sweetly fresh
and floral, lightly musky, with
Pandanus amaryllifolius, P. tectorius notes of newly mown grass. The
taste is pleasantly grassy and
Pandan or screwpine species grow in the tropics from India floral. Leaves have to be bruised
or cooked to release their flavor.
to Southeast Asia, northern Australia, and the Pacific islands. Kewra essence has a sweet,
delicate musk and rose aroma.
The leaves of P. amaryllifolius are used as a flavoring and
a wrapping for food. Kewra essence, a favorite flavoring
of the Moghul emperors of India, is extracted from
PARTS USED
P. tectorius flowers.
Leaves, flowers.

Culinary uses
To use pandan leaves, pound or scrape BUYING / STORING
them with the tines of a fork to release Fresh pandan leaves may be
their flavor, then tie in a loose knot so found in Asian markets. They
that the fibers do not come loose. keep well in a plastic bag in
Add a leaf or two to rice before the refrigerator for 23 weeks.
Neither frozen nor dried pandan
cooking to give it a light fragrance,
can match fresh leaves for
as they do in Malaysia and Singapore. fragrance. Bottled leaf extract
Cooks there also use pandan leaf as has an unnaturally bright color
a flavoring for pancakes, cakes, and and quickly loses what aroma it
creamy desserts made with sticky rice has. Pandan powder has a light
or tapioca. A knotted leaf is sometimes grassiness that fades after a few
months. Kewra essence or
added to a soup or curry, and in Sri
kewra water (essence mixed
Lanka it adds its flavor to curry powder. with water) will keep for 23
Leaves are also used to wrap food. Thai years if tightly closed and
cooks steam or fry parcels of pandan- stored away from strong light.
wrapped chicken or weave leaves as
containers for desserts.
Kewra essence is used in India to
flavor pilafs and meat dishes as well as HARVESTING
sweets and kulfi. It can be diluted with a Pandan trees, with their shiny,
little water and sprinkled into a dish just swordlike leaves growing
before serving. It also gives a special spirally around the trunk, can
flavor to homemade lemonade. be seen in gardens throughout
southern Asia. They grow
easily, especially in damp areas.
Leaves are harvested at any
time; flowers are at their
best soon after they open.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Fresh leaves Good with chicken, coconut,
Juice from the leaves is used for curried dishes, palm sugar, rice.
coloring food; to extract the juice, Combines well with chile,
put 45 coarsely chopped leaves cilantro, galangal, ginger,
into a blender with a little water. makrut lime, lemongrass.
48 CITRUS OR TART HERBS

TASTING NOTES
The whole plant has a
distinctive citrus aroma. The
Bee balm
flavor is citrus with an added Monarda didyma
warm, spicy note. Flowers are
more delicately flavored than Native to North America, the genus Monarda is named
the leaves.
for the 16th-century Spanish physician Nicolas Monardes,
whose Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde Worlde was
PARTS USED the first American herbal. It is commonly called bee balm
Fresh and dried leaves; because the flowers attract bees. Another name, bergamot,
flowers. Dried leaves are probably derives from the similarity of the plants aroma to
used for teas.
that of the bergamot orange.

BUYING /STORING Fresh leaves


All the cultivated varieties of bee balm,
Plants are available from
with their showy whorls of different-
herb nurseries and garden
colored flowers and slightly different
centers. Flowers and leaves
wilt quickly and are best scents, can be used in the same way.
used soon after picking.
They can be chopped and
frozen. Spread leaves and
flowers on trays to dry, or
hang bunches of stems in
a dark, well-ventilated place.
Store when dry in an airtight
container. Dried bee balm can
be bought as an herbal tea.

GROW YOUR OWN


A perennial of the mint family,
bee balm thrives in most
situations, but does best in a
fertile, moisture-retaining soil,
in sun or partial shade. Every
3 years, dig up the plant,
discard the center, and replant
the young outer parts. Pick
flowers when fully open, and
leaves throughout the summer.
CITRUS OR TART HERBS BEE BALM Monarda didyma 49

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Use only fresh, young leaves and flowers for cooking. Add shredded Good with apples, chicken,
citrus fruits, duck, kiwi fruit,
leaves and petals to green and fruit salads. Bee balm goes well with melon, papaya, pork,
duck, chicken, and pork; it can be chopped into yogurt or cream for strawberries, tomatoes.
a sauce, or added to a salsa. Flowers are good in sandwiches with Combines well with chives,
cream cheese and cucumber. cresses, dill, fennel, garlic,
Bee balm is also known as Oswego teanamed for the Oswego River lemon balm, mint, parsley,
and valley in the northeastern US, where Native American tribes made rosemary, thyme.
a tea from it, a practice that was adopted by early European settlers.
Try adding a few fresh or dried flowers or leaves to a pot of tea, to
homemade lemonade, or to summer punches for a lightly scented taste. OTHER MONARDAS
Wild bee balm M. fistulosa,
also known as horsemint, is
less handsome and has
a stronger and coarser
fragrance than cultivated
Bee-balm salsa varieties. Use sparingly.
Another variety, M. f. var.
A salsa of chopped bee balm leaves,
menthifolia, resembles
parsley, and orange is delicious with
oregano in aroma and
pork kebabs or barbecued fish. flavor and is sometimes
used as a substitute
for oregano in the
southwestern US.
50 CITRUS OR TART HERBS

TASTING NOTES
When crushed, the young leaves
have a fresh, lingering, lemon
Lemon balm
scent and a mild lemon-mint Melissa officinalis
flavor. The aroma is subtle and
pleasant, and not as penetrating Lemon balm is a perennial of the mint family, native to
as that of lemon verbena or
lemongrass. southern Europe and western Asia and now cultivated
widely in all temperate regions. With its crinkled, serrated
leaves and tiny white or yellowish flowers, it is not a showy
PARTS USED plant, but it earns its place in the garden by attracting bees
Leaves, fresh and dried. and by its agreeable lemon scent.

BUYING / STORING Culinary uses


Seeds and plants may be bought Lemon balms principal use is in a soothing, calming tea, made
from specialized nurseries. Fresh from fresh or dried leaves. Fresh leaves can be infused in summer
leaves will keep for 34 days in drinks or blended into smoothies. For cooking, the lemon-mint
a plastic bag in the vegetable flavor of fresh leaves complements fish and poultry in sauces,
crisper in the refrigerator. To stuffings, and marinades. Tear young leaves for green or tomato
dry leaves, hang small bunches
salads, or chop them to scatter over steamed or sauted vegetables
of stems in a dark, airy place.
Crumble the leaves when or to stir into rice or bulghar wheat. Lemon balm makes a delicate
completely dry and store in an herb butter and fragrant vinegar. The fresh flavor is good in fruit
airtight container. They should desserts and in creams and cakes. A strong tea, well sweetened,
keep their flavor for 56 months. makes the basis for a good sorbet.

Fresh leaves
GROW YOUR OWN Always cook with fresh leaves, and use
Lemon balm is easy to grow from generous amounts because the aroma is
seed or by dividing the root stock delicate. The variegated form, M. o. Aurea,
in spring or fall. Cut back after can also be used.
flowering to encourage new
growth. Balm grows vigorously
and will spread readily unless
kept in check: in a small garden
it is best grown in a pot. Harvest
leaves early in the season before
they become rank.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with apples, apricots,
carrots, soft white cheeses,
chicken, eggs, figs, fish, melon,
mushrooms, nectarines.
Combines well with bee balm,
chervil, chives, dill, fennel,
ginger, mint, nasturtium, parsley,
sweet cicely.
CITRUS OR TART HERBS VIETNAMESE BALM Elsholtzia ciliata 51

Vietnamese balm TASTING NOTES


Vietnamese balm has a clear,
lemon aroma with floral
Elsholtzia ciliata undertones; the flavor is
reminiscent of lemon balm,
Native to temperate eastern and central Asia, Vietnamese but is more concentrated,
somewhat like lemongrass. If
balm, or rau kinh gioi, is a bushy plant with light green, none is available, lemon balm
and lemongrass can be
serrated leaves and lavender flower spikes. It somewhat combined as a substitute.
resembles lemon balm in aroma, but the plants are unrelated.
It is cultivated in Germany more than in other regions of
Europe, and also in those parts of the US where there are PARTS USED
large Vietnamese population centers. Stray plants also grow Fresh leaves and young sprigs.
wild in parts of Europe and North America.

BUYING / STORING
Culinary uses
Vietnamese balm is grown
Vietnamese balm is used to flavor egg, vegetable, and mostly by nurseries that
fish dishes, in soups, and with noodles and rice. It is supply herbs to Southeast-
sometimes added to the platter of fresh herbs that Asian restaurants, and is sold
accompanies many Vietnamese meals. In Thailand, it by Asian markets, but it is not
yet widely available in Europe or
is most frequently cooked and served as a vegetable.
North America. Leaves keep for
34 days in a plastic bag in the
refrigerator vegetable crisper.

Fresh leaves
Vietnamese balm has been used as a GROW YOUR OWN
culinary and medicinal plant for many Vietnamese balm is a perennial,
years in Southeast Asia, but as yet is often grown as an annual. It can
little known to Western cooks. be grown from seed outdoors
when the frosts are over, and is
likely to become invasive in
warm, moist conditions. Sprigs
from an Asian market can be
encouraged to root by standing
them in water. Cuttings taken
in fall will root and survive if
kept in a warm place. Harvest
leaves from spring to early fall.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with star fruit, cucumber,
eggplant, lettuce, mushrooms,
scallions, fish, seafood.
Combines well with Asian
basils, chili, cilantro, galangal,
garlic, mint, perilla, tamarind.
52 CITRUS OR TART HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Lemon verbena has an intense,
fresh lemon aroma. The taste
Lemon verbena
echoes the aroma but is less Aloysia citriodora
strong; it is more lemony than
a lemon, but lacks the tartness. Lemon verbena is native to Chile and Argentina, and was
Leaves keep their fragrance
quite well when cooked. taken to Europe by the Spaniards and to North America by
The aroma of dried leaves
is retained for up to a year. a New England sea captain in the 18th century. In France, it
was used by toilet-water manufacturers for its aromatic oils.
Until 100 years ago it was widely grown as an ornamental
PARTS USED garden plant; it certainly merits a place in any scented garden
Leaves, fresh and dried. for its intoxicating, pure lemon fragrance.

BUYING / STORING
Culinary uses
Lemon verbena is a natural companion flavoring for desserts and drinks. Add
Many herb nurseries stock to fish and poultry: put some sprigs into sprigs to a syrup for poaching fruit,
plants. Cut leaves can be
kept for a day or two in the
the cavity, or chop and use in a stuffing chop finely for a fruit salad or tart, or
refrigerator. Sprigs can also or marinade. The vibrant, clean taste is infuse in cream to make a fresh-scented
be put in a glass of water for also good with fatty meats such as pork ice cream. Koseret, Lippia adoensis, is
24 hours. Leaves can be chopped and duck, in vegetable soup, and in a similar to lemon verbena and widely
and frozen in small pots or in rice pilaf. Lemon verbena is used as a used as an herb in Ethiopia.
ice cubes. To dry, hang stems
in a dark, well-ventilated
place. Dried leaves make an
excellent herbal tea, often
Fresh sprigs
Add sprigs to iced tea or summer
sold as verveine.
drinks, or make an infusion of
fresh leaves. Lemon verbena
makes one of the best and most
GROW YOUR OWN
refreshing of all teas.
Lemon verbena needs sun
and well-drained soil. Leaves
can be harvested throughout
the growing season. Regular
trimming will make the plant
bushier, and it should be cut
back in fall to remove weak
branches. It does not tolerate
frost, so is best grown in a
container and taken indoors
in winter, when it will shed
its leaves.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with apricots, carrots,
chicken, fish, mushrooms,
rice, zucchini.
Combines well with basil,
chili, chives, cilantro, lemon
thyme, mint, garlic.
CITRUS OR TART HERBS SASSAFRAS Sassafras albidum 53

Sassafras TASTING NOTES


Young leaves have an
astringent, citrus-fennel
Sassafras albidum aroma; the roots smell
camphorous. Fil powder
Sassafras is an aromatic, ornamental tree native to the eastern tastes sourish, rather
like lemony sorrel with
US, from Maine to Florida. Native Americans showed early woody notes. Its flavor
can be brought out
settlers how to make tea from the bark, roots, and leaves. The by brief heating.
French-speaking Canadians (Cajuns) who went to Louisiana
adopted a Choctaw method of using dried, ground sassafras
leaves to flavor and thicken stews. The roots used to be an PARTS USED
essential ingredient of root beer. Leaves and roots.

Culinary uses BUYING / STORING


Fil powder, or gumbo fil, made from mucilaginous quality of fil helps
dried, ground sassafras leaves, is only thicken the dish, provided it is stirred It is best not to use
fresh sassafras, because in
used in the cooking of Louisiana, but in when the pan is removed from
its natural form it contains
it is the key to the texture and flavor the heat; prolonged cooking makes safrole, a carcinogen. Root
of many Cajun and Creole soups and fil tough and stringy. Some brands bark and leaves are now
stews. In particular, it is used in gumbo, of fil powder contain other ground treated to remove safrole
a substantial, spicy soup made with herbs, such as bay, oregano, sage, before they are sold or used
a variety of vegetables, seafood, or or thyme, in addition to ground commercially. Buy prepared fil
powder, sassafras tea, or tea
meat and served with rice. The sassafras leaf. concentrate only if marked
safrole free. Fil powder
will keep for 6 months,
and sassafras tea for a
year or more.

Dried leaves
The large leaves, which
GROW YOUR OWN
provide dramatic fall colors,
may have one, two, or Sassafras trees are mostly
three lobes, even on found in the wild. Only young
specimens can be transplanted,
the same branch.
because established trees have
long taproots, so they are
seldom offered for sale. Leaves
for making commercial fil
powder are harvested in
spring, then dried
and ground.

Fil powder
Fil powder is
essential to create
the rich texture of
Louisiana dishes.
It also serves as
a condiment to
accompany them.
54 CITRUS OR TART HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Crushed leaves have a coriander
and citrus aroma, sometimes
Houttuynia
with distinctive fishy notes. The Houttuynia cordata
flavor is sourish and astringent
with similarities to rau ram This perennial, water-loving plant is not appreciated as an
and cilantro but with fishy
undertones; it is aptly known herb by Western cooks, but it is widely used in Southeast
as fish plant and Vietnamese
fish mint. Some plants smell Asia. Native to Japan, houttuynia now grows wild across
rank, while others are pungent much of eastern Asia. The dark green-leaved variety is most
but pleasing. People either
love or hate this herb. commonly used for cooking, but you can use the striking
cultivated variety H. c. Chameleon, which has green, red,
pink, and yellow foliage. In Vietnam, houttuynia is called
PARTS USED rau diep ca; the name is anglicized to vap ca in the West.
Fresh leaves.

Culinary uses
In Japan, houttuynia is used as a with raw vegetables to dip in fiery
BUYING / STORING
vegetable rather than an herb, and nam prik, or as a salad. Combine
Plants are available from simmered with fish and pork dishes. it with lettuce, mint, and young
nurseries and garden centers. In Vietnam, where it is very popular, it nasturtium leaves and flowers. I have
Crush leaves to smell them
is chopped and steamed with fish and shredded it into stir-fried vegetable
before buying. Leaves will keep
for 23 days in a plastic bag chicken. Leaves can also be shredded and seafood dishes and into fish
in the vegetable crisper of into a clear soup. More often it is eaten soups. Cilantro or rau ram could
the refrigerator. raw, to accompany beef and duck, be used instead.

GROW YOUR OWN


Houttuynia can be grown
in damp soil or in shallow
water at the edge of a pond
or stream, but it is invasive.
If you grow the variegated
variety, plant it in a sunny
spot to get the most vivid
foliage. Harvest leaves from
spring to fall. With its heart-
shaped leaves and small,
white flowers it makes a
pretty groundcover plant.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS Fresh leaves


Combines well with chile, Japanese houttuynia
galangal, garlic, ginger, shows clear orange and
lemongrass, mint. coriander aromas, whereas
Chinese houttuynia smells more
rank. H. c. Chameleon has
multicolored leaves (right).
CITRUS OR TART HERBS RICE PADDY HERB Limnophilia aromatica 55

Rice paddy herb TASTING NOTES


Rice paddy herb has an
attractive floral-citrus, musky
Limnophilia aromatica aroma and flavor with a hint
of the pungent earthiness of
Rice paddy herb is native to tropical Asia. It is now cumin. It is a fragrant,
delicate herb.
available from nurseries in the US, but has yet to catch
on in Europe. Brought to the US by Southeast Asian
immigrants in the 1970s and 1980s, it is also known by PARTS USED
its Vietnamese names, rau om and ngo om. It is readily Fresh young shoots and leaves.
available in Vietnamese neighborhoods of US cities
and deserves to be more widely known; its agreeable
aroma should encourage experimentation. BUYING / STORING
Buy plants from nurseries.
Keep stems for a few days in a
Culinary uses plastic bag in the refrigerator
vegetable crisper.
The Vietnamese are enthusiastic users with freshwater fish. In northern
of rice paddy herb. They chop it into Thailand, it is served with fermented
vegetable and sour soups just before fish and chili sauce, and in curries made
serving them, include it in fish dishes, with coconut milk. Chop and use in a GROW YOUR OWN
and frequently add it to the platter of dressing for a bean or lentil dish, with
A rather straggly plant, with
herbs provided with many Vietnamese grilled fish, or add to stir-fries at the long, mid-green leaves and
meals. Rice paddy herb is often eaten last minute. Use fresh or heat briefly. lilac flowers, rau om grows
wild in ponds throughout
Southeast Asia, and is
Fresh sprigs cultivated in flooded rice
This small, trailing herb is easily fields. It will grow in or
recognized by the whorls of three at the edge of ponds,
long leaves along the thick stem.
covered by an inch or so
of water, and does well in
sun or partial shade. It
is a perennial but needs
protection from frost.
Leaves can be harvested
throughout the
growing season.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with coconut milk, fish
and seafood, lime juice,
noodles, rice, shallots,
green and root vegetables.
Combines well with chile,
cilantro, lemongrass,
galangal, tamarind.
56 CITRUS OR TART HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Sorrel has no aroma; the taste
of garden sorrel ranges from
Sorrel
refreshingly tangy and sharp to Rumex acetosa, R. scutatus
astringent, and large leaves may
be slightly bitter. The texture is This member of the dock family grows wild in Europe
spinachlike. French sorrel has
a milder, more lemony, and and western Asia and is worth growing in the garden.
more succulent flavor.
Garden sorrel (R. acetosa) is the common variety;
French or buckler leaf (R. scutatus) is more delicate;
and astringent R. sanguineus has slender leaves with
PARTS USED
striking veins. Sorrel has been appreciated for the
Fresh leaves.
tartness it imparts to rich foods since ancient times.

BUYING / STORING Culinary uses


Sorrel is seldom seen in Sorrel is high in vitamins A and C, and also in oxalic acid, which
supermarkets because it wilts gives the herb its sour taste. It is best served in combination with
quickly and is best used within
other foods. It makes a good soup with potato or combined with
a day or two of picking. To
freeze, remove stalks, steam spinach in green Ukrainian borscht, and a rich sauce for fish with
leaves until wilted, or cook in butter, stock, and cream.
a little butter and freeze in
small quantities. Using butter
helps soften the drab color of
cooked sorrel. Garden sorrel R. acetosa
Sorrel leaves can be harvested from spring until the
plant dies down in winter. The more you pick, the more
GROW YOUR OWN prolifically they grow.

Garden sorrel grows best in


rich, moist soil with partial,
light shade. Buckler leaf prefers
a drier, warmer spot. Both are
hardy perennials that grow
well from seed. Plants grow
to sizeable clumps and can
be divided in fall. Sorrel goes
to seed quickly, so remove the
flower stalks to encourage
leaf growth.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with chicken, cucumber,
eggs, fish (especially salmon),
leeks, lentils, lettuce, mussels,
pork, spinach, tomatoes, veal,
watercress.
Combines well with borage,
chervil, chives, dill, lovage,
parsley, tarragon.
LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS AGASTACHE Agastache species 57

Agastache TASTING NOTES


Anise hyssop has a sweet,
anise aroma and flavor; its
Agastache species natural sweetness underpins
the anise elements. Korean
The agastaches are handsome, hardy perennials of the mint mint smells of eucalypt and
mint, but the taste resembles
family. Anise hyssop (A. foeniculum), native to North America, that of anise hyssop, with a
lingering anise aftertaste.
and Korean mint (A. rugosa), native to east Asia, are worth
the cooks attention. Mexican giant hyssop (A. mexicana)
grows wild in Mexico and is used to make an infusion.
PARTS USED
Fresh leaves; flowers
Culinary uses for garnishes.

Anise hyssop and Korean mint can be leaves in a salad will add an elusive
used interchangeably in the kitchen. anise note; mix with other summery
Widely used in teas or summer drinks, herbs to flavor pancake batter or an BUYING / STORING
they can also be used in similar ways omelet, or to make a sauce for
Some specialty nurseries stock
to anise. Use in marinades for fish and pasta with olive oil, crisp-fried bread plants. Leaves are sturdy and
seafood, chop them into rice, or add to crumbs, and garlic. Agastaches are keep in a plastic bag in the
chicken or pork dishes. Their natural also good with summer fruits such refrigerator vegetable drawer for
sweetness complements the sweetness as apricots, blueberries, peaches, 45 days. Leaves can be frozen,
in beets, carrots, squash, and sweet pears, plums, and raspberries. To but are best used fresh. Dry
leaves only to make teas
potatoes; they combine well with make agastache honey, fill a small
otherwise dont bother.
green beans, zucchini, and tomatoes. jar with leaves and flowers, pour in
Use as a garnish, or stir in chopped warmed clear honey, cover, and leave
leaves just before serving. A few for a month.
GROW YOUR OWN
Anise hyssop and Korean
Anise hyssop Flowers mint prefer a sheltered, well-
A. foeniculum drained spot in full sun. Both
Anise hyssop
Anise hyssop, also called can be grown from seed. After
smells of anise
licorice mint, is an upright,
23 years plants can be divided
and its flowers
and replanted. If you leave some
branched plant with gray- resemble those flowers to seed, agastaches will
green, oval leaves tinged of hyssop, but it self-seed, but the new plants
with purple. The showy, lilac is not related to come up quite late in the year.
flowerspikes appear in late either plant. Harvest young leaves throughout
summer and attract bees. the growing season. They are
most aromatic just before
the plant flowers.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with green beans,
root vegetables, tomatoes,
winter squash, zucchini;
berries, and stone fruits.
Combines well with basil,
bee balm, chervil, marjoram,
mint marigold, parsley, salad
burnet, tarragon.
58 LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Chervil is sweetly aromatic.
The taste is subtle and
Chervil
soothing, with light anise Anthriscus cerefolium
notes and hints of parsley,
caraway, and pepper. Native to southern Russia, the Caucasus, and southeastern
Europe, chervil was probably introduced to northern Europe
by the Romans. A traditional symbol of new life, the arrival
PARTS USED
of chervil in markets signals springtime, when chervil sauces
Fresh leaves; flowers
for garnish. and soups appear on menus in France, Germany, and
Holland. Often seen in restaurants as a garnish, chervil
deserves to be more widely used in domestic cooking.
BUYING / STORING
Chervil is not an herb for long
keeping: in a plastic bag or a
damp paper towel, it will keep Fresh leaves
for 23 days in the vegetable Chervil grows quickly and can be harvested
crisper of the refrigerator. 68 weeks after sowing, but its lifespan is
You may find a pot of chervil shortonce it flowers it is of no use in the
in the supermarket in spring. kitchen. Be rigorous about cutting out flower
Chopped and frozen in small stems and harvest frequently, cutting
containers it will keep for
outer leaves first to encourage
34 months. Chervil butter
can also be frozen. Dried new growth at the center
chervil has almost no flavor of the plant.
and is not worth buying.

GROW YOUR OWN


Chervil is easy to grow from
seed, and prefers rich, moist
soil in semi-shade. Sow seed
where you want the plants to
grow, because chervil doesnt
like to be transplanted. It does
best in cool temperatures, so in
summer, plant it between taller
plants that will provide shade.
Old leaves turn pink or yellow
and no longer have a fresh
flavor. Sow the first batch of
seeds toward the end of winter,
and then sow every 34 weeks
to ensure a continuing supply.
LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS CHERVIL Anthriscus cerefolium 59

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Chervil is one of the indispensable salads: try it in a warm potato salad Essential to fines herbes.
herbs of French cooking: in classic or a beet salad with shallots or chives. Good with asparagus, beets,
carrots, cream cheese, eggs,
fines herbes it is combined with Chervil is sometimes used with
fava beans, fennel, fish and
chives, parsley, and tarragon. Fines tarragon in barnaise sauce, and its seafood, green beans, lettuce,
herbesor chervil alonestirred into flavor can usually be detected in mushrooms, peas, potatoes,
eggs will make an excellent omelette Frankfurt green sauce. A small amount poultry, tomatoes, veal.
or scrambled egg dish. In Holland and of chervil brings out the flavor of other Combines well with basil,
Belgium, there is a long tradition of herbs, but you can use it lavishly on its chives, cresses, dill, hyssop,
making chervil soup, either based ownfor example, scatter it generously lemon thyme, mint, mustard,
on potato and shallot or in a richer over freshly cooked vegetables. If you parsley, salad burnet, tarragon.
version that uses cream and egg yolks. are using it in a hot dish, stir it in when
Chervil is delicious in consomms, the cooking is at an end, because the
and gives a delicate flavor to aroma and flavor dissipate with heat.
vinaigrettes and to butter or cream Curly chervil (A. c. crispum) has
sauces to serve with fish, poultry, and the same properties as the flat-
vegetables. It is a great addition to leafed variety.

Fines herbes
This classic French flavoring for egg, fish,
and poultry dishes is a combination of
chervil, chives, parsley, and tarragon
(recipe, p.266).
60 LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS

TASTING NOTES
The leaves are sweetly
aromatic, with hints of pine,
Tarragon
anise, or licorice; the flavor is Artemisia dracunculus
strong yet subtle, with spicy
anise and basil notes and a Native to Siberia and western Asia, tarragon was
sweetish aftertaste. Long
cooking diminishes the unknown in Europe until the Arabs introduced it
aroma but the flavor is
not lost. when they ruled Spain. During the 16th and 17th
centuries, the development of classic French
cooking extended its use in the kitchen. Indeed,
PARTS USED the best cultivated variety is usually called French
Fresh leaves and sprigs. tarragon (or, in Germany, German tarragon) to
distinguish it from the inferior Russian variety.

BUYING / STORING
French tarragon A. d. var. sativa
Supermarkets sometimes have
This tarragon has mid-green leaves and is the
pots of tarragon, but otherwise
sell sprigs in minute quantities, preferred culinary variety. The leaves can be
so it is a good idea to grow your harvested when required, and whole stems
own. Avoid the Russian variety removed for drying in midsummer.
when buying plants. Young
sprigs keep for 45 days in a
plastic bag in the vegetable
crisper of the refrigerator. To
dry, hang stems in bundles in an
airy, dark place. Dried they lose
much of their aroma; freezing
the leaves, whole or chopped,
retains more of the flavor.

GROW YOUR OWN


French tarragon can be
propagated by cuttings or in
spring by division of the brittle,
white rhizomesdo this every
3 years to preserve the flavor
of the plant. The more vigorous
Russian tarragon will grow
from seed. Tarragon needs a
rich, dry soil and much sun.
Until well established the roots
of French tarragon may need
winter protection.
LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS TARRAGON Artemisia dracunculus 61

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Tarragon is an essential ingredient appears in nearly every cooks Essential to fines herbes
and similar herb mixtures,
in French cooking, with fish, poultry, repertoire. Tarragon makes one of the to barnaise, ravigote, and
and egg dishes. Used discreetly, it most versatile of herb vinegars and tartar sauces.
lends a pleasant, deep note to green is often used in mustards and butters. Good with artichokes,
salads. It is very good in marinades It adds a fresh, herbal fragrance to asparagus, eggs, fish
for meat and game, and for flavoring mushrooms, artichokes, and ragouts and seafood, potatoes, poultry,
goat cheeses and feta preserved in of summer vegetables; with tomatoes salsify, tomatoes, zucchini.
olive oil. Whole stems can be used it is almost as good as basil. Use Combines well with basil, bay,
under fish or with roasted chicken tarragon in moderation and it will capers, chervil, chives, dill,
and rabbittarragon chicken enhance the flavor of other herbs. parsley, salad herbs.

Bouquet garni for fish OTHER TARRAGONS


Intended to be added to the liquid of Russian tarragon (A. d. var.
slow-cooked fish dishes, this bouquet inodora), or sometimes
garni comprises tarragon, thyme, parsley, A. dracunculoides, is lighter
in color and more coarse in
and a strip of lemon peel (recipes, p.266).
appearance, and has a bitter
taste. It is best avoided. When
buying a tarragon plant, check
that the label says French
tarragon; if the type of tarragon
is not specified, it may be the
Russian variety.
Mexican tarragon (Tagetes
lucida) is a species of marigold
(p.29) that is often used in the
southern states instead of
French tarragon. It has a more
pronounced licorice flavor.
62 LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Dill leaves have a clean, fragrant
aroma of anise and lemon. The
Dill
taste is of anise and parsley, Anethum graveolens
mild but sustained. The seeds
smell like a sweet caraway due An annual plant native to southern Russia, western Asia,
to carvone in the essential oil;
the taste is of anise with a and the eastern Mediterranean, dill is widely grown for its
touch of sharpness and a
lingering warmth. feathery leaves (often called dill weed) and its seed. Indian
dill (A. g. subsp. sowa) is grown primarily for its seed, which
is lighter in color, longer, and narrower than European dill
PARTS USED seed and has a more pungent taste. It is preferred for
Fresh and dried leaves; seeds. curry mixtures.

BUYING / STORING
Culinary uses
Fresh dill is an excellent partner for In northern and central Europe, dill
Choose a bunch that looks fish and seafood. Scandinavian dishes is used with root vegetables, cabbage,
crisp and fresh. If you have
a large quantity, use it quickly;
include herrings marinated with dill, cauliflower, and cucumber. Some
after 23 days in a plastic bag in gravad lax (salmon cured with salt and Russian cooks use it in borscht, their
the refrigerator it will droop. You dill and served with a mustard and dill classic beet soup, and dill combined
may be able to buy a plant in a sauce), and crab, scallops, or shrimp with sour cream or yogurt and a little
supermarket or from a produce with a creamy dill sauce. mustard also makes a good sauce for
market. Dried dill stored in an
airtight container will keep its
flavor for up to a year. Similarly
stored seed has a shelf life of
2 years. Ground dill seed does
not keep.

GROW YOUR OWN


Dill is easy to grow from
seed. Sow in a sheltered,
sunny spot with well-drained
soil in spring, and water well.
Successive sowings will provide
plants throughout the season.
Dill seedlings are frail, so make
sure the ground is weed-free.
Flowerheads left to ripen
will readily self-seed. Do not
transplant; the long taproot is
easily damaged. Avoid planting
dill and fennel close to each
other or they will cross-pollinate
and create hybrids. Fronds Fresh leaves
The feathery fronds Freezing preserves the flavor of dill
of A. graveolens better than drying. Freeze the stems
resemble fennel, whole in a plastic bag and cut off
although the dill sprigs when needed. Add dill leaves
plant is much at the end of cooking because they
smaller. lose their flavor if overheated.
LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS DILL Anethum graveolens 63

beets. German cooks make a similar dill for salads and salad dressings, FLAVOR PAIRINGS
sauce, but replace the mustard with especially for potato salad.
Leaves good with beets,
horseradish and serve it with braised Both leaves and seeds are used in carrots, celery root, cucumber,
beef. In Greece, dill is added to stuffed pickling, as in the crunchy dill-pickled eggs, fava beans, fish and
grape leaves. In Turkey and Iran, cucumbers of a New York deli and the seafood, potatoes, rice,
dill flavors rice, fava beans, zucchini, garlicky version popular in Poland, spinach, zucchini.
and celery root. Spinach with dill Russia, and Iran. Seeds are added to Leaves combine well with
and shallots is a standard Iranian breads and cakes in Scandinavia, basil, capers, garlic, horseradish,
dish, echoed in a lentil and spinach where they are also used to flavor mustard, paprika, parsley.
dish of northern India that uses both vinegar. In India, seeds and leaves are Seeds good with cabbage,
dill leaves and seeds. Dont forget used in curry powders and masalas. onion, potatoes,
pumpkin, vinegar.
Seeds combine well with
chili, coriander seed,
cumin, garlic, ginger,
Drying leaves mustard seed, turmeric.
Dill leaves can be dried, either
by spreading them on a cloth
and leaving in a dark, warm,
well-ventilated place for a few
days, or in the microwave.
Dried leaves retain some
of the aroma and flavor
of the fresh plant.

Seeds
The seeds are oval and flattish with five ribs, two of which
form a broader rim. They are extremely light: 10,000 weigh
less than scant 1oz (25g). Harvest seeds when they are
light brown and fully formed; put the
seedheads in a large paper bag and leave
in a warm place until dry. When they
have dried, rub the seedheads
between your hands to separate
seeds from husks. Use the seeds
for slow-cooked foods.
64 LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS

TASTING NOTES
The whole plant has a warm,
anise-licorice aroma. The taste
Fennel
is similar: pleasantly fresh, Foeniculum vulgare
slightly sweet, with a hint of
camphor. Fennel seed is less This tall, hardy, graceful perennial, indigenous to the
pungent than dill, and more
astringent than anise. Mediterranean and now naturalized in many parts
of the world, is one of the oldest cultivated plants. The
Romans enjoyed fennel shoots as a vegetable; the Chinese
PARTS USED and Indians valued fennel as a condiment and digestive
Young leaves, flowers, pollen, aid. Today in India, fennel water is used to treat colic
stems, seeds.
in babies. The herb should not be confused with the
bulbous sweet or Florence fennel, F. v. var. dulce,
BUYING / STORING which is eaten as a vegetable.
Leaves will keep in a plastic bag
in the refrigerator for 23 days.
Stems can be used fresh or tied Green fennel F. vulgare
in bundles and hung up to dry; Green fennel is a tall, stately plant with tangled, Stems
store in an airtight container and feathery foliage. All parts of the fennel plant are Stems have a mild
use within 6 months. Seed will edible; the roots are no longer eaten, but the leaves,
keep for up to 2 years when flavor that is retained
stems, and fruits (seed) are esteemed as flavorings. when they are dried.
stored in an airtight container.
Wild fennel pollen, an intensely Fennels anise character derives from anethole, the
flavored, golden-green dust, can main constituent of its essential oil, which is most
be bought via the internet. concentrated in the seed.

GROW YOUR OWN


Fennel will grow in most
conditions, but prefers a well-
drained, sunny site. It grows to
5ft (1.5m) or more. Plants will
self-seed very prolifically. Dont
grow fennel near dill or they will
cross-pollinate and produce
hybrids. When the seed is
yellowy green, cut off the
seedheads, place them in a large
paper bag, and keep in an airy,
warm place until dry; then
shake the seeds loose. Fennel
plants should be replaced
every 34 years.
LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS FENNEL Foeniculum vulgare 65

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In spring, fennel gives a fresh, lively cheese and olives to make a well- Essential to Chinese five spice
powder and panch phoron.
note to salads and sauces. Later in flavored bread. Fennel seeds flavor
the season a garnish of flowers or sauerkraut in Alsace and Germany, Good with beans, beets,
cabbage, cucumber, duck, fish
a sprinkling of pollen gives an anise and Italians use them with roast pork and seafood, leeks, lentils, pork,
fragrance to cold soups, chowders, and in finocchiona, the renowned potatoes, rice, tomatoes.
and grilled fish. salami of Florence. Combines well with chervil,
Fennel is an excellent foil for oily Fennel seed is one of the cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek,
fish. The Sicilians use it liberally in constituents of five spice powder, lemon balm, mint, nigella,
their pasta with sardines. In Provence, the principal Chinese spice blend parsley, Sichuan pepper, thyme.
France, whole fishes such as red used mostly with meat and poultry.
mullet are baked or grilled on a bed of Bengal, in northeast India, also has a
fresh or dried fennel stems, which five spice mixture, panch phoron, with
imparts a delicate flavor. fennel as an ingredient; the mixture
Pollen gives a more heady flavor is used with vegetables, beans, and
to fish, seafood, grilled vegetables, lentils. Elsewhere in the Indian
pork chops, and Italian breads. subcontinent, fennel appears in
Fennel seed can be added to pickles, garam masala, in spiced gravies for
soups, and breadstry combining vegetables or lamb, and in some sweet
ground fennel and nigella to flavor dishes. Indians also chew fennel seed
bread, as is done in Iraq. In Greece, after a meal as a breath-freshener and
leaves or seeds are combined with feta digestive aid.

Bronze fennel F. v. Purpureum


This is a less vigorous plant than green fennel Leaves
and has a milder aroma and flavor. Only young fennel
leaves are suitable for
Seeds use in the kitchen.
Fennel seed has a stronger flavor than They have a mild taste
the leaves and a bittersweet aftertaste. and are best used
Dry-roasting the seed brings out the soon after picking.
sweetness. Seed color varies
from light brown to greenish
yellowthe latter is the
best quality. Store
seeds and grind
them as needed.
66 MINTY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Spearmint is mellow and
refreshing, with a sweet-sharp,
Mint
pleasantly pungent flavor Mentha species
backed by hints of lemon.
Peppermint has pronounced One of the most popular flavors in the world, mint is at
menthol notes and a fiery
bite, yet is also slightly sweet, once cooling and warming, with a sweet fragrance. Native
tangy, and spicy with a fresh,
cool aftertaste. to southern Europe and the Mediterranean, mints have long
naturalized throughout the temperate world. They hybridize
easily, leading to some confusion in their naming, but for the
PARTS USED cook they broadly divide into two groups: spearmint and
Leaves, fresh and dried; peppermint (pp.6869).
flowers for salads
and garnishes.
Fresh leaves
The most widely grown mint, spearmint or garden
mint (M. spicata), has pointed leaves and bears lilac
BUYING / STORING flowers in late summer. This mint and its cultivated
Bunches of fresh spearmint varieties suit all recipes calling for mint. Leaves can be
will keep for 2 days in a glass picked thoughout the growing season, but are best
of water in the kitchen, or in harvested shortly before flowering, when the essential
the refrigerator. Leaves can be oils are at their strongest. The aroma of mints is due to
chopped and frozen in small menthol, which also leaves cooling and mild
containers or mixed with a little numbing sensations in the mouth.
water or oil and frozen in ice
cube trays. Mint dries well;
pick before flowering and
hang bunches in a dry, airy
place, or dry sprigs in a
low oven or microwave.
Store dried mint in an
airtight container.

GROW YOUR OWN


Mints are perennial plants and
are easy to grow. They prefer
partial shade or full sun, and
need lots of water. They have a
spreading habit, so unless you
have space for mint to run wild
it is best to grow it in a pot.
Otherwise, plant in a large,
bottomless pot or bucket.
MINTY HERBS MINT Mentha species 67

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Mint has many uses worldwide. Fresh and dried mints are not usually Essential to sauce paloise
and mint sauce.
used interchangeably in recipes. Good with root vegetables,
tomatoes, eggplant, lamb,
FRESH MINT America, mint is combined with chili zucchini, cucumber, yogurt,
Western cooks use mint to flavor peppers, parsley, and oregano as a dark chocolate.
carrots, eggplant, peas, potatoes, flavoring for slow-cooked dishes; Combines well with basil,
tomatoes, and zucchini. Mint goes Mexicans use a little with meatballs cardamom, cloves, cumin, dill,
well with chicken, pork, veal, and the and chicken. fenugreek, ginger, marjoram,
traditional spring lamb, whether as a Mints refreshing effect enhances fruit oregano, paprika, parsley,
salads, fruit punches, and, of course, a pepper, sumac, thyme.
marinade, mint jelly, mint sauce, or a
salsa. Sauce paloise (a barnaise sauce mint julep. It makes a surprisingly good
made with mint instead of tarragon) is iced parfait, and minty notes are a
a good accompaniment to grilled fish welcome addition to several kinds of
and chicken. chocolate desserts and cakes.
In the Middle East, mint is essential
DRIED MINT
to tabbouleh and is part of the bowl of
fresh herbs and salad vegetables that Around the eastern Mediterranean and
accompanies mezze. In Vietnam, it is in the Arab countries, dried mint is often
added to salads and to platters of preferred to fresh. In Greece, dried mint,
herbs that accompany spring rolls. sometimes with oregano and cinnamon,
Mint also finds its way into Southeast- seasons keftedes (meatballs) and the
Asian dipping sauces, sambals, and filling for grape leaves; the Cypriots use
curries. The cooling notes of mint it for their Easter cheesecakes, called
make it the perfect herb for chilled flaounes. Cacik, the Turkish cucumber
Iranian yogurt and cucumber soup, and yogurt salad, is best with dried mint.
and the Indians emphasize its A teaspoon of dried mint, quickly fried in
refreshing qualities in chutneys and a little olive oil or clarified butter and
raitas. Indian cooks also use the added just before serving, imparts a fine,
freshness of mint to counter the lively aroma to some Turkish and Iranian
warmth of spices in vegetable and dishes. Try it with lentil and bean soups,
meat dishes. In much of South and lamb or vegetable stews.

DRIED LEAVES
Spearmint is the dried mint most commonly
found commercially. The aroma is pungent and
concentrated but lacks the sweetness of fresh.
68 MINTY HERBS

Other mints
Spearmint and its relatives are the most important mints for the cook.
Peppermint and its related varieties are too pungent for most culinary
uses and are used primarily to flavor confectionery and toothpaste.
Fresh or dried, mint has long been prized for its digestive properties,
which helps explain its popularity in the yogurt drinks of Turkey, Iran,
and India; sweet Moroccan mint tea served in small glasses; or French
tisanes of mint or lime flowers and mint (tilleul-menthe).

Moroccan mint Bowles mint


M. spicata Moroccan M. x villosa f. alopecuroides
This mint has bright green leaves and white This mint has soft, furry,
flowers. It is prized for its fine, spicy aroma round leaves and spikes
and is less sweet than spearmint. It is used of lilac flowers. It
in tea and for all minted dishes. wilts rapidly after
cutting. It has a fine
flavor but the leaves
should be chopped finely
to eliminate the furry
texture. Use for all dishes
requiring mint.

Apple mint M. suaveolens


Apple mint has wrinkled leaves, and the whole plant is downy.
Dense flowerspikes are pale pink. The plant smells subtly
of mint combined with ripe apple and has a good flavor. The
leaves have an unattractive texture and are best shredded.
MINTY HERBS MINT Mentha species 69

OTHER MINTS
Peppermint M. x piperita This mint Pineapple mint M. s. Variegata Field mint, corn mint M. arvensis
is a hybrid of spearmint and water Smaller than apple mint, this mint This mint has downy, gray-green
mint. A vigorous plant with tall stems has light green leaves edged with leaves and whorls of pink flowers
and long, green, slightly hairy leaves. cream. Young leaves have a tropical on the stem. Pungently aromatic
Rather strident and pungent. Use fruit aroma; older leaves are more but fairly mild in flavor, it is often
sparingly for desserts, cooling drinks, minty. Use young leaves to flavor used in Southeast-Asian cooking.
and fresh or dried for teas. Grown salads, cool drinks, and fruit desserts. It has a high menthol content.
commercially for its oil. English pennyroyal M. pulegium
Basil mint M. x piperita citrata Basil
Tashkent mint M. s. Tashkent The leaves of this mint are dark green There are upright and creeping
This cultivated variety has large with a purple tinge; they have a spicy varieties of this plant. It smells very
leaves and deep pink flowers. It scent with light notes of basil. Good strongly of peppermint and has an
has an intense aroma and flavor. with eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini. intense, bitter flavor. I recommend
Use as spearmint. using it with caution.

Chocolate mint M. x piperita citrata Chocolate


This mint has dark green to purple leaves and a scent of after-
dinner chocolate mints. Good for chocolate desserts and
as a garnish for ice creams and sorbets.

Black peppermint M. x piperita piperita Mountain mint Pycnanthemum pilosa


This hybrid mint has deep purple stems, dark green This graceful plant is not a true mint, but young leaves and
leaves tinged with purple, and a fine if pungent aroma. buds can be used as a mint substitute. Native to the eastern
Use as peppermint. US, it smells and tastes of mint but is more bitter.
70 MINTY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
The whole plant smells warm
and minty with notes of thyme
Calamint
and camphor; the taste is Calamintha species
pleasantly pungent, warm,
minty, and peppery with a light These aromatic, perennial plants deserve to be better known.
bitterness in the aftertaste.
Lesser calamint has a stronger For the cook, lesser calamint (C. nepeta), also called nepitella
odor and flavor than large-
flowered calamint. or mountain balm, is the most rewarding. Common calamint
(C. sylvatica) is less fragrant but can be used in the same way.
Large-flowered calamint (C. grandiflora) is a striking plant
PARTS USED sometimes called showy savory; the leaves are used for teas.
Leaves and sprigs; flowers The calamints are related to savory.
for garnishes and salads.

Culinary uses
BUYING / STORING Lesser calamint is a favorite flavoring in Sicily and Sardinia,
as well as in Tuscany where it is popular with vegetables and
Calamint is not available as a
especially in mushroom dishes. The Turks use it as a mild form
cut herb, but specialist nurseries
stock plants. In North America, of mint. It is good with roasts, stews, game, and grilled fish; in
calamint is often available under stuffings for vegetables and meat; and in marinades and sauces.
the name nepitella. Sprigs will Fresh leaves are best for cooking; dried leaves are used for teas.
be good for 12 days if kept in Large-flowered calamint has big, slightly floppy leaves.
a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Tie stalks in bundles to dry and
hang in a well-ventilated place.
Fresh sprigs
Lesser calamint is a bushy plant
with downy, grayish foliage. It
bears small, lilac or white flowers
GROW YOUR OWN
throughout the summer.
Calamint prefers an alkaline,
well-drained soil and full sun,
although it will tolerate partial
shade. It can be propagated by
division or grown from seed.
Large-flowered calamint makes
a handsome garden plant; all
are attractive to bees. Leaves
may be harvested from spring
to late summer.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with beans, eggplant,
fish, green vegetables, lentils,
mushrooms, pork, potatoes,
rabbit.
Combines well with bay, chili,
garlic, mint, myrtle, oregano,
parsley, pepper, sage, thyme.
MINTY HERBS CATNIP Nepeta cataria 71

Catnip TASTING NOTES


When bruised, catnip
leaves release a sweet,
Nepeta cataria minty, camphorous aroma;
the taste is also pungently
The names catnip and catmint are used interchangeably, and mintlike with an acrid,
bitter note. Use sparingly.
catmint is also used for some of the ornamental species of
Nepeta. Native to the Caucasus and southern Europe, this
attractive plant is now widely cultivated in many temperate PARTS USED
regions, as well as being found in the wild. The mintlike odor Leaves and sprigs.
induces a state of bliss in cats, but only if the leaves have
been bruised and the aroma released.
BUYING / STORING
Plants are available from
Culinary uses garden centers and specialized
Catnip was a more important culinary herb in the past than nurseries. Sprigs will keep for a
it is today, although it is still used in Italy, in salads, soups, day or two in a plastic bag in
the vegetable crisper of
egg dishes, and stuffings for vegetables. A few of the sharply the refrigerator.
flavored leaves certainly give zest to a green or mixed herb
salad. The robust flavor also goes well with fatty meats like
duck and pork. It is widely used as an herbal tea. GROW YOUR OWN
Catnip is a perennial that
Fresh sprigs is easy to grow from seed, and
Catnips gray-green, heart-shaped
left to seed it self-seeds readily.
It grows best in partial shade
leaves are covered by a white down;
and needs very little attention.
the flowers are white to lavender, It is as attractive to bees
dotted with red spots. as it is to cats. Leaves can
be harvested throughout
the spring and summer.
72 ONIONY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Raw, dried garlic is pungent
and hot; green garlic is milder.
Garlic
The disulfate allicin is formed Allium sativum
when raw garlic is cut, and this
accounts for the smell that raw Garlic is native to the steppes of central Asia and spread first
garlic leaves on the breath.
Cooking garlic degrades the to the Middle East. It was one of the earliest cultivated herbs,
allicin, but forms other disulfates
that have less odor. Black garlic but its early use was mainly medical and magicalexcept in
was first used in Korean cooking ancient Egypt where it was eaten in quantity. When the first
and in recent years it has become
popular in the West. The heads English settlers took it to America, it was still regarded as a
are gently heated for several medicinal herb. Today it is recognized for lowering blood
weeks to achieve a blackened
appearance. The slow heating pressure and cholesterol, but its culinary use has become
caramelizes the garlic, the flesh is
soft, almost jellied and the flavor vastly more important.
is mellow, balsamic, and slightly
nutty. Use as fresh garlic.

PARTS USED
Fresh heads
At the beginning of the growing season,
Bulbs. heads of new green garlic are succulent and
mild, and have a soft, thick, white skin.

BUYING / STORING
Garlic is available all year
round. Choose unbruised,
firm heads without signs of
mold or sprouting. If your
garlic is sprouting, remove
the indigestible green shoots.
Store garlic in a cool, dry
place. Dehydrated garlic
flakes, granules, and powder
are available, as are garlic paste,
extract and juice. Smoked garlic
is chic but not especially useful.
ONIONY HERBS GARLIC Allium sativum 73

Culinary uses GROW YOUR OWN


If crushed with the flat blade of a green garlic can be used in summer Garlic is propagated by
the cloves. It grows best
heavy knife, dried garlic cloves are vegetable stews without peeling. In in rich, moist soil in a
easy to peel. Once peeled, garlic Spain, young garlic shoots are fried sunny position. Perennial
can be pounded in a mortar. Avoid for tapas. Raw garlic flavors salads, is or biennial, it is extremely hardy
garlic presses because they can make rubbed over bread with tomato and and survives long periods of
the taste unpleasantly acrid. oil, and is pounded with egg yolks and cold. Harvest when the tops dry
Garlic can be used to enhance oil to make aoli or, with nuts and basil, out and begin to collapse. Pull up
the whole plant and hang in the
the flavor of many foods. Whole pesto. In Asia, where the consumption shade to dry. As harvested garlic
cloves cooked slowly have a mellow, of garlic far exceeds that of the dries, the skin becomes papery
nutty taste; cut garlic is more pungent, Mediterranean countries, its and the flavor intensifies.
even when cooked. Similarly, a whole companions are lemongrass, fresh
clove gently sauted in oil and then ginger, cilantro, chili peppers, and
removed will leave a delicate flavor: soy sauce. Garlic is used in stir-fried
a minced clove leaves a much stronger dishes, curry pastes, sambals, and FLAVOR PAIRINGS
one. Never let garlic burn or it will nam prik. In Cuba, it is combined Essential to many sauces
develop a bitter, acrid taste. Garlic with cumin and citrus juice to make (aoli, allioli, skordalia, rouille,
roasted whole can accompany new the ubiquitous table sauces called tarator, pesto).
potatoes or root vegetables. In mojos. Garlic can also be steeped in oil Good with almost
European cooking, garlic is roasted for a few days, and in vinegar for at anything savory.
with chicken or lamb; braised in wine; least two weeks. In Korea and Russia, Combines well with most
pured, blanched, or sauted. Young, garlic makes a much-loved pickle. herbs and spices.

Dried cloves
Dried cloves of garlic may
have a white, pink, or violet
skin, depending on variety.
Garlic was one of the rst herbs to be cultivated. Although
its strong taste and smell were disliked by many, its medical
and magical properties were never in doubt. Its culinary use
is greatest in Southeast Asia and Europe.
76 ONIONY HERBS

Garlic varieties
Several plants have aromatic qualities similar
to those of garlic. Slender rocambole is actually
related to the leek. European wild garlic,or
ramsons, comes closest to garlic in taste and
has the advantage that it can be gathered
early in spring. The huge cloves of elephant
garlic (A. ampeloprasum) may be too mild
for real garlic aficionados, but they are good
roasted with other vegetables. North American
wild garlic (A. canadense) has a flavor between
garlic and leek.

Rocambole A. s. var. ophioscorodon


Also called serpent garlic or sandleek, rocambole grows wild in
southern Europe. The stalks turn into spirals and twirl as they mature, and
the mauve flowers give way to purple bulbils. All parts can be used: early
in the year the new, slender, pointed leaves as chives, and in summer the
pea-sized bulbils and bulbs as a milder substitute for garlic.

Ramsons A. ursinum
Ramsons grow wild in much of Europe. The leaves resemble
those of lily-of-the-valley, but with the smell of wild garlic; the
flavor is milder than the smell. They are easy to cultivate, but
invasive. Leaves are picked in late winter and early spring, and
are best used fresh to garnish potato and egg dishes, in soups
and creamy sauces, cooked briefly with spinach, or wrapped
around fish fillets before steaming. American wild leek,
(A. tricoccum) grows from Canada to South Carolina.
Its other name ramps, derives from ramsons,
and it can be used in the same ways
as ramsons.
ONIONY HERBS WELSH ONION Allium stulosum 77

Welsh onion TASTING NOTES


Welsh onions have only
a faint onion aroma when
Allium fistulosum cut. The onion flavor is
pronounced if rather mild.
Despite their name, Welsh onions are
native to Siberia. Also called Japanese
bunching onions or Japanese leeks, they PARTS USED
are Asias largest onion crop. Western White stems (the slightly
bulbous leaf bases), and
cookbooks usually refer to them as bunching green leaves.
onions, but in books on Asian cooking they
are most often called scallions, a name we
often give to spring onions (A. cepa), BUYING / STORING
which do resemble them but have a Welsh onions are sold in Asian
grocery stores; avoid any that
different taste. look wilted and yellowed. To
grow, buy seeds or plants from
a nursery. Keep onions, well
Culinary uses wrapped, in the vegetable
drawer of the refrigerator
Welsh onions are used as a flavoring for about a week.
and as a vegetable. They are essential to Asian
cooking, often in combination with garlic and
ginger. They are used with meats, fish, seafood,
and poultry, finding a place in many soups, GROW YOUR OWN
stews, and braises. They are usually added at Welsh onions are perennials
the end of the cooking process, even in stir- and are grown from seed in
frying, to preserve their color and crunchy well-drained, fertile soil,
texture. Chopped fine, they can be added to sometimes in stages for a
continuing crop. They are non-
Western stews or potato and legume dishes,
bulbing, producing only a slight
again shortly before the end of cooking. Raw, swelling at the base, but like
they can be used as a substitute for scallions. most alliums multiply in
clumps, which should be split
occasionally. Harvest plants
after 56 weeks, when they are
about 10in (25cm) high. The
Fresh stems Welsh onion has round, hollow
Asian varieties of the Welsh onion leaves, whereas scallions have
are stronger in flavor than those flatter leaves.
grown elsewhere. While most
of them are green, some varieties
have red stems.
FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with eggs, fish and
seafood, meat, poultry,
most vegetables.
Combines well with chervil,
chili, cilantro, galangal,
garlic, ginger, lemongrass,
parsley, perilla.
78 ONIONY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
All parts of chives have a
light, onion aroma and
Chives
a spicy, onion flavor. Allium schoenoprasum
This smallest and most delicately flavored member
PARTS USED of the onion family originated in northern temperate
Stems and flowers. zones. Chives have long grown wild all over Europe
and North America, but widespread cultivation in
Europe does not seem to have begun until the later
BUYING / STORING Middle Ages. The herb became popular only in the
Buy a clump from a nursery and 19th century.
divide the small bulbs as needed
to guarantee a sufficient supply.
Drying chives is pointless, but
chopped and frozen they retain Culinary uses
their flavor tolerably well. Use Chives should never be cooked,
straight from the freezer. since cooking quickly dissipates
their taste. Chopped with a knife or
with scissors, they can be added in
generous measure to many dishes
GROW YOUR OWN
and salads. Their delicate onion
Chives grow as grasslike clumps flavor, crunchy texture, and fresh
of hollow, bright green stems, green appearance livens up potato
with small, spherical, pink to
purple flowerheads. They are salad and many a soup, and lends
perennials, easy to grow in any an equally upbeat note to any herb
garden soil, but they must be sauce. It has become traditional to
watered well because the small serve chives with butter or sour
bulbous roots remain very near cream as a dressing for baked
the surface. Propagate by potatoes. Stirred into thick yogurt,
division. The plants die back in
winter, but reappear very early chives make a fresh relish for
in spring. They should be cut, grilled fish. The attractive, bright
not pulled, preferably the outer flowers have a pleasant, light, onion
ones first to keep the clump neat. taste and look good scattered over
Always leave some top growth herb salads or added to omelettes.
on the clumps to preserve the
strength of the bulbs.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Fresh stems
Essential to fines herbes.
Chives should be crisp,
Good with avocados, cream not floppy. Use quickly
cheese, egg dishes, fish and
after cutting.
seafood, potatoes, smoked
salmon, root vegetables,
yogurt, zucchini.
Combines well with basil,
chervil, cilantro, fennel, paprika,
parsley, sweet cicely, tarragon.
ONIONY HERBS GARLIC CHIVES Allium tuberosum 79

Garlic chives TASTING NOTES


Leaves and flowers have a
stronger, more distinct garlic
Allium tuberosum taste than those of ordinary
chives; blanched leaves are
Garlic or Chinese chives are native to central and milder. The taste is stronger in
the flowers than in the leaves.
northern Asia, but grow also in subtropical China,
India, and Indonesia. Records of the use of chives in
China go back thousands of years. The plants have flat PARTS USED
leaves rather than the hollow stems of ordinary chives, Leaves and flowerbuds.
and the starlike flowers are white.

BUYING / STORING
Culinary uses
Specialty markets sell the
Cut into short lengths, garlic chives vegetable. In China and Japan, the chives in bundles, and
can be quickly blanched to accompany flowers are ground and salted to make blanched chives and the stiff
pork or poultry. They are used in a spice. Blanched chives are a popular flowerbud stems in smaller
spring rolls and added at the last but expensive delicacy; they are stirred bundles. Once cut, chives wilt
minute for pungency in stir-fried into soups, noodle dishes, and steamed quicklyblanched garlic chives
fastest of all. Green chives
dishes of beef, shrimp, tofu, and vegetables at the last minute. Flower
will keep for a few days in a
many vegetables. Little bundles can stems and leaves of garlic chives plastic bag in the refrigerator,
be dipped in batter and deep-fried. placed inside a bottle of white but the smell is strong.
The flowerbuds, sold separately on wine vinegar soon give it
their stems, are a much-prized a light garlic flavor.

GROW YOUR OWN


Leaves and flower stems Garlic chives are robust; in
Bright green leaves, pale, blanched warm climates they stay green
leaves, and bud stems are sold in all winter. The plants are taller
specialty markets. than ordinary chives but tend to
form neater and smaller clumps.
They do not produce real bulbs
and propagation is by the
rhizome. Leaves can be cut for
use at any time. Sometimes the
plants are cut back and kept in
the dark: the pale yellow shoots
produced by this blanching are a
prized delicacy. Flowers are
harvested as buds, on the stems.
80 BITTER OR ASTRINGENT HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Cutting celery leaves have an
herbaceous, parsleylike aroma
Celery
and taste combined with warmth Apium graveolens
and a bitter note. Chinese celery
is similar in flavor. Water celery Wild celery is an ancient European plant from which garden
has a fresh taste; parsley notes
are more dominant than celerys celery and celery root were bred in the 17th century. Cutting
warm bitterness.
or leaf celery, also called smallage, resembles the original
wild celery. Chinese celery is mid-green with leaves similar
to those of garden celery. The unrelated water or Vietnamese
PARTS USED
celery (Oenanthe javanica) has upright stalks with small,
Leaves, stalks, and fruits (seeds)
serrated leaves; do not confuse it with the poisonous
European water dropwort (O. crocata).
BUYING / STORING
Cutting celery and leaves of Cutting celery A. graveolens
garden celery can be kept for 45
Cutting celery looks like a dark green, glossy
days. Chinese celery is often sold
with its roots and will last for a version of flat-leaf parsley. It produces an
week if kept whole. Water celery abundance of leaves on erect stems to
keeps for 12 days. Store them all form a bushy plant.
in plastic bags in the vegetable
crisper of the refrigerator. Seed in
an airtight container will remain
aromatic for up to 2 years.

GROW YOUR OWN


Celerys natural habitat is
marshland, but it is easily grown
from seed in the garden in
moisture-retentive soil; seed of
cutting celery can be obtained
from specialized suppliers. Harvest
leaves throughout the growing
season. Water celery grows wild
in Southeast Asia; if you can find
a plant, keep it in a pot because it
spreads quickly. Water frequently.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with cabbage, chicken,
cucumber, fish, potatoes, rice,
soy sauce, tomatoes, tofu.
Combines well with cilantro,
Seeds
cloves, cumin, ginger, mustard, Celery seed has an aroma and taste that
parsley, pepper, turmeric. is much more pronounced than that of the
parent plant. It is penetrating, spicy, with hints
of nutmeg, citrus, and parsley and it leaves
a somewhat bitter, burning aftertaste.
BITTER OR ASTRINGENT HERBS CELERY Apium graveolens 81

Culinary uses
Cutting celery is used in Holland, dishes, rice, and noodles throughout The Japanese use it for sukiyaki.
Belgium, and Germany as a garnish Southeast Asia. I have also enjoyed a It also flavors tomato salad.
or is stirred into dishes before very good Thai dish of fish steamed The Russians and Scandinavians
serving. It is one of the herbs used with Chinese celery. add the seeds to soups, and a
for the traditional dish of eel in green Garden celery and celery root are few lightly crushed seeds give
sauce. In northern France, it is sold eaten raw or cooked as vegetables, a pleasant warmth to dressings
as a soup herb; in Greece, it is but you can also use their leaves as for winter vegetable salads. Indian
popular in fish and meat casseroles. a flavoring. Cooking tempers the cooks also pair celery seed with
Cutting celery is useful because you bitterness of all types of celery, but tomato in curries. Try seeds in
can pick leaves to add to bouquets they retain their other aromatic potato salad, in cabbage dishes,
garnis, soups, and stews, instead of properties. Water celery, with its in stews, and in breads. Because
having to use a celery stalk. mild taste, is very popular in Vietnam they are so small, celery seeds are
Chinese celery is used as a as a salad herb, or lightly cooked, usually used whole. The flavor is
flavoring and as a vegetable. It is when it is added to soups, fish, and strong, so use sparingly. Celery salt
rarely eaten raw. Stalks are sliced chicken dishes. Thais use it in a is a mixture of ground seed and
and used in stir-fried dishes; leaves similar way and serve it raw with salt, usually about 75 percent salt
and stalks flavor soups, braised larp or blanched with nam prik. and 25 percent seed.

Chinese celery
A. graveolens
Chinese celery (kun choi)
looks like a small head of
green garden celery. The
stalks are thin and hollow.
82 BITTER OR ASTRINGENT HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Lovage is strongly aromatic,
somewhat similar to celery
Lovage
(in French it is called cleri Levisticum officinale
btard, or false celery) but more
pungent, with musky overtones Lovage is native to western Asia and southern Europe,
and notes of anise, lemon, and
yeast. The aroma and taste are where it has been used since Roman times; outside Europe
distinct and tenacious.
its use has never become popular. Wild and cultivated forms
are indistinguishable, and the herb has long been naturalized
elsewhereeven in Australia. In Italy, it is chiefly associated
PARTS USED
with Liguriathe name levisticum may be a corruption of
Leaves, stems, roots, seeds.
ligusticum, or Ligurian. The Pilgrim Fathers are believed to
have taken lovage to North America.
BUYING / STORING
Seeds and ground, dried Fresh stems
roots can be bought from some Lovage is a tall, stately umbellifer with rather
spice stores. Cut lovage is large, dark-green, toothed leaves and ridged,
seldom sold, but you can easily hollow stems. The small but attractive yellow
grow your own; buy seeds or flowers bloom in late summer, then give way
plants from an herb nursery. to huge heads of seeds.
Pick leaves at any time; they
will keep for 34 days in a
plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Cut off stems at the base, the
outer ones first. As the seeds
turn brown, pick fruiting stems
and hang upside-down to dry,
with a paper bag over the
seedheads. These will keep
for a year or two.

GROW YOUR OWN


This perennial herb can
be grown from seed or by
division. It does equally well in
shade or sun, but its deep roots
need moist, fertile, well-drained
soil. The plant dies down in
winter but is extremely hardy.
BITTER OR ASTRINGENT HERBS LOVAGE Levisticum ofcinale 83

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Lovage can be used as celery or used in seafood chowders. They are Good with apples, carrots,
corn, cream cheese, egg
parsley in almost any dish, but is good in green salads; older leaves dishes, ham, lamb, legumes,
much stronger than either of these liven up bean or potato dishes and mushrooms, onions, pork,
and should be used with caution. are good in stuffings for poultry. potatoes and other root
Its pungency diminishes in cooking. A lovage-flavored potato and vegetables, rice, smoked fish,
Leaves, chopped stems, and roots rutabaga gratin is worth trying, as tomatoes, tuna, zucchini.
work well in casseroles, soups, and are potato cakes with lovage and Combines well with bay,
stews. In some diets it may be an Cheddar or Gruyre, and creamy caraway, chili, chives, dill, garlic,
juniper, oregano, parsley, thyme.
advantage that lovage can be used baked vegetable dishes with lovage.
as a salt substitute. Young leaves Whole or ground seeds can be used
make a good simple soup, on their in pickles, sauces, marinades, breads,
own or with potato, carrot, or and crackers. The hollow stems can OTHER LOVAGES
Jerusalem artichoke, and are often be blanched to use as a vegetable.
Scots lovage (Ligusticum
scoticum) is native to the
northern temperate region.
It does not grow as tall as
Seeds L. officinale and is less pungent;
The tiny, ridged seeds (fruits) are it has white rather than yellow
aromatic and have a taste similar flowers. Use in the same ways
to that of the leaves, but with added
as lovage.
warmth and a hint of clove. Black lovage (Smyrnium
olusatrum), or alexanders, is
another tall umbellifer grown in
southern and western Europe
from antiquity and was
cultivated in monastery gardens
from the Middle Ages.Much
Dried leaves loved in Elizabethan fish and
Whether dried or
seafood dishes, it was taken to
North America in the 16th
frozen, the leaves retain
century. It is almost as easy to
most of their strength; grow as lovage, looks much like
dried leaves are more it, and all parts can be used in
yeasty and celery-like the same way. Crushed seeds
than fresh ones. are now often added to vodka
as a flavoring.
84 BITTER OR ASTRINGENT HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Hyssop has a strong and pleasant
aroma of camphor and mint. The
Hyssop
taste of the dark green leaves is Hyssopus officinalis
refreshing but potent, hot, minty,
and bitterishreminiscent of Hyssop is a low, perennial shrub, semi-woody and semi-
rosemary, savory, and thyme.
evergreen, that is native to northern Africa, southern Europe,
and western Asia. It is a handsome, compact plant that has
PARTS USED long been naturalized in central and western Europe. The
Leaves and young shoots; Romans used it as a base for an herbal wine, and it was
flowers. cultivated as a condiment and a strewing herb in monastic
gardens during the early Middle Ages.

BUYING / STORING
In a plastic bag in the vegetable Culinary uses
crisper of the refrigerator Hyssop leaves and young shoots drinks, digestives, and liqueurs. It is
hyssop will keep for about can be used in salads (for which the very good in fruit pies and compotes,
a week.
flowers can make a robust garnish) and with sherbets and desserts made
or added to soups. The herb is using assertively flavored fruits such
particularly good in rabbit, kid, and as apricots, morello cherries,
GROW YOUR OWN game stews; rubbing it onto fatty peaches, and raspberries. A sugar
meats such as lamb can make them syrup made for a fruit dish will
Hyssop grows well from easier to digest. It has long been benefit from boiling with a sprig
seed but can also be divided
or propagated by cuttings. used to flavor nonalcoholic summer of hyssop.
It likes dry, rocky, well-drained
soils, needs sun but tolerates
shade. Every 3 years or so, Fresh sprigs
hyssop plants should be Hyssop should be used sparingly
divided or they will become or it will overwhelm other flavors.
too woody. Because hyssop is
virtually evergreen, its leaves
can be picked nearly year-
round. The long, dense
flowerspikes that appear in late
summer are attractive to bees.
Their color depends on the
variety grown: H. o. albus has
white flowers; H .o. subsp.
aristatus, dark blue ones;
H. o. roseus, pink.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with apricots, beets,
cabbage, carrots, egg dishes,
game, legumes, mushrooms, Leaves
peaches, winter squashes. Both leaves and flowers
Combines well with bay, retain much of their strength
chervil, mint, parsley, thyme. when dried. The tiny flowers
have a more delicate flavor
than the leaves.
BITTER OR ASTRINGENT HERBS CHICORY Cichorium intybus 85

Chicory TASTING NOTES


Chicory has no smell. It has a
milky white juice containing
Cichorium intybus inulin, which accounts for the
bitter tastequite pleasant
Chicory is a tall herbaceous perennial, native to the in the crisp, young leaves but
harsh in old ones. The flowers
Mediterranean basin and Asia Minor. The modern are not at all bitter.
cultivated forms originated in 16th-century Europe. In
time they gave rise to two very different forced forms: in
the late 18th century the Dutch grew the roots for use as PARTS USED
a cheaper substitute for coffeeas an additive without Young green leaves; flowers.

caffeine it remains popular in Belgium, France, Germany,


and the US; in 1845, the Belgians developed the blanched
BUYING / STORING
form grown under soil or sawdust that we still know as
Seeds and plants can usually
Belgian endive or witloof. be bought from an herb
nursery. Leaves will keep
in a plastic bag in the vegetable
Culinary uses crisper of the refrigerator for 23
days. Flowers need to be
Young leaves are used in salads; the edible Fresh leaves used immediately.
flowers can also be added to salads as cheerful Chicory grows wild in
decoration. Older leaves benefit from quick much of Europe and
blanching and are then used in cooked dishes North America. In the
they are not appetizing in salads. garden it can reach GROW YOUR OWN
3 ft (1 m) or more by
Chicory is easily grown from
flowering time. seed in almost any water-
retentive but reasonably well-
drained soil that allows
penetration by the very long
taproots. The light green leaves
are large at the base, smaller on
the upper, branching stems. The
large, light blue, daisylike
flowers, which last only a day or
so and close in the midday sun,
appear all through the summer
and early fall. Suppressing the
flower stems early encourages
leaf growth.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with fresh cheeses,
lettuce and other salad
greens, nuts.
Combines well with chervil,
cilantro, cresses, parsley,
purslane, salad burnet,
sweet cicely.
86 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
The basic taste is warm, slightly
sharp, and bitterish with a note
Oregano and marjoram
of camphor. To this, marjoram Origanum species
adds a sweet, subtle spiciness,
even in temperate climates. Low, bushy perennials of the mint family, the marjorams
Oregano is more robust and
peppery, with a bite and often and oreganos are native to the Mediterranean and western
a lemony note. These qualities
diminish in colder climates. Asia. The plants are often confused, partly because marjoram
used to have its own genus, Majorana, but also because the
word oregano is often used simply as a term for a certain
PARTS USED type of flavor and aroma. Thus, unrelated plants with a
Leaves, flowerknots. similar aromatic profile may also be called oregano.

BUYING / STORING
Marjoram and oregano plants
can be bought from herb Common oregano
nurseries and supermarkets. O. vulgare
To dry the herbs, pick stems
This plant has reddish stems that are
after the flowerbuds form
slightly woody; the leaves are mid-
and hang bunches in a well-
ventilated, dry place. Rub the green and hairy underneath; the
leaves off and store them flowers deep pink, white,
in an airtight container. In or mauve.
supermarkets oregano is more
easily available dried than fresh.
Dried oregano keeps for a year.

GROW YOUR OWN


Most varieties are upright
bushes with woody stems.
They can be grown from seed
or propagated by division.
They need well-drained soil
and much sun. Cutting back
plants before winter prevents
them from growing straggly.
Leaves can be picked freely
at any time; harvest for drying
just after the flowerbuds form.
Although perennial, marjoram
is often grown as an annual in
cooler climates.

Dried leaves
Dried marjoram and oregano are
more intensely aromatic than fresh
and have a stronger flavor. Several
varieties of oregano are sold dried
under the Greek name rigani.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS OREGANO AND MARJORAM Origanum species 87

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Oregano has become an essential marinades, vegetable stews, even Good with anchovies,
artichokes, beans, cabbage,
ingredient in much Italian cooking, hamburgers. It will also flavor oils carrots, cauliflower, cheese
especially for pasta sauces, pizza, and and vinegars. dishes, chicken, corn, duck,
roasted vegetables. For the Greeks The more delicate flavor of eggplant, eggs, fish and
it is the favorite herb for souvlaki, marjoram is easily lost in cooking, shellfish, lamb, mushrooms,
baked fish, and Greek salad. In so it should be added only at the last onions, pork, potatoes,
Mexico, it is a key flavoring for bean moment. It is good in salads, egg poultry, spinach, squash,
sweet peppers, tomatoes,
dishes, burrito and taco fillings, and dishes, and mushroom sauces, with veal, venison.
salsas. Throughout Spain and Latin fish and poultry. It makes more
Combines well with basil,
America, it is used for meat stews and delicate stuffings than oregano. Fresh, bay, chili, cumin, garlic,
roasts, soups, and baked vegetables. it makes a great sorbet. Use leaves paprika, parsley, rosemary,
Combined with paprika, cumin, and and flowerknots in salads, and with sage, sumac, (lemon) thyme.
chili powder it flavors Tex-Mex chile mozzarella and other young cheeses.
con carne and other meat stews. Its Sprigs of either marjoram or oregano
strong flavor works well with grills placed on the coals of a grill give a fine
and in stuffings, hearty soups, flavor to whatever is cooked on top.

Sweet marjoram O. majorana


This pretty plant, also called knotted marjoram, has gray-green,
slightly hairy leaves and clusters of white flowers. Its taste is
more delicate and somewhat sweeter than that of common
oregano and it does not lend itself to long cooking.
88 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

Oreganos and marjorams


In addition to common oregano and sweet marjoram, there are many other
varieties and plants of other species with similar characteristics. The flavor
of oregano depends on the relative concentration of the phenols carvacrol
and thymol in the volatile oil of the plants. Carvacrol is primarily responsible
for the typical oregano flavor; its level is generally highest in Greek and
some Mexican oreganos.

Cretan dittany O. dictamnus Pot marjoram O. onites


Also called hop marjoram and native only to Crete Sometimes called Sicilian marjoram but native to
and southern Greece, this plant grows less tall than Greece and Asia Minor, this is a dwarf shrub with
most other varieties and has thick, silvery foliage and light green, downy leaves and white or pink flowers.
deep pink flowers. Its flavor is very similar to that A close relative of sweet marjoram, it is less sweet
of sweet marjoram. It goes well with grilled fish. and more piquant.

Greek or Turkish oregano


O. heracleoticum (O. v. hirtum)
Also called winter marjoram, this plant is native to
southeastern Europe and western Asia. In Turkey,
it is sometimes labeled black oregano because of its
dark green, almost black color. It has small, white
flowers and a more peppery note than most oreganos.
It is the species most widely cultivated in Greece and
Turkey and the most important economically, being
the source for much of the dried oregano sold in
Europe and North America.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS OREGANO AND MARJORAM Origanum species 89

OTHER OREGANOS
There are a number of unrelated cuttings and like partial shade. Also yellow-green with brown markings
plants used and sold as oregano. marketed as oregano are Poliomintha in the center (p.176), can be bought
longiflora and Monarda fistulosa var. from Iranian markets, as can the
Cuban oregano (Plectranthus
menthifolia. These grow in the powdered spice. Golpar has a
amboinicus) is a tender perennial with
southwestern US and Mexico, where herbaceous, balsam aroma with yeasty
an intense flavor, native to southern
they are prized for their pungent overtones. The taste is mellow at first
Africa, now widely cultivated in the
flavors. Cumin and cilantro are their but has a persistent bitter note. When
tropics. Its pungent, thick leaves are
natural partners in the kitchen. cooked, mellowness dominates.
good to eat raw; they are much used in
It is used in soups, particularly lentil
the Philippines and in Cuba, especially Golpar, an Iranian spice described
and bean, in pickles, over fava
for black beans. Use in marinades for erroneously as marjoram or angelica
beans or potatoes, and eaten as
fish or meat or add towards the end seed, is in fact the seed of a hogweed,
a snack on pomegranate seeds.
when braising. Plants grow easily from (Heracleum persicum). Whole seeds,

Golden oregano Mexican oregano


O. v. Aureum Lippia graveolens
This oregano is a handsome ground-cover This is an attractive plant with gray-green,
plant with dense foliage. It can be used in oval leaves and creamy-white flowers.
the same way as ordinary oregano but has Related to lemon verbena, it has a high
a much milder flavor. volatile oil content.

Syrian oregano O. syriacum


This oregano is cultivated for culinary use in the
Middle East. Its flavor is pungent, reminiscent
of thyme, marjoram, and oregano but sharper.
It is sometimes sold as zaatar (p.98).
90 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Strongly aromatic, warm and
peppery, resinous and slightly
Rosemary
bitter, with notes of pine and Rosmarinus officinalis
camphor. Nutmeg and camphor
are present in the taste; the Rosemary is a dense, woody, evergreen perennial, native
aftertaste is woody, balsamic,
and astringent. The flavor to the Mediterranean but long cultivated in temperate
dissipates after leaves are cut.
Flowers have a milder flavor zones throughout Europe and America. It has been grown
than leaves. in England since Roman times. In the early 9th century,
Charlemagne, in his Capitulaire de Villes, included it in the
list of essential plants to be grown on the imperial estates;
PARTS USED
in the later Middle Ages it was still used as a strewing or
The small needlelike leaves,
sprigs, stems, flowers. incense herb.

BUYING / STORING
Buy plants from a nursery, or
grow from cuttings. Pots of
rosemary are available year Fresh leaves
round from supermarkets and Rosemary leaves can be tough, so they
produce markets. This means
are best chopped before being added to
there is little demand for dried
any dish in which they will be eaten.
rosemary, although it retains
most of its flavor and the leaves
can easily be crumbled for use.

GROW YOUR OWN


Rosemary is hard to grow from
seed but easy to propagate by
cutting or layering. It needs
light, well-drained soil and
ample sun. There are creeping
varieties as well as upright ones.
Fairly hard spring pruning will
keep plants bushy. The attractive,
small flowers are usually blue,
sometimes pink or white. Leaves
and sprigs can be cut at any time
of the year.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS ROSEMARY Rosmarinus ofcinalis 91

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


The flavor of rosemary is strong and be used as skewers for kebabs, or Essential to Herbes de
Provence.
unsubtle; it is not diminished by long as basting brushes. Rosemary is
Good with apricots, cabbage,
cooking, so use rosemary judiciously, very good in cookies and crackers,
cream cheese, eggplant, eggs,
even in slow-cooked stews. In and in focaccia and other breads. fish, lamb, lentils, mushrooms,
Mediterranean cuisines it is often Young sprigs can be used to flavor onions, oranges, parsnips,
used with vegetables fried in olive olive oil, infused in milk, cream, or pork, potatoes, poultry, rabbit,
oil; in Italy, it is popular with veal. syrup for desserts, or steeped for tomatoes, veal, winter squashes.
Whole sprigs are good in marinades, summer drinks such as lemonade. Combines well with bay,
especially for lamb, and will give a Flowers frozen in ice cubes make chives, garlic, lavender, lovage,
subtle, smoky flavor when placed a pretty garnish for such drinks. mint, oregano, parsley, sage,
savory, thyme.
under meat or poultry being grilled Crystallized rosemary flowers are
or roasted. Older, stronger stems can pretty, but quite fiddly to make.

Herbes de Provence
Used with meat, game, vegetable,
and tomato dishes, this herb blend
can be fresh or dried. This version
includes rosemary, thyme, marjoram,
savory, and bay (recipe, p.267).
92 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Sage can be mild, musky, and
balsamic, or strongly camphorous
Sage
with astringent notes and a warm Salvia species
spiciness. Generally, variegated
species are milder than common The sages are native to the north Mediterranean and are
sage. Dried sage is more potent
than fresh and can be acrid and mostly perennial, shrubby plants that thrive on warm, dry
musty; it is best avoided, except
for tea. soils. The great variety of their textured, velvety foliage
from pale gray-green to green splashed with silver or gold,
as well as the dark leaves of purple sagemakes them
PARTS USED attractive garden plants as well as an invaluable addition
Leaves, fresh or dried. All sages to the cooks repertoire of seasonings.
have attractive, hooded flowers
that make pretty garnishes.
Common sage S. officinalis
There are broad and narrow-leaved varieties
BUYING / STORING of common sage. Young, green leaves are less
pungent than the older, gray ones. Narrow-
Pots of sage are now sold in leaved sage has pretty lilac, blue, or
many supermarkets. Fresh sage
white flowers. Broad-leaved sage
leaves, ideally, are picked and
seldom flowers.
used as soon as possible. If you
buy them, wrap in a paper towel
and keep in the salad drawer
of the refrigerator for no more
than a few days. Dried sage
will keep for up to 6 months if
stored away from light in an
airtight container.

GROW YOUR OWN


Sage does best on warm, dry
soils. Its aromatic strength varies
according to soil and climate.
Leaves can be harvested from
spring to fall. Plants are best cut
back after flowering. Purple,
variegated, and tricolor sages
(pp.9395) are less hardy than
common sage, and pineapple
sage (p.95) needs protection
from freezing temperatures.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS SAGE Salvia species 93

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Sage aids the digestion of fatty and Greeks use it in meat stews and with Good with apples, dried beans,
cheese, onions, tomatoes.
oily foods and is traditionally used as poultry, and also in a tea. Italians use
Combines well with bay,
a partner for them. In the US, sage sage with liver and veal (saltimbocca
caraway, cutting celery, dried
and onion stuffing is often used for the alla romana is the classic dish), and ginger, lovage, marjoram,
Thanksgiving turkey. In Britain, sage is to flavor focaccia and polenta; they paprika, parsley, savory, thyme.
associated with pork, goose, and duck, make a well-flavored pasta sauce
and works well in stuffings for these by gently heating a few leaves in
meats. Sage also makes an excellent butter. Sage is not a subtle herb,
flavoring for pork sausages, and in so use sparingly.
Germany it accompanies eel. The

Purple sage
S. o. Purpurascens Group
This sage has musky, spicy
tones and is slightly less
pungent than common
sage. It rarely flowers,
but when it does the
blue flowers look
stunning against
the foliage.

Bouquet garni
for meats
Little bundles of herbs such as
this can be varied to suit the dish
to be cooked. Sprigs of thyme,
sage, cutting celery, and parsley
make a fine flavoring for stews
(recipes, p.266).
94 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

Other sages
Pungent common sage, Salvia officinalis, has many cultivated varieties grown
mainly for the color of their foliage or flowers; all can be used for cooking,
and each has its own flavor. Others have milder tastes and distinctly fruity
fragrances: pineapple and black-currant sages smell like their eponymous
fruits; clary sage, a statuesque biennial with large, wrinkled leaves, has a
delicate scent of muscat grapes.

S. o. Tricolor Black-currant sage S. microphylla


Perhaps the most striking of all the sages, this Rub the leaves in your hands for a rich scent of black currant;
has mottled green, cream, and pink leaves, and the flavor is less pronounced, however. Deep purple-pink
blue flowers. The flavor is quite gentle. flowers appear in late summer.

Greek sage S. fruticosa


The large, gray-green, downy leaves of this species
are intensely aromatic, with dominant resinous notes.
Use very sparingly in cooking, or as a tea.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS SAGE Salvia species 95

Clary sage S. sclarea


This aromatic biennial has a scent
reminiscent of muscat grapes; the
taste is slightly bitter and like
balsam. The leaves can be used
for fritters, while the flowers
make a beautiful, edible garnish.

Variegated
golden sage
S. o. Icterina
This cultivated variety has pretty
gold-and-green variegated foliage,
but rarely flowers. The flavor is
considerably milder than that of
common sage.

Pineapple sage S. elegans


Overwintered indoors, this sage grows into a large shrub.
The long leaves have a clear, pineapple scent but the flavor
is less marked. Striking red flowers appear in fall. Leaves can
be placed in a cake pan to scent a plain cake.
96 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
The whole plant has a warm,
earthy, and peppery fragrance
Thyme
when lightly brushed. The taste Thymus species
is spicy, with notes of cloves and
mint, a hint of camphor, and a Thyme is a small, hardy, evergreen shrub with small,
mouth-cleansing aftertaste.
aromatic leaves, indigenous to the Mediterranean basin.
It grows wild on the hot, arid hillsides of its native region,
PARTS USED where it has infinitely more flavor than it ever achieves
Leaves and sprigs; flowers in cooler regions. Wild thyme tends to be woody and
for garnishes. straggly. Cultivated varieties have more tender stems
and a bushy form; there are hundreds of them, each
with a slightly different aroma, and they have a
BUYING / STORING
tendency to cross-breed as well.
Many varieties of thyme are
sold by nurseries, but make
sure they smell when brushed
lightly by hand. Common and Common thyme T. vulgaris
lemon thyme are available as The basic thyme for cooking, also called garden thyme,
growing plants or fresh sprigs is a cultivated variety of wild Mediterranean thyme. It
from supermarkets. Fresh leaves forms a sturdy, upright shrub with gray-green leaves
will keep for up to a week stored
and white or pale lilac flowers. There are a number of
in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Dried thyme will retain its flavor garden thymes, including English broad-leaf and
through the winter. French narrow-leaf varieties.

GROW YOUR OWN


All thymes need very well-
drained, sandy soil and as much
sun as they can get. They benefit
from the heat reflected off patio
stone paving and the rocks in
rock gardens. Propagation is
easiest by division. Pick leaves
when neededthe more often
the better, or the plant may
become straggly and woody.
Harvest thyme for drying just
before it flowers.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS THYME Thymus species 97

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Thyme is an essential flavoring in used in combination with chili Essential to most
bouquets garnis.
much Western and Middle-Eastern peppers. It is widely used to flavor
Good with beef, cabbage,
cooking. Unlike most herbs, it pts, thick vegetable soups, tomato
carrots, corn, eggplant, lamb,
withstands long, slow cooking; used and wine-based sauces, and in leeks, legumes, onions,
with discretion it enhances other marinades for pork and game. The potatoes, rabbit, tomatoes,
herbs without overpowering them, dried herb is essential in the Creole wild mushrooms.
and in stews and casseroles combines and Cajun cooking of Louisiana, Combines well with allspice,
well with onions, beer, or red wine. where it appears in gumbos and basil, bay, chili, clove, garlic,
Thyme has become indispensable in jambalayas; in New England, fresh lavender, marjoram, nutmeg,
every French stew, from pot-au-feu thyme is used as a traditional oregano, paprika, parsley,
rosemary, savory.
to cassoulet, but equally in Spanish flavoring in New England clam
ones and, by extension, those of Mexico chowder. In Britain, it is used in
and Latin America, where it is often stuffings, pies, and jugged hare.

Lemon thyme T. citriodorus


This is a compact, upright shrub with mauve-
pink flowers that gives a fresh lemony note to
fish and seafood, roast chicken, or veal; it can
be used in cookies, breads, and fruit salads.
For the cook lemon thyme is the most
important variety after garden thyme.
98 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

Other thymes
Cultivated varieties of common thyme (T. vulgaris) and lemon thyme
(T. citriodorus) as well as other species offer different flavors to the cook.
In the Middle East, the Arab name zaatar is given to thyme, to Thymbra
spicata, and to other herbs with a thyme-savory-oregano aroma: Syrian
oregano (p.89), conehead thyme (p.99), and thymbra (p.102). Any of these
can be combined with sesame (p.132) and sumac (p.158) to make the spice
mixture also called zaatar.

Caraway thyme Creeping thyme T. serpyllum


T. herba-barona This thyme grows throughout the Mediterranean region
This is a trailing plant native to Corsica and Sardinia, and also in central and northern Europe. It is milder than
with red stems, narrow glossy leaves, and pink flowers. common thyme and should only be used fresh. Scatter
Its taste has a light caraway note that goes well in root the tiny leaves over salads or grilled vegetables. It
vegetable and cheese dishes, and cream sauces. combines well with hyssop.

Zaatar Thymbra spicata


This dark-leaved, woody shrub, rather like savory, is native to the
Middle East. Its showy clusters of purple flowers make it a great
rock-garden plant.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS THYME Thymus species 99

Conehead thyme T. capitatus


The Arabic for this variety is zaatar farsi, or
Persian thyme; in the Middle East, it is the
most widely used thyme.

Variegated thyme Orange-scented thyme


T. citriodora Golden Queen T. citriodora Fragrantissimus
This variegated thyme has a mild flavor. The aromatic Leaves of this cultivated
properties of thyme varieties vary according to the variety of thyme can be
composition of their essential oils, and in particular used as a flavoring in place
the amount of thymol contained in the oils. of a piece of orange peel.

Lemon-scented thyme
T. sp. Lemon Mist
This lemon-scented thyme has narrow
leaves and a mounding growth habit.
It is used in salads and as a flavoring
for tea. A few chopped leaves added
in the last few minutes of cooking
will add zest to soups.
100 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Savories have a peppery bite.
Summer savory has a subtle,
Savory
herbaceous scent and flavor Satureja species
agreeably piquant, slightly
resinous, and reminiscent of Highly aromatic, as the name suggests, savory was one
thyme, mint, and marjoram.
Winter savory has a more of the strongest flavorings available before spices reached
assertive, penetrating aroma
and flavor, with notes of Europe. Summer savory (S. hortensis) is native to the eastern
sage and pine. Mediterranean and the Caucasus; winter savory (S. montana)
to southern Europe, Turkey, and North Africa. Both were
taken to northern Europe by the Romans and to North
PARTS USED
America by early settlers.
Leaves and sprigs; flowers
for garnishes and salads.

Summer savory S. hortensis


BUYING / STORING This savory is a slender plant with soft, grayish
leaves and white or pinkish flowers. Summer
Savory is not available as a cut savory leaves are tender, whereas those of
herb, but plants are available winter savory are tough.
from nurseries. Summer savory
will keep for 56 days, winter
savory for up to 10 days, in a
plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Savory retains its flavor well if
frozen, chopped or as sprigs. To
dry summer savory, hang the
stems in an airy, dark place.

GROW YOUR OWN


Summer savory is an annual,
winter savory an evergreen
perennial. Both can be grown
from seed, and winter savory
can be propagated by division
in spring. Both prefer light,
well-drained soils and full sun.
Fresh sprigs
Summer savory does best in a The leaves have the
rich soil; cut back on flowering most intense aroma
to encourage new growth. if harvested just
Winter savory will grow in before flowering.
poorer soils.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS SAVORY Satureja species 101

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Because they are pungent, both savories game dishes. It is also good with Good with beans, beets,
cabbage, cheese, eggs, fish,
are good flavorings for long-cooked oil-rich fish such as eel and mackerel. legumes, potatoes, rabbit, sweet
meat and vegetable dishes and stuffings. Chopped finely, it can be added peppers, tomatoes.
Savory is frequently associated with to salads; it is especially good Combines well with basil, bay,
beans, as its German name bohnenkraut with potato, bean, and lentil salads. cumin, garlic, lavender,
(bean herb) indicates. Winter savory (called poivre dne marjoram, mint, oregano,
Summer savory is best with green or pebre dadonkey pepperin parsley, rosemary, thyme.
and fava beans, whereas either Provence, France) is more widely
can be used with white beans and used around the Mediterranean.
other legumes. Savory is also good with Chopped leaves and flowers are
cabbage, root vegetables, and onions, added to soups, fish stews, frittata,
and reduces their strong cooking pizza, rabbit, and lamb dishes. It is
smells. Summer savory is often added also used to coat Banon, a Provenal
to bouquets garnis for lamb, pork, and goat or sheep milk cheese.

Winter savory S. montana


This is a woody, compact shrub with stiff, glossy, dark green
leaves and lavender or white flowers. Although the savories
can be used interchangeably to some extent, both should
be used judiciously, and winter savory in much smaller
amounts than summer savory.

Fresh sprigs
Winter savory leaves
can be harvested
year-round.
102 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

Other savories
The genus Satureja encompasses many plants with pungent, spicy aromas
in the mint-thyme-oregano spectrum; they have a variety of common names.
Many are used as flavorings in their native habitat. There is also some
confusion with the Micromeria species in the naming of certain plants.

Yerba buena (S. douglasii) is a pretty, trailing plant used for any minty plant, whether it be spearmint or
with small, heart-shaped, toothed leaves and tiny, one of the Satureja varieties.
white flowers. It has a rather synthetic, sweet smell Costa Rican or Jamaican mint bush (S. viminea)
with notes of mint (a little like chewing gum) and a has small, oval, glossy, light leaves and an agreeable,
minty, bitterish taste. Yerba buena means the good minty smell and flavor. Native to Central America and
herb; in the past it was used to make a restorative tea the Caribbean, it grows in the southern and western
(use it sparingly). Also called Indian mint, it is native to regions of the US. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is used as
Western and Central America, and probably was given a meat flavoring, but is mostly used for tea elsewhere.
this name because it was used by Native Americans. In
Mexico, yerba or hierba buena is the common name

Thymbra S. thymbra
Also called thyme-leaved savory, this is a small,
woody perennial found in Sardinia, Crete, and the
Aegean islands, and on the western coast of Turkey.
Its scent is of thyme, mint, and savory, and the taste
has an agreeable bite. Leaves and flowertips are
used to flavor meat, game, and vegetable stews,
and grilled meats, and in cures for olives.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS MICROMERIA Micromeria species 103

Micromeria TASTING NOTES


The flavors of some micromerias
tend toward mint, others
Micromeria species toward thyme and savory.
M. juliana (also called Satureja
Micromerias are perennial herbs or dwarf shrubs native juliana) resembles savory.
M. fruticosa resembles English
to southern Europe, the Caucasus, southwestern China, pennyroyal (p.69).
and western America. In these regions they are regularly
used as a culinary herb and to make teas. In Europe, they
thrive particularly in the Balkan peninsula; in Croatia, one PARTS USED
species has appeared on postage stamps. Micromerias are Fresh leaves.

closely related to savories (Satureja species, p.100), and


there is some confusion and duplication in the naming of
BUYING / STORING
certain plants.
Micromerias are not available as
cut herbs, but plants are stocked
by some specialized nurseries.
Culinary uses They can also be picked from
Among the micromerias the species chopped leaves give a depth of flavor the wild. Sprigs will keep for
a few days in a plastic bag in
M. thymifolia has the finest flavor: to summer berry desserts. the vegetable crisper of
warmly aromatic with delicate notes A minty tea is made from M. fruticosa. the refrigerator.
of thyme and savory. It is also rich in Pulegone, the main constituent of that
unsaturated fatty acids. Italian cooks herbs essential oil, is known to be
use young leaves with thyme-savory toxic, but, taken in normal quantities,
aromas to flavor soups, marinades, the tea is not likely to cause health GROW YOUR OWN
and frittatas, in stuffings for meat and problems. Emperors mint is the In the wild, micromerias thrive
vegetables, and with roast chicken micromeria most commonly available; on thin soils on dry, exposed
or squab. Finely chopped leaves are it can be used sparingly in place cliffs and rocky meadows. They
added to pasta sauces or sprinkled of garden mint. can be grown from seed, or by
over meat or poultry before grilling. plant division, in loamy, well-
drained soil in pots or in the
In Balkan cooking the leaves are
garden. They make attractive
used like thyme. Micromeria brings ornamental plants for rock
out the flavor of ripe tomatoes gardens, with their bushy habit
and soft, fresh cheeses. A few and thin stems bearing white,
red, or purple flowers above the
foliage. Harvest leaves from
Emperors mint spring to late summer.
M. species
Emperors mint has an
assertive, minty aroma,
reminiscent of spearmint,
and a bitterish minty flavor.
104 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Leaves, roots, and unripe
seeds all have the same aroma.
Cilantro
Some people are addicted to Coriandrum sativum
its refreshing, lemony-ginger
aroma with notes of sage; others Native to the Mediterranean and western Asia, coriander
hate it and find it soapy and
disagreeable. The flavor is is now grown worldwide. It is both herb and spice, and
delicate yet complex, with a
suggestion of pepper, mint, a fragrant staple in many cuisines. The fresh leaves,
and lemon. commonly called cilantro, are essential to Asian, Latin
American, and Portuguese cooking. Thai cooks also
use the thin, spindly root. In Western cooking
PARTS USED
the fruit or seed is used as a spice; in the
Leaves and sprigs, roots.
Middle East and India, both are common
in the kitchen. Another name for the
herb is Chinese parsley.
BUYING / STORING
Cilantro is available in pots or
as a cut herb from specialty Fresh sprigs
markets and supermarkets; Cilantro was called a very stinking
bunches are sold with roots herbe by Gerard, the 16th-century
intact in Asian markets, or you herbalist, and is known as the fragrant
can grow your own. In a plastic plant by the Chinese. The herbs aroma
bag, cilantro will keep for 34
continues to provoke both dislike and
days in the vegetable crisper of
enthusiasm today.
the refrigerator. Frozen cilantro
retains its flavor fairly well;
chop and freeze in small pots
or in ice cube trays covered
with a little water. Dried cilantro
is not worthwhile and is never
used in Asian cuisines.

GROW YOUR OWN


Cilantro is an annual that
grows easily from seed in a
warm, sunny spot. Leaves can
be gathered throughout the
growing season. Clusters of
small, white or pinkish flowers
produce the seeds. Seeds should
be harvested when fully ripe; to
dry them, hang bunches of Roots
stems in a warm place and put The roots are more
a paper bag over the seedheads. pungent and musky
than the leaves, with
a light, citrus smell.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS CILANTRO Coriandrum sativum 105

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Except when they are used in a curry also combine cilantro and chilies with Essential to hilbeh, zhug,
chermoula, ceviche, guacamole.
or similar paste, cilantro leaves are garlic and lime juice to make a dressing
Good with avocados, coconut
always added at the end of cooking; for vegetables, or for a sauce in which
milk, corn, cucumber, fish and
high or prolonged heat reduces their to cook fish. seafood, legumes, lemons and
flavor. Cilantro leaves are used lavishly In Bolivia and Peru, cilantro, chilies, limes, rice, root vegetables.
throughout most of Asia, in delicately and huacatay flavor a very assertive Combines well with basil,
flavored soups, in stir-fried dishes with table sauce. In the Middle East, cilantro chili, chives, dill, galangal,
ginger and scallions, and in curries and is essential to Yemeni zhug and hilbeh, garlic, ginger, lemongrass,
braised dishes. Thai cooks use the roots both pungent spice pastes, and is mint, parsley.
for curry pastes and combine leaves combined with nuts and spices, lemon
with basil, mint, and chili peppers. In juice, and olive oil to make flavoring
India, cilantro garnishes many savory mixtures. The Portuguese are the only
dishes and is combined with other Europeans who have continued to use
herbs and spices in green masala cilantro to the same extent as it was
pastes. India and Mexico share a liking used in the 16th century. They partner
for cilantro with green chili peppers in it with potatoes and fava beans, and
chutneys, relishes, and salsas. Mexicans with their excellent clams.

Yemeni zhug paste


This mixture of cilantro, hot
chili peppers, garlic, cumin,
and cardamom is used as a
condiment (recipe, p.282).
106 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Culantro has an intense aroma
with a fetid element, as its
Culantro
Latin name indicates. The taste Eryngium foetidum
is earthy, pungent, and quite
sharpa concentrated version This tender biennial grows wild on many Caribbean islands
of cilantro with a bitter note
at the finish. and is variously called shado beni (Trinidad), chadron benee
(Dominica), and recao (Puerto Rico). Also grown in southeast
Asia, it is ngo gai in Vietnam, and reaches Europe with names
PARTS USED like sawtooth herb, long or spiny coriander, Chinese parsley,
Fresh leaves. as well as its Spanish name culantro, which is most commonly
used in English-speaking countries.

BUYING / STORING
Plants are available at some Culinary uses
herb nurseries. Leaves, tied In its indigenous regions, culantro dishes. Mexican cooks use it in salsas.
in bundles, sometimes with is consumed enthusiastically. It In Asia, it is often used to temper the
rootlets attached, are sold in
Asian markets. They keep for
flavors soups, stews and curries, smell of beef, which many people
34 days in the refrigerator. rice and noodle dishes, meat and find too pungent. For northern Thai
I have not come across culantro fish dishes. It is a key ingredient in cooks it is common in larp, a fiery
as a dried herb, but it freezes Trinidadian fish and meat marinades, dish of lightly cooked or raw beef
well. Remove the thick central and in Puerto Rican sofrito, a mixture served with sticky rice. In Vietnam,
rib and pure the leaves with of garlic, onion, green sweet and chili young culantro leaves are always in
a little water or sunflower oil,
then freeze in ice cube trays.
peppers, cilantro, and culantro that the bowl of herbs that accompanies
forms the basis of many of the islands every meal.

GROW YOUR OWN


Culantro grows best in well-
drained soil in partial shade.
Shade produces plants with
bigger, greener, and more
pungent leaves, whereas hot
sun encourages the plant to
go rapidly to seed. Remove
flower stems to encourage
more leaf growth. Culantro
has long, tough leaves with
serrated edges that may be
prickly. Leaves can be picked
throughout the growing season
by cutting off at soil level.

Fresh leaves
FLAVOR PAIRINGS Leaves are leathery and
Combines well with chile, toothed, sometimes spiny.
cilantro, galangal, garlic, If so, remove spines or cook
makrut lime, lemongrass, thoroughly. Can be used
mint, parsley. instead of coriander, but
use less.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS RAU RAM Polygonum odoratum / Persicaria odorata 107

Rau ram TASTING NOTES


Rau ram smells rather like a
more penetrating version of
Polygonum odoratum / Persicaria odorata cilantro with a clear citrus
note; the taste is similar,
Rau ram seems increasingly to be the accepted name for this refreshing with a hot, biting,
peppery aftertaste. Some
popular tropical Asian herb, but it is also sold as Vietnamese people find the aroma soapy.
coriander or cilantro, Vietnamese mint, daun kesom (its Malay
name), and laksa leaf. Vietnamese emigrants took it to France
in the 1950s and the US in the 1970s, where it now has an PARTS USED
enthusiastic and growing following. Fresh, young leaves.

Culinary uses BUYING / STORING


Rau ram is used as a flavoring for and curries. One of its most popular Plants are available from
fish, seafood, poultry, and pork. The uses in Singapore and Malaysia is as specialist nurseries and
Vietnamese make an excellent chicken an aromatic garnish for laksa, a spicy bunches of stems are sold
and cabbage salad flavored with rau soup made with fish, seafood, and in Asian markets. In a
ram, chili peppers, and lime juice. Thai coconut milk. Use rau ram as you plastic bag, these will keep
in the vegetable crisper of
cooks also serve the leaves raw with would cilantro: add shredded or torn
the refrigerator for 45 days
nam prik, or shred them and add to larp leaves to stir-fries, soups, and noodles. if bought in good condition.

Fresh leaves
Rau ram withstands cooking
better than cilantro and will
GROW YOUR OWN
impart a subtle flavor to A bushy herb, rau ram grows
cooked dishes if added part wild on the banks and streams
way through the cooking. The in its native habitat. Unless there
leaves can also be used as a is a hard frost it will overwinter
in a sheltered spot outside. Rau
component of a salad platter.
ram grows best in partial shade
and rapidly becomes invasive in
rich, moist soil. In the tropics it
bears red or pink flowers. Keep
trimming the plant to encourage
new growth. It roots easily if
stems are left in a glass of water
for 23 days, after which it can
be planted out.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with coconut milk, egg
dishes, fish and seafood, meat,
poultry, noodles, bean sprouts,
red and green sweet peppers,
water chestnuts.
Combines well with chile,
galangal, garlic, ginger,
lemongrass.
108 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Arugulas toothed leaves have a
warm, peppery smell that rises
Arugula
from the bed as soon as the Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa
first leaf is picked. The taste is
pleasantly pungent. The small, Arugula is native to Asia and southern Europe and
white or yellow, edible flowers
have a faint orange aroma; they naturalized in North America. It was a popular herb in
make an attractive garnish.
Europe until the 18th century, when it virtually disappeared
everywhere but in Italy. After nearly two centuries of neglect
it is having a well-deserved revival, and is currently one of
PARTS USED
the most fashionable salad herbs in both the US and Europe
Leaves and flowers.
(where it is variously known as rucola, roquette, and rocket).

BUYING / STORING Culinary uses


Arugula is now readily available Whole leaves can be added to any salad red peppers. Arugula and prosciutto
in supermarkets, either on its of mixed leaves or potato salad, or will makes a good sandwich filling, and with
own or in bags of mixed salad
leaves. All the same, it is well
make a strongly flavored salad on their mushrooms or cheese a filling for ravioli.
worth growing from seed own, especially with a nut oil dressing. Shredded leaves are good in herb butter
because it is easy to grow and Arugula leaves can also be used as a for seafood or herb dressings, especially
is at its best freshly picked. It fragrant bed on which to present other for pasta. Arugula can also be used to
can be stored in a plastic bag salads, poached eggs, or roasted sweet make pesto, with or without basil.
in the vegetable crisper of the
refrigerator for a few days.
Drying arugula is a waste of
time, nor does it freeze well, but Arugula E. v. subsp. sativa
because fresh leaves can be
The leaves become progressively more peppery
obtained easily this matters little.
the longer they stay on the plant, but once the
flowers fully develop their taste diminishes.

GROW YOUR OWN


Arugula and wild arugula are
both very easy to grow from
seed, and staggered sowing
will give a useful crop virtually
throughout the year. They thrive
in partial shade. Arugula is an
annual, wild arugula a perennial;
both self-seed only too readily.
Leaves are ready for picking
in 68 weeks.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS ARUGULA Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa 109

Wild arugula Diplotaxis muralis FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Wild arugula has narrower, more sharply Good with goats cheese,
toothed leaves and a more peppery taste lettuce, potatoes,
than its cultivated counterpart. It can
salad herbs, tomato.
be bought as growing plants Combines well with basil,
from herb nurseries or borage, cilantro, cresses,
dill, lovage, mint, parsley,
specialized suppliers.
salad burnet.

Turkish arugula
Bunias orientalis
Turkish arugula grows wild in parts of Asia. It has a sharp and coarse
flavor, somewhat like horseradish, and a tinge of sulfur. Called rokka,
it can often be bought in large bunches from Turkish markets. It is
better cooked, for instance in a vegetable frittata, than used raw.
110 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Watercress has little aroma;
sprigs and leaves are crisp
Watercress
and have a peppery, slighty Nasturtium officinale
bitterish taste.
Watercress is a hardy perennial native to Europe and
Asia, widely naturalized in North America, and has been
PARTS USED introduced also into the West Indies and South America.
Sprigs and leaves. Its use as a salad herb can be traced back to the Persians,
Greeks, and Romans. Its cultivation in northern Europe
started relatively lateGermany began growing it
BUYING / STORING
in the 16th century, and Britain had not started
Seeds for watercress, upland
and garden cress, and before 1800.
nasturtiums can be obtained
from nurseries. Fresh watercress
is available all year round in Culinary uses
supermarkets, either sold
separately or in bags of mixed Watercress is used in an amazing American Southwest, watercress soup
greens. In a plastic bag in variety of soups, made either with may be served with a red-pepper rouille.
the vegetable crisper of the stock, cream, or yogurt. Best known is The herb is also served with fish, often
refrigerator, all of the cresses French potage au cresson (potato and with ginger; made into a sauce, much
will keep for 45 days.
watercress soup), served hot or cold; like sorrel, it works well with salmon.
Nasturtium flowers should
be used immediately. Seeds Italians use cress in minestrone and In China, watercress is popular
can be harvested in fall to other vegetable soups; the Chinese in blanched, chopped, and tossed in
sow the next year. egg-drop and wonton soups and in light sesame oil, or stir-fried with
Cantonese seafood broths. In the salt, sugar, and a little rice wine.

GROW YOUR OWN


Watercress grows quickly
Fresh sprigs
In the West, watercress is mostly eaten raw,
near springs and open running
watercoursesconditions that as a garnish or in sandwiches and salads,
are imitated in its commercial either on its own or combined with, for
hydroponic cultivation. It can instance, cucumber, fennel, orange
be grown fairly easily from seed sections, papaya, or red onion.
in a tub, where its shining,
bright green leaves will soon
cover the entire surface.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with chicken,
cucumber, fish, onion,
oranges, potatoes, salmon.
Combines well with fennel,
ginger, parsley, other salad
herbs, sorrel.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS WATERCRESS Nasturtium ofcinale 111

Other cresses
There are many plants resembling or used like watercress but not necessarily
related to N. officinale. Nasturtium is the common name of a South American
genus cultivated widely for its vivid flowers. The transfer of the name came
about because the leaves taste similar to watercress, although few people
take advantage of nasturtiums in the kitchen.

Upland cress Barbarea verna praecox Garden cress Lepidium sativum


As one of its other names, winter cress, indicates, this This cress has dark green leaves, which may be curled,
biennial plant is very hardy; it is also called land cress. and a strong, peppery flavor. Quite hardy, it prefers
Like watercress, its small, tender leaves have a spicy cold and dry conditions, and tolerates almost any soil.
flavor and make a welcome addition to winters limited In combination with mustard seed, it is sprouted as a
array of fresh greens. It can be grown from seed. cut-and-come-again seedling crop in Britain.

Nasturtium or Indian cress


Tropaeolum majus
Neither the leaves nor the flowers of this plant have much aroma,
but both have an agreeably peppery, cresslike tastethe flowers are
slightly sweeter and more delicate. Young leaves can be used in salads;
the flowers look and taste great scattered over a green salad or one of
potato or white beans, or floated on a bowl of fruit punch. Flowerbuds
and seeds can be pickled and used instead of capers.
112 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Wasabi has a fierce, burning
smell that makes the nose
Wasabi
prickle, and a bitingly sharp Eutrema wasabi
but fresh and cleansing taste.
Dried wasabi develops its This herbaceous perennial grows primarily in cold mountain
penetrating aroma and flavor
only when mixed with water and streams in Japan; recently some cultivation has started in
left to steep for about 10 minutes.
California, UK, and New Zealand. The name translates as
mountain hollyhock. In the West the plant is sometimes
called Japanese horseradish, a reference to its pungency
PARTS USED
and the fact that the gnarled and knobby root, on average
Roots.
about 45 in (1012 cm) long, is the edible part.

BUYING / STORING Fresh root


Fresh wasabi root is sold in tubs of
Outside Japan wasabi is seldom
water. The tough, brownish green skin
available fresh, but you can buy
is removed to reveal pale green flesh.
American-grown wasabi on the
internet. Otherwise look for
wasabi in the refrigerated cabinet
or freezer in a Japanese food
store. More usually it is sold
either in tubes as a paste or in
cans as powder. Fresh wasabi
will keep for a week, wrapped
in plastic wrap, in the vegetable
crisper of the refrigerator.
Powdered wasabi has a shelf
life of several months but can
develop a rather stale aftertaste.
Tubes of paste must be
refrigerated after opening. The
paste loses its potency more
quickly than the powder.

HARVESTING
Wasabi can only be cultivated
in cold, pure, running water;
commercial growing is normally
done in flooded terraces, usually
in partial shade. It is very
expensive to produce.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS WASABI Eutrema wasabi 113

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Wasabi does not retain its flavor between raw fish and the vinegared Essential to sashimi, sushi.
when cooked, so it is generally served rice. With soy sauce and dashi (soup Good with avocado, beef,
raw fish, rice, seafood.
with or added to cold food. In Japan, stock), wasabi makes the popular
it accompanies most raw fish dishes. wasabi-joyu sauce. On its own, wasabi Combines well with
ginger, soy sauce.
Sashimi and sushi plates always have can be used to give a sharp piquancy
a tiny mound of grated wasabi or to dressings and marinades. It also
wasabi paste, which is then mixed makes a good butter that keeps in
to individual taste with a soy dipping the refrigerator for weeks; this makes
sauce. In sushi it often appears as an interesting change served on
an ingredient as well as a garnish, filet mignon or other steaks.

Grated root
In Japan, peeled wasabi root is grated
finely on an oroshigane, a flat grater tightly
set with thin spikes. Made of stainless steel,
aluminum, or plastic, these can be bought
from Japanese stores.

Wasabi paste
Because wasabi is so expensive, harsher-
tasting horseradish mixed with mustard and
green coloring is frequently passed off as wasabi
paste or powder. Real paste costs twice as much
as fake and has a shorter shelf life.
114 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Horseradish root is very pungent
and mustardlike when just grated,
Horseradish
enough to make your eyes water Armoracia rusticana
and your nose run. The taste is
acrid, sharp, and hot. The leaves Horseradish is a perennial native to eastern Europe and
are also pungent when crushed;
the taste is sharp, but much western Asia, where it still grows wild in the steppes of
milder than that of the root.
Russia and the Ukraine. Its culinary use probably originated
in Russia and eastern Europe, spreading to central Europe
in the early Middle Ages, later to Scandinavia and western
PARTS USED
Europe. English settlers took it to North America, and
Fresh young leaves; fresh
or dried roots. cultivation was established by German and eastern
European immigrants around 1850. By about 1860,
bottled horseradish was available as one of the first
BUYING / STORING convenience condiments.
Fresh roots are in high demand
particularly near Passover
(horseradish is one of the five Fresh root
bitter herbs of the Seder). Fresh Slicing a long, thick, hairy, yellowish
roots taken from the garden will brown horseradish root reveals white flesh.
keep for months in dry sand,
Grating releases its highly pungent volatile
bought ones for 23 weeks in a
plastic bag in the refrigerator, oil, but this dissipates very quickly and
even after being cut and part- does not survive cooking.
used. Grated horseradish can
be frozen. Dried roots can be
bought powdered or flaked.

GROW YOUR OWN


Horseradish is propagated
from root cuttings. It grows
very easily in sandy loam soil
with good drainage, but is
invasivethe tiniest bit left
in the soil will be enough to
overrun a patch, so plant in
a container, as one does mint.
The roots can be lifted
throughout the winter, if
the ground is not frozen.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS HORSERADISH Armoracia rusticana 115

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Freshly grated horseradish can be with or without sugar. A popular Good with apple, avocado,
baked ham, beef, beets, oily or
stabilized with a little lemon juice. It Austrian condiment is apfelkren, smoked fish, potatoes, pork
is good on salads of potatoes or root made by mixing horseradish with sausages, seafood.
vegetables, and aids in the digestion of grated apples and a little lemon Combines well with capers,
oily fish. A traditional accompaniment juice. With apricot preserve and celery, chives, cream, dill,
to roast beefand to tongue in a little mustard, horseradish makes mustard, tomato paste,
Germanyit also goes well with a good glaze for ham. Mixed with vinegar, yogurt.
boiled beef. Scandinavian cooks add mustard into butter it is good with
sliced horseradish, with onion, fresh corn-on-the-cob or carrots. A few
ginger, and other spices, to some of tender, young leaves will give a
their pickled herrings and make a rich pleasant, sharp taste to a green salad.
horseradish and mustard sauce to Processed horseradish browns as it
accompany white fish. ages and loses its strength. Many
Horseradish is easily made into a condiments have too much added
sauce by blending it with cream and sugar, which masks the fresh and
vinegar, or with sour cream alone, pungent flavor.

Grated root
Sprinkle lemon juice on grated
horseradish to preserve its white
color and pungency. Vinegar
is used to prevent browning
and loss of flavor in
commercial horseradish
condiments.
116 PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS

TASTING NOTES
Not everyone likes epazote.
The aroma is described as that
Epazote
of turpentine or putty by those Chenopodium ambrosioides
who hate it, while it reminds
others of savory, mint, and citrus. Native to central and southern Mexico, epazote was an
I think of it as camphorous,
earthy, and minty. The taste essential ingredient of Mayan cuisine in the Yucatn and
is pungent and refreshing,
bitterish with lingering citrus Guatemala. It is now widely cultivated and used in southern
notes and a curious, oddly Mexico, the northern countries of South America, and the
addictive rankness.
Caribbean islands. Its use is spreading in North America,
where it is often found as a weed along roadsides and in
PARTS USED towns; it is grown commercially in the south. It has yet to
Leaves, fresh or dried. make its mark in Europe, although it grows wild there also.

BUYING / STORING Culinary uses


In Europe it is almost impossible The fresh herb is commonly used in It is essential to mole verde, a green
to obtain fresh epazote unless
you grow it yourself; dried
Mexican bean dishes, partly for its cooking sauce of tomatillos and green
epazote has much less taste flavor and partly because it reduces chili peppers, thickened with nuts or
but is still good in cooking. flatulence. Chopped finely, it is used seeds. Use epazote lightly: it easily
Buy dried leaves, not stalks. in soups and stews. Although used overwhelms other flavors, and in
raw in salsas, its flavor works best larger doses it is somewhat toxic and
in cooking; add for only the last can cause dizziness.
15 minutes or so to avoid bitterness.
GROW YOUR OWN
Epazote can easily be grown
from seed in dry soil. Its flavor
depends on the amount of sun
it getsin colder climates it is
less aromatic. It is an annual
but reseeds readily. Once
established, it should be possible
to overwinter plants indoors.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Essential to black bean dishes,
mole verde, quesadillas, salsas.
Good with chorizo, corn, fish
and shellfish, green vegetables,
legumes, lime, mushrooms,
onion, pork, rice, squash,
sweet peppers, tomatillos,
white cheese.
Fresh leaves
The taste of epazote is too pungent for
Combines well with chili,
many people. Its name, deriving from
cilantro, cloves, cumin,
garlic, oregano. Nahuatl, an Aztec language still spoken Dried leaves
around Mexico City, refers to a disagreeable Use dried leaves only when
odorepatl means skunk and tzotl, sweat. fresh are unavailable.
PUNGENT AND SPICY HERBS MUGWORT Artemisia vulgaris 117

Mugwort TASTING NOTES


The aroma of mugwort
is of juniper and pepper, lightly
Artemisia vulgaris pungent with a hint of mint and
sweetness. The flavor is similar,
Mugwort is an herbaceous perennial that grows wild in with a mild, bitter aftertaste.

many habitats throughout most of North and South America,


Europe, and Asia. In the Middle Ages, it was used instead
PARTS USED
of hops as a bittering agent in brewing beer. In the 18th
Fresh young shoots; leaves and
century, it was one of the most used kitchen herbs in Europe, flowerbuds, both fresh and dried.
but it has since gone out of fashion except in Germany,
where it is popular as Gnsekraut, goose herb.
BUYING / STORING
Buy plants from a nursery. Pick
Culinary uses young leaves as needed. Flower
Mugwort works well with oily as a vegetable, as a popular stems are dried by hanging in a
fish, fatty meat, and poultry such ingredient in mochi (rice cakes), dark, warm place. This can take
3 weeks, or 46 hours if left in a
as duck or goose, aiding in their and as a seasoning for soba noodles. warm oven. Once dry, buds
digestion. It is good in stuffings and Young leaves are boiled or stir-fried and leaves can be stored in an
marinades, and also flavors stock quite thoughout Asia. Young leaves can also airtight container for up to a
well. Its aroma develops with cooking, be shredded over a green salad or year. Dried mugwort is available
so it should be added early. It has no stirred into the dressing. Cider vinegar from Japanese markets.
natural partners among herbs, but in which mugwort has been steeped
garlic and pepper go well with it. for some weeks is good for salad
Called yomogi in Japan, it is used dressings and marinades.
GROW YOUR OWN
Mugwort is quite adaptable, but
does prefer full sun and a rich,
Fresh leaves moist soil. It can be propagated
Leaves are smooth and from seed or by division of the
green on top, downy rhizomes. It should be kept in
white underneath. check or it will run rampant.
Numerous small, reddish
brown florets bloom in late
summer and early fall on
panicled spikes. Harvest
just before the flowerbuds
open: the flowers can get
unpleasantly bitter.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with beans, duck, eel,
game, goose, onions, pork, rice.
Combines well with
garlic, pepper.
Dried leaves
In Germany, mugwort is available
fresh and dried; elsewhere it is
necessary to grow your own, or
buy dried via the internet.
Preparing
herbs
STRIPPING, CHOPPING, AND POUNDING HERBS 119

Stripping, chopping, and


pounding herbs
Some herbschives, chervil, and cilantrohave soft stems, but in most cases
leaves must be stripped from the stems before being used. Small leaves and
sprigs are used whole in salads or as a garnish, but most leaves are chopped,
sliced, or pounded, depending on the dish being prepared. Chop, slice, or
pound herbs just before you need them or their flavors will dissipate.

Stripping leaves
When stripping herbs you may find that you are not able to go right to the top of the stem because it is too
tender and will break. Such upper stems are likely to be soft enough to chop with the leaves. Some herbs are
easier to strip from the top down, particularly those with large leaves.


Stripping tough stems Stripping tender stems
Hold the bottom of the stem Strip fennel and dill from the
firmly in one hand, place bottom of the stem, pulling
the thumb and first finger the leaf sprays upward with
of the other hand on either one hand. Take out any thick
side of the stem, and, using stems that remain and strip
the thumb to guide, pull off the leaves.
upward, stripping the leaves
onto a board.

Chopping leaves
Herbs are chopped according to the dish for which
they are needed. Finely chopped herbs integrate well
with other ingredients. They provide immediate flavor
because so much of their surface is exposed, allowing
the essential oils to blend into the food quickly, but they
may lose their flavor in cooking. Coarsely chopped herbs
keep their identity, flavor, and texture longer and survive
cooking better than finely chopped herbs, but are less
attractive in a smooth-textured dish.

Using a mezzaluna
Some cooks prefer to use the curved mezzaluna for large
amounts of herbs. This implement is rocked backward and
forward to great effect. Herbs can also be chopped in the small
bowl of a food processor: use the pulse button and chop briefly.
Make sure the herbs are completely dry or they will turn out
unattractively pastelike. It is more difficult to obtain uniformly
chopped leaves in a processor.
120 PREPARING HERBS

1 Choose a large, sharp knife for cutting herbs or you will


bruise rather than cut them. Lay the herbs on a board,
hold the point of the blade on the board with the flat fingers
2 Scoop the herbs back into a pile from time to time with
the flat of the blade. Continue the chopping action until
the herbs are cut as finely as you need.
of your noncutting hand, and chop up and down briskly in
a rocking motion.

Making a Pounding herbs


chiffonade Herbs can be pounded to a paste using a mortar and pestle, and
garlic is easily pured in a mortar with a little salt. A smoother result
Any finely shredded vegetable used as a is achieved more quickly in a food processor.
garnish is termed a chiffonade. Shredded
herb leaves make an attractive garnish
and also keep their texture well in a sauce.

1 If using leaves such as sorrel, remove the


thick vein from each one beforehand.

2 Stack a few similar-sized leaves one on


top of the other and roll them up tightly.
1 Pesto (recipe, p.289) is the classic
pounded herb sauce. Start by 2 Gradually work in some pine
nuts, grated Parmesan, and

3 Using a sharp knife, cut the roll of


leaves into very fine slices.
pounding some basil and garlic in
a large mortar or food processor.
olive oil, and mix to a paste.
DRYING AND RUBBING HERBS 121

Drying and rubbing herbs


Drying does not suit all herbs. Those with woody stems and tough leaves, such as thyme,
rosemary, oregano, and lemon verbena, dry best and keep their flavor well, while those
with soft leaves and stems, such as basil, parsley, chervil, and marjoram, lose their flavor
almost completely. Mint is an exception: although it has soft leaves, it dries well. The
traditional way to dry herbs is to hang them in bunches, but they also dry well in a
microwave oven. For the best flavor, harvest herbs just before their flowerbuds open,
when the essential oils are at their most concentrated, and pick early in the day.

Freezing herbs
Soft herbs that do not dry well can be frozen. Frozen herbs keep their fragrance for 34 months.
Use for soups, stews, braised dishes, and sauces.


Freezing chopped herbs Freezing pured herbs
Wash and dry the herbs well, Alternatively, pure each
chop, and freeze in small pots herb with a little oil in
or in ice cube trays with a little a food processor and freeze
water or oil. Store the cubes in in bags or plastic pots.
plastic bags.

Drying herbs
Herbs hanging in a well-ventilated place will dry within a few days to a week. Those kept in a
steamy kitchen will not dry well. Avoid direct sunlight or too much heat because they will cause
the essential oils to evaporate.

1 When preparing herbs


for drying, remove any
old or discolored leaves.
Tie the herbs in small
bunches and hang in a
well-ventilated place out
of direct sunlight, such as
an attic or shed.

2 Drying is complete
when the leaves feel
brittle. Large leaves or
small flowerbuds can be
rubbed between the palms
Microwaving herbs of your hands to crumble
Scatter two handfuls of cleaned leaves and sprigs evenly them. Otherwise, strip the
leaves from the stems.
on a double layer of paper towel and microwave on high for
Store in airtight containers.
212 minutes. Bay leaves may need a little longer. Microwaving
preserves color well. Store as right.
122 PREPARING HERBS

Making vinegars, oils,


and butters
Flavored vinegars and oils are useful for sauces, dressings, and marinades, and for
stirring into soups and stews just before serving. Basil, dill, garlic, lavender, lemon
verbena, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme make excellent vinegars; among spices try
chili peppers, peppercorns, and dill, fennel, mustard, or coriander seeds. For oils, try
basil, bay, dill, garlic, mint, oregano, rosemary, savory, or thyme, or chile peppers and
cumin, dill, or fennel seeds. Herb and spice butters provide a quick dressing for broiled
or fried fish, poultry, and meat, and steamed or boiled vegetables, as well as a good
sandwich spread.

Making herb vinegar or oil


Flavored vinegars will keep in a cool, dark place for several years, mellowing as they age.
Oils will keep for up to 2 weeks and should be refrigerated.

1 To make an herb or spice vinegar,


take about 2 oz (60 g) of herb sprigs
or whole spicesabout 112 cups herb
sprigs and 24 tbsp whole spicesand
crush to bring out their flavor.

2 Put them into a large jar and cover


with 2 cups white wine vinegar,
cider vinegar, or rice vinegar. Close the
jar and let infuse for 23 weeks. Flavors
will develop more quickly if the jar is
placed in the sun.

3 Strain into bottles, add a fresh herb


sprig or a few fresh spices to each
one for decoration, close with a cork or
plastic-lined cap, and label the bottle.

Making herb oil


Follow the above method, but instead of
vinegar fill up the jar with virgin olive oil,
sunflower oil, or grapeseed oil. Let infuse in
a cool, dark place or the refrigerator. When
the flavors have developed, strain and bottle.
MAKING VINEGARS, OILS, AND BUTTERS 123

Making herb or spice butter


Most fresh herbs make fine flavored butters; among spices, choose ground cumin, black pepper,
cardamom, allspice, paprika, or cayenne112 tbsp per 1 cup butter. If you combine spices with
herbs, use less. Butters keep for a week if refrigerated, or can be frozen.

1 Beat 1 cup softened butter in a bowl with 111/2


tbsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp chopped herbs, or
blend the butter and lemon juice with 2 tbsp herbs
2 Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on a flat surface and spoon
the flavored butter into the center. Press the butter
into an elongated shape. Wrap in another sheet of plastic
in a food processor. wrap to prevent tearing.

3 Taking care to avoid folding the wrap into the butter,


roll the butter into a sausage shape. Twist the ends
of the plastic wrap to compress the butter, wrap in foil,
and refrigerate.

Herb butter
Wrap in foil and refrigerate or put into a plastic sealable
bag and freeze.
Spices
126 INTRODUCING SPICES

Introducing
spices
I have long had a passion for spices and a fascination with their
origins and production, as well as their culinary possibilities. What
people eat in any particular region is, or was, largely determined by
what grew and was reared there. The style of cooking originally
depended on local conditions, such as the availability of fuels, but
what really differentiates the great cuisines of the world is the
spices they use and how they blend them.

Asafetida
Produce of tropical Asia
Most of the important spice plantscinnamon, cloves, galangal,
ginger, nutmeg, pepperare native to the Asian tropics. They have
been used and traded for millennia, and much has been written
about the history of their tradethe fortunes and empires founded
on it, the brutal conquests, piracy, and greed; but our view of these
developments has always been a Western one. We know about the
overland routes from China to Byzantium, we are aware of the role
Arab seafarers played in the introduction of spices to the Tigris-
Euphrates basin and later to the Mediterranean ports, and we have
read about the Portuguese, Dutch, and English monopolies. But we
know little about the equally important early Asian trade, dominated
at different times by the large merchant fleets first of the Korean
kingdom of Silla (early 7th to mid-9th centuries), then of southern
China under the Sung dynasty (9601276), and of Sri Lanka. We know
Curry leaves
INTRODUCING SPICES 127

even less of the much earlier Indian traders who, from 600 BCE, established
new Hindu or Buddhist states in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and some of the
Indonesian islands, and supplied them with spices from their homeland.
When Columbus discovered America, the cultures of the continent
were already old and highly developed, and the spices of the American
tropics and subtropicsallspice, chili peppers, vanillahad played
their part in those cultures for a very long time. Here Europeans
can indeed be said to have been of importance, for the rapid
spread of chilies throughout their colonies transformed the diet
of half the world.

The spread of spices


Europe itself had already contributed much to the world
of spices. Many of the aromatic seedscoriander, fennel, fenugreek,
mustard, poppyare native to the Mediterranean region, and
Europes colder regions have contributed caraway, dill, and
juniper. European trade remained mainly within the continent
and with western Asia, but settlers sailing to the New World
took many of their familiar spices with them. Coriander

Not all of the spread of spices has been due to trade. Some resulted
from the breaking of jealously guarded monopolies; French botanists
and explorers were particularly effective in smuggling plants to new
destinations, where plantations were established.

Poppy Lemongrass Ginger


128 INTRODUCING SPICES

Migration has had a more lasting effect than trade on the


spread of spices. For example, ships from southern China
carried ginger, planted in troughs, as a necessity of life, and
so it came to be cultivated throughout the Pacific region.
Immigrant communities, whether established by colonial force
or economic plight, brought their own traditional ingredients
and married them to local producehence Cape Malay and
Cajun cooking, the rijsttafel of Holland, and the use of
Vanilla Colombo powder in the French West Indies.
Cured vanilla beans, containing tiny, sticky
seeds, flavor ice cream, cakes, and sweet
syrups. Vanilla also goes well with seafood
and chicken.
The desire for authenticity
Today there is a growing awareness of and demand for authentic
regional foods. We have learned that there is no such thing as
Italian food, because every Italian region has something different
to offer. We also know that what used to be the standard food in
Chinese restaurants is Cantonese, and that the cooking in Beijing,
Sichuan, and Hunan is quite different. The contrast between
northern and southern Indian cooking is attracting attention,
as is the difference between northern and southern Thai food.
Moroccan, Peruvian, and Ethiopian restaurants now exist in
most cities. What determines their individuality has much
to do with how they use herbs and spices.
It has been said that chemistry is like cooking, but now it would
be more accurate to say that cooking is becoming like chemistry.
Food companies are constantly formulating new flavors and trying
to synthesize others. They use electronic noses and tongues and
other sophisticated apparatus to produce aroma-fingerprints.
They collect headspacethat is, gather aroma molecules from
spices, herbs, and fruits or from finished dishes for reproduction
Turmeric
Grated turmeric rhizome imparts a warm, in a laboratory, eventually to be unleashed in commercially
earthy flavor to many Indian and Caribbean
prepared foods. The results are certainly impressive, but many of
dishes, as well as giving them their rich
yellow color. the cultural, tactile, and nutritive values of the original foods are
INTRODUCING SPICES 129

lost. Successfully making your own blend of spices gives a sense of achievement that
nothing squeezed out of a tube or poured from a bottle can equal. In countries where such
blends are used regularly there is no such thing as an immutably fixed recipe. Regional
tradition, family tastes, and individual preference determine the ingredients, and even fairly
standard mixtures will be adapted to the dish they are made formasalas, bumbus,
rempahs, and the like are infinitely variable.

Sri Lankan curry powder


This curry powder is made from curry
leaves, coriander, cumin, fenugreek,
rice, chili peppers, black peppercorns,
cloves, green cardamom, and cinnamon
(recipe, p.278).
Qalat daqqa
(recipe, p.283)
INTRODUCING SPICES 131

Grinding spices
Spices are best stored whole and ground only when
needed. Many spices start to lose their aroma within
hours of grinding.

Frying spices Grating ginger


For some dishes the spices are fried in oil beforehand Fresh ginger rhizome yields a highly aromatic juice. After fine
to impart their flavor. The oil is then used to flavor grating, the ginger shavings are wrapped in cloth and the juice
the dish. squeezed out.

Choosing and using spices


Complex flavors are built up in mixtures by using spices (or herbs) that complement each other. Some
are used for their taste, others for their aroma. Some have souring properties; in others, the color is
important. The moment at which spices are added to a dish makes a crucial difference. Whether or not
they are dry-roasted beforehand, they will impart their flavor to the dish if added at the beginning of
cooking; if sprinkled on toward the end of cooking, it is their aroma that will be emphasized in
the finished dish.
Toward the end of the book I have given recipes for mixtures from many different parts of the world.
These should be regarded as basic formulas, the fundamentals of specific styles of cooking, and fully
open to improvisation and experiment. By all means try them first as they are written, then adapt them
to your taste and the dish you want to make.
132 NUTTY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Sesame seeds are not very
aromatic but they have a
Sesame
mildly nutty, earthy odor. Sesamum orientale
This is more marked in the
taste, which develops even Sesame is one of the earliest recorded plants grown for
greater richness after dry-
roasting or grinding to a paste. its seeds. The Egyptians and Babylonians used ground
Black seeds have an earthier
taste than white seeds and are seeds in their breads, a practice that continues in the
not usually ground. Middle East today. Excavations in eastern Turkey have
found evidence of oil being extracted from the seeds as
early as 900BCE. High in polyunsaturated fatty acids, the
PARTS USED
oil pressed from raw seeds is excellent for cooking and
Seeds, whole and as a paste,
and oil. is highly stable, with the advantage that it does not turn
rancid in hot climates.

BUYING / STORING Whole seeds


Produced by an annual tropical plant, sesame
Sesame seeds are available from
supermarkets and Middle Eastern seeds may be pale gold or white, red, brown,
and health food stores, as are the or black, depending on the variety. The seeds
pale brown sesame paste (tahini), are small, flat, and oval, shiny and waxy because
darker Chinese sesame paste of their oil content, and fairly soft. The creamy
and sesame oils (light and nutty white seeds are the most common.
sesame oil and darker, stronger
Asian sesame oil). Golden seeds,
with their richer aroma, are
preferred by Japanese cooks, but
these are harder to find. Store
seeds in airtight containers and
toast them as needed.

HARVESTING
Plants are harvested before
the seed pods are fully ripe,
when they burst open. The
pods are dried and hulled,
usually mechanically.
NUTTY SPICES SESAME Sesamum orientale 133

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Sesame is scattered over breads or paste has a dense texture and is Essential to zaatar, goma shio,
seven-spice powder.
ground and added to the dough before used in dressings for noodles, rice,
Good with eggplant, fish, green
baking. It is essential to the Middle and vegetables.
vegetables, honey, legumes,
Eastern spice blend zaatar, and to The Chinese like the crunchy texture lemon, noodles, rice, salad
Japanese seven-spice powder. It is the of sesame seeds to coat shrimp balls greens, sugar, zucchini.
main ingredient of the Middle Eastern and shrimp toasts. In Japan, white or Combines well with
sweetmeat, halva. In India, sesame is golden sesame is blended with soy cardamom, cassia, chili,
used in sweets such as til laddoos, sauce and sugar to dress cold chicken, cinnamon, cloves, coriander,
which are balls of sesame and jaggery noodles, and vegetable salads. ginger, nutmeg, oregano,
flavored with cardamom. Indian cooks Black sesame is used in Chinese and pepper, sumac, thyme.
use pale golden sesame oil, called Japanese cooking as a garnish for rice
gingili or til oil, for cooking. Tahini and and vegetables, and to coat fish and
the oil are made from raw seeds. seafood before cooking. It is often said
Deep brown Chinese sesame paste to be bitter if dry-roasted, but I have
and amber-colored Asian oil are made not found it so if done lightly, and
from dry-roasted seeds; this enhances Japanese cooks frequently use it dry-
the nutty flavor and gives the darker roasted. Blended with coarse salt
color. These products are used in it makes the Japanese condiment,
Chinese, Korean, and Japanese goma shio, which is sprinkled over
cooking. Asian oil is a seasoning oil, vegetables, salads, and rice. In China,
not a cooking oil, because it burns at black seeds coat deep-fried toffee
low temperatures. Chinese sesame apples and bananas.

Asian sesame oil


Asian oil is usually
added to dishes
Tahini before serving.
In the Middle East, pale Combined with
brown tahini is blended chili, garlic, and
with garlic and lemon juice ginger, it is popular
to make a paste, used as a in Sichuan cooking.
basis for dressings for
vegetable and fish dishes,
and as the flavoring for the
chickpea dip, hummus.
134 NUTTY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Nigella does not have a
strong aroma; when rubbed
Nigella
it is herbaceous, somewhat Nigella sativa
like a mild oregano. The taste
is nutty, earthy, peppery, rather Nigella is the botanical name of love-in-a-mist, the pretty
bitter, dry, and quite penetrating;
the texture is crunchy. garden plant with pale blue flowers and feathery foliage.
The species grown for its seed is a close but less decorative
relative, native to western Asia and southern Europe. India is
PARTS USED the largest producer of nigella (kalonji) and a large consumer.
Seeds. The small, black seeds are often misnamed and sold as black
onion seed.

BUYING / STORING
Buy whole seeds because they Culinary uses
keep better; ground seeds may Nigella is sprinkled on flatbreads, rolls, nigella is used in pilafs, kormas, and
be adulterated. In an airtight and savory pastries, alone or with curries, and in pickles. In Iran, it is a
container they will keep their
flavor for 2 years. Nigella is
sesame or cumin. Cooks in Bengal popular pickling spice used for fruit
stocked by spice merchants combine it with mustard seeds, cumin, and vegetables. It is good with roast
and by Indian and Middle fennel, and fenugreek in the local potatoes and other root vegetables.
Eastern markets. spice mixture, panch phoron, which Ground with coriander and cumin, it
gives a distinctive taste to legume and adds depth to a Middle-Eastern potato
vegetable dishes. Elsewhere in India, or mixed vegetable omelette.

HARVESTING
Nigella seeds are matte black, Whole seeds
small, and teardrop-shaped. Indian cooks usually dry-roast
Their surface is rough. The or fry the seeds to develop their
seed capsules are gathered flavor before sprinkling them over
as they ripen but before they vegetarian dishes and salads.
burst, then dried and lightly
crushed so that the seeds can
be removed easily.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Essential to panch phoron.
Good with breads, legumes,
rice, green and root vegetables.
Combines well with allspice,
cardamom, cinnamon, coriander,
cumin, fennel, ginger, pepper,
savory, thyme, turmeric.
NUTTY SPICES POPPY Papaver somniferum 135

TASTING NOTES
Poppy The aroma of dark seeds is lightly
nutty and sweet; the flavor is
Papaver somniferum stronger and somewhat almond-
like. White seeds are lighter and
more mellow in flavor. Both the
The opium poppyPapaver somniferum means sleep- aroma and flavor are enhanced
inducing poppyis a plant of great antiquity, native from the by dry-roasting or baking. Poppy
seeds are rich in protein and oil.
eastern Mediterranean to central Asia. It has been cultivated
since earliest times for opium, a narcotic latex that oozes from
unripe seedpods if they are cut, and for its ripe seeds. Neither PARTS USED
the seeds nor the dried pods from which they are harvested Seeds.
have narcotic properties.

Culinary uses BUYING / STORING


In the West, poppy seeds are sprinkled over or Whole seeds Poppy seeds may be slate-blue,
creamy-white, or mid-brown.
incorporated into breads, bagels, pretzels, and Poppy seeds do not grind
The latter are common in Turkey
cakes. Ground to a paste with honey or sugar, easily, but dry-roasting
and the Middle East; the blue-
they are used to fill strudels and other pastries. In followed by a blitz in a gray seeds are most used in
Turkey, roasted, ground seeds are made into halva spice mill or coffee Europe, and the creamy-white
or desserts with syrup and nuts. In India, the grinder can help. If they seeds in India. Blue poppy seeds
roasted seeds are ground and combined with are to be used to thicken are available from supermarkets;
a dish, cover them with a the white and brown can be
spices to flavor and thicken kormas, curries, and
little water and soak for bought from spice merchants or
gravies. They are used extensively in Bengali in Asian and Middle Eastern
several hours, then
cooking in shuktas (bitter vegetable stews) and to markets. The seeds tend to go
process them briefly
coat crusty, dry-textured vegetables. Use poppy rancid quickly because of their
together with the liquid.
seeds, with or without other spices, in dressings high oil content, so buy in small
for noodles or to garnish vegetables. amounts and use quickly. Store
in an airtight container, or in the
freezer if you intend to keep
them longer than a few months.

HARVESTING
Plants are harvested mechanically
when the seedheads turn yellow-
brown; the capsules are cut
off and dried.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with eggplant, green
beans, breads and pastries,
cauliflower, potatoes, zucchini.
136 NUTTY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Mahlab is sweetly perfumed and
floral with hints of almond and
Mahlab
cherry. It has a mouthwatering Prunus mahaleb
flavor that is nutty with a soft,
almond sweetness, but then This agreeable spice, little known outside the Middle East,
finishes with a bitter aftertaste.
comes from a sour cherry tree that grows wild throughout
the region as well as in southern Europe. The trees bear
PARTS USED small, thin-fleshed, black cherries, the kernels of which are
The soft interior of the kernels. used to flavor breads and pastries. Mahlab is used in Greece,
Cyprus, Turkey, and the neighboring Arab countries, from
Syria to Saudi Arabia.
BUYING / STORING
Mahlab is best bought whole
because once ground it loses its Culinary uses
flavor quite quickly. Store in an Ground mahlab is primarily used in rings, made for the five religious
airtight container. Middle Eastern baking, especially in breads and feast nights each year when the
and Greek shops or online spice
merchants are the best sources.
pastries for festive occasions. A mosques are illuminated. It is also
piquant note of mahlab spices the used to flavor sweetmeats. Try adding
braided Greek Easter bread, tsoureki, a little to spiced or fruit breads or to
Armenian sweet rolls called chorek, pastry to be used with fruit. Mahlab
HARVESTING Arab maamool (little pastries stuffed is best ground in a spice mill or
with nuts or dates baked by Lebanese coffee grinder. If difficult, add a little
The soft kernels are extracted
from the cherry pits and dried. Christians for their Easter salt or sugar, according to the recipe,
They are small, oval, and beige celebrations), and Turkish kandil to help break down the mahlab.
or light tan in color.

Whole kernels
Ground kernels Beige mahlab kernels are
FLAVOR PAIRINGS Ground mahlab should creamy white inside; their
be pale cream in color; texture is soft and chewy.
Good with almonds, apricots,
dates, pistachio nuts, rose if it is dark or turning
water, walnuts. yellow it is too old.
Combines well with anise,
cinnamon, cloves, mastic,
nigella, nutmeg, poppy seed,
sesame.
NUTTY SPICES WATTLE Acacia species 137

TASTING NOTES
Wattle Wattle seed has a rich, toasty
aroma that is faintly like coffee.
Acacia species The flavor has notes of coffee
and roasted hazelnuts, with a
hint of chocolate.
Several hundred acacia species are native to Australia, but
only a few have edible seeds. A. victoriae and A. aneura, the
latter locally called the mulga tree, are two of those most
PARTS USED
regularly harvested for wattle seed. When dried, roasted,
Roasted, ground seeds.
and ground, the green, unripe seeds are transformed into
a rich, deep brown powder that resembles ground coffee.
Wattle is gaining popularity with food enthusiasts. BUYING / STORING
In Australia, wattle seed is
sold by spice merchants and
Culinary uses gourmet markets. In the
Wattle seed yields its flavor when as mousses, ice creams, and Northern Hemisphere some
spice merchants stock it,
infused in a hot liquid. Do not let the cheesecakes, and in cream fillings
and it is available online. In an
seed boil or the flavor will become for cakes. I have added it to a sweet airtight container it should
bitter. The liquid can be strained and bread dough quite successfully, and keep for up to 2 years.
used alone, or the ground seed can be a sprinkling gives a good flavor to a
left in for its texture. Wattle seed is traditional bread and butter pudding.
used to flavor desserts, especially Wattle liquid is sometimes drunk as
cream- or yogurt-based desserts such an alternative to coffee. HARVESTING
Wattle seed is quite expensive
because it is gathered from the
Ground seeds wild and its preparation is
Highly nutritious wattle seed has long extremely labor-intensive. Green
provided food for indigenous Australians. seed pods are steamed open, the
New interest in bush foods has created a whole green seeds are roasted
demand that at present exceeds supply. with embers and, once cooled
and cleaned of ash, they are
ground. The preparation is still
mostly done in the bush by
Aboriginal women.
138 SWEET SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Cinnamon has a warm,
agreeably sweet, woody
Cinnamon
aroma that is delicate yet Cinnamomum verum / C. zelanicum
intense; the taste is fragrant
and warm with hints of clove True cinnamon is indigenous to Sri Lanka. Like cassia, it is
and citrus. The presence of
eugenol in the essential oil the bark of an evergreen tree of the laurel family. For 200
distinguishes cinnamon
from cassia, giving it the years a highly profitable monopoly of the islands cinnamon
note of clove. was controlled first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and
finally by the English. By the late 18th century, cinnamon
had been planted in Java, India, and the Seychelles, and the
PARTS USED
monopoly could no longer be sustained.
Quills of dried bark,
ground cinnamon.

Quills Grades of cinnamon


Pale brown or tan There are many grades of cinnamon; quills are classified as
BUYING / STORING strips of dried bark are Continental, Mexican, or Hamburg, according to their thickness;
rolled one into another the thin Continental quills have the finest flavor. Quillings are
Ground cinnamonthe paler
its color, the finer its quality to form long, slender, quills broken in handling; featherings are the small inner
is widely available, but it loses smooth quills. pieces of bark not large enough to use in quills; and chips
its flavor quite quickly, so are shavings, the lowest grade of cinnamon. Featherings
buy in small amounts. Whole and chips are mostly used to produce ground cinnamon.
quills are available from
spice merchants and some
supermarkets. They keep
their aroma for 23 years if
stored in an airtight container.

HARVESTING
The Sri Lankan cinnamon
gardens lie on the coastal
plains south of Colombo.
Seedlings grow in thick
clumps, with shoots about
the thickness of a thumb. In
the rainy season the shoots
are cut off at the base and
peeled. The harvesters work
with extraordinary dexterity
to cut the paper-thin pieces
of bark and then roll quills
over 3 ft (up to 1 m) long by
hand. The quills are then
gently dried in the shade.
SWEET SPICES CINNAMON Cinnamomum verum / C. zelanicum 139

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Cinnamons subtle flavor is well suited glorious Arab stew of lamb with Good with almonds, apples,
apricots, bananas, chocolate,
to all manner of desserts and spiced apricotsmishmisheyauses coffee, eggplant, lamb, pears,
breads and cakes; it combines cinnamon and other spices, and it poultry, rice.
particularly well with chocolate and plays a role in many an Iranian Combines well with
with apples, bananas, and pears. Use it khoresh (stews that accompany rice). cardamom, cloves, coriander,
in apple pie or with baked apples, with In India, cinnamon is used in many cumin, ginger, mace, mastic,
bananas fried in butter and flavored masalas (spice mixtures), in chutneys nutmeg, tamarind, turmeric.
with rum, and in red wine used for and condiments, and in spiced pilafs.
poaching pears. It also makes an Mexico is the main importer of
excellent flavoring for many meat and cinnamon, which is used to flavor
vegetable dishes in Middle Eastern coffee and chocolate drinks; cinnamon
and Indian cuisine. Moroccan cooks tea is popular throughout Central and
use it widely in lamb or chicken South America. Once popular for
tagines, in the stew to accompany spicing ale, cinnamon, together with
couscous, and above all to flavor cloves, sugar, and sliced oranges,
bstilla, a pie of crisp, layered pastry makes an excellent flavoring for
filled with squab and almonds. The mulled wine.

Ground bark
Ground cinnamon is immediately aromatic;
quills tend to hide their aromatic properties
until broken or cooked in a liquid.
140 SWEET SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Cassia shares the warm
woody aroma of cinnamon,
Cassia
but it is more intense because Cinnamomum cassia
it has a higher volatile oil. It
is sweetish with a distinct Cassia is the dried bark of a species of laurel tree native
pungency and an astringent
edge. Vietnamese cassia has to Assam and northern Myanmar. It is recorded in a Chinese
the highest volatile oil content
and the strongest flavor. herbal in 2700BCE, and today most cassia is exported from
southern China and Vietnam. The finest quality comes
from northern Vietnam. Cassia and cinnamon are used
PARTS USED interchangeably in many countries. In the US, cassia is
Dried bark and quills, ground sold as cinnamon or cassia-cinnamon, and is preferred
bark; dried unripe fruits, called
cassia buds; tejpat leaves. to true cinnamon because of its more pronounced
aroma and flavor.

BUYING / STORING Culinary uses


Cassia is difficult to grind, so Cassia is an essential spice in China, curries and pilafs, and in Germany
it may be better to buy a small
amount of ground cassia as well
where it is frequently used whole and Russia, it is often used as a
as pieces or quills. The latter will to flavor braised dishes and sauces flavoring for chocolate. I prefer
keep their flavor much longer, for cooking meat and poultry; and cinnamon to cassia for delicate
up to 2 years if stored in an ground cassia is a constituent of five- desserts, but it is good with apples,
airtight container. Buy bark, spice powder. In India, it is found in plums, dried figs, and prunes.
buds, and leaves from specialist
spice dealers and keep in an
airtight container.

Whole bark
The color of the
HARVESTING smooth inner bark
Harvesting starts in the rainy is reddish brown,
season when the bark can be the rough outside
stripped easily. As it dries it is gray-brown.
curls to make quills, which are
graded according to their
essential oil content, length, and
color. Quills are reddish brown
and the layers are thicker than
in cinnamon quills. Cassia
bark is thicker and coarser than
cinnamon, and the corky outer
layer is often left on when it is
sold in pieces.
Quills
Cassia bark is thick
and tough and its
quills are simple,
crude curls, whereas
the thinner, softer
bark of cinnamon is
rolled more tightly.
SWEET SPICES CASSIA Cinnamomum cassia 141

Cassia is used in spice blends both used in long-cooked dishes and FLAVOR PAIRINGS
for baking and sweet dishes. The removed before serving. However,
Essential to five-spice powder.
pungency of cassia is better suited tejpat leaves are quite different from
Good with apples, plums,
than cinnamon to rich meats such bay aromatically and a clove or a small
prunes, legumes, meat and
as duck or pork, and it goes well with piece of cassia make a better substitute poultry, root vegetables.
pumpkin and other winter squashes, than bay if you cant find tejpat leaves. Combines well with
with sweet potatoes, and with lentils The leaves are used extensively in the cardamom, cloves, coriander,
and beans. Cassia buds are used in biryanis and kormas of northern India cumin, fennel, ginger, mace,
sweet pickles in Asia, and they can be and in some garam masalas. nutmeg, Sichuan pepper, star
used, whole, in place of cassia. They are Indonesian or Korintje cassia (C. anise, turmeric.
particularly good in fruit compotes. burmannii) from Sumatra has a deep
Tejpat leaves are often called Indian color and a pleasantly spicy flavor, but
bay leaves, because both come from lacks the depth of Vietnamese or
species of laurel and because they are Chinese cassia.

Buds
Cassia buds are a bit like
small cloves. The hard,
red-brown seed is just
visible in the wrinkled
gray-brown calyx. The
buds have a warm,
mellow aroma and the
flavor is musky, sweet,
and pungent, but less
concentrated than that
of the bark.

Dried tejpat leaves


Leaves of the related C. tamala are
oval in shape with three long veins.
They are used in the cooking of north
India. Dried tejpat leaves have an
immediate smell of spiced
tea. A prolonged sniff
reveals a warm,
musky aroma of
clove and cinnamon
with citrus undertones.
142 SWEET SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Ripe seeds have a sweet, woody,
spicy fragrance with peppery and
Coriander
floral notes; the taste is sweet, Coriandrum sativum
mellow, and warm with a clear
hint of orange peel. A few plants serve cooks as both herb and spice, and of
these coriander is undoubtedly the most widely used in both
of its forms. As a spice crop it is grown in eastern Europe,
PARTS USED
India, the US, and Central America, as well as in its native
Dried fruits (seeds).
habitat of western Asia and the Mediterranean. In all of these
regions it is used extensively, sometimes in combination with
BUYING / STORING its leaf, commonly called cilantro.
Coriander is widely available.
Buy whole seeds. They are easy Whole Moroccan seeds
to grind as needed, but their Spherical Moroccan seeds
aromatic properties diminish
are more commonly available Ground seeds
quickly after grinding. In some
than the oval Indian variety. Seeds are brittle and easy
Indian markets you may find a
blend of whole or ground to grind; dry-roasting before
coriander and cumin seeds grinding enhances the flavor.
called dhana-jeera, which
is popular throughout
the subcontinent.

HARVESTING
Seeds are harvested when they
change color from green to beige
or light brown. Traditionally,
plants are cut, left to wither for
23 days, then threshed and
dried in partial shade. If not fully
dry they may be put in full sun
before being sifted and packed.
In some regions the seeds are
dried artificially.
SWEET SPICES CORIANDER Coriandrum sativum 143

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Cooks use coriander seeds in larger In Europe and the US, coriander Essential to harissa, tabil,
dukka, most masalas.
amounts than they do many other serves as a pickling spice and gives
Good with apples, chicken,
spices because the flavor is mild. a pleasant, mild flavor to sweet-sour
citrus fruit, fish, ham,
After dry-roasting, coriander forms pickles and chutneys. West Indian mushrooms, onions,
the basis of many curry powders cooks use it in masalas, and in Mexico plums, pork, potatoes.
and masalas. North African cooks it is often paired with cumin. French Combines well with allspice,
use it in harissa, tabil, ras el hanout, vegetable dishes la grecque are chili, cinnamon, cloves,
and other spice mixtures. Georgian flavored with coriander. It is a useful cumin, fennel, garlic,
khmeli-suneli and Iranian advieh spice to add to marinades, to court- ginger, mace, nutmeg.
mixtures usually include it, as do bouillon for fish, or to stock for soup.
Middle Eastern baharat blends; It is also a constituent of English
throughout the region coriander mixed sweet spice, much used in cakes
is a popular flavoring for vegetable and cookies. Its flavor combines well
dishes, stews, and sausages. Crushed with those of autumn fruitsapples,
green olives that are flavored with plums, pears, quincesbaked in pies
coriander are a specialty of Cyprus. or stewed in compotes.

Whole Indian seeds


Although coriander seeds and leaves smell and
taste quite different, they complement each other
in Indian and Mexican dishes.

Ground seeds
Indian coriander has
a sweeter flavor
than Moroccan.
144 SWEET SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The aroma of juniper is
pleasantly woody, bittersweet,
Juniper
and unmistakably like gin. The Juniperus communis
taste is clean and refreshing,
sweetish with a slight burning Juniper is a prickly, evergreen shrub or small tree that grows
effect, and has a hint of pine
and resin. throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, especially on
chalky, hilly sites. It is a member of the large cypress family,
the only one with edible fruit. The berries were used by
PARTS USED enterprising Romans to adulterate pepper, and were burned
Berries, fresh or dried. in the Middle Ages (and well beyond) to clear the air of
pestilence. Junipers use as a flavoring for gin and other
spirits dates back at least to the 17th century.
BUYING / STORING
Juniper berries are always sold
whole and are usually dried. Whole berries
They are quite soft and bruise Berries growing in southerly latitudes
easily, so make sure those you have more flavor. If you come across
buy are whole and dry. They them in the wild, ripe and blue-black,
will keep for several months it is well worth picking them.
in an airtight jar.

HARVESTING
A juniper bush makes a
handsome garden plant
throughout the year. The
purple-black, smooth berries
are about the size of a small pea.
They take 23 years to ripen, so
green and ripe berries occur
on the same plant. There is
some cultivation of juniper and
also berries are gathered in the
wilda hazardous undertaking
because of the very sharp, spiky
leaves. Berries are picked when
ripe, in fall. Freshly picked
berries have a green-blue bloom
that disappears during drying.
SWEET SPICES JUNIPER Juniperus communis 145

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In central and northern Europe juniper few liven up stuffings and pts and Good with apples, beef,
cabbage, duck, game,
is a popular spice for meat and game. make good sauces for hearty meats. goose, pork.
Juniper is a natural foil for game and for Crush or grind juniper just before
Combines well with bay,
fatty foods. The Scandinavians add it to using it: in contact with the air the caraway, celery, garlic,
marinades for pickled beef and elk and essential oils are quickly lost. Juniper marjoram, pepper, rosemary,
to red-wine marinades for roast pork. is widely used to flavor cordials, savory, thyme.
In northern France, juniper appears in alcohol, and other drinks, including
venison dishes and pts; in Belgium, it Finnish rye beer. Gin, which is
is used with veal kidneys flamed in gin; flavored with green berries, was first
and in Alsace and Germany, it is a produced in the Netherlands. The
flavoring for sauerkraut. name comes from the Dutch name
Easily crushed, the berries impart genever. Dutch genever and corenwijn
a mild but pungent flavor that can are served chilled in shot glasses and
benefit many dishes, both savory and appreciated for their flavor; they are
sweet. Mixed with salt and garlic they not diluted to make long drinks, as gin
can be rubbed onto lamb, pork, game often is. Some of the new gins from
birds, and venison. small distillers have complex aromas
Crushed berries also go into brines of several spices, but juniper remains
and marinades; chopped finely, just a a constant among them.

A rub for meats


Juniper berries crushed in a mortar
with garlic and coarse salt make
a well-flavored rub for lamb,
pork, and venison.
146 SWEET SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Only intensely fragrant roses
are used; the highly perfumed
Rose
damask rose, R. damascena, is Rosa species
the one preferred in the Balkans,
Turkey, and most of the Middle Western cooks seldom think of roses as a flavoring
East. In Morocco, a musk-
scented rose is grown. Dried ingredient, but throughout the Arab world, Turkey, and
buds keep their perfume well.
Iran, and as far east as northern India, dried rosebuds or
petals and rose water are consumed in a variety of ways.
Turkey and Bulgaria are the main producers of attar of roses
PARTS USED
(the essential oil) and rose water, but roses are also grown
Buds, petals.
commercially in Iran and Morocco. The Japanese rose
(Rosa rugosa) is the rose grown in East Asia for culinary
BUYING / STORING and medicinal use. In China the rose petals are used to
Rose water and rose oil are flavor tea and sometimes sugar.
available from Middle Eastern,
Indian, Iranian, and Turkish
markets, as is very sweet but
well-flavored rose-petal preserves,
which may come from Bulgaria,
Turkey, or Pakistan. Some markets Dried rosebuds
also carry dried rosebuds, Buds and flowers are picked very
which can be kept in an airtight early in the morning to capture their
container for up to a year. Grind
fragrance before it is lost to the sun.
in an electric mill as needed.

HARVESTING
Rosebuds and petals are
harvested in early summer
and either dried or distilled
to make rose essence (attar
of roses), which may be
diluted to make rose water.
SWEET SPICES ROSE Rosa species 147

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In India powdered, dried purple petals and cinnamon, sometimes with Essential to Iranian advieh, ras
el hanout, Tunisian bharat.
rose petals are used in marinades cumin or cardamom, makes a heady
Good with apples, apricots,
and in delicately flavored kormas. flavoring for rice. A more complex
chestnuts, lamb, poultry,
In Bengal and Punjab, rose water blend with powdered dried lime is quinces, rice, desserts,
features prominently in desserts such used to flavor stews. Crushed rose and pastries.
as gulab jamun (gulab means rose) petals may garnish a yogurt and Combines well with
and rasgulla, in sweet lassi (a cooling cucumber salad or cold soup. In cardamom, chili, cinnamon,
yogurt drink), and in kheer (a rich Morocco, rose water is used more cloves, coriander, cumin, pepper,
rice pudding). Its flavor can also than rosebuds, although buds are saffron, turmeric, yogurt.
be detected in much confectionary, a constituent of ras el hanout.
including Turkish delight, in Middle Tunisian cooks seem to appreciate
Eastern pastries, and in some savory rosebuds most of all, using them in
dishes. Fresh or dried petals are infused several spice blends for a wide range
in syrups to make desserts and drinks. of dishes. A simple bharat of finely
A delicately flavored rose sherbet is ground cinnamon and rosebuds is
served at Turkish ceremonial functions. used together with black pepper
Rose petals can also be put into a jar to flavor roast meats, stews using
of sugar to infuse it with a delicate fruits such as quinces or apricots,
rose scent that will flavor creams and couscous with fish or lamb. In
and cakes. Tunisian Jewish cooking the same
Iranian cooks use rosebuds quite flavorings are used in meatballs
extensively: a blend of ground, dried to accompany couscous.

Advieh for rice


Rose petals, cinnamon, and
cumin seeds are used in this
Iranian flavoring for
rice (recipe, p.279).
148 SWEET SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Fresh vanilla beans have
no aroma or taste. After
Vanilla
fermentation they develop a rich, Vanilla planifolia
mellow, intensely perfumed
aroma with hints of licorice or Vanilla is the fruit of a perennial, climbing orchid, native
tobacco matched by a delicate,
sweetly fruity or creamy flavor. to Central America. It is not known when vanilla was
There may also be hints of raisin
or prune, or smoky, spicy notes. first cured and used as a flavoring, but tribes ruled by
the Aztecs had fairly sophisticated methods of fermenting
the beanlike fruits to extract vanillin crystals. The Spanish
PARTS USED conquistadors drank chocolate flavored with vanilla at
Cured pods (beans). the court of Moctezuma. They took to it and shipped both
chocolate and vanilla back to Spain. They also gave the
fruit its name: vanilla is the diminutive of vaina, meaning
BUYING / STORING pod. Today, vanilla is exported from Mexico, Runion,
You are more likely to get Madagascar, Tahiti, and Indonesia.
better grade beans from a
specialty food store or mail
order than a supermarket.
Stored away from the light in Whole dried beans
an airtight container, vanilla Good vanilla beans are deep
beans will keep for 2 years or brown or black, long and
more. When buying extract, narrow, somewhat wrinkled,
look for bottles labeled pure moist, waxy, supple, and
vanilla extract, which by law immediately fragrant.
must contain 35 percent
alcohol by volume.

HARVESTING
Vanilla pods are picked when
they begin to turn yellow.
Further maturation is prevented
by plunging them into boiling
water, then they are sun-dried
by day and sweated by night,
wrapped in blankets. The pods
shrivel and darken, and enzymes
cause a chemical change that
produces aromatic compounds,
notably vanillin. About 10lb (5kg)
of fresh pods yields 214lb (1kg)
cured vanilla beans.

Seeds
The tiny, sticky, black seeds
can be scraped from the bean
with the point of a knife.
SWEET SPICES VANILLA Vanilla planifolia 149

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar and or cream can be rinsed, dried, and Good with apples, melon,
peaches, pears, rhubarb,
Runion has a rich, creamy flavor; reused. Vanilla flavors cakes, tarts, strawberries, fish and seafood,
Mexican was traditionally considered and syrups used for poaching fruit. cream, milk, eggs.
to be the most delicate and complex; Cut beans can be laid over fruit to Combines well with
Tahitian smells heady, floral, and fruity; be baked in the oven. Vanillas original cardamom, chili, cinnamon,
and Indonesian vanilla has a smoky, use with chocolate is still widely cloves, lavender, saffron.
strong flavor. The best beans have a practiced, and it also enriches tea
light, white frosting, called givre, of and coffee. Vanilla is less commonly
vanillin crystals. thought of as a spice for savory
Whole or split beans are most used foods, but it goes well with seafood,
to flavor creams, custards, and ice particularly lobster, scallops, and
cream. The presence of tiny black mussels, and with poultry. It enhances
specks, the sticky seeds, in the dishes the sweetness of root vegetables, and
indicates authenticity. A whole vanilla in Mexico, it is used with black beans.
bean that has been infused in a syrup

Flavored sugar
Rather than buy expensive boxes
of vanilla-flavored sugar, granulated
sugar can be perfumed beautifully
simply by putting a vanilla bean
in the jar or canister.

Extract
Made by macerating pods in alcohol, vanilla extract
has a sweet aroma and a delicate taste. Avoid synthetic
vanilla, derived from pulp waste, which has a cloying
smell and a disagreeable, bitter aftertaste.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron,
because, like saffron, its production is very labor-intensive.
Pollination of the plants has to be done by hand, harvesting
the pods is difcult, and there is a lengthy curing process.
152 SWEET SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The aroma of akudjura suggests
baked caramel and chocolate.
Akudjura
The taste is of caramel, tamarillo, Solanum species
and tomato, with a bitterish,
lingering aftertaste that is Akudjura (S. centrale) is the name of an edible member
quite refreshing.
of a group of wild tomatoes, native to the deserts of
western and central Australiathe bush that gave
PARTS USED the fruit its popular name of bush tomato. Several plants
Dried fruit. in the group are poisonous. The edible ones have always
been gathered by the Aborigines for staple food stores,
but recently they have attracted wider attention as a
BUYING / STORING spice. Also collected is S. aviculare, which has larger
Bush tomatoes are sold whole fruit, known as kangaroo apple.
these must be soaked for 2030
minutes before use, or, more
frequently, ground to an orange-
brown powder, which is always Culinary uses
called akudjura. Akudjura can be used in place of sun- The powder goes into cookies,
dried tomato or sweet paprika. Those chutneys, dressings, relishes, and
who have become accustomed, even salsas. A mixture of wattle, mountain
addicted, to its special taste sprinkle pepper, and akudjura is used the same
HARVESTING
it on salads, soups, egg dishes, and way as Cajun blackening spice,
There is, as yet, no cultivation steamed vegetables. In Australia, it is especially for fish; in other mixtures
of the bush tomatowhat is used whole in casseroles and in an akudjura is used for grilling and for
available has been gathered in
the wild. The yellow fruits are left interesting version of damper, the marinating meat, especially the very
to dry on the plant; they shrink to traditional breadlike bush tucker. lean kangaroo meat.
grape size, turn chocolate brown,
and acquire a chewy texture
reminiscent of raisinshence Whole fruit
their other name, desert raisins. Akudjura suits both sweet
Drying also reduces the level of and savory dishes. It gives a
alkaloids, especially potentially distinct flavor to tomato-based
harmful solanine. sauces and to meat stews,
particularly goulash.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with apple, cheese
dishes, fish, lean meats, onions,
sweet peppers, potatoes.
Combines well with coriander,
lemon myrtle, mountain
pepper, thyme, wattle.

Crushed fruit
Akudjura may be orange-red
or brownish, depending on
rainfall in the growing season.
SWEET SPICES PINK PEPPER Schinus terebinthifolius 153

Pink pepper TASTING NOTES


The aroma of crushed berries
is pleasantly fruity, with a clear
Schinus terebinthifolius note of pine. The taste is fruity,
resinous, and sweetly aromatic,
Pink pepper is the fruit of the Brazilian pepper tree, similar to juniper but not as
strong. It shares with true
native not just to Brazil but to Argentina and Paraguay black pepper one important
constituent, piperine oil, but
as well. The tree has been introduced in many places as it has none of peppers heat.
an ornamental or shade tree. It is aggressively invasive
and now grows in almost every temperate zone in the
world. Monoterpenes in the volatile oil can cause PARTS USED
intestinal irritation, but not in the quantities used in a Dried fruit.
normal recipe. Runion is the only place where pink
pepper is commercially grown.
BUYING / STORING
Dried pink pepper is sold
Culinary uses by spice merchants and
Pink peppercorns flavor a variety of seed. Pink pepper is mostly supermarketsfreeze-dried
berries have the best color and
dishes. Use in small amounts, and not, recommended for fish or poultry, but flavor. It is also available in
for example, in the quantity needed to goes well with game and other rich brine, vinegar, or water, bottled
prepare a pepper steak. Pickling softens foods in the same way as juniper. Pink or canned. Dried berries are
the berries and they can be crushed pepper flavors quite delicate sauces to added, for color effect, to black,
easily. Dried berries have a brittle, accompany such varied ingredients as white, and green peppercorns,
papery outer shell enclosing a hard lobster, veal scallops, and pork. to which they are not related.
Keep pink peppercorns whole
in an airtight container, and
crush or grind them as needed.
Whole berries
The berries are easily crushed
with a mortar and pestle or under
the blade of a big knife. HARVESTING
In fall, clusters of tiny,
white flowers form green
and juicy berries that ripen
to a bright red. They are
harvested when ripe.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with fish, game, rich
and fatty meats, poultry.
Combines well with chervil,
fennel, galangal, makrut lime
leaves, lemongrass, mint,
parsley, black and green pepper.
154 SWEET SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The aroma of paprika tends
to be restrained and delicate;
Paprika
caramel notes, fruitiness, or Capsicum annuum species
smokiness characterize some
paprikas, while others have Capsicums are native to the Americas and were first planted
a nose-prickling, light heat.
Flavors vary from sweetly in Spain after the voyage of Columbus in 1492. It was the
smoky to rounded and full-
bodied, or gently pungent Spanish who first dried and ground the peppers to make
with bitter notes. pimentn, or paprika. Later, seeds reached Turkey and were
planted there and throughout the Ottoman Empire. Ornamental
Turkish pepper was recorded in Hungary in 1604. A century
PARTS USED
later paprika was mentioned there as a spice used by peasants;
Dried fruits. There is no single
paprika pepper: it is made it was not until the 19th century that it was considered
from a number of different suitable for sophisticated stomachs.
red capsicums.

BUYING / STORING
Ground paprika
Hungarian paprika is somewhat Paprika can be sweet, bittersweet, or hot,
hotter than Spanish. Portuguese depending on whether it is produced from
and Moroccan paprika tend to Hungarian paprika
mild or lightly pungent peppers, and also Hungarian cooks usually have
resemble Spanish; that from
on the amount of ground seeds and veins different grades of paprika in the
the Balkan states is closer to
Hungarian. Paprika from the included in the powder. kitchen and select the one best
US is mild. All paprika should suited to the dish being prepared.
be kept in an airtight container
and away from light; otherwise,
it will lose its vibrancy. Paprika
paste and paprika sauce are
also produced in Hungary
and the Balkan countries.

HARVESTING
Once dried, stems are
removed, seeds and veins
are separated, then the wall
of the fruit and the seeds
are ground separately and
blended according to the
type of paprika being made.
For Spanish pimentn, the
peppers are dried over oak
fires for a smoky flavor.
SWEET SPICES PAPRIKA Capsicum annuum species 155

Culinary uses PAPRIKA


CLASSIFICATIONS
Paprika is the predominant spice and Morocco, it is widely used in spice
Paprika is usually sold in
coloring in Hungarian cooking. Fried blends, in chermoula (a marinade sealed cans or bags bearing
gently with onion in lard (the main and sauce for fish), and in tagines; labels of authenticity.
cooking fat), it forms the basis of in Turkey, it flavors soups, vegetables,
Hungarian paprika comes
goulash, veal or chicken papriks, and meat dishes, especially variety from two regions, Szeged and
and duck or goose prklt; it gives meats. In India, its principal use is to Kalocsa, whose names appear
color and flavor to potato, rice, and add a red color to dishes. Everywhere on the packaging.
noodle dishes and many vegetables. it is used as an essential flavoring for Klnleges (special, delicate)
Serbian cooks use paprika in similar sausages and other meat products. is bright red, finely milled to a
ways. In Hungary, the Balkan Paprika should never be silky powder; with only a tiny
countries, and Turkey, it is more overheated because it becomes bitter. percentage of seeds, it is sweet
usual to find paprika or chili flakes Essential to romesco sauce. with a barely perceptible heat.
It has a long shelf life.
on the table than black pepper. Good with beef and veal, white
In Spain, paprika is used in sofrito, cheeses, chicken, duck, most legumes desnemes (noble sweet)
is darker red, sweet,
the mixture of onions and other and vegetables, pork, rice.
rounded, with restrained
ingredients fried in olive oil that forms Combines well with allspice, heat and no bitterness.
the basis of many slow-cooked dishes. caraway, cardamom, garlic, ginger, Quite finely ground.
It appears in rice and potato dishes, is oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary,
Delicatess (delicatessen)
appreciated with fish and in omelettes, saffron, thyme, turmeric, sour cream is fruity, slightly hot, and
and is essential to romesco sauce. In and yogurt. bright, light red.
Fldes (semi-sweet) contains
Spanish paprika more veins and is therefore less
sweet and more pungent.
The D.O. Pimentn de la Vera indicates a
high-quality paprika, smoked over wood, Rozsa (rose) is pinkish red and
to give a distinctive mellow or medium-hot has more heat; it is made from
taste, depending on the style chosen.
the whole fruit.
Eros (strong) is made from
lesser-grade whole fruits and
has more pungency and a bitter
aftertaste. Brownish red and
coarse, it is more like a
ground hot chili.
Most Spanish paprika comes
from La Vera and carries
a denomination of origin; a
small amount of sweet paprika
from the ora pepper is
produced in Murcia.
Dulce (sweet, mild) is a brick-
red powder with a smoky
aroma and a tangy flavor.
Agridulce (bittersweet) is deep
red and piquant with
a bitter note.
Picante (hot) is rust-red and
has a sharp, pleasant heat.
Spanish paprika is marketed in
different quality grades: extra,
select, and ordinary.
156 ACIDIC AND FRUITY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Tamarind has little smell, and
a sourish but also sweet and
Tamarind
fruity taste. The sour element Tamarindus indica
is due to tartaric acid. Different
locations give different levels Tamarind is obtained from the beanlike pods of the tamarind
of sourness in the pulp. Thai
tamarind has a more rounded, tree, native to eastern Africa, probably Madagascar, which
less tart taste than Vietnamese
or Indonesian tamarind. makes it the only important spice of African origin. The tall,
evergreen trees with their handsome crowns were already
growing in India in prehistoric times; the name comes from
PARTS USED the Arabic thamar-i-hindi, fruit of India. Tamarind trees
Pulp of ripe pods; leaves. remain productive for up to 200 years. The spice has long
been importedprincipally from Indiafor the manufacture
of such condiments as Worcestershire sauce.
BUYING / STORING
In East Indian and Asian
markets, tamarind (also
Whole pods
In Vietnam and Thailand, unripe pods are used
called Indian date) is
available as a dried block, in tart soups and stews. In the regions where
with or without seeds, as a tamarind grows, especially Thailand and the
thick, fairly dry paste, or Philippines, young, feathery leaves and flowers
as a more liquid, brown-black are sometimes used in curries and chutneys.
concentrate or syrup. In all
processed forms tamarind
keeps almost indefinitely.
Occasionally fresh leaves,
slices of dried pulp, and
powdered dried tamarind
can be found.

HARVESTING
Tamarind trees produce clusters
of pale yellow flowers that turn
into long, rust-colored pods.
The pods contain a dark brown,
sticky, and very fibrous pulp.
The pulp is extracted from the
brittle outer shell of the pod
and pressed into flat cakes;
these often include the shiny,
black seeds. Further processing
results in tamarind paste
and concentrate.
ACIDIC AND FRUITY SPICES TAMARIND Tamarindus indica 157

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In India and Southeast Asia, tamarind seeds are used in cakes. In Iran, Essential to
Worcestershire sauce.
is used as an acidulant (much as the stuffed vegetables are baked in a
Good with cabbage, chicken,
West uses lemon and lime) in curries, rich tamarind stock. In the Middle
fish and shellfish, lamb, lentils,
sambhars, chutneys, marinades, East, a lemonade-like drink made mushrooms, peanuts, pork,
preserves, pickles, and sherbets. from tamarind syrup is popular; poultry, most vegetables.
Tamarind gives many hot south Indian Central America and the West Indies Combines well with
dishes, such as Goan vindaloo and also have tamarind drinks, which are asafetida, chili, cilantro,
Gujarati vegetable stews, their consumed on their own or in tropical cumin, galangal, garlic,
characteristic sourness. With raw fruit punch, or made into milk shakes ginger, mustard, shrimp
sugar and chili peppers, it is simmered with ice cream. Jamaica uses tamarind paste (blachan, trassi),
soy sauce, brown or
to a syrupy dipping sauce for fish. It in stews and with rice; in Costa Rica it
palm sugar, turmeric.
goes into Thai tom yum soup and makes a sour sauce. In Thailand,
Chinese hot-and-sour ones. In Vietnam, the Philippines, Jamaica,
Indonesia, where the word asem and Cuba, tamarind pulp is eaten as
means both tamarind and sour, it is a sweetmeat, dusted with sugar or
used in sauces, both savory and sweet, candied. Try using tamarind with
and for marinades. On Java, it is salt as a rub for fish or meat before
preferred to lemon for the islands cooking, or with soy sauce and ginger
sweet-sour dishes. In India, ground in a marinade for pork or lamb.

Block Concentrate or syrup Paste


To use tamarind from a block, soak a Tamarind concentrate has Adding prepared
small piece, about the equivalent of a cooked smell reminiscent tamarind to dishes
1 tbsp, for 1015 minutes in a little hot of molasses, and a distinct moderates the heating
water. Stir to loosen the pulp, squeeze sharp, acid taste. To use a effect of fiery chili
out, and strain to remove fiber and, if concentrate, stir 12 tsp peppers and hot spices.
they are present, seeds. into a little water.
158 ACIDIC AND FRUITY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Sumac is only slightly aromatic;
the taste is pleasantly tart,
Sumac
fruity, and astringent. Rhus coriaria
Sumac is the fruit of a decorative, bushy shrub that
PARTS USED grows to a height of about 10ft (3m) and has light
Dried berries. gray or reddish stems. The shrub grows wild on
sparsely wooded uplands and high plateaus around
the Mediterranean in Anatolia (Turkey), elsewhere
BUYING / STORING in the Middle East, and in its native Iran.
Outside the growing regions
sumac is normally only available
as a coarse or fine powder. In Culinary uses
an airtight container this will
keep for several months. Sumac is an essential ingredient in dressings, in meat and vegetable
Whole berries can be kept Arab and, especially, in Lebanese dishes, and also to make a refreshing
for a year or more. cooking, where it is used as an drink. Sumac powder is rubbed onto
acidulant. Its taste is tingling and tart food before cooking: the Lebanese and
and it brings out the flavors of food Syrians use it on fish, the Iranians and
to which it is added, much as salt Georgians on kebabs, the Iraqis and
HARVESTING does. If the berries are used whole, Turks on vegetables. Sumac is often
In the fall sumac leaves turn they are cracked and soaked in water sprinkled on flatbreads; it provides the
a beautiful red, and the for 2030 minutes, then squeezed out tart element in the Lebanese bread
white flowers eventually well to extract all the juice, which is salad, fattoush, and is an essential part
develop into dense, conical used for marinades and salad of the spice and herb blend zaatar.
clusters of fruitsmall, round,
russet-colored berries. The
berries are picked just before Ground berries
they are fully ripe, dried in the
Berries vary in color from brick red
sun, and crushed to a brick-red
to red-brown or maroon, depending
or red-brown powder.
on where they come from.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Essential to fattoush, zaatar.
Good with eggplant, chicken,
chickpeas, fish and seafood,
lamb, lentils, raw onion, pine
nuts, walnuts, yogurt.
Combines well with allspice,
chili, coriander, cumin, garlic,
mint, paprika, parsley, sesame,
pomegranate, thyme.

Zaatar
Ground sumac berries are
combined with sesame seeds
and crushed, dried thyme in
this Middle Eastern spice
mixture (recipe, p.283).
ACIDIC AND FRUITY SPICES BARBERRY Berberis vulgaris 159

Barberry TASTING NOTES


The ripe berries are pleasantly
acidulous. Dried berries have
Berberis vulgaris a light aroma, reminiscent of
currants, but with a tart note.
Many species of the Berberis genus and of the closely related The taste is agreeably sweet-
tart, with an underlying
genus Mahonia grow wild in temperate zones of Europe, sharpness that derives
from malic acid.
Asia, northern Africa, and North America. They are dense,
spiny, perennial bushes with toothed leaves, and they all
have edible berriesthe Berberis berries some shade of red,
PARTS USED
the Mahonia ones blue. Barberries are used as a spice in
Berries, fresh and dried.
central Asia and the Caucasus region. In New England, ripe
barberries are used in pies, preserves, and syrups; green
(unripe) barberries are sometimes pickled. BUYING / STORING
Dried barberries are difficult
to buy outside their region of
Culinary uses production, except from Iranian
Barberries are usually preserved mixture of crushed barberries and markets. Plants can be found
in nurseries and make attractive
in syrup or vinegar to make a tart saltthis is rubbed on lamb kebabs ornamental shrubs. If you grow
flavoring. Being rich in pectin they are before grilling, giving the meat a tart one, or have found a bush in the
easily made into preserves. In central piquancy. In India, dried berries are wild, you can easily gather your
Asia and in Iran, dried berries are added to desserts, rather like sour own berries (provided you wear
used to add a sour flavor and a splash currants. Fresh berries strewn over gloves to do so) and dry them.
of color to pilafs; they also go into lamb or mutton for the last minutes of Dried berries will keep for
several months. They retain
stuffings, stews, and meat dishes. roasting will burst and coat the meat their color and flavor best
Dried berries soon release their with their tart juice. if stored in the freezer.
flavor if fried gently in butter or oil.
They are sprinkled over some rice
dishes. In Georgia, I was given a
HARVESTING
The small, oblong berries hang
Whole dried berries down in tight clusters and can
The small, oblong berries have be picked from July until late
a soft texture and a pleasant, summer. In Iran, the Caucasian
sourish flavor. Berries should republics, and countries farther
be red; dark berries are east, barberries are still gathered
likely to be old and will from the wild, sun-dried, and
have little flavor. stored for use in the kitchen.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with almonds, lamb,
pistachios, poultry,
rice, yogurt.
Combines well with bay,
cardamom, cinnamon,
coriander, cumin, dill,
parsley, saffron.
160 ACIDIC AND FRUITY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The seeds are fleshy and taste
both sweet and acidic. Some
Pomegranate
fruits have a lovely balance, Punica granatum
while others can be decidedly
astringent. Indian pomegranates The pomegranate is a small, deciduous tree with
can have a slightly bitter
aftertaste. The juice varies in narrow, leathery leaves, brilliant orange-red flowers,
color from a light pink to a
deep red; it is sweet but with and large, beige to red-skinned fruits. Native from Iran
a refreshing sharpness. to the Himalayas, it has been cultivated since ancient
times all around the Mediterranean basin. Pomegranates
now grow throughout the drier parts of subtropical India
PARTS USED
and Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and China, as well as in
The seeds are used
fresh and dried. tropical Africa. The trees are very long-lived, but their
vigor declines after only 1520 years.

BUYING / STORING Culinary uses


Pomegranates will keep for In the Middle East and central Asia, a popular beverage in the Middle East;
weeks in a cool place, and
storing improves both flavor
fresh, whole seeds are sprinkled over in Georgia, tart juice is widely used in
and juice content. Once extracted, salads and pastes like hummus or sauces for meat and fish.
the seeds or the juice can be tahina, or as a garnish on desserts. Pomegranate molasses, a thick,
frozen. Pomegranate molasses They are very good with chicken, can dark syrup, is also made from the
is a dark, thick, sticky syrup, be added to stews, and will liven up juice. Molasses can be brushed onto
stocked in Iranian and Middle a fruit or cucumber salad. chicken or meat to act as a marinade,
Eastern markets and in some
supermarkets. Anardana (dried The seeds can be pressed, and or added to slow-cooked dishes. Its
berries) can be found in Indian the juice of the sweeter varieties is taste and degree of sourness vary
markets, either whole, when
they should be a deep, dark
red, or ground. Anardana Whole fruit
and molasses keep well. Choose fruit with the deepest
color you can find. The seeds
are really transparent juice
sacs holding pulp and one
HARVESTING (usually very hard) seed.
The fruit ripens in October and
must be picked before it splits
open to release the seeds. In
northern India, the seeds of
the sour and bitterish wild
pomegranate are sun-dried
for 2 weeks to make anardana.
ACIDIC AND FRUITY SPICES POMEGRANATE Punica granatum 161

greatly from region to region. Arab have a hard crunch. Their fruity, FLAVOR PAIRINGS
and Indian molasses tends to be quite tangy flavor is much liked in northern
Good with avocado, beets,
tart, even sour. Iran produces a sweeter India. They go into curries and chutneys, cucumber, fish, lamb,
version, which is an essential ingredient into stuffings for bread and savory legumes, pine nuts,
of muhammarah, a Middle-Eastern pastries, and into braised vegetable poultry, spinach, walnuts.
dip made with hot chili peppers and dishes. In Punjabi cooking they flavor Combines well with allspice,
walnuts, and of fesenjan, a richly legumes. They give the food a more cardamom, chili, cinnamon,
flavored Iranian duck or chicken subtle sweet-sour taste than amchoor cloves, coriander, cumin,
dish made with walnuts. There is (p.163) would, and are either soaked in fenugreek, ginger, golpar,
rosebuds, turmeric.
also a good Iranian winter soup water like tamarind, or crushed and
based on pomegranate molasses. sprinkled directly onto food.
Anardana (dried seeds), which look
like red-black raisins, are sticky but

Anardana
(dried seeds)
Dried seeds are pleasantly
tart to smell and have a
sweet-sour taste.

Molasses
Pomegranate molasses may be sweet
or sweet-sour, the fruity sweetness
tempered by an attractive tartness.
The flavor is more concentrated
than that of grenadine syrup.
162 ACIDIC AND FRUITY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Kokam has a slightly fruity,
balsamic smell; a sweet-
Kokam
sour, tannic, astringent taste, Garcinia indica
often with a salty edge; and a
lingering, sweetish aftertaste Kokam is the fruit of a slender, graceful, evergreen tree
of dried fruit. Its sourness comes
from malic and tartaric acids. that is related to the mangosteen. It is native to India and
The texture is surprisingly soft.
grows almost exclusively in the tropical rainforests along
a thin ribbon of the Malabar (Malwani) coast of India,
from Mumbai to Cochin. In its native region, which
PARTS USED
includes Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala, it is used
Whole fruit or rind.
as an acidulant, much as tamarind is in other parts of
India. Fairly recently it has become popular in the US,
BUYING / STORING the Middle East, and Australia, but it still has to make
Dried rind can be bought its mark in Europe.
from Indian markets and spice
merchants; they may also have
kokam paste. In an airtight jar Culinary uses
both will keep for up to a year.
The deeper the skin color, the Kokam is used as a souring agent, different combinations of grated
better the kokam. Kokam is milder than tamarind. Dried fruit or ginger, chopped onion, and chillies,
often labeled black mangosteen. rind are usually soaked in water, the cumin, or corianderserves both
pulp softens and is pressed dry, and as an appetizer and a cooling
the liquid is used for cooking pulses accompaniment to fiery, coconut-
or vegetables. Kokam rinds are often based fish curries. In Kerala kokam
HARVESTING rubbed with salt to speed the drying; is known as fish tamarind.
Kokam is a smallish, round, sticky when using them, check that the dish With coconut milk, and with or
fruit, the size of a plum but with does not become too salty. without cane sugar, kokam makes sol
an uneven surface. It is dark Kokam saarmade by boiling kadhi, a fragrant, carmine-colored
purple when ripe and ready for pieces of kokam in water, straining beverage, that may be served with
picking, in April or May. The fruit
is dried whole or splitwhich
the liquid, and flavoring it with rice or taken as an appetizer.
leaves the pulp full of the half
dozen or more fairly big seeds.
Alternatively, the rind is removed,
then dried in the sun. Its local
name is amsul, literally sour
rind. The dried rind comes
folded into small strips that have
a leathery appearance.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with beans, eggplant,
fish and shellfish, lentils, okra,
plantain, potatoes, squash.
Combines well with
cardamom, chili, coconut milk,
coriander, cumin, fenugreek,
garlic, ginger, mustard seed,
turmeric.
ACIDIC AND FRUITY SPICES AMCHOOR Mangifera indica 163

Amchoor TASTING NOTES


Amchoor has a pleasant,
sweet-sour aroma of dried
Mangifera indica fruit and a tart, astringent, but
also sweetish, fruity flavor. Its
Amchoor is made from mangoes. The evergreen mango, acidity comes from citric acid.
One teaspoon of amchoor
a big, spreading tree with a massive, gray trunk and dark powder has roughly the
equivalent acidity of
green leaves, is native to India and Southeast Asia and is 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
now widely cultivated for its fruit. The trees crop every
other year and continue to do so for well over a century.
Every part of the tree is utilized in some waybark, resin, PARTS USED
leaves, flowers, seeds. The fruits are eaten fresh; both Dried fruit, sliced or ground.
green (unripe) and ripe mangoes are made into chutneys
and pickles. The spice is made from unripe fruit and is
produced in India only. BUYING / STORING
Amchoor is available from
Indian and Asian markets,
Culinary uses usually as a powder. It may be
labeled mango powderthe
Amchoor is used as an acidulant a fresh-tasting and astringent spice English translation of the Hindi
in north Indian cooking in the way blend from the Punjab, used for name am-choor. Dried slices are
tamarind is used in the south. It gives vegetable and legume dishes and normally light brown and look
like rough-textured wood.
a tang of tropical fruit to vegetable for fruit salads. Amchoor is good in
Slices keep for 34 months. The
stews and soups, potato pakoras, marinades to tenderize poultry, fish finely ground powder has a
and samosa fillings. It is good with and meat, particularly meat to be slightly fibrous texture, and is
stir-fried vegetables and in stuffings grilled in a tandoor. It is also much sandy-beige. It keeps for up
for breads and pastries. It is an used as a sourish flavoring in dals to a year in an airtight jar.
essential ingredient in chat masala, and chutneys.

HARVESTING
Unripe (green) mangoes are
taken as windfalls or picked
from the many semi-wild trees.
They are peeled, sliced thin, and
sun-dried. Sometimes a little
turmeric is dusted over the slices
to prevent insect damage. Dried
slices are marketed whole, but
most of the crop is pulverized to
Amchoor powder make amchoor powder.
This lumpy powder is easily
crushed and provides acidity
without adding moisture.
FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Essential to chat masala.
Good with eggplant, okra,
cauliflower, potatoes, pulses.
Combines well with chili,
cloves, coriander, cumin,
ginger, mint.
164 CITRUS SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The flavor of lemongrass
is refreshingly tart, clean,
Lemongrass
and citruslike with peppery Cymbopogon citratus
notes. Freeze-dried lemongrass
keeps its aroma quite well, but A showy, tropical grass with fibrous, sharp-edged
air-dried lemongrass loses its
volatile oils; grated lemon rind leaves, lemongrass soon forms into large, dense clumps.
givesmore flavor than dried
lemongrass. It flourishes in temperate climates if it is overwintered
indoors. The bulbous base imparts an elusive aromatic and
lemon fragrance to the cooking of Southeast Asia. Previously
hard to find outside that region, fresh lemongrass is now
PARTS USED more widely available, thanks to the increased appreciation
The lower part of the of Thai, Malay, Vietnamese, and Indonesian food. It is
stalk, white and tinged
with pale green. cultivated in Florida and California, and Australia, Brazil,
Mexico, and West Africa.

BUYING / STORING Whole fresh stalks


Fresh lemongrass can be found Lemongrass contains citral,
in Asian markets and specialized the flavor component of lemon
produce markets. Buy firm stalks; rind. It gives the plant a
they should not be wrinkled or subtle but sustained
dry. Fresh lemongrass will keep lemon fragrance.
for 23 weeks in the refrigerator if
wrapped in plastic. It also freezes
well for up to 6 months. Freeze-
dried lemongrass is quite
fragrant and has a long shelf life
in an airtight container. Dried
lemongrass and lemongrass
pure are available, but lack flavor.

HARVESTING
Most gardens in Singapore,
Thailand, and Vietnam have
a patch of lemongrass from
which the cook can pluck a stalk
or two. Commercial harvesting
is done every 34 months. The
leaves are removed before
lemongrass is sold.
CITRUS SPICES LEMONGRASS Cymbopogon citratus 165

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Remove the two outer layers and pork. Sri Lankan cooks use Good with beef, chicken, fish
and seafood, noodles, pork,
bruise the stalk if the lemongrass is it in combination with coconut. sausage, most vegetables.
to be used whole to flavor a stew or Although it grows in India, it is not
Combines well with basil,
curry; take it out before serving. If the used much there except to make tea. chili, cilantro, cinnamon,
lemongrass is intended to be eaten If you grow the plant, the upper part cloves, coconut milk, galangal,
as an ingredient of a soup or salad, of the leaves makes a pleasant, garlic, ginger, turmeric.
discard the top part and slice the rest refreshing tea.
into very fine rings. Start at the bottom Lemongrass has a place in Western
and stop slicing when the stalk cooking, too. It suits all fish and
becomes too hardbig pieces are seafood, especially crab and scallops.
unpleasantly fibrous to chew. Pounded Add it to the stock for poaching fish
with other spices and herbs, or chicken. To flavor a vinaigrette,
lemongrass goes into pastes to flavor steep a few chopped stalks in it for
curries, stews, and stir-fried dishes. 24 hours. Lemongrass is also good
Lemongrass is a key ingredient with fruit: use it, alone or with ginger
in the Nyonya cooking of Singapore or fennel seeds, to flavor syrups made
and the southern part of the Malay for poaching peaches or pears.
peninsula. It is used in Thai larp,
curries, and soups; in Vietnamese
salads and spring rolls; in Indonesian
bumbus (spice blends) for chicken and

Finely sliced stalk Bruised stalks


Slices cut from fresh Bruising releases
lemongrass often the volatile oils
show purplish rings. that impart flavor.
166 CITRUS SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Leaves have an explosive
fragrance, cleanly floral and
Makrut lime
citrusnot quite lemon, not Citrus hystrix
quite lime. Their aroma and
flavor are assertive and The rind and leaves of the makrut lime have long imparted
lingering, yet delicate. The
rind of the fruit is slightly a clean, citrus flavor to the dishes of Southeast Asia.
bitter with a strong citrus
note. Dried leaves and dried Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand
rind lack the intense aroma all have fish and chicken dishes, soups, and spice pastes
of fresh.
with their instantly recognizable aroma and flavor. Makrut
lime is now also grown in Florida, California, and Australia.
PARTS USED The original English name kaffir lime may be offensive in
Leaves and rind, some cultures, and the Thai name makrut lime is increasingly
preferably fresh. used instead.

Whole fresh leaves


BUYING / STORING The leathery leaves grow in an unusual
Fresh leaves are available double form, as two on a single petiole.
from Asian grocery stores and The upper side is dark green and glossy,
online. They keep for weeks in the underside lighter and matte.
a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
The leaves freeze well for up to a
year, losing neither texture nor
aromatics. Fruits should be firm
and feel heavy for their size.
Store in the refrigerator or in a
cool room, as other citrus fruits.
Dried leaves and rind are
available; leaves should be
green, not yellow or dingy-
looking. Store both in airtight
containers. Leaves will keep for
68 months. Some markets also
stock rind preserved in brine.

HARVESTING
Makrut limes grow on a
shrubby evergreen tree. Leaves
and fruit are picked and sold
fresh or dried.

Shredded fresh leaves


If the leaves are to be eaten,
rather than removed before
serving, break apart the pairs
and remove the thick, central
rib. Stack several leaves
and shred finely.
CITRUS SPICES MAKRUT LIME Citrus hystrix 167

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Lime leaves are responsible for the as a needlewith a small, sharp Essential to Thai curry pastes,
Indonesian sambals.
tangy, citrus perfume of many Thai knife. The leaves keep their flavor
Good with fish and seafood,
soups, salads, stir-fries, and curries. well when cooked.
mushrooms, noodles, pork,
Grated rind goes into curry pastes, If you buy rind in brine, rinse it poultry, rice, green vegetables.
larp, and fish cakes. Both are used well and scrape off the pith before
Combines well with Asian
in some fish and poultry dishes in using; shredded, dried rind is best basils, chile, cilantro, coconut
Indonesia and Malaysia. Always use soaked briefly before being added to milk, galangal, ginger,
fresh leaves when available and never slow-cooked dishes. The pith makes lemongrass, rau ram,
use dried in a salad. Whole leaves dried rind bitter, so use sparingly. To sesame, star anise.
may be removed from a dish before give a citrus flavor to a Western dish,
serving, but if leaves are to be eaten, use leaves in chicken casseroles, with
for example as a garnish for a clear braised or roasted fish, or in sauces
soup, shred them very finelyas fine to serve with chicken or fish.

Whole fresh fruit


The fruit is pear-shaped, bumpy, and
wrinkled, lime green in color, and 2123 in
(78 cm) long. What little juice it yields is
sour and seldom used.

Grated fresh rind


The very thin rind is best
removed with a small-
holed grater rather than
a citrus grater, whose fine
perforations will reduce
the rind to a mushy mass.
Proceed with caution to
avoid including the
bitter pith.
168 CITRUS SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The aroma of greater galangal is
mildly gingery and camphorous;
Galangal
the taste has a lemony sourness Alpinia species
with a flavor resembling ginger
and cardamom mixed. Lesser There are two main types of galangal: greater galangal
galangal is more pungent, with
a hint of eucalypt; its taste is (A. galanga) is native to Java; lesser galangal (A. officinarum)
piquant, suggesting a mix of
pepper and ginger. is native to the coastal regions of southern China. Greater
galangal indeed grows taller than lesser and has larger
rhizomes. Both are cultivated extensively throughout
PARTS USED Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and India. The popularity
Rhizome. of lesser galangal has long declined in favor of greater
galangal, which continues to be used in the kitchen,
principally in Southeast Asia. The English name stems
BUYING / STORING from the Arabic khalanjan.
Fresh greater galangal can be
bought from Asian markets,
possibly under its local names
it is called kha in Thailand,
Greater galangal A. galanga
lengkuas in Malaysia, and laos Whole rhizomes of greater galangal are large and
in Indonesiaor called Laos, knobby, light orange-brown outside, and marked
Siamese or Thai ginger. It will with darker rings. Young shoots have a pink hue. Sliced rhizome
keep for 2 weeks and can be The flesh is fibrous and buff-
frozen. Dried slices and colored. Unless very young,
powdered galangal (labeled the rhizomes are tougher and
laos) are more widely available.
woodier than those of ginger.
Powdered galangal can be kept
for 2 months; slices keep their
flavor for at least a year.
Galangal in brine can be
substituted for fresh; rinse
it thoroughly before use.
Lesser galangal rhizomes,
which are reddish brown
outside and pale red inside,
are seldom seen in the US.

HARVESTING
The rhizomes are lifted,
cleaned, and processed
much like those of turmeric
or ginger.
CITRUS SPICES GALANGAL Alpinia species 169

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Throughout Southeast Asia, greater Like ginger, fresh galangal is easy to Essential to Thai curry pastes.
galangal is used fresh in curries and peel and grate or chop. It is always Good with chicken, fish
and seafood.
stews, in sambals, satays, soups, and preferred to dried, but dried slices
sauces. In Thailand, it is an essential can be added to soups and stews; first Combines well with chile,
coconut milk, fennel, fish sauces,
ingredient in some curry pastes, soak them in hot water for about 30
garlic, ginger, lemongrass,
as it is in the laksa spices of Malay minutes. They should be taken out before lemon juice, makrut lime,
Nonya cooking. In Thai cooking it serving because they remain unpleasantly shallots, tamarind.
is often preferred where other Asian woody to chew. Powdered galangal is
cuisines would use ginger, especially used in spice blends throughout the
to neutralize the smells of fish and Middle East and across North Africa
seafood. It is good with chicken and to Morocco (in ras el hanout). Grated
in many hot and sour soups: it provides galangal and lime juice are used to make
the key flavoring in tom kha kai, a popular tonic in Southeast Asia. The use
the popular chicken and coconut of lesser galangal appears to be largely
milk soup. restricted to tonic and healing soups.

Sliced dried rhizome


Dried slices are satisfactory
for flavoring soups and
stews and should be soaked
in water before use.

Ground rhizome
Tan-colored lesser
galangal powder is
gingerlike and sharp;
greater galangal is
sandy-beige, with
a sour aroma and a
milder ginger flavor.
170 CITRUS SPICES

Other galangals
Several plants with similar properties to lesser galangal, Alpinia officinarum,
are also referred to, confusingly, as lesser galangal. While it is often quite hard
to make reliable distinctions, at least two of these appear to have individual
characteristics and uses.

Aromatic ginger Kaempferia galanga


The young leaves of this small, wild plant, also known as the in China, the pounded rhizome is mixed with salt and oil,
resurrection lily, kencur in Indonesia, cekur in Malaysia, and pro and served with baked chicken. In Sri Lanka, it is roasted
hom in Thailand, are served raw to accompany Thai fish curries and ground for biryanis and curries. Kencur is sold dried,
and in Malay salads. The reddish brown rhizome is usually no in slices or ground. More like ginger than galangal, the
more than 2 in (5 cm) long, with yellowish white flesh. In pungent, camphorous rhizome is used in very small quantities.
Indonesia, pounded kencur is added to a number of dishes; Confusingly, the word kencur is also used for zedoary (p.198).

Fingerroot
Boesenbergia pandurata/Kaempferia pandurata
Also called Chinese keys, fingerroot grows throughout lemony taste, and lingering warmth. Best used fresh,
Southeast Asia. It is a small plant, up to 20 in (50 cm) high, it is eaten in salads, soups, fish curries, and stir-fries.
with an underground rhizome and slender storage roots. Also used in Thai curry pastes and Cambodian kroeung
It is used in cooking in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and spice pastes. If you use dried fingerroot, soak it for 30
Indonesia; elsewhere it tends to be used as a medicinal herb. minutes. The Thai name is krachai, the Cambodian kcheay,
The rhizome has a crisp texture, a sweet aroma, a refreshing, and the Indonesian temu kunci.
CITRUS SPICES LEMON MYRTLE Backhousia citriodora 171

Lemon myrtle TASTING NOTES


The aroma is refreshing and
intensely lemony, like that
Backhousia citriodora of lemongrass and lemon
verbena, and is even more
The tall lemon myrtle tree is native to coastal Australian pronounced when the leaves are
crushed. The taste is stronger
rain forests, mostly in Queensland. The trees have been still, more like lemon rind. The
aftertaste is a lingering note of
introduced to the southern US, southern Europe, and South eucalypt or camphor.
Africa, and are grown for their essential oil in China and
Southeast Asia. So far, lemon myrtle has gained a place in
the kitchen only in Australia, and even there quite recently, PARTS USED
but it is slowly becoming more widely appreciated. Fresh and dried leaves.

Culinary uses BUYING / STORING


Lemon myrtle is versatile and can be stir-fry dishes. It is excellent for fish
used wherever lemongrass or lemon cakes, and with vinegar, sugar, basil, Lemon myrtle can be bought
as whole, dried leaves or as
rind is called for. It is best used and olive oil it can be used as a dipping
a coarse, light green powder
sparingly. If cooked for too long, the sauce or salad dressing. It makes good from herb or spice merchants
lemony flavor is lost and an unpleasant vinegar as well as a lemonade and an and some supermarkets. It can
eucalypt note can take over. It is herbal tea. It gives a lift to mayonnaise, also be found via the internet.
therefore better used in shortbread sauces, and marinades for chicken or Both forms should be stored in
and other cookies, and in batters for seafood. Combined with other spices it airtight containers in the dark.
Buy powdered leaf only in
things like pancakes, than in longer- makes a good rub for chicken or fish small quantities.
baked cakes, and also goes well in to be grilled.

Whole dried leaves HARVESTING


The powerful lemon taste is due Ground dried leaves
to a very high concentration of Outside Australia, lemon Mature, dark leaves are
citral in the volatile oil (30 times myrtle is usually only picked all year. Drying intensifies
their flavor, so dried leaves of
that of lemon). available ground.
good quality may taste
even better than fresh ones.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with chicken, fish and
seafood, most fruit, pork, rice.
Combines well with akudjura,
anise seed, basil, chili, fennel,
galangal, ginger, mountain
pepper, parsley, pepper,
thyme, yogurt.
172 CITRUS SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Yuzu juice is aromatic and
sharply citrusy; the peel has
Citrus
an attractive, delicate aroma. Citrus species
Crushed and ground dried
limes have a sour smell backed Citrus fruits are universal providers of tartness in the
by a dried-fruit sweetness;
whole limes are less aromatic. kitchen. The Japanese use the peel of a small citron, called
Orange peels have a clear,
orange scent; the flavors are yuzu; the Chinese favor dried orange or tangerine peel; in the
tart or bitter, depending on Gulf States and Iran, dried limes are preferred; in Tunisia,
the variety.
bitter orange peel and fruit are used for pickling liquids. In the
West, cooks use juice and grated rind for their acidity, and
PARTS USED candied peel in desserts and cakes. In the Caribbean islands
Fresh and dried peel; juice. and Mexico, it would be unthinkable to cook without limes.

Preserved lemons
BUYING / STORING The chopped peel of salted lemons
preserved in their juice is used to flavor
Fresh yuzu is seldom available Moroccan tagines; it combines particularly
outside Japan, but dried well with green olives in a renowned
peel and bottled yuzu juice
chicken dish. The salty juice is good in
are now sold in supermarkets.
salad dressings.
Middle Eastern and Iranian
markets have dried bitter-
orange peel, all forms of dried
limes, and Moroccan
preserved lemons. In North
America, commercial mojos
and sour orange marinades
are sold in Latin markets, but
it is easy to prepare your
own. Stored in airtight
containers, dried or candied
peel and fruits will keep
indefinitely.

HARVESTING
Yuzus are only in season for
a brief period from November
to January; bitter oranges come
onto the market in January and
February, and there is now
an early fall crop from Chile.
Other citrus fruits and dried
peels are available all
year round.
CITRUS SPICES CITRUS Citrus species 173

Culinary uses
Slivers of fresh yuzu peel, or dried, rich dishes of braised pork or duck. vegetablesleeks, scallions,
crumbled peel, add fragrance to It combines well with Sichuan spinachin their lime-scented
Japanese soups, simmered dishes peppercorns and star anise, with dishes. In some parts of Iran, bitter
(nabemono), and aromatic yuzu-miso dark soy sauce, and rice wine. oranges are customary; the juice
condiments. Yubeshi, a traditional In the Gulf States, small, dried and rind are added to stews. These
sweet, is made by steaming the shells limes, often called Oman limes, or flavorings are particularly good
of yuzus filled with glutinous rice, dried lime powder are used in fish, with duck, chicken, and rabbit.
soy sauce, and sweet syrup. They poultry, and lamb stews and pilafs. The mojos of the Caribbean
are dried and sliced to serve. Yuzu Gulf dishes call for a lot of spicing, and South America are made
juice is now used in salsas and and dried limes marry well with with lime, lemon, grapefruit, or
dressings and to flavor chocolate cardamom, cloves, allspice, pepper, bitter orange juice to which garlic,
in the West. ginger, cinnamon, and coriander. spices, fruits, and fresh herbs are
Dried tangerine peel is used To the north, in Iran, they are used added. They are used as marinades,
mostly in Sichuan and Hunan in the same way to flavor stews, dips, and salad dressings, or as
cooking. It is soaked in warm water especially lamb stews, but the refreshing sauces to accompany
for 15 minutes, then chopped finely Iranians prefer herbscilantro, vegetables, fish, and grilled or
for stir-fried dishes or used whole in dill, parsley, fenugreekand green roasted meats.

Sliced dried peel Whole dried limes


Commercial dried tangerine or orange peel is Dried limes are pierced and added whole
dark brown and brittle. To dry your own after to stews; they soften in cooking and are
eating an orange or tangerine, remove all pith served as part of the dish, to be squeezed
from the peel, put the peel on a rack, and allow to extract all the juice.
to dry for 45 days. It will remain flexible. The
flavor improves with age.
174 LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS

TASTING NOTES
The aroma is fennel- and
aniselikestar anise and
Star anise
anise seed both contain essential Illicium verum
oil with anethole. Star anise
has licorice notes and an Certainly the prettiest spice, star anise is native to southern
assertive warmth. The flavor
is pungent and sweet with a China and Vietnam, where it has a long history of medicinal
mildly numbing effect, and
the aftertaste is fresh and culinary use. It was known in Europe in the 17th century,
and agreeable. and old recipes indicate that it was used to flavor syrups,
cordials, and preserves. Today Western cooks use it as a
flavoring for fish and seafood, in syrups for poaching
PARTS USED
figs and pears, and to spice tropical fruits.
Whole star anise, or pieces;
ground powder.
Whole pods and seeds
Used whole, star anise makes a decorative
addition to a dish. The star anise seed pod
BUYING / STORING is in the shape of an irregular, eight-pointed
Star anise is best bought whole star. Up to 114 in (3 cm) across, complete pods
or in pieces. It will last for a year are tough and red-brown or rust-colored.
if kept out of bright light in an
airtight container. Buy ground
spice in small quantities; it should
last for up to 23 months if kept
as the whole spice.

HARVESTING
Star anise is the fruit of a
Chinese evergreen magnolia
tree, which now also grows
in India, Japan, and the
Philippines. The tree grows
to about 26 ft (8 m) and has
small yellow-green flowers.
It fruits in its sixth year and
continues to bear fruit for
up to a century. The fruits
are picked before ripening
and sun-dried, which hardens
and darkens the carpels and
develops the aromatic
compounds.

Carpels
Each carpel is canoe-
shaped and slightly
open, revealing a
lustrous, brittle, brown
seed. The carpels are
more aromatic than
the seeds.
LICORICE OR ANISE HERBS STAR ANISE Illicium verum 175

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In Chinese cooking star anise is The flavor of star anise can be Essential to five-spice powder.
used in soups and stocks, in marinades detected in some of the cooking Good with chicken (in stock
for poaching), fish and seafood
for steamed chicken and pork, and in of Kerala in southern India; in some
(in court-bouillon), figs,
red-cooked chicken, duck, and dishes of north India it may be used tropical fruits, leeks, oxtail, pork,
porkthe meat is turned a red-brown as a cheaper substitute for anise seed. pumpkin, root vegetables.
color by braising in a dark broth Star anise is little used in Western Combines well with cassia,
flavored with spices and soy sauce. cooking except as a flavoring in chile, cinnamon, coriander,
Star anise also colors and flavors drinks such as pastis and anisette, and fennel seed, garlic, ginger,
marbled tea eggs. It is the main in chewing gum and confectionery. In lemongrass, lime peel,
ingredient of Chinese five-spice addition to flavoring fish and seafood Sichuan pepper, soy sauce,
dried tangerine peel.
powder. Vietnamese cooks use it and some fruit dishes, it enhances the
in simmered dishes, in stocks, and sweetness of leeks, pumpkin, and
in pho (beef and noodle soup). root vegetables.

Broken pods
The dried pods are easily broken
into pieces when only a little is
needed. Star anise is potent, so
use it sparingly.

Ground pods
For the best flavor, the pods
and seeds should be ground
in a mortar or electric spice
mill and used immediately.
176 LICORICE OR ANISE SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The aroma and taste of the
seeds are sweet, licorice-like,
Anise
warm, and fruity, but Indian Pimpinella anisum
anise can have a hint of
bitterness. The leaves have This delicate plant, native to the eastern Mediterranean and
the same fragrant, sweet,
licorice notes, with mild Middle East, is related botanically to caraway, cumin, dill,
peppery undertones. The
seeds are more subtly and fennel. It is now widely established throughout Europe,
flavored than fennel Asia, and North America. Its earliest use was medicinal, but
or star anise.
the Romans introduced it as a flavoring in food, especially
in cakes served at the end of a meal to aid digestion. The
PARTS USED plant is cultivated for its seeds (anise seed or aniseed),
Seeds, leaves. but young leaves are also used as an herb.

Culinary uses
BUYING / STORING In Europe, anise seed is mostly used In the Middle East and India, anise
Anise can be grown from seed, to flavor cakes, breads, cookies, and is mostly used in breads and savory
and plants are available from sweet fruit dishes. It flavors some rye foods. In India dry-roast seeds
some herb nurseries. As a spice, breads, Scandinavian pork stews, and enhance the aroma of vegetable and
anise seed is best bought whole;
root vegetable dishes. The Portuguese fish curries and, fried in hot oil, they
check that there is only a
minimum of stems and husks. add a handful of anise seed to the water garnish lentils. Anise is also valued
In an airtight container it when boiling chestnuts to impart a for its digestive properties; along
will retain its flavor for at delicate fragrance. Figs and anise have with other spices it is offered in the
least 2 years. a natural affinity; in Catalonia, cakes traditional paan at the end of the meal.
are made of chopped, dried figs and In Morocco and Tunisia, anise flavors
almonds flavored with anise, and in breads; in Lebanon, it goes into fritters
Italy, a fig and dried fruit salami and spiced custards.
HARVESTING is flavored with anise and anisette.
Just before the fruit ripens, Around the Mediterranean, anise often
plants are pulled up and left to flavors fish stews, and its essential
dry. They are threshed and the oil is in demand to flavor aperitifs
seeds spread on trays in partial
and liqueurs such as ouzo, pastis,
shade to dry further. To dry
anise you have grown yourself, and anisette.
put the seedheads in paper
bags and hang them in a
well-ventilated place. Ground seeds
The aroma of ground
anise dissipates quickly.
Grind seeds
FLAVOR PAIRINGS as needed.
Good with apples, chestnuts,
figs, fish and seafood, nuts,
pumpkin, root vegetables.
Combines well with ajowan,
allspice, cardamom, cinnamon,
cloves, cumin.
LICORICE OR ANISE SPICES LICORICE Glycyrrhiza species 177

Licorice TASTING NOTES


The aroma of licorice is
sweet, warm, and medicinal;
Glycyrrhiza species the taste is very sweet, earthy,
and aniselike with a lingering,
Licorice plants are perennial shrubs with blue or lilac, bitter, salty aftertaste.

pealike flowers. The most important species are G. glabra,


native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia;
PARTS USED
G. glandulifera, which grows farther east and is known
Rhizomes
as Russian or Persian licorice; and G. uralensis, the main and roots.
form used in Asia, native to the steppes of northern
China. Licorice has been cultivated in Europe for about
1,000 years, in China at least twice as long. It is still used BUYING / STORING
medicinally as a cough-suppressant, an expectorant, and Dried licorice roots can be
bought from spice merchants.
a gentle laxative. They keep almost indefinitely if
they are quite dry; they can be
sliced or ground as needed.
Culinary uses Powdered licorice, gray-green
and rather strong, needs
In the form of drinks such as sambuca The Dutch extrude the extract into an airtight container. Sticks and
and pastis the flavor enters a variety black, salty licorice, called drop, in slabs, too, last well if kept dry.
of dishes, both sweet and savory. A a bewildering variety of shapes
soft drink is made with it in Islamic and strengths; the English have
countries during Ramadan. In multicolored licorice allsorts and
Morocco, the powder flavors snail Pontefract cakeslozenges named HARVESTING
and octopus dishes and is often an after the Yorkshire monastery where Licorice plants are easily
ingredient in ras el hanout. A little they originated in the 16th century. grown from seed or root
licorice enhances Chinese five-spice Licorice sticks are popular in Asia cuttings. They need rich, sandy
soil and plentiful sun. The roots
powder; it also flavors Chinese soy for chewing. In Turkey, fresh roots are
can be dug up in fall; drying
sauce. Asian spiced stocks or marinades eaten and powder is used in baking. them takes several months.
often contain licorice along with In the West, licorice is becoming a Roots are usually crushed to a
other spices. fashionable flavoring for ice cream. pulp, which manufacturers
boil to a thick consistency and
reduce further by evaporation.
Powder The resulting soluble substance
is called extract of licorice.
Finely powdered
Some manufacturers extract
licorice is most readily glycyrrhizic acid for use
available from Chinese as a flavoring.
markets.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Combines well with cassia,
cloves, coriander seed, fennel,
ginger, Sichuan pepper,
star anise.
178 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The smell of saffron is
unmistakable: rich, pungent,
Saffron
musky, floral, honeyed, and Crocus sativus
tenacious. The taste is delicate
yet penetrating, warm, earthy, Saffron consists of the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus,
musky, bitter, and lingering.
The aromatic properties vary or roses as they are called. Native to the Mediterranean
slightly depending on the
saffrons place of origin. and western Asia, it was used by the ancient civilizations
of the region as a dye and to flavor food and wine. Spain
is the main producer; at harvest time on the plain of La
PARTS USED Mancha, a heady, sensual aroma explodes around you as
Stigmas. the stigmas are toasted. It takes about 80,000 roses to yield
512 lb (2.5 kg) of stigmas, which produce 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) of
saffron after toasting. No wonder it is the most expensive
BUYING / STORING spice in the world.
Buy dried stamens (known as
filaments or threads); ground
saffron is easily adulterated. Whole threads
Threads keep their flavor for The best-quality saffron is deep red; this is called coupe for
23 years if stored in an airtight Spanish and Kashmiri saffron, sargol for Iranian. A proportion
container in a cool, dark place. of thicker, yellow threads from the style of the flower is included
Buy saffron only from a reliable
in the next grade, Mancha if Spanish or Kashmiri, poshal or Iranian poshal
source; in tourist markets
around the world turmeric, kayam if Iranian. Good-quality saffron is also produced in This saffron has deep
marigold petals, and safflower Greece and Italy. Lesser grades tend to have a brownish red, wiry threads with
are passed off as saffron. None color and stubby, rather untidy threads. a few yellow styles.
has saffrons penetrating aroma,
so smell before buying. If you
use saffron regularly, buy it
in larger quantities from a
spice store.

HARVESTING
The violet-colored crocus
flowers in fall. The flowers
are picked at dawn and the
three red stigmas are plucked
from each one. Small quantities
are toasted on a drum sieve
over a low fire. Dried stamens
are deep red to orange-red,
wiry, and brittle.

Kashmiri coupe
This saffron has a rich,
burgundy color. The
threads are very long,
firm, and smooth.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES SAFFRON Crocus sativus 179

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Saffron has long been renowned Mediterranean fish soups and stews Good with asparagus, carrots,
chicken, eggs, fish and seafood,
as a dye, whether for the robes of of which Provenal bouillabaisse and leeks, mushrooms, pheasant,
Buddhist monks or for paella and Catalan zarzuela are the best known. It rabbit, rice, spinach,
risotto. For most dishes saffron is adds class to a simple stew of mussels winter squashes.
infused in liquid. If an infusion is and potatoes or a fish baked in white Combines well with anise,
added in the early stages of cooking wine. Saffron rice is excellent as a cardamom, cinnamon, fennel,
it will impart more color; added at Valencian paella, risotto alla Milanese, ginger, mastic, nutmeg, paprika,
a later stage it contributes more an Iranian polo, a Moghul biryani, or pepper, rosebuds, rose water.
aromatics. Avoid overuse: it can give a simple vegetable pilaf. In Sweden,
a bitter, medicinal taste to foods. If a saffron buns and cakes are made for
dish does not call for liquid, threads the festival of light on December 13,
can be ground and stirred in. If they St. Lucias Day. Traditional Cornish
are not quite dry, dry-roast lightly saffron cakes and breads have all but
before grinding. disappeared from Britain, but they are
Several cultures flavor specific not difficult to make and have a fine,
dishes with saffron, often dishes rich flavor. Saffron ice cream, whether
associated with festivals or in the European style, Middle Eastern
celebrations. Saffron provides the with mastic, or Indian kulfi, is also
characteristic flavor for many worth a try.

Ground threads
Spanish mancha
Ground saffron is
Spanish Mancha saffron is
easily adulterated
more orange-red in color
with cheaper and
with yellow styles.
inferior spices.
Saffron is the costliest spice on Earth, ten times as expensive
as vanilla, because its production still depends on intensive
manual labor. The fragile stigmas of about 80,000 crocus
owers are needed to produce just 1 lb 2oz (500g) of the spice.
182 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The aroma of cardamom is
strong but mellow, fruity, and
Cardamom
penetrating. The taste is lemony Elettaria cardamomum
and flowery, with a note of
camphor or eucalypt due to Cardamom is the fruit of a large, perennial bush that
cineole in the essential oil; it
is pungent and smoky, with grows wild in the rain forests of the Western Ghats
a warm, bittersweet note,
yet is also clean and fresh. (also known as the Cardamon Hills) in southern India;
a closely related variety grows in Sri Lanka. Both are
now cultivated in their regions of origin and in Tanzania,
PARTS USED Vietnam, and Papua New Guinea; Guatemala has become
Dried seeds. the main exporter. Cardamom has been used in India for
some 2,000 years. It reached Europe along the caravan
routes, and the Vikings took it from Constantinople to
BUYING / STORING Scandinavia, where it is still very popular.
Pods will keep for a year or more
in an airtight jar, but will slowly
fade in both color and aroma. Whole pods
Exposed to air, the seeds quickly Cardamom is best bought as whole
lose their volatile oils; grinding pods, which should be plump and
speeds up the loss. Ground
green. White pods are bleached
cardamom is easy to adulterate
green ones; less well flavored,
and in any case usually includes
the hulls, so it is better to grind their production is declining.
your own when needed.

HARVESTING
Fruits ripen from September
to December and are harvested
at intervals when about three-
quarters ripe; otherwise, they
split open. They are dried in
the sun for 34 days, or more
quickly in drying sheds. Dried
pods are hard; the best are
green to green-amber. Green
pods from Kerala traditionally
set the standards of quality
and price, but Guatemalan
cardamom is nearly as good.

Seeds
Inside each oval seed pod, triangular
in section, are 1520 tiny, dark brown
or black, sticky seeds. Stickiness is
the best indication of freshness.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES CARDAMOM Elettaria cardamomum 183

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Cardamom enhances both sweet and cardamom is widely used for spiced Essential to berbere, curry
powders, dals, masalas,
savory flavors. In India, it is one of cakes, pastries, and breads, and pilafs, Indian rice pudding
the essential components in many occasionally also in hamburgers (kheer), zhug.
spice mixes. It goes into sweetmeats, and meat loaf. Good with apples, oranges,
pastries, puddings, and ice creams Whole pods, lightly crushed, can pears; legumes, sweet potatoes,
(kulfi), and is used in a digestive and be used to flavor rice, poached and and other root vegetables.
breath-freshening paan with fennel braised dishes, and casseroles. They Combines well with caraway,
and anise seeds and areca nuts. In India, are an important ingredient in many chili, cinnamon, cloves,
it is also much used to flavor tea, while Indian slow-braised meat dishes coffee, coriander, cumin,
in Arab countries coffee is flavored (kormas), which use a thick marinating ginger, paprika, pepper,
saffron, yogurt.
with cardamom, often by pouring it liquid to develop a creamy sauce.
over pods put in the spout of the pot Hulled seeds can be either lightly
in Bedouin culture the cardamom bruised and fried, or toasted and
used is first displayed to guests, bright ground, before being added to a dish.
green and pristine, as a mark of Cardamom is good in baked apples,
respect. Cardamom is an essential poached pears, and fruit salads. It
component of spice mixes in Lebanon, combines well with orange and coffee
Syria, the Gulf States (baharat), and in desserts, but is equally at home
Ethiopia (berbere). Scandinavia is still with roast duck or poached chicken,
the biggest importer in Europe; there in marinades or spiced wine. It is
and in Germany and Russia, useful in pickles.

Spices for pilafs


Indian pilafs are flavored with whole
spices, including green cardamom pods,
pieces of cinnamon, cloves, cumin seed,
and black peppercorns, which are
simply added to the rice before it
is cooked (recipe, p.323).
184 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The seeds have a tarry smell and
a taste of pine with an stringent,
Black cardamom
smoky, earthy note. They are Amomum and Aframomum species
used to give depth to masalas
and tandoori-style spice mixtures. The larger seeds of several species of Amomum and
Aframomum are widely used in the regions where they
are grown, and sometimes they are sold, ground, as cheap
PARTS USED
substitutes for green cardamom. In color they are various
Dried seeds.
shades of brown and their taste is usually more camphorous
than that of green cardamom. The most important is Greater
BUYING / STORING Indian or Nepal cardamom, Amomum subulatum, native to
Buy pods that are whole, not the eastern Himalayas. This particular variety, usually
broken, and store in an airtight referred to as black cardamom, is never used as a substitute
container. Many of the species
are readily available online. for green cardamom and has a distinct and separate role
Greater Indian cardamom is sold in Indian cooking.
in Indian shops; some Chinese
shops stock Chinese cardamom.
Whole pods Ground seeds
Black cardamom has ribbed, often Seeds quickly lose
hairy, fruits that become deep their volatile oil when
HARVESTING
red when ripe. ground, so grind only
Harvesting takes place when needed.
from August to November,
somewhat earlier than that
of green cardamom (p.182),
and drying is always done
in sheds. The resulting color
is a very dark brown.

Seeds
Seeds are sticky, but once
removed from the pod they
soon dry out.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES BLACK CARDAMOM Amomum and Aframomum species 185

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In contrast to green cardamom, which occasionally finds its way into Essential to garam masala.
is considered a cooling spice, black confectionery and pickles. When Good with pilafs and other
rice dishes, meat and
cardamom is a heating spice. It is pods are used whole in vegetable or
vegetable curries.
therefore an important ingredient in meat stews they should be removed
Combines well with ajowan,
combination with cloves, cinnamon, before serving, but crushed seeds will
green cardamom, cassia leaves,
and black pepper in garam masala dissolve into the sauce. The flavor is chili, cinnamon, cloves,
blends. Black cardamom also intense, so use sparingly. coriander, cumin, nutmeg,
pepper, yogurt.

OTHER CARDAMOMS
Bengal cardamom (A. aromaticum) Cambodian cardamom (A. krevanh)
is very similar to the Greater Indian from the Krevanh hills of Thailand and
and used in the same way. Cambodia, is also traded extensively
within Southeast Asia.
Chinese cardamom (A. globosum)
is round, quite large, and dark brown. Ethiopian cardamom (Aframomum
The flavor is astringent and cooling, corrorima), also known as korarima or
leaving a numbing sensation in false cardamom, has a dull, slightly
the mouth. Mostly used medicinally, smoky aroma and rather coarse flavor.
it also combines well with star anise Grains of paradise (A. melegueta)
in stir-fries. is a different spice (p.219).
Javanese winged cardamom
(A. kepulaga) is much used in
Southeast Asia. Standard garam masala
This is a basic blend of black cardamom,
coriander seeds, black peppercorns,
cloves, cinnamon, and tejpat leaves
(recipe, p.275).
186 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The smell of cumin is strong
and heavy, spicy-sweet, with
Cumin
acrid but warm depth. The Cuminum cyminum
flavor is rich, slightly bitter,
sharp, earthy, and warm, Cumin is the seed of a small, herbaceous umbellifer, native to
with a persistent pungency.
Use sparingly. just one locality, the Nile valley of Egypt, but long cultivated
in most hot regionsthe eastern Mediterranean, North
Africa, India, China, and the Americas. It was used in
PARTS USED medicines in Egypt and Minoan Crete at least 4,000 years
Dried seeds (fruits). ago. The Romans used it the way we use pepper. During the
Middle Ages cumin was popular in Europe, but gradually
caraway took its place. Spanish explorers took it to Latin
BUYING / STORING
America, where it is has become a very popular spice.
Cumin seeds are widely
available, either whole or
ground. Black cumin can be
bought online or from Indian
Whole seeds
Cumin seeds are oval, brownish green in color,
shops, as can dhana-jeera, a
blend of cumin and coriander about 14 in (5 mm) long. They look like caraway but
seeds. Seeds will keep their are straighter and show a characteristic pattern of
pungency in an airtight jar longitudinal ridges.
for several months, but
ground cumin has a very
short shelf life.

HARVESTING
Cumin stems are cut when the
plants begin to wither and the
seeds turn brown; they are
threshed and the seeds dried in
the sun. In many countries the
harvest is still done manually.

Ground seeds
For the best
flavor, only grind
seeds as needed.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES CUMIN Cuminum cyminum 187

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


The aroma of cumin is enhanced if the the tapas known as Moorish kebabs Essential to Iranian advieh,
baharat, berbere, Cajun spice
seeds are dry-roasted before they are (pinchitos morunos) in Spain, falafel blend, curry powders, dukka,
ground, or fried in oil if they are used and fish dishes in Lebanon, kfte in masalas, panch phoron,
whole. Early Spanish dishes combined Turkey, and a pomegranate and walnut sambhar powder, zhug.
cumin, saffron, and anise seed or sauce in Syria. In all countries that Good with beans, bread,
cinnamon. Now cumin is found in like spicy food it is used in breads, cabbage, hard or pungent
Moroccan couscous and lamb stews, in chutneys, relishes, savory spice mixes, cheeses, chicken, eggplant,
the merguez sausages of North Africa, and meat or vegetable stews. It is lamb, lentils, onions, potatoes,
rice, sauerkraut, squash.
in Tex-Mex chile con carne, and more present in curry powders and masalas,
sparingly in the spice mixes of Mexico and in commercial chili powders. The Combines well with ajowan,
allspice, anise seed, bay,
itself. It is added to pretzels in Alsace, combination of ground cumin and
cardamom, chili, cinnamon,
pork sausages in Portugal, cheese in coriander gives much Indian food its cloves, coriander, curry leaves,
Holland, pickled cabbage in Germany, characteristic pungent smell. fennel seed, fenugreek seed,
garlic, ginger, mace and nutmeg,
mustard seed, oregano, paprika,
Whole black seeds pepper, thyme, turmeric.
Darker than ordinary cumin seeds, black cumin seeds are
also smaller. They have an earthy smell and a complex,
mellow flavor that is somewhere between cumin and OTHER CUMINS
caraway. Dry-roasted seeds go into pilafs and breads. True black cumin (kala jeera) and
shahi jeera (Bunium persicum)
seem to be used interchangeably
in northern India, Pakistan,
Afganistan, and Iran where
both are native. Here they are
preferred to ordinary cumin and
used extensively in Moghul-style
dishes like kormas and biryanis.
The seeds are usually dry-roasted
before being added to spice
mixtures or used separately in
dishes because dry-roasting gives
them an agreeable nutty flavor.
Black cumin is sometimes
confused with nigella
(kalonji, p.134).
188 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Caraway has a pungent aroma
that, like the flavor, is warm
Caraway
and bittersweet, sharply spicy, Carum carvi
with a note of dried orange peel
and a slight but lingering hint Caraway is a hardy umbellifer native to Asia and northern
of anise.
and central Europe. It is cultivated as a biennial, not only
in its regions of origin but also in Morocco, the US, and
PARTS USED Canada. The Romans used it with vegetables and fish;
Dried seeds (fruits). medieval cooks, as a flavoring for soups and bean or
cabbage dishes. In 17th-century England, it was popular
in bread, cakes, and baked fruit; coated with sugar the
BUYING / STORING seeds made comfits. Today, Holland and Germany are
Caraway seed can be bought the major producers. The essential oil flavors spirits
ground, but is often used whole
and is best bought that way: such as aquavit and Kmmel.
the seed will keep for at least
6 months in an airtight jar. The
seed is easy to grind or pound
when needed, but once ground
it will lose strength quite quickly.
Whole seeds
The fruit splits into two curved seeds
with tapered ends; the hard, brown
HARVESTING shell has five lighter-colored ridges.

Stems are cut when the fruit


is ripening, dried for 710 days
to complete the ripening, then
threshed. In the home garden,
caraway plants can be grown
from seed in well-drained soil
in full sun. The seeds will not
ripen until the second year. Cut
ripe seed clusters early in the
morning when dew is on them,
or the seeds may scatter too
freely and the plant will self-
seed. To dry, hang up the stems
with a paper bag tied around
the seedheads
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES CARAWAY Carum carvi 189

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In central Europe, and especially in has a traditional caraway soup Essential to tabil, harissa.
the Jewish cooking originating there, as does Hungary, where caraway Good with apples, breads,
cabbage, duck, goose,
caraway is used to flavor brown also figures prominently in goulash.
noodles, onions, pork,
or rye breads, crackers, seedcakes, Mention of caraway in Indian recipes potatoes and other
sausages, cabbage, soups, and stews. usually stems from a mistranslation of root vegetables,
It gives many south German and the word for cumin; caraway itself is sauerkraut, tomatoes.
Austrian dishes their characteristic used only in northern Indiait grows Combines well with
flavor, be it pumpernickel bread wild in the Himalayas. Turkish recipes coriander, garlic, juniper,
or roast pork; it is used in coleslaw may cite black caraway, which is parsley, thyme.
and in combination with juniper for not true caraway but nigella (p.134).
sauerkraut. It accompanies Munster Young leaves, less pungent than
cheese in Alsace and is used to the seeds and resembling dill in taste
flavor Kmmel, schnapps, and and appearance, are an interesting
Scandinavian akvakvit. addition to salads, soups, or fresh
Caraway is used in the cooking white cheese. They make a good
of North Africa, mostly in vegetable garnish for lightly cooked young
dishes and in spice blends, such as vegetables and most other dishes
Tunisian tabil and harissa. Morocco for which parsley could be used.

Tunisian tabil spices


Used for stews and vegetable and beef
dishes, tabil is a blend of caraway seeds,
coriander seeds, garlic, and chili
(recipe, p.283).
190 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Nutmeg and mace have a similar
rich, fresh, and warm aroma.
Nutmeg
Nutmeg smells sweet but is more Myristica fragrans
camphorous and pinelike than
mace. The taste of both is warm This spreading, evergreen tree, native to the Banda islands of
and highly aromatic, but nutmeg
has hints of clove and a deeper, Indonesia, often called the Spice Islands, produces fruit that
bittersweet, woody flavor.
yields two distinct spices, nutmeg and mace (p.194). In the
6th century both spices formed part of the caravan trade
to Alexandria; they were probably taken to Europe by the
PARTS USED
crusaders. Their early use, in China, India, Arabia, and
Kernel of the seed.
Europe alike, was medicinal. When the Portuguese started
trading directly from the islands, nutmeg gained importance
BUYING / STORING as a spice, and by the 18th century a real craze for it
Nutmeg is best bought whole. developed in England.
In airtight containers it keeps
almost indefinitely and is easily
ground or grated as required. Whole seeds
Once ground, nutmeg loses its Nutmeg seeds can be bought intact,
flavor rather quickly. Banda and with the kernel still inside its hard
Penang nutmeg and mace are shell, and the lacy aril still clinging
considered to be superior to the
to the shell.
West Indian ones.

HARVESTING
The yellowish, apricot-like fruits
are gathered when ripe and the
outer skin, white flesh, and mace
are stripped off. The seeds,
covered by a hard brown-black
shell, are dried on trays for
68 weeks, until the kernelthe
nutmegrattles in its shell. The
shells are then cracked open and
the smooth, brown nutmegs are
removed and graded by size.
The yield of nutmeg is about ten
times that of mace, which makes
the latter comparatively costly.

Nutmeg
The hard, outer shells are
stripped from the kernels
and discarded.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES NUTMEG Myristica fragrans 191

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In India, nutmeg is used more than lavishly to white cabbage, cauliflower, Essential to baking or dessert
spices, quatre pices, ras el
mace because of the latters high cost; vegetable pures, meat stews, and hanout, Tunisian five spices.
both are used sparingly, mainly in fruit puddings; the Italians add rather
Good with cabbage, carrots,
Moghul dishes. The Arabs have long more subtle quantities to mixed cheese and cheese dishes,
used both spices in delicately vegetable dishes, spinach, veal, chicken, eggs, fish and seafood
flavored mutton and lamb dishes. In and fillings or sauces for pasta. In chowders, lamb, milk dishes,
North Africa, they are found in such France, it is used with pepper and onion, potato, pumpkin pie,
spice mixtures as Tunisian qlat cloves in slow-cooked stews and spinach, sweet potato, veal.
daqqa and Moroccan ras el hanout. ragots. Half-ripe nutmeg, pricked all Combines well with
The Europeans have used nutmeg over (as is done with unripe walnuts) cardamom, cinnamon, cloves,
coriander, cumin, rose geranium,
and mace most extensively, in both and soaked before being boiled twice
ginger, mace, pepper,
sweet and savory dishes. in syrup, was once a popular rosebuds, thyme.
Nutmeg is widely used in honey sweetmeat from Malaysia. In very
cakes, rich fruit cakes, fruit desserts, large quantities nutmegs
and fruit punch. It goes well in stews hallucinogenic properties become
and in most egg and cheese dishes, toxic; drinking alcohol greatly
as does mace. The Dutch add nutmeg increases the harmful effect.

Grated nutmeg
Nutmeg kernels are best kept whole and
only grated when needed. Some graters
(below) have a lidded compartment in
which the kernels can be stored.
Nutmeg and Mace grow together in the same fruit; mace is
the bright red aril that shows rst when the fruit splits open.
Both spices are big business in several parts of the world, yet
processing them from the pods is still done largely by hand.
194 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Mace has nutmegs rich, fresh,
and warm aroma, but the smell
Mace
is stronger and shows a lively, Myristica fragrans
floral character with notes of
pepper and clove. The taste of Inside the apricot-like fruit of Myristica fragrans lies a hard
mace is warm, aromatic, delicate,
and subtle with some lemony seed, the kernel of which is the spice nutmeg (p.190). Around
sweetness, yet it finishes with
a potent bitterness. this seed is a lacy covering or aril; this is the second spice,
mace. Both nutmeg and mace became important commodities
in a trade started by the Portuguese in the 16th century,
PARTS USED developed by the Dutch, and taken over by the English when
Aril surrounding the seed. they captured the Spice Islands in 1796. Planting began in
Penang, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and the West Indies, where
Grenada now produces almost a third of the worlds crop.
BUYING / STORING
Ground mace is more commonly
available than whole pieces (the
pieces are called blades), but Mace and nutmeg
the latter are worth seeking out. Produced by the same tree,
They keep almost indefinitely in these spices are similar in taste.
an airtight container and can be Mace is preferred when the
ground in a spice mill.
dish requires a lighter flavoring.

HARVESTING Blades
The ripe fruit of nutmeg trees is Mace blades are brittle, yet
collected and the outer skin and they exude oil when pressed
white flesh removed to reveal with the fingernails.
the seed. The thin, leathery, lacy,
bright scarlet aril, the mace, that
covers the seed is removed,
pressed flat, and dried for a few
hours only. Mace from Grenada
is then stored in the dark for
about 4 months, during which
time it turns a deep orange-
yellow; Indonesian mace
remains orange-red.

Ground blades
Ground mace keeps its
flavor reasonably well,
longer than some other
ground spices.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES MACE Myristica fragrans 195

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In Southeast Asia and China, mace preference to nutmeg to preserve Essential to pickling spices.
and nutmeg are used more for their the delicate color of a dish. Whole Good with cabbage, carrots,
cheese and cheese dishes,
medical than for culinary properties. blades of mace can be used to
chicken, egg dishes, fish and
Elsewhere mace and nutmeg tend to flavor soups and stews, but should seafood chowders, lamb, milk
be used interchangeably by cooks, be removed before serving. dishes, onion, pts and terrines,
although nutmeg is more widely used In Indonesia, after the mace and potato, pumpkin pie, spinach,
because it is cheaper. kernel have been removed from sweet potato, veal.
Mace gives a lift to bchamel and the nutmeg fruit, the outer flesh is Combines well with
onion sauces, clear soups, shellfish candied. In Sulawesi, in particular, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves,
stock, potted meat, cheese souffls, it is cured in the sun and sprinkled coriander, cumin, rose geranium,
ginger, nutmeg, paprika, pepper,
chocolate drinks, and cream cheese with palm sugar, whereupon it
rosebuds, thyme.
desserts. Mace should be used in becomes almost translucent.

Aromatic garam masala


Cardamom subtly dominates the flavor of this mild masala
blend, made from cardamom, cinnamon, mace, black
peppercorns, and cloves (recipe, p.276).
196 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Fresh turmeric is crunchy, has
gingery, citrus aromas, and an
Turmeric
agreeably earthy flavor with Curcuma longa
citrus overtones. Dried turmeric
has a complex, rich, woody A member of the ginger family, turmeric is a robust perennial,
aroma with floral, citrus, and
ginger notes. The taste is slightly native to southern Asia and appreciated there since antiquity
bitter and sour, moderately
pungent, warm, and musky. as a flavoring, a dye, and a medicine. It is one of the cheapest
spices, yet throughout the region it is valued on ritual and
ceremonial occasions, whether to color rice for an Indonesian
PARTS USED wedding or to dye the skin of cows (as I once saw during
Fresh and dried rhizomes. the Sankali festival in Mysore). India is the main producer
of turmeric and more than 90 percent of the crop is used
domestically. Other producers include China, Haiti, Indonesia,
BUYING / STORING Jamaica, Malaysia, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.
Fresh turmeric is available from
Asian markets. Store it in a cool,
dry place or in the refrigerator Whole fresh rhizome Sliced fresh rhizome
vegetable crisper for up to Fresh turmeric should be firm and Add pared, sliced turmeric to pickles
2 weeks; it also freezes well. plump. The rhizomes are used and relishes; it has a wonderful color
Dried turmeric keeps for 2 years sliced, chopped, or grated. and taste, and is also a preservative.
or more in an airtight container.
Alleppey and Madras are the
best Indian grades of ground
turmeric. Alleppey has the
higher percentage of essential oil
and curcumin (yellow coloring
matter), giving it a darker color
and more intense flavor. Stored
in an airtight container, it retains
its flavor for up to a year.

HARVESTING
Rhizomes are lifted and sold
fresh, or boiled to stop further
maturation and then sun-dried
for 1015 days. When dry and
hard, turmeric is polished,
graded, and usually ground.
It loses three-quarters of its
weight during processing.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES TURMERIC Curcuma longa 197

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Turmeric binds and harmonizes the spices is the basis of masalas, curry Essential to masalas,
curry powders and pastes,
other spices with which it appears in powders, and pastes. It imparts a ras el hanout.
many combinations. Use it sparingly. warm flavor and yellow-orange color
Good with beans, eggplant,
Fresh turmeric is used throughout to many regional vegetable, bean, and eggs, fish, lentils, meat, poultry,
Southeast Asia in spice pastes made lentil dishes. It occurs in North African rice, root vegetables, spinach.
with lemongrass, galangal, garlic, tagines and stews, most notably in the Combines well with chili,
shallots, tamarind, chili peppers, Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout, cilantro, cloves, coconut milk,
and sometimes dried shrimp paste and and in harira, the national soup. In coriander, cumin, curry leaf,
candlenuts. Chopped or grated, it goes Iran, turmeric and dried limes flavor fennel, galangal, garlic, ginger,
into laksas, stews, and vegetable dishes. gheimeh, a rich stew-sauce that is kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass,
mustard seeds, paprika,
Juice extracted from crushed turmeric spooned over rice.
pepper, rau ram.
flavors and colors rice dishes for In the West, turmeric is used as a
festive meals in Indonesia and Malaysia. colorant for cheese, margarine, and
The fragrant leaves are used to wrap some mustards. It is widely used in
foods in Malaysia, and the shoots are pickles and relishes of both eastern
eaten as a vegetable in Thailand. and western manufacture.
In India and the West Indies, dried,
ground turmeric combined with other

Grated dried rhizome


Turmeric stains fingers,
utensils, and clothes, so
be careful when using it.

Whole dried rhizome


Dried rhizomes look
like tough, yellow
wood; they are
almost impossible
to grind at home,
but can be grated.
198 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Fresh zedoary has a pleasant,
musky taste somewhat similar
Zedoary
to young ginger, clean and crisp Curcuma species
with a hint of bitterness. The
taste is sometimes described as Native to subtropical wet forest zones of Southeast Asia
resembling that of green mango,
and one of the Indian names and Indonesia, zedoary was brought to Europe in the sixth
reflects this: amb halad means
mango turmeric. century, when it was used as a source for medicines and
perfume. During the Middle Ages it became popular in the
kitchen alongside its close relative, galangal; its culinary
PARTS USED use is now largely restricted to Southeast Asia. Increased
Fresh or dried rhizome; young European interest in the food of that region has led to the
shoots, flowerbuds, and leaves.
availability of fresh zedoary, but the dried spice remains
almost unknown. In Indonesia, it goes by the misleading
name of kencur, which is also used for aromatic ginger
BUYING / STORING
(Kaempferia galanga).
Fresh zedoary is available from
Asian markets, often as white
turmeric. It has a thin, brown
skin and lemon-colored, crisp Fresh rhizome
flesh. It keeps in the refrigerator C. zerumbet is increasingly available in fresh form.
for 2 weeks. Dried zedoary slices Combine with other fresh spices or use as a crisp
can also be bought in Asian garnish. The brown skin is removed before use.
markets. The spice is often
available ground; the powder
is usually colored reddish
brown artificially.

HARVESTING
The fleshy, yellow rhizomes
take 2 years to reach full
development. Then they are
lifted and sold fresh, or boiled
or steamed, cut into slices, and
dried. Dried slices are grayish
brown, hard, and have a rough,
somewhat hairy texture.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES ZEDOARY Curcuma species 199

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In Indonesia, young zedoary shoots zedoary mixed with shallots, Good with chickpeas, curries
and stews, fish, lentils, poultry,
are eaten and the flowerbuds are fresh lemongrass, and cilantro Asian soups, green vegetables.
used in salads; the long, aromatic makes a good spice paste for
Combines well with chile,
leaves wrap and flavor fish. In cooking vegetables in coconut milk. cilantro, coconut milk, garlic,
Thailand, peeled and shredded or In Southeast Asia, dried zedoary is ginger, makrut lime leaves,
finely sliced fresh zedoary is added to used in the preparation of curries lemongrass, turmeric.
salads or raw vegetables to serve with and condiments, and in dishes for
nam prik. In Mumbai, a fresh zedoary which dried turmeric or dried ginger
and vegetable soup is popular. In might be used. It goes well with OTHER ZEDOARIES
Indonesia and India, fresh zedoary chicken and lamb in southern Indian Used interchangeably as a spice
goes into pickles. Chopped fresh and Indonesian dishes. by cooks, C. zedoaria has round
and stubby rhizomes and
C. zerumbet has long ones. The
latter has a milder taste and,
because its pale yellow color
contrasts sharply with the darker
hue of similar-looking turmeric,
it is often called white turmeric,
Crushed dried rhizome khamin khao in Thai.
The aroma of dried zedoary is musky The roots of two other species,
and agreeable, with a hint of camphor. C. leucorrhiza and C. angustifolia,
The flavor is pungent, resembling that are used to make the starch
of dried ginger, less acrid but rather called Indian arrowroot or tikor,
used as a thickening agent and
bitter and finishing on a citrus note.
for baby food.
200 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
When bruised, fresh leaves are
intensely aromatic, giving off a
Curry leaves
musky, spicy odor with a citrus Murraya koenigii
note. The taste is warm and
pleasant, lemony and faintly Curry leaves come from a small, deciduous tree that grows
bitter. Dried leaves have virtually
no flavordoubling the amount wild in the foothills of the Himalayas, in many parts of India,
asked for in a recipe has very
little effect on the taste. northern Thailand, and Sri Lanka. The tree has been cultivated
in southern India for centuries, mostly on a small scale in
private gardens for use in the kitchen, but more recently
PARTS USED also on a commercial scale. Plantations have recently been
Leaves. established in northern Australia.

BUYING / STORING
Fresh curry leaves can be bought
in Asian markets, where they
may be labeled meetha neem or
kari (or kadhi) patta. They are
best stored in an airtight plastic
bag in the freezer, but even in
the refrigerator will keep for a
week or more. Dried leaves can
be found in Asian markets too,
but dont bother with them.

HARVESTING
Although the tree is deciduous,
leaves are available for picking
most of the year in the tropics.
From the farms of Tamil Nadu
and Andhra Pradesh, the stems
are shipped fresh, to be sold in
small bundles. Vacuum-drying
is the best way to retain the
fresh color and preserve at
least some of the aroma.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with fish, lamb, lentils,
rice, seafood, most vegetables.
Combines well with chili,
cardamom, cilantro, coconut,
cumin, fenugreek seed, garlic,
mustard seed, pepper, turmeric. Fresh leaves
The slender stems may have
as many as 20 small, bright
green leaves.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES CURRY LEAVES Murraya koenigii 201

Culinary uses
Curry leaves are stripped from These mixtures are darker in at the end, for instance as the
the stems just before they are added appearance and taste than the basic bagaar or tadka that
to the dish. They are used extensively Indian ones: the ingredients are goes over most lentil dishes.
in the cooking of south India. From more highly toasted and include Chopped or crushed leaves are
domestic gardens they go straight spices native to the island, such as used in chutneys (notably coconut
into the vegetarian dishes of Gujarat. cinnamon and cardamom. Indian chutney), relishes, and marinades
They are essential to sambhar, and emigrants took curry leaves to for seafood. Whole leaves are
used in long-simmered meat stews Fiji, while others made them an added to pickles.
and in the fish curries of Kerala and important ingredient in South Westerners are just beginning
those of Chennai (Madras), the only African Tamil cooking. to appreciate the delicate, spicy
region of India where curry leaves Quickly shallow-fried in ghee or flavor the leaves impart to curries
are a standard ingredient in curry oil with mustard seeds, asafetida, without the heat often also associated
spice mixes. Elsewhere they are or onion, curry leaves can be used with those dishes. Beginners may
usually added to curry dishes only as a flavoring at the start of cooking, want to use whole sprigs and remove
for the last five minutes of cooking. before other ingredients are added. them before serving, but cooked
Sri Lankan curry mixtures also More often the same combination of leaves are quite soft and the taste
routinely include curry leaves. spices is used as a tempering, added soon becomes pleasantly addictive.

Sri Lankan curry powder


This curry powder is made from curry
leaves, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, rice,
chili, black peppercorns, cloves, green
cardamom, and cinnamon (recipe, p.278).
202 WARM AND EARTHY SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The seeds have a faint flowery
or peppermint scent, and a
Achiote
delicate, earthy, slightly peppery Bixa orellana
taste with a hint of bitterness.
They impart an agreeably earthy Achiote is the orange-red seed of the small evergreen
taste to food if used in quantities
much larger than those required annatto tree, native to tropical South America. In pre-
for coloring only.
Columbian times the seeds were already widely used as
a colorant for food, fabrics, and body paint; in the Western
world they are still used as such in butter, cheese, smoked
PARTS USED
fish, and in cosmetics. Brazil and the Philippines are the
Dried seeds.
main producers, but the tree grows throughout Central
America, the Caribbean, and in parts of Asia. Its name,
BUYING / STORING achiote, comes from the Nahuatl language of Mexico; it
Annatto is available as seeds, is sometimes called annatto seed.
whole or ground, from West
Indian stores and spice stores.
Seeds should be a healthy
rust-red; avoid dull, brownish Ground seeds Whole dried seeds
ones. Seeds and powder Dried achiote seeds are Whole seeds are mostly used as a
should be kept in an airtight very hard and are most colorant. Soak 12 tsp in 1 tbsp boiling
jar out of the light. Seeds easily ground in an water for 1 hour, or until the water is
should last at least 3 years. electric spice mill. a deep orange color.
Annatto/achiote paste can
be bought online.

HARVESTING
The large, roselike flowers
develop into prickly, orange-red
pods at the end of the branches;
each contains about 50 brick-red,
angular seeds. When ripe the
pods are harvested, split open,
and macerated in water. The
pulp embedding the seeds is
pressed into cakes for processing
into dyes; the seeds are dried
as a spice.
WARM AND EARTHY SPICES ACHIOTE Bixa orellana 203

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Achiote seeds can be soaked in hot pipin. In Peru, it is used in marinades, Essential to pipin, recado rojo.
water to obtain a colored liquid for especially for pork. In Venezuela, it is Good with beef, egg dishes,
fish (especially salt cod),
stocks and stews, or to color rice. In combined with garlic, paprika, and
legumes, okra, onions, pork,
the Caribbean, the seeds are fried in herbs to make a popular condiment poultry, rice, squash, sweet
fat over low heat, then discarded called alio criollo. In Mexico, it goes peppers, sweet potatoes,
before the now deep-golden or orange into achiote pastethe Yucatn recado tomatoes, most vegetables.
fat is used for cooking. The fat, or oil rojobasis of the regions best-known Combines well with allspice,
treated in the same way, can be stored dish, pollo pibil (marinated chicken chili, citrus juice, cloves,
in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator wrapped in banana leaves and cooked cumin, epazote, garlic,
for several months. in a pit oven); the paste is equally good oregano, paprika, peanuts.
In Jamaica, achiote may be used spread on fish or pork before grilling.
with onion and chili peppers in the In Mexico, achiote is also sometimes
sauce for saltfish and ackee, often added to the dough for tamales, the
called the national dish. In the stuffed cornmeal-paste rolls steamed
Philippines, achiote is ground and in a corn-husk wrapping. In Vietnam,
added to soups and stews, mostly for cooks use oil dyed with achiote as
color effect; it is an essential ingredient the base of braised dishes to give
in the famous pork-and-chicken dish, them color.

Recado rojo
Red achiote paste is indispensable to the
cooking of Mexicos Yucatn peninsula.
Achiote seeds are combined with black
peppercorns, cloves, cumin and coriander
seeds, dried oregano, garlic, and bitter
orange juice or wine vinegar. Small hot red
chili peppers may be added (recipe, p.288).
204 BITTER OR ASTRINGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The taste of pickled capers
(once the vinegar or salt is
Capers
rinsed off) is piquant, fresh, Capparis species
salty, and somewhat lemony.
The pungency in its flavor The caper bush is a small shrub that grows wild all around
derives mainly from a mustard
oil, glycoside, not unlike the Mediterranean, as far south as the Sahara and as far
those found in horseradish
and wasabi. east as northern Iran, although it may have originated in dry
regions of western and central Asia. Capers are successfully
cultivated in many countries with a similar climate. In really
PARTS USED hot countries the wild variety is likely to be C. spinosa, which
Unopened flowerbuds; has, as the name suggests, spines; the cultivated caper is
unripe fruits.
usually C. inermis, without spines. In northern India, the
variety used is C. decidua.
BUYING / STORING
Capers from southern France Capers
are graded from nonpareilles Capers are commonly pickled in vinegar
to capottes, according to size or dry-salted. Their quality depends on
the smaller ones being the best.
their place of origin, the preserving
Other important producers are
method, and their size.
Italy, notably the tiny island of
Pantelleria, Cyprus, Malta, Spain,
and California. Pickled capers
keep for a long time provided
they are kept covered by the
pickling liquid, which should
not be renewed or added to,
least of all with vinegar.
New York chefs are
experimenting with pickling
ramp seeds in the same way
as capers. Ramps are wild leeks,
Allium tricoccum, similar to
ramsons (wild garlic) see p.76.

HARVESTING
Caper buds are picked by
hand when they are the right
size, wilted for a day or two,
graded to size, then put in
vinegar or dry-salted. The
intensely flavored capers from
Pantelleria and Sicily are always
dry salted. Salting preserves
taste and texture better than
pickling does.
BITTER OR ASTRINGENT SPICES CAPERS Capparis species 205

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Capers are an important ingredient or rabbit. On their own, capers Essential to tapenade,
various sauces.
in many sauces, such as ravigote, enhance many dishes of the fattier
Good with artichokes,
remoulade, tartar, and tomato-based meats, and have become one of the
eggplant, fish, green beans,
salsa alla puttanesca. English caper standard garnishes on pizza. In gherkins, fatty meats (lamb),
sauce, still mentioned as traditional Hungary and Austria, they flavor olives, potatoes, poultry,
with mutton, is equally good with Liptauer cheese. Both capers and seafood, tomatoes.
firm fish. Most fish can be cooked or caper berries can be eaten on their Combines well with anchovies,
garnished with capers in a variety of own, like olives, or used as a relish arugula, basil, celery, garlic,
ways; so can chicken. Salt cod is often with cold meats, smoked fish, and lemon, mustard, olives,
accompanied by capers and green cheese. Used with discretion they oregano, parsley, tarragon.
olives, a standard combination for can liven up a salad.
fish dishes in Sicily and the Aeolian Pickled or salted capers should be
islands; in Spain, with fried fish, rinsed before use. When capers are
capers are combined with almonds, used in cooked dishes they should
garlic, and parsley. With black olives, be added toward the end because
capers are the basis of tapenade and lengthy cooking tends to bring out
are also good in casseroles of chicken an undesirable, bitter flavor.

Caper berries
Caper berries are the small, semi-mature
fruit of Capparis species. They are usually
preserved in vinegar. Their taste is similar Leaves and shoots
to but less intense than that of capers. Lightly pickled leaves and
shoots are available in jars.
The leaves and immature buds
have a pleasant caper flavor,
but the thicker stems can be
spiny and are best discarded.
206 BITTER OR ASTRINGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Fresh leaves are grassy
and mildly pungent with
Fenugreek
astringent tones. In dried leaves Trigonella foenum-graecum
there is a fragrant note of hay. The
aroma of the raw seeds can be Native to western Asia and southeastern Europe, fenugreek
identified as the overriding smell
of some curry powders. Their has a long history of use as a flavoring and medicine. The
taste is celery- or lovage-like
and bitter; the texture is floury. genus name Trigonella refers to the triangular shape of the
seeds. Blue fenugreek grows in the Alps and the Caucasus; in
Switzerland dried leaves are ground to a green powder, in
PARTS USED Georgia, seeds are used as a spice.
Fresh and dried leaves; seeds.

Culinary uses
A good source of protein, minerals, the local dosai breads. In Egypt and
BUYING / STORING and vitamins, fenugreek is widely Ethiopia, fenugreek also flavors breads,
Iranian and Indian shops sell used by vegetarians in India. They and it is a constituent of Ethiopian
fresh leaves; use within 23 days make extensive use of fresh fenugreek berbere spice mixture. In Turkey
and keep in the refrigerator. Dried (methi) leaves as a vegetable, cooked and Armenia, ground fenugreek is
leaves should be green with no
with potatoes, spinach, or rice. The combined with chili and garlic and
yellowing; store in an airtight
container. Seeds are available leaves are also chopped and added rubbed onto pastirma, the excellent
from the same sources and from to the dough for naans and chapattis. dried beef of the region.
spice stores; they will keep their Dried leaves are used to flavor sauces Dress fenugreek sprouts, tomatoes,
flavor for a year if stored in an and gravies. Fresh or dried leaves are and olives with vinaigrette for a salad.
airtight jar. Roast and grind essential to the classic Iranian herb
seeds as needed. Look out for
and lamb stew, ghormeh sabzi.
fenugreek sprouts.
Seeds are used in Indian pickles Whole seeds
and chutney, in the southern spice Brief dry-roasting or frying mellows the
blend sambhar powder, and in panch flavor of the seeds and gives them a nutty,
HARVESTING phoron from Bengal. They are much burnt-sugar or maple-syrup taste, but do
used in dals and fish curries in the not heat for too long or the bitterness
Fenugreek can be grown in rich
south, and ground with flour to make is intensified.
soil in full sun. Gather both leaves
and seeds. The white or yellow
flowers develop into narrow
beaked seed pods. Harvest
when ripe and dry the seeds.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Essential to sambhar powder,
panch phoron, berbere.
Good with fish curries, green
and root vegetables,lamb,
legumes, potatoes, rice, tomatoes.
Combines well with
cardamom, cinnamon, cloves,
coriander, cumin, fennel seed,
garlic, dried limes, nigella,
pepper, turmeric.
BITTER OR ASTRINGENT SPICES AJOWAN Trachyspermum ammi 207

Ajowan TASTING NOTES


When crushed, ajowan seeds
have a strong, rather crude
Trachyspermum ammi smell of thyme. The taste,
largely determined by thymol
Ajowan, native to southern India, is a small, annual in the essential oil, is hot and
bitter. If chewed on their own,
umbellifer closely related to caraway and cumin. The seeds ajowan seeds numb the tongue.
are a popular spice throughout India, and the plant is also
grown and used in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Egypt.
Ajowans essential oil was the worlds main source of PARTS USED
thymol (an antiseptic phenol) until the introduction Dried seeds.

of synthetic thymol.

BUYING / STORING
Culinary uses Ajowan can be bought from
Ajowan should be used judiciously: root vegetables and in some curry Indian markets, where it may
too much will make a dish taste mixes. It is very popular in the also be called ajwain or carom.
The seeds will keep indefinitely in
bitter. Cooking mellows the flavor vegetarian cuisine of Gujarat, where
an airtight jar. Bruise them before
to resemble that of thyme or oregano, it is used in batters for bhajias and use to release their flavor; they
but stronger and with a peppery note. pakoras, and with chili peppers and are easily ground in a mortar.
Ajowan has a natural affinity with coriander to flavor the crpes called
starchy foods, and in southwestern pudlas. In northern India, ajowan is
Asia is used in breads (paratha) and fried in ghee with other spices before
fried snacks (especially those made being added to a dish. Probably its HARVESTING
with chickpea flour). Cooked with best-known use in the West is in the Ajowan stems are cut in May or
dried beans it helps relieve flatulence. flavoring of a crunchy snack called June, when the seeds are ripe;
It is also used to flavor pickles and Bombay mix. they are dried, then threshed.

Ground seeds Whole seeds


Seeds are often used whole or The seeds are small, FLAVOR PAIRINGS
crushed. Do not grind until needed. ridged ovals, grayish
Essential to berbere,
green to reddish chat masala.
brown, and resemble
Good with fish, green beans,
celery seeds.
legumes, root vegetables.
Combines well with
cardamom, cinnamon, cloves,
cumin, fennel seed, garlic,
ginger, pepper, turmeric.
208 BITTER OR ASTRINGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Mastic has a light, pine aroma;
the taste is pleasantly mineral-
Mastic
like, lightly bitter, and very Prunus mahaleb
mouth-cleansing.
Mastic is a resin produced by cutting the bark of one variety
of lentisk tree native to the Greek island of Chios. The tree
PARTS USED has many veins, rich in mastic, just beneath the bark of the
Tears of dried resin. Mastic is trunk. The pieces of resin, some oval, some oblong, are called
powdered before use so that
it blends evenly into a dish. tears. They are semitransparent, with a light, golden color.
Mastic has a brittle texture, but when chewed it takes on the
consistency of chewing gum.
BUYING / STORING
Mastic is expensive and is sold
in small quantities, but you need Culinary uses
only a small amount at a time. Mastics main use is in baking, flower water, mastic is used to flavor
It is available from Greek and desserts, and sweetmeats. Greeks milk puddings, dried fruit and nut
Middle Eastern markets and
from spice stores. Keep in a
use mastic to flavor festive breads, fillings for pastries, Turkish delight,
cool place. especially the Easter bread tsoureki, and preserves. It gives a pleasant,
and Cypriots in their Easter cheese chewy texture to ice creams. Mastic
pastries, flaounes. Most of the crop soup, mastic stew, and a mastic
HARVESTING is exported to Turkey and the Arab sweetmeat are made in Izmir, the
states. With sugar and rose or orange Turkish port city in sight of Chios.
The slow-growing evergreen
trees start to produce mastic
when 56 years old, and continue
producing for another 5060 Mastic tears
years. Mastic is harvested from Used as a breath-freshener
July to October. The gnarled and digestive aid, mastic was
trunks are cut diagonally and the the original chewing gum.
sticky resin oozes out; some
collects on the trunk, some falls
to the ground. In contact with
the air the resin hardens into
tears, which are collected,
washed, then cleaned by
hand and laid out to dry.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with almonds, apricots,
fresh cheese, dates, milk desserts,
pistachio nuts, rose water and
orange flower water, walnuts.
Combines well with allspice,
cardamom, cinnamon, cloves,
mahlab, nigella, poppy
seed, sesame.
BITTER OR ASTRINGENT SPICES SAFFLOWER Carthamus tinctorius 209

Safflower TASTING NOTES


Safflower has little aroma,
but smells herbaceous and
Carthamus tinctorius somewhat leathery; the
flavor is bitter and lightly
The thistlelike safflower is an ancient crop, traditionally pungent. Although safflower
contains the coloring
grown on small plots for local consumption, whether as agents carthamin and saflor
yellow, it lacks essential
medicine, dye, food colorant, or spice. Today it is grown oils to provide aroma.
in many parts of the world, mainly as an oilseed crop.
Unscrupulous merchants sometimes pass it off to tourists
PARTS USED
as the much more expensive saffron, and indeed it is known
Dried flowers.
as bastard or false saffron in some countries.

Culinary uses BUYING / STORING


Safflower will color rice, stews, and pastes for fish stews and in the Safflower is available
soups a light gold, although it does vinegar sauces that accompany fried online, from some spice
merchants, and in countries
not give the depth of color or complex fish. In Turkey it is used in cooking or
where it is used it can be
flavors of saffron. It is often used in as a garnish; in Georgia it is essential bought in markets. It may be
this way in India and in the Arab to khmeli suneli spice mix. sold as loose, dried petals or as
world. Petals may be added straight to Safflower oil is high in the compressed flowerheads. In
the dish or infused in warm water to monounsaturated fatty acids that Turkey, where it is in common
obtain a coloring liquid. Portuguese are beneficial in the prevention of use, it may be sold as Turkish
saffron. Store in an airtight
cooks use safflower in seasoning heart disease. container. The flavor fades
after 68 months.

Dried petals
Safflowers are the globe-shaped
flowers of a tall, upright plant GROW YOUR OWN
with prickly edged, oval leaves.
When growing, the flowers Flowers are gathered in summer
are deep red with yellow tips;
and sun-dried, then crushed.
when dried, they are yellow
to bright orange to brick-
red in color.
FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Good with fish, rice,
root vegetables.
Combines well with chili,
cilantro, cumin, garlic,
paprika, parsley.
210 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Black pepper has a fine, fruity,
pungent fragrance with warm,
Pepper
woody, and lemony notes. The Piper nigrum
taste is hot and biting with a
clean, penetrating aftertaste. The history of the spice trade is essentially about the quest for
White pepper is less aromatic,
and can smell musty, but it pepper. Peppercorns and long pepper from Indias Malabar
has a sharp pungency with
a sweetish afternote. coast reached Europe at least 3,000 years ago; trade routes
were fiercely protected, empires were built and destroyed
because of it. In 408CE the Goths demanded pepper as part of
PARTS USED their tribute when they laid siege to Rome; later, pepper was
Immature and ripe fruits. traded ounce for ounce for gold, and used as currency to pay
rents, dowries, and taxes. In volume and value pepper remains
the most important spice. India, Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia,
BUYING / STORING and Vietnam are the main producers.
Sun-drying is preferable for
peppercorns: if dried at high
temperatures in artificial heat Whole peppercorns
some of the volatile oils are lost. Large, uniform, dark brown to black
Black and white pepper rapidly peppercorns command the highest Ground pepper Crushed pepper
lose their aroma and flavor price. Aroma and flavor are more Ground white Crushed peppercorns
when ground, so it is best to
important than pungency. The best pepper is more can be pressed into steaks
buy whole berries and grind
in a pepper mill or crush in a white pepper is considered to be attractive in creamy to be grilled, and release
mortar, as needed. In airtight Muntok from Indonesia. sauces than black. their flavors in marinades.
containers peppercorns will
keep for a year.

HARVESTING
To produce black pepper,
immature green berries are
picked, briefly fermented,
and then dried. During
drying the pepper shrivels,
becomes wrinkled, and
turns black or dark brown.
For white peppercorns,
berries are picked when
yellowish red and almost
ripe, then soaked to soften
and loosen the outer skin.
Once this is removed they
are rinsed and sun-dried.
PUNGENT SPICES PEPPER Piper nigrum 211

Pepper has different characteristics in different places The essential oil and piperine content varies according
of origin and is therefore classified according to where to the origins of the pepper. The best-quality pepper is
it is grown. Broadly speaking, the flavor of pepper is from the Wyanad district on Indias Malabar coast; it has
determined by its essential oil content, while its content a fruity aroma and a clean bite. Tellicherry is the grade
of the alkaloid piperine accounts for its bite. Black pepper with the largest berries. Indonesian lampong pepper has
has both aroma and pungency. White pepper contains more piperine and less essential oil, so it is more pungent
less essential oil than black because the oil is present in than aromatic; the berries are smaller and gray-black in
the hull and is removed in cleaning; that also explains color. Sarawak pepper from Malaysia has a milder aroma
why white pepper, although pungent, has little aroma. than Indonesian berries, but is hot and biting. Brazilian
Over time the strength of the flavor compounds in the pepper has a low piperine content and is rather bland.
essential oil diminishes. Vietnamese is light in color and mild.

Red peppercorns
Red or pink peppercorns are fully ripe fruits,
usually available preserved in brine or vinegar.
They have a soft outer shell with a delicate,
almost sweet, fruity taste. The inner core
provides a moderate, lingering heat.

Green peppercorns
Green pepper has a light aroma and an agreeable,
fresh pungency; it is not overpoweringly hot. Green
peppercorns are preserved by freeze-drying or
dehydration, or packed in brine or vinegar. Keep fresh
green and red pepper berries in the refrigerator.
Pepper growing peacefully on its vine gives no hint of the
erce warfare and empire-building that have marked its past.
As the condiment that invariably accompanies salt in the West,
pepper remains the most important spice in volume and value.
214 PUNGENT SPICES

FLAVOR PAIRINGS Culinary uses


Essential to baharat, berbere, Pepper is neither sweet nor savory, White pepper is used in pale
garam masala, ras el hanout,
quatre pices. it is aromatically pungent. Although sauces and cream soups to preserve
mostly used in savory foods, it can their attractive appearance. Use it
Good with most foods.
be used with fruits and in some sweet judiciously because the bite is sharp.
Combines well with basil,
breads and cakes. It brings out the In France, mignonette pepper,
cardamom, cinnamon, cloves,
coconut milk, coriander, cumin, flavor of other spices and retains its a mixture consisting of black and
garlic, ginger, lemon, lime, own flavor well during cooking. white peppercorns, black for aroma
nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, The aroma of black pepper can and white for strength, is often used.
thyme, turmeric. be detected in foods all round the Rinse brined peppercorns before
world. Even the chili lovers of Latin using. Green pepper combines
America and southern Asia reach for beautifully with sweeter spices, such
OTHER PEPPERS
the peppercorns to flavor cooking as cinnamon, ginger, bay, fennel seed,
The long pepper species liquids, stocks, salad dressings, and and lemongrass, to flavor pork,
P. longum and P. retrofactum sauces, or crush them to add to spice chicken (rub butter mixed with crushed
originated in India and Indonesia
respectively. Long pepper is mixtures and marinades. Ground peppercorns and ginger under the skin
mostly used in Asia, East Africa, pepper is rubbed on fish and meat before roasting), lobster, crab, and fish,
and North Africa in slow-cooked to be grilled or baked; it flavors rich especially salmon. It also makes an
dishes and pickles. The spikes stews and curries; and it is used to excellent steak au poivre and combines
of minute fruits are harvested season simple buttered vegetables well with Dijon mustard. Red pepper-
green and sun-dried, when they and smoked fish. corns can be used in similar ways.
resemble gray-black catkins.
Long pepper is usually used
whole. It smells sweetly fragrant,
and initially resembles black Mignonette pepper
pepper in taste, but it has a Black and white P. nigrum
biting, numbing aftertaste. peppercorns are combined
Indonesian long pepper is in this French seasoning.
slightly longer and more
pungent than the Indian.
PUNGENT SPICES CUBEB Piper cubeba 215

Cubeb TASTING NOTES


Cubebs have a warm, pleasant
aroma, lightly peppery but also
Piper cubeba allspicelike, with a whiff of
eucalypt and turpentine. When
Cubebs are the fruit of a tropical vine of the pepper family raw the flavor is strongly
pinelike, pungent, and glowing
native to Java and other Indonesian islands. They were with a lingering, bitter note,
but cooking brings out the
cultivated in Java from the 16th century and for 200 years allspice flavor.
cubebs were a popular substitute for black pepper in Europe.
By the 19th century they had become almost unobtainable.
Cubebs are now scarcely known in the West, but there is a PARTS USED
revival of interest in them among spice aficionados. Immature fruits.

Culinary uses BUYING / STORING


Cubebs, also known as Java pepper are used to flavor North African lamb
and tailed pepper, are used locally or mutton tagines, and as a substitute Cubebs can be bought
from online spice stores. Buy
in Indonesian cuisine and to a lesser for allspice in long-cooked stews.
sparingly: although they keep
extent in Sri Lanka, where they Cubebs are best suited to meat and their aromatic properties well,
are also grown. They were traded vegetable dishes. they are only used in small
from the seventh century by Arab Cubebs are sometimes confused with amounts. Stored whole in an
merchants and formerly had a role in the Ashanti pepper (P. guineense), an airtight container, they will
Arab cooking, one that persists mainly African species, and the Benin pepper keep for 2 years or more.
Grind as needed.
in their presence in the Moroccan (P. clusii)these also have stems and
spice mixture ras el hanout. Cubebs are often called false cubebs.

Whole fruits HARVESTING


Cubebs are furrowed and
wrinkled, slightly larger Cubebs are harvested
than peppercorns, and have green and sun-dried to
a deep brown-black.
a short, straight tail. Some
berries contain a single
seed, others are hollow.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Combines well with bay,
cardamom, cinnamon,
curry leaf, rosemary,
sage, thyme, turmeric.
216 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
For aromas and flavors, see
Aromatic leaves
individual captions. Various species
The aromatic leaves of a variety of trees are used as
PARTS USED flavorings in many parts of the world. They are often
Fresh and dried leaves. described, somewhat misleadingly, as being rather like
bay leaves. The way they are used may be similar, but their
aromatic properties are very different. Included here are a
BUYING / STORING few that are little known, but which are slowly becoming
Most dried aromatic leaves available outside their region of origin.
are available by mail order
and via the internet. Dried
leaves hold their flavor quite
well, but if you can get fresh
leaves it is worth freezing
Hoja santa Piper auritum
them between sheets of This relative of P. nigrum grows in
freezer wrap. Fresh and Central America and in Texas. Fresh
dried hoja santa leaves are leaves have a lightly pungent,
available in Latin markets, musky aroma and flavor,
fresh l lt leaves in Southeast
with a hint of mint and anise;
Asian markets, dried avocado
dried leaves have a warm,
leaves in Latin markets,
and dried salam leaves anise-fennel aroma with
in Indonesian markets. a citrus note.

HARVESTING
Avocado trees are sold in some
nurseries. Aromatic leaves can
be picked at any time from the
tree and used fresh. Leaves are
also laid out in the shade to dry
before being packed for sale.
L lt Piper sarmentosum
The lightly spicy leaves of this
pepper are used in Thailand
(where it is called chaa phluu)
and Vietnam (where it is l
lt). These large, glossy,
round to heart-shaped
leaves are sometimes
mistaken for betel pepper
leaves (P. betle), which are
chewed in India as a
digestive aid.
PUNGENT SPICES AROMATIC LEAVES Various species 217

Culinary uses
Large, soft, heart-shaped hoja santa a flavor similar to that of hoja santa. The aroma and flavor develop with
leaves feature in Mexican cooking, The Thais wrap morsels of food cooking. Salam leaf combines well
particularly in the states of Veracruz roasted coconut, peanuts, young with other Southeast Asian
and Oaxaca. They are used to wrap ginger, shallots, chili peppers, and aromatics: galangal, ginger, garlic,
fish or chicken to be steamed or cubes of lime or other fruitsin l lt chile peppers, lemongrass, tamarind,
baked; to line or layer casseroles of leaves and serve them as a snack. In and coconut milk, as well as pepper,
fish or chicken; and as a flavoring for Vietnam, the leaves are used to wrap cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
tamales. They are also used with spring rolls and small pieces of beef Avocado leaves are used, fresh and
other herbs in green mole sauces. to be grilled, and are added to soups. dried, in some regions of Mexico to
The leaves work well with chili Salam leaves are used fresh in flavor tamales, stews, or grilled meats,
peppers, garlic, Mexican mint souplike mixed vegetable dishes, or as wrappers. The leaves are
marigold, and paprika. Avocado in stir-fried vegetables, or with beef, usually toasted lightly and used
leaves make a differently flavored braised chicken, or duck, and in Bali whole or ground.
substitute as a wrapping; chopped with roast or grilled pork. Dried
fennel leaves in tamales will achieve leaves are less fragrant than fresh.

Salam Eugenia polyantha


The salam tree, a relative of the clove tree, is
native to Malaysia and Indonesia. The leaf is
used in Indonesian cooking. There is no real
replacement for the lemony, aromatic leaves,
but you could try curry leaves.

Avocado Persea americana


The glossy leaves of the avocado have
a light hazelnut-anise or licorice flavor.
If you live in a climate where the avocado
will grow, it is worth cultivating for its
wonderful fruit alone; the scented
leaves come as a bonus.
218 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
All parts of the tree are aromatic.
The leaves have a warm, woody
Mountain pepper
aroma with a citrus note; the Tasmannia lanceolata
taste is similar. Fresh berries
initially taste of sweet fruit; a Mountain pepper comes from a genus of small trees native
camphor-turpentine note soon
follows, with an intensely to Australia (the uplands of Tasmania, Victoria, and New South
pungent bite that leaves a
numb sensation in the mouth. Wales); it is unrelated to the pepper vine, Piper nigrum. Early
colonists soon discovered that ground berries could be used
as a condiment; in 1811, the colonial historian Daniel Mann
PARTS USED noted that this spice tree possesses a more pungent quality
Fresh and dried leaves; fresh than pepper.
and dried berries.

Culinary uses
When substituting mountain pepper cooked meat stew or bean dish;
BUYING / STORING
for true pepper, use half the amount of prolonged cooking dissipates their
In Australia, fresh and dried ground leaf as you would true pepper, sharpness and pungency. The berries
whole leaves and berries are and even less if you are using the could also go into a classic French
available; fresh berries will keep
for several weeks in a sealed
berries. It combines well with other sauce poivrade, which is good with
plastic bag in the refrigerator. Australian spices, such as wattle beef and rich, well-flavored game, in
Berries are more potent than (p.137) and lemon myrtle (p.171). A particular hare or venison The leaves
leaves, and both are stronger rub of pepper leaf, lemon myrtle, and and berries of a related tree (T. stipitata),
than true pepper, so use with thyme is good for lamb and for local are sold as Dorrigo pepper, named
caution. Elsewhere, dried, meats such as kangaroo. Use a few for the Dorrigo mountains where
ground leaf is most commonly
found. Buy both leaf and berries berries crushed or whole in a long- it grows.
in small quantities because
they are used sparingly and the
flavor diminishes once they Fresh leaves
are ground, even when stored Mountain pepper leaves have
in an airtight container. a lingering heat and a kick that
recalls Sichuan pepper (p.220)
rather than black pepper. Dried
leaves are stronger than fresh.
HARVESTING
Leaves may be used fresh, or
dried flat in the same way as bay
leaves. Ripe berries are dried or
preserved in brine.

FLAVOR PAIRINGS Dried berries


Dried mountain pepper
Good with game meats, beef, berries can be ground in
lamb, legumes, pumpkin and
a peppermill and are
other winter squashes, root
vegetables. often sold crushed,
looking rather like oily,
Combines well with bay, garlic,
cracked black pepper.
juniper, lemon myrtle, marjoram,
mustard, oregano, parsley, red
wine, rosemary, thyme, wattle.
PUNGENT SPICES GRAINS OF PARADISE Amomum melegueta 219

Grains of paradise TASTING NOTES


Grains of paradise are related to
cardamom, but their taste does
Amomum melegueta not have that spices camphor
element. Grains of paradise taste
Grains of paradise are the seeds of a perennial, reedlike pungently hot and peppery, with
a fruity note. The aroma is
plant with showy, trumpet-shaped flowers, indigenous to the similar but fainter.
humid tropical coast of West Africa, from Liberia along the
Gulf of Guinea to Nigeria. Among their other names are
Guinea pepper, Melegueta pepper, and, less often, alligator PARTS USED
pepper. The spice, originally brought to Europe in the 13th Seeds.

century via Saharan caravan routes, was appreciated as a


substitute for true pepper. Present-day production is still in
BUYING / STORING
the same region, with Ghana the main exporter.
Grains of paradise are not
easy to obtain: try online, or a
Culinary uses spice store. They are sometimes
available in West Indian or
Grains of paradise are little used West Indies, are they still a much-used African stores. Stored whole in
in Western cooking now, but remained seasoning; in the Mahgreb they are an airtight container they will
popular long after true pepper became one of the components of Moroccan keep their flavor for several
years. Grind them
more readily and cheaply available. ras el hanout and Tunisian qlat daqqa. as needed.
They were used to spice wine and Grains of paradise are excellent in
beer, and in hot sack (Spanish white mulled wine, in braised lamb dishes,
wine) they were a popular 17th-century and with vegetables, including
tonic. But by the mid-19th century, eggplant, potatoes, and pumpkin. HARVESTING
interest in the spice had all but Grind them before use and add at the
The fruit is a capsule, yellow
disappeared. In Scandinavia, they are last stage of cooking. Pepper mixed streaked with red, fig-shaped
still used in akvavit. Only in West with a little cardamom and ginger and fig-sized. The capsule dries
Africa, and to a lesser degree in the may be used as a substitute. and becomes brown, hard,
and nutlike; the seeds are
Crushed seeds Ground seeds chestnut brown and look like
Crushing breaks down Grains of paradise grind down tiny, blunt pyramids.
the red-brown coats of the into a fine, aromatic powder.
seeds to reveal the white
flesh inside.
FLAVOR PAIRINGS
Essential to qlat daqqa,
ras el hanout.
Good with eggplant, lamb,
potatoes, poultry, rice, squash,
tomatoes, root vegetables.
Combines well with allspice,
cinnamon, cloves,
cumin, ginger, nutmeg.
Whole seeds
The seedhead encloses a
white pulp in which there
are embedded 60100
small, red-brown seeds,
the grains of paradise.
220 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Sichuan pepper is very
fragrant, woody, somewhat
Sichuan pepper and
pungent, with notes of citrus
peel. Sansho is tangy and quite
sharp. Both have a numbing
sansho
or tingling effect in the mouth. Zanthoxylum simulans and Z. piperitum
Sansho leaves, called kinome
and used as a garnish in Japan,
have a minty-basil aroma. These two spices, the one traditional to the cooking of
Sichuan province in China, the other to Japan, are the
dried fruits of prickly ash trees. Also called flower pepper,
PARTS USED Japanese pepper, and formerly fagara (the prickly ashes
Dried berries; fresh leaves. are no longer classified in the genus Fagara), the spice
should not be confused with black and white peppercorns
harvested from the Piper nigrum vine.
BUYING / STORING
Sichuan pepper is sold whole
or ground in Asian markets
Whole and split berries
and by spice stores. Sansho is Remove the bitter seeds from whole
usually available as a coarse berries. Split berries are sold with the
powder from the same sources. seeds removed, but check the package
Split berries will keep their and discard any seeds you find.
fragrance longer than the
powder; store in an airtight
container. The season for
kinome is short and the leaves
are not easily found outside
Japan. If you do find them,
keep for a few days in a plastic Ground berries
bag in the refrigerator. Berries are dry-roasted
alone or with salt, then
ground and used as
a condiment.
HARVESTING
The reddish brown berries are
sun-dried, then split open and
the rather bitter, black seeds
are usually discarded. Kinome
leaves are gathered and used
fresh in spring.
PUNGENT SPICES SICHUAN PEPPER AND SANSHO Zanthoxylum simulans and Z. piperitum 221

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Sichuan pepper is an important used with poultry and meat to be Essential to five-spice powder,
Chinese spiced salt (Sichuan
constituent of Chinese five-spice roasted, grilled, or fried, and also pepper); seven-spice blend
powder. For many dishes, the berries withstir-fried vegetables. Try it (shichimi togarashi).
are dry-roasted for 34 minutes to with green beans, mushrooms, Combines well with black
release their aromatic oils. Control and eggplant. beans, chili, citrus, garlic, ginger,
the heat carefully because if they Sansho is used as a table sesame oil and seeds, soy sauce,
blacken they are not good and condiment in Japan, and is also star anise.
should be discarded. Let cool, then an ingredient of seven-spice blend,
grind; an electric mill does the job shichimi togarashi. The spice is most
well. Sift and discard the husks, then commonly used with fatty fish, meat,
store in an airtight container to use and poultry to mask the smell
as a condiment. It is best to make Kinome has a refreshing, mild
only a little at a time because the flavor and a tender texture, which
flavor soon dissipates. The roasted make it a popular flavoring herb
pepper is also used to make spiced or garnish for soups, simmered
salt (see p.272). Sichuan pepper is dishes, grills, and cooked salads.

Seven-spice powder
This is the Japanese spice blend shichimi togarashi, or
seven-flavors chili, which is used to flavor udon (wheat
noodles), soups, nabemono (one-pot dishes), and yakitori.
In addition to chili flakes and sansho, it includes black and
white sesame seeds, dried tangerine peel, flakes of nori
(laver), and poppy seeds (recipe, p.271).
222 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Fresh ginger has a rich and
warm aroma with a refreshing,
Fresh ginger
woody note and sweet, citrus Zingiber officinale
undertones. The flavor is hot and
tangy, and has a bite. Rhizomes Ginger is a rhizome, an underground stem of a lush
harvested young are milder and
less fibrous than those harvested plant that is somewhat like a small bamboo. It has been
later in the season.
an important spice for more than 3,000 years. Cultivated in
the southern provinces of China and in India, it was a staple
in the diet of Confucius, and Sanskrit literature records its
PARTS USED
pungent spiciness in Indian cooking. In Asia, ginger is most
Fresh rhizomes.
commonly used fresh, except in masalas and other dry spice
mixtures. Most recently ginger has begun to be cultivated
BUYING / STORING in Queensland in northern Australia.
Fresh ginger rhizomes should
be hard, unwrinkled, plump,
and heavy. They keep well in
the vegetable crisper of the
refrigerator for a week to 10
days. Ginger is also available Whole fresh rhizome
chopped and preserved in an Fresh ginger has a pale tan skin
acid medium, and frozen as stretched tautly around the yellow
a paste. Ginger in syrup and flesh, which should be crisp and
crystallized ginger will keep not fibrous.
for up to 2 years in a cool, dry
place. Pickled ginger keeps
for 6 months.

HARVESTING
Ginger rhizomes are dug up
25 months after planting, while
still tender. For use fresh, they
are washed, dried for a few days,
and then stored. Ginger to be
preserved or crystallized is
peeled, cut into pieces, and
soaked in brine for some days,
then in water. It is boiled in
water, then in syrup, and either
left in syrup or dried and dusted
with sugar.

Sliced fresh rhizome


Sliced rhizome can be
left unpeeled for use in
marinades or dishes from
which it will be removed
before serving.
PUNGENT SPICES FRESH GINGER Zingiber ofcinale 223

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Fresh ginger is used in savory dishes used to flavor cooking oil before meat Good with green beans, beef,
beets, broccoli, cabbage,
throughout Asia. In China, it is grated, or vegetables are added. In the south chicken, citrus fruits, crab, fish,
chopped, sliced, or shredded for the combination is more likely to be melon, parsnips, pineapple,
cooking fish and seafood, meat, and ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and pumpkin, and squash.
poultry because it neutralizes fishy and turmeric. It goes into chutneys and Combines well with basil,
meaty smells. Large, crushed pieces relishes, marinades for meat and fish, chili, cilantro, coconut, fish
are left unpeeled for extra flavor and and into salads. Ginger and lime juice sauce, galangal, garlic, makrut
discarded when the dish is ready. with chat masala makes a good salad lime, lemon grass, lime juice,
mint, scallions, soy sauce,
Among vegetables it is particularly dressing for legumes; or with chili
tamarind, turmeric.
used with cabbage and greens. It goes peppers, sugar, fish sauce, and water a
into soups, sauces, and marinades. In Vietnamese dipping sauce for fish.
Japan, fresh ginger has many uses, one To obtain ginger juice, grate fresh
of which, as in China, is to mask fish ginger (a fine Japanese grater does
odors. Freshly grated ginger and its the job well) or grate pieces in a food
juice are used in tempura dipping processor, then squeeze the juice
sauce, in dressings, and with grilled from the shredded or chopped ginger
and fried foods. Koreans add a little through cheesecloth. You could also
chopped ginger to many dishes, and add a little water to ginger in the
the popular pickle, kimchi, relies on processor and then strain. Ginger
ginger and garlic for its flavor. juice is used in sauces and marinades
Galangal is generally preferred where a subtle flavor of ginger is
to ginger in Southeast Asia, although needed, and is also sprinkled on
the two are used together in some meat. Fresh ginger has been readily
dishes. Ginger and garlic are natural adopted in Europe and America and
partners: many north Indian dishes are is now often found in dishes of
based on a ginger-garlic-onion paste, western origin.

Fresh juice
Fresh ginger rhizomes are
easily grated to produce an
aromatic juice for use in
sauces and dressings.
224 PUNGENT SPICES

Young or spring ginger Pickled ginger


Very pale, young ginger with a moist, translucent skin In Japan, knobs of ginger are pickled in sweet vinegar and
is sometimes found in Asian markets in springtime. served in wafer-thin slices with sushi as a digestive condiment,
The flesh is creamy-white, the tips of the shoots pink, called gari. The taste is quite mild and pickling turns the ginger
and the flesh crisp. It has a pure, clean fragrance; the pink. I have found that well-drained gari can be shredded and
taste is definitely of ginger, but without bite. The tender used to good effect in fish, seafood, and vegetable salads.
rhizomes can be used without peeling. Slices can be stir- Beni-shoga is shredded ginger, dyed to a striking red by
fried and eaten as a vegetable or lightly cooked with fish pickling and by being preserved with perilla leaves. More
and seafood, especially crab. In China, it is often pickled. pungent than gari, it is good with crab and other seafood.
Add finely sliced young ginger and green garlic to Hajikami shoga are pickled ginger shoots that are served
salads of green beans, tomatoes, or baby beets. It is with grilled fish. Gari, beni-shoga, and hajikami shoga are
surprisingly good with cold roast beef. all available from Asian markets.

Pickled shoots
Sometimes garishly colored,
sometimes a delicate pink,
hajikami shoga is made with
the tender, young shoots of
the ginger plant.

Shredded rhizome
Pungent beni-shoga is
preserved first in salt, then
vinegar. This vivid red pickle
offers a sharp contrast in
color and taste when
served with seafood.

Sliced rhizome
Familiar to sushi
lovers, gari is finely
sliced ginger rhizome
that is pickled in
sweet vinegar.
PUNGENT SPICES FRESH GINGER Zingiber ofcinale 225
Preserved ginger New Zealand for export. It is available pickled, and
Ginger in syrup and crystallized ginger can be eaten fresh when in season, from Asian markets.
as sweetmeats on their own or used as flavorings for Ginger flower
sweet sauces, ice cream, cakes, and tarts. China and Also called torch ginger, the showy flowers of a wild
Australia are the main producers and both kinds are ginger (Nicolaia elatior) are used in Thailand and Malaysia.
widely available. Buds and young shoots are eaten raw with nam prik, sliced
Mioga ginger into salads, shredded over laksa soups, or used to add a
The Japanese and Koreans share an enthusiasm for the mild pungency to fish curries. The buds are difficult to
mildly flavored young shoots and buds of mioga ginger find outside Asia.
(Z. mioga). They are sliced and used to flavor soups, tofu, Aromatic ginger, see p.170.
salads, vinegared dishes, and pickles to accompany grilled
foods. This cold-tolerant ginger is now being grown in

Fresh mioga buds


Mioga buds are gathered in spring.
Ginger in syrup They are fragrantly herbal rather
Knobs of young ginger are than hot, and have a delicate,
poached several times in a dense crunchy texture.
syrup so that the syrup penetrates
the flesh. It is sometimes called
stem ginger because both
stems and rhizomes are used.

Crystallized ginger
To make this lightly
pungent sweetmeat, knobs
of young ginger are cooked
in a thick syrup, air-dried,
and rolled in sugar.
226 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Whole, dried ginger is less
aromatic than fresh (p.222), but
Dried ginger
once bruised or powdered it is Zingiber officinale
warm and peppery with light,
lemony notes. The taste is fiery, Middle Eastern and European dishes developed using dried
pungent, and penetrating.
ginger rather than fresh because it was in the dried form
that ginger arrived via the caravan routes. The Assyrians
PARTS USED and Babylonians used it in cooking, as did the Egyptians,
Dried rhizomes. Greeks, and Romans. Ginger was in use as a table condiment
throughout Europe by the ninth century; such was the
demand by the 16th century that the Spanish and Portuguese
BUYING / STORING were planting it in their new tropical territories.
Dried ginger can be bought as
pieces of rhizome, slices, and
powder. Quality is important in
buying dried ginger; the best Ground dried rhizome
is pungent and lemony; poor- Ground ginger is essential to many
quality ginger is sharp and breads, cakes, and pastries. Dried
biting with a fibrous texture. ginger has a different taste to fresh,
Rhizomes are hard to grind; and the one should not be substituted
they can be rasped on a fine for the other.
grater, but it is easier to buy
a small amount already ground.
Stored in an airtight container, Dried rhizome pieces
good-quality rhizomes will keep
Dried, pale beige rhizomes release
their flavor for 2 years or more.
a warm aroma when bruised.
Whole pieces are most used in
pickling spices.
HARVESTING
Ginger to be dried is harvested
910 months after planting,
when it is fully mature, more
pungent, and more fibrous. The
rhizomes are dried in the sun.
For the best quality the skin is
scraped off first; other grades
may be left unpeeled, or boiled
before peeling and drying.
Ginger may also be bleached.
PUNGENT SPICES DRIED GINGER Zingiber ofcinale 227

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In Asia, dried ginger is used in many pungent spice mixtures. In the West, Essential to berbere, curry and
masala blends, five-spice
it was one of the cornerstones of early spice blends and today is used in powder, pickling spices, quatre
quatre pices and pickling spices. It is an excellent flavoring for carrots, pices, ras el hanout.
pumpkin and other winter squashes, and sweet potato. Good with apples, bananas,
In the Arab countries, it is used with other spices in tagines, couscous, beef, citrus fruits, lamb,
and slow-cooked meat dishes with fruit. It is a popular baking spice for pears, root vegetables,
cakes and cookies, and in commerce is much used for drinks such as pumpkin, and squash.
ginger beer and ale. Fruits marry well with ginger, especially bananas, Combines well with
pears, pineapples, and oranges, and it is good for spicing preserves. cardamom, cinnamon, cloves,
dried fruits, honey, nutmeg, nuts,
preserved lemons, paprika,
Types of dried ginger Cochin, which is light brown, pepper, rose water, saffron.
The quality and flavor of ginger partly peeled, and has a pungent,
vary greatly according to its origin. lemony odor and taste. Chinese
In commerce, different grades indicate dried ginger is more lemony and
how the ginger has been prepared less pungent than Cochin. The
before drying. Peeled Jamaican ginger African varieties, principally from
has long been considered the best for Sierra Leone and Nigeria, are often
its delicate aroma, pale color, and fine- unpeeled and tend to be harsh and
textured powder. It is expensive and in peppery with a note of camphor.
short supply. India is the main exporter Ginger from Australia has distinct
of dried ginger; the best quality is lemon notes.

Quatre pices
This classic French blend is used in the preparation
of pork and other meats. The four spices are black
peppercorns, cloves, dried ginger, and nutmeg
(recipe, p.285).
228 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Allspice has a pleasantly warm,
fragrant aroma. The name
Allspice
reflects the pungent taste, which Pimenta dioica
resembles a peppery compound
of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg Allspice is native to the West Indies and tropical Central
or mace. Most of the flavor is in
the shell rather than in the seeds America. Columbus found it growing in the Caribbean
it contains.
islands and thought he had found the pepper he was looking
for, hence allspices Spanish name pimienta (pepper), which
was anglicized as pimento. That name was later altered to
PARTS USED
Jamaica pepper because most of the crop, and certainly the
Dried berries.
best quality, came and still comes from that island. Allspice is
the only important spice that still comes almost exclusively
BUYING / STORING from its region of originwhich also makes it the only one
Allspice can be bought whole grown almost exclusively in the New World.
or ground. Whole berries,
which look like large, brown
peppercorns, are infinitely
preferable; they crush easily
if you need just a little allspice, Whole dried berries
and they keep in an airtight jar Jamaican allspice has the highest level
almost indefinitely. of the essential oil that determines the
taste. One of the main components of
the oil is eugenol, which is also
the principal flavoring
HARVESTING element of cloves.

In Jamaica, berries are mostly


harvested from trees cultivated
in plantations. They are hand-
picked when full size but still
green. After a few days sweating
they are dried on black concrete
platforms for up to a week. As
Ground berries
they dry the berries turn red-
brown. When drydetermined Ground allspice
by the seeds rattling inside the can lose its strength
shellthey are winnowed and rather quickly.
graded by size. Larger, inferior,
wild berries are still gathered
in the rain forests of Mexico
and Guatemala.
PUNGENT SPICES ALLSPICE Pimenta dioica 229

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Long before the discovery of the meats. It is used in pilafs and goes into Essential to jerk spice mixtures.
Americas, the people of the islands some Indian curries. In Europe, allspice Good with eggplant, most fruit,
pumpkins and other squashes,
used allspice to preserve meat and fish. is either used whole, as a pickling or
sweet potatoes and other
The Spaniards learned from them and mulling spice, or ground, to give a root vegetables.
used allspice in escabeches and other gentle, warm flavor to cakes, desserts,
Combines well with chili,
preserving liquids. In Jamaica, it is still preserves, and fruit pies. Allspice cloves, coriander, garlic,
an important ingredient in jerk enhances the flavor of pineapple, ginger, mace, mustard,
seasoning pastes that are rubbed onto plums, black currants, and apples. pepper, rosemary, thyme.
chicken, meat, or fish for grilling. It is Most of the worlds crop goes to the
also used extensively, crushed rather food industry for use in commercial
than ground, in breakfast breads, ketchups and other sauces, as well as
soups, stews, and curries. In the Middle sausages, meat pies, Scandinavian
East, allspice is used to season roasted pickled herrings, and sauerkraut.

Sweet baking spice


Ground together, allspice berries,
coriander seeds, cloves, mace, nutmeg,
and cinnamon make up the sweet baking
spice that is called mixed spice in Britain
(recipe, p.286).
230 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
The aroma of cloves is assertive
and warm, with notes of pepper
Cloves
and camphor. The taste is fruity Syzyium aromaticum
but also sharp, hot, and bitter;
it leaves a numbing sensation The clove tree is a small, tropical evergreen with fragrant
in the mouth. As in allspice,
eugenol in the essential oil leaves. Its crimson flowers seldom developbecause the
is mainly responsible for the
characteristic taste. unopened flowerbuds constitute the spice. Native to the
Moluccas, volcanic islands now part of Indonesia, cloves
reached Europe overland through Alexandria in Roman
PARTS USED times. The Spice Islands were conquered by the Portuguese
Dried flowerbuds. and then the Dutch, who harshly defended their monopoly
until, in 1772, a French official smuggled seedlings to Ile-de-
France (Mauritius). These days Zanzibar, Madagascar, and
BUYING / STORING Pemba in Tanzania are the main exporters; Indonesia uses
Whole cloves vary greatly in size nearly all its vast production itself.
and appearance, but should be
clean and intact. Good cloves
exude a small amount of oil if Ground cloves
pressed with a fingernail. They
Whole cloves
Good-quality cloves have Ground cloves contribute
will keep for a year in an airtight
reddish brown stems and their assertive warmth
jar. They are hard and must be
ground in an electric mill. a lighter crown. They are to most masalas and
Ground cloves should be dark rough to the touch and curry powders, to five-
brown; lighter, gritty powders should snap cleanly. spice powder, berbere,
are likely to be mostly made and baharat.
from flower stems, which
contain less of the volatile oil.
The powder loses its strength
quite quickly.

HARVESTING
Clove buds appear in small
clusters, twice a year, from July
to September and November to
January. They are picked before
flowering, when they are mature
but only just turning pink at the
base. Drying in the sun on
woven mats, they lose most
of their weight and turn
reddish to dark brown.
PUNGENT SPICES CLOVES Syzyium aromaticum 231

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Cloves are used in many of the worlds walnuts of Turin have a clove stuck Essential to quatre pices, five-
spice powder, garam masala.
cuisines. They are good with savory into one end. In the Middle East and
Good with apples, beets, red
and sweet foods. They go into baked North Africa, cloves go into spice
cabbage, carrots, chocolate,
goods, desserts, syrups, and preserves blends used to flavor meat dishes ham, onions, oranges, pork,
almost everywhere. In Europe cloves or rice, often in combination with pumpkin and other squashes,
are used as a pickling or mulling spice. cinnamon and cardamom. In much sweet potatoes.
The French press a single clove into of Asia, they appear in curry powders. Combines well with allspice,
an onion to flavor a stew, stock, or In India, they are essential to garam bay, cardamom, cinnamon,
sauce, the English sometimes use masala, in China to five-spice powder, chili, coriander, curry
one or two in apple pie, the Dutch in France to quatre pices (with black leaves, fennel, ginger, mace,
nutmeg, tamarind.
use them in a cheese called Nagelkaas pepper, nutmeg, and dried ginger).
(nail cheese) because of the shape of In Indonesia, cloves are mixed with
the cloves. In Germany, they are found tobacco for the very popular kretek
in spiced breads, in the US in ham cigarettes, which crackle as they
glazed with brown sugar. The candied burn and have a unique aroma.

Five-spice powder
This Chinese blend of cloves, star anise,
cassia, fennel seed, and Sichuan pepper
goes well with chicken, duck, and pork
(recipe, p.272).
Cloves grow in plantations of tall, dense trees that would
produce remarkably delicate owers if the buds were not
picked before opening. The buds are still dried and sorted in
the traditional way, without recourse to modern equipment.
234 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Powdered asafetida has
a strong, unpleasant smell,
Asafetida
reminiscent of pickled garlic Ferula species
and as pervasive as that of
truffles. The taste is bitter, Asafetida is a dried, resinous gum obtained from three
musky, and acridnasty
when sampled alone but species of Ferula, giant fennel, a tall, fetid-smelling, perennial
becoming pleasantly onionlike
when the spice is briefly fried umbellifer native to the dry regions of Iran and Afghanistan,
in hot oil. where it is also cultivated. Imported from Persia and
Armenia, it was much appreciated in Roman cooking
when silphium from Cyrenaica was no longer obtainable.
PARTS USED
It came to India via the Moghul empire and has remained
Dried resin from the stems and
rhizomes or taproots. a popular spice there, although it is only cultivated in the
north, in Kashmir.

BUYING / STORING
In India, asafetida is sold in
a wide range of qualities; the
lighter, water-soluble hing is
preferred to dark, oil-soluble
hingra. In the West, buy it
in solid or powdered form.
In an airtight tin (which also
contains the smell), solid
asafetida keeps for several Whole tears and lumps
years, while the powdered Asafetida is available either as
form lasts for about a year. tears, small individual pieces, or
lumps consisting of tears processed
into a uniform mass. Solid asafetida
has little smell, but crushing releases
HARVESTING
the sulfur compounds in the
Just before the flowering, volatile oil responsible
the stems of plants at least for the odor.
4 years old are cut and earth
scraped away to expose the
large taproots, which are also
cut. A milky latex exudes; this
hardens and darkens to a
reddish brown on exposure to
the air. Care is taken to shield
this process from sunlight,
which would spoil the juice. The
gum is collected and more cuts
are made until the root dries up,
usually after about 3 months.
PUNGENT SPICES ASAFETIDA Ferula species 235

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Asafetida is essentially an Indian used, with salt, to cure meat that is Essential to chat masala,
some curry powders,
spice. In western and southern India, dried in the sun for winter use. sambhar powder.
it flavors soups, vegetable and legume Asafetida should always be used
Good with fresh or salted fish,
dishes, pickles, relishes, and sauces. Its sparingly. It can be used in any cooked grains, grilled or roasted meat,
flavor is particularly appreciated in the dish where garlic would be appropriate; legumes, most vegetables.
cooking of the Brahmin and Jain sects, even a tiny amount enhances the
whose diet forbids the use of garlic or flavor of a dish or spice mix, such
onions. It is very good in many fish as sambhar powder. A piece could
dishes. In its native Iran, it is not used be rubbed on a grill or griddle
at all, and in Afghanistan it is only before cooking.

Crushed tears
Solid asafetida is prepared for use by grinding it in
a mortar with an absorbent powder such as rice flour.
Only a small piece is needed for an individual dish.

Ground tears
Asafetida is most widely
available as a powder, mixed
with a starch or gum arabic
to keep it from lumping.
Brown powder is coarse
and strong; yellow
powder (which owes
its color mostly to
added turmeric) is
more mellow.
236 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Whole mustard seed has
virtually no aroma. When
Mustard
ground it smells pungent, Brassica species
and cooking releases an acrid,
earthy aroma. When chewed, Black mustard (B. nigra) and white or yellow (B. alba/
black seeds have a forceful
flavor; brown ones are slightly Sinapsis alba) are native to southern Europe and western
bitter, then hot and aromatic; the
larger white seeds have an initial Asia, brown (B. juncea) to India. White mustard has long
sickly sweetness. been naturalized in Europe and North America. The Romans,
who made prepared mustard, introduced the plant to
PARTS USED England. In medieval Europe, mustard was the one spice
Dried seeds. ordinary people could afford. The French started to add
other ingredients in the 18th century, while the English
refined the powder by removing the husks before grinding
BUYING / STORING the kernels.
White and brown mustard
seed is widely available. Black is
hard to find; brown can be used Whole seeds White seeds
instead but is less potent. Ground Mustards pungent taste is determined Sandy-yellow mustard seeds
white mustard is relatively coarse by an enzyme, myrosinase, that is are much larger than the
as it contains the husk. Mustard activated by water. brown or Asian variety.
powder is the finely sifted flour
of seed kernels; its bright color is
due to added turmeric. All forms
keep well, provided they are
kept scrupulously dry.

Black seeds
Black seeds are larger than
HARVESTING brown ones and are oblong
rather than round. Their
Mustard is harvested by cutting heat affects the nose and
the stems when the seeds are
eyes as well as the mouth.
fully developed but not quite
ripe, to avoid the pods bursting
open and spilling their contents.
Black mustard is particularly
prone to this, which is why it has
largely been replaced by brown
in commercial production. The
stems are dried, then threshed.
PUNGENT SPICES MUSTARD Brassica species 237

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


In Western cooking, whole white reduce the smell, then cooled before Essential to panch phoron,
sambhar powder.
mustard seeds are used primarily as use. Its piquant flavor contributes
Good with roast and grilled
a pickling and preserving spice, and to the distinctive taste of many
beef, cabbage, strong cheeses,
in marinades. Indian dishes. chicken, curries, dals, fish
Brown seeds (known as rai) have Powdered mustard flavors barbecue and seafood, cold meats,
increasingly taken the place of black sauces and meat dishes and works rabbit, sausages.
in much Indian cooking. They figure well with most root vegetables. Add it Combines well with chilies,
prominently in the cooking of southern toward the end of cooking because coriander, cumin, dill, fennel,
India, where whole seeds are usually heat dissipates its strength fairly quickly. fenugreek, garlic, honey,
first dry-roasted or heated in hot oil The seeds are not the only part of nigella, parsley, pepper,
tarragon, turmeric.
or ghee to bring out an attractive nutty the mustard plant to be used. Fresh
flavor for a tadka or baghar. The dishes sprouted shoots are often used in
are not pungent because the hot oil salads. In Japan, and now in Europe, OTHER MUSTARDS
does not activate myrosinase. In the beautiful, feathery mizuna is grown
B. juncea has a yellow variety,
Bengal, ground raw seed is used in as a salad herb; it makes its appearance used in Japan in cooking
pastes for curries, especially fish in alongside Chinese red mustard and (stuffed into lotus roots fried
mustard sauce. Mustard oilviscous, other varieties in gourmet mixtures. in tempura batter) and as a
deep golden, and quite pungentis Shredded leaves make a pleasant condiment, made English-style
made from brown mustard seed and garnish for root vegetables, and potato and very hot, to go with oden,
several lesser varieties. It is widely used and tomato salads. In Vietnam, leaves a choice of cold raw or
cooked food.
as a cooking oil, most of all in Bengal, are used to wrap stuffings of pork,
Field mustard (B. campestris)
where it is heated to smoke point to shrimp, and herbs.
and rapeseed (B. napus) are
both used to produce
mustard oil.
Mustard oil
Mustard oil is easier
to digest after brief
exposure to a very
high temperature.

Brown seeds
Brown seeds have a
long-lasting pungency,
almost as intense as
that of black seeds.
238 PUNGENT SPICES

PREPARED MUSTARDS
To prepare blended mustards, the seeds are soaked in French mustards, milder than the English, are made in
water to activate the enzyme myrosinase; once the required three forms. Bordeaux is brown, although made from
heat has been achieved the enzymes activity is stopped. white seed, and contains sugar and herbs, usually tarragon.
The resulting flavor is determined largely by the acidic Dijon, made from brown (but husked) mustard seed and
liquid usedvinegar gives a mild tang, wine or verjuice white wine or verjuice, is paler and stronger, with fewer
a more spicy pungency, beer a real heat. Water gives the additives. Meaux is quite hot, made from crushed and
sharpest, hottest taste, but will not stop the enzymes ground grains, a step toward the many wholegrain
activity and therefore does not make a stable mustard. mustards, some of them made more fiery by the addition
Prepared mustards are best stored at room temperature of green peppercorns or chili peppers.
even when opened; they will keep for 23 months, but In Germany, Bavarian mustard is of the Bordeaux type,
they may dry out a little and will steadily lose their flavor. but Dsseldorf mustard is a pungent version of Dijon.

Meaux mustard
The town of Meaux has produced
mustard since the 17th century. Usually
sold in stoneware jars, this grainy mustard
has a bite followed by a mouth-filling Bordeaux mustard
roundness. An excellent table mustard. In Bordeaux mustard some
of the hulls are left in the
mixture, giving a darker
appearance. It is mildly
spicy with a hint of
sweetness, and is good
with sausages and in
cheese dishes.

Dijon mustard
Dijon mustard has an
appellation contrle;
the name refers to a style
of mustard that is pale,
smooth, and clean-tasting.
The classic mustard for
sauces and salad
dressings, it is highly
prized throughout
the world.
PUNGENT SPICES MUSTARD Brassica species 239

Zwolle, in Holland, makes a mustard flavored with dill with roast beef, ham, and other cold meats. The
that would be great with gravad lax. Mild and runny various kinds are equally good in many cold sauces,
American mustard is made from white mustard, with from vinaigrette to mayonnaise, as dressings for green
rather too much turmeric. The aromatic, mild Savora or other salads, vegetable dishes, and plain cooked
mustard was developed in England around 1900 and is or smoked fish. Added toward the end of the cooking
popular throughout South America. English mustard process, they will spice up a wide variety of casseroles,
powder is made up with cold water, then left for about such as rabbit with mustard sauce. They also go well
10 minutes to develop its clean and pungent taste. Once with many cheese dishes. Sweet mustards, made
made up it will not keep. with honey or brown sugar, make good glazes for
Prepared mustards are mainly used as a condiment chicken, ham, or pork, and can be a piquant addition
with oxtail or other meat casseroles, or a tracklement to some fruit salads.

English mustard
English mustard powder is a mixture
American mustard of finely ground brown and white
Mild, sweet American mustard seeds, rice or wheat flour, and spices.
has devoted followers among hot- Fiery and slightly acidic, it is good
dog afficiondos, but the turmeric with roast beef and oxtail stew.
that colors it bright yellow
can also make the
taste dusty.

Moutarde au cassis Tarragon mustard


This wholegrain mustard from Dijon contains Tarragon mustard is made by adding
crme de cassis liqueur, which gives it a rich, tarragon and sometimes green food
fruity flavor and its red color. coloring to a pale mustard. It is good in
sauces for fish and chicken dishes.
240 PUNGENT SPICES

TASTING NOTES
Chili peppers range in taste from
mild and tingling to explosively
Chili peppers
hot. The fruits of C. frutescens Capsicum species
are generally hotter than those
of C. annuum, and those of Native to Central and South America and the Caribbean
C. chinense are hottest of all.
Large, fleshy varieties tend islands, chili peppers (or chile or hot peppers) have been
to be milder than small, thin-
skinned peppers. cultivated there for thousands of years. Columbus took plants
back to Spain, and the Spaniards named them pimiento
(pepper) because of their pungency. Capsicum fruits are still
PARTS USED called peppers even though they are not related to the pepper
Fresh and dried fruits. Immature vine. Today chili peppers are the biggest spice crop; hundreds
chilies are green; they ripen to
yellow, orange, red, brown, or of different varieties are grown in all tropical regions and
purple, and may be used fresh eaten daily by about a quarter of the worlds population.
or dried.

Whole fresh chili peppers


Chilies come in many colors, shapes,
BUYING / STORING and sizes; they can be as tiny as a young
All fresh chilies should be shiny, pea or as long as 12 in (30 cm). Many of
smooth-skinned, and firm to them stimulate the appetite not only with
the touch. They keep in the pungency but with fruity, floral, smoky,
refrigerator vegetable crisper nutty, tobacco, or licorice flavors.
for a week or more. They can
be blanched and frozen, but
if frozen raw most lose their
flavor and piquancy. Dried
chilies vary in appearance
according to the variety. A
spice store will tell you the
country of origin, the type,
flavor characteristics, and
heat level. Dried chilies keep
almost indefinitely in an
airtight container.

HARVESTING
Most chilies are grown as
annuals. Green chilies are
picked 3 months after planting;
varieties normally used ripe
are left longer on the plant.
Chilies may be dried in the
sun or artificially.
PUNGENT SPICES CHILI PEPPERS Capsicum species 241

Culinary uses FLAVOR PAIRINGS


Chili peppers are an excellent source The pungent bite of chilies is due Essential to berbere, chili
powder (which is actually a
of vitamins A and C, and provide to the presence of capsaicin in their combination of spices), curry
that added benefit to the millions of seeds, white fleshy parts, and skin. powders and pastes, harissa,
people who eat them as a cheap The capsaicin content depends on jerk seasoning, kimchi, moles,
means of pepping up a bland and the variety of chili pepper and its nam prik, pipin, romesco
unvarying diet. Chilies are used degree of ripeness; removing seeds sauce, sambals.
extensively in their native region, and veins will reduce the heat of the Combines well with most
throughout Asia, in Africa, and in chili. Capsaicin stimulates the spices, bay, coriander, rau ram,
coconut milk, lemon and
the American Southwest. India is digestive process and the circulation,
lime juice.
the largest producer and consumer which induces perspiration and has
of chilies, fresh green or dried red a cooling effect on the body. Chili The heat of chili peppers is
(which are usually ground), and each flakes are important in Middle Eastern rated on a scale of 110, from
1 for mild peppers to 10 for
region uses its local varieties. cooking. Dark, almost black, Urfa from
extremely hot scotch bonnets.
Mexican cooking makes the most Turkey is smoky and rich flavored.
sophisticated use of chili peppers, Aleppo chili flakes from Syria are mid-
both fresh and dried. red and have more heat.

Ground hot chili


Ground chili is made from
dried hot red chilies. Heat
rather than flavor is often
the characteristic of these
products, 59/10 on the
heat scale, depending on
the variety.

Whole dried chili


peppers
Drying changes the flavors
of chilies. Similarly, the
taste of green, immature
chilies alters as they ripen
and redden.

Dried chili or pepper flakes


Produced from mild to moderately hot Chili threads
chili peppers, 25/10, these are often used Red chili peppers are an essential
as a table condiment in Hungary, Turkey, Korean ingredient. Very fine chili
and the Middle East. Hotter chili flakes are threads are used as a garnish.
used as a condiment in Korea and Japan.
242 PUNGENT SPICES

Chili products
Ground chili, chili pastes, sauces, and oils are produced worldwide. Good-quality
ground chili smells fruity, earthy, and pungent and contains traces of natural oils
that will stain the fingers slightly. A light orange color indicates the inclusion of a
high proportion of seeds, which makes for a sharper taste. Thin, pungent sauces
are labeled salsa picante or hot pepper sauce; some combine chilies with astringent
ingredients such as limes or tamarind. Thick sauces, based on tomatoes, onions,
garlic, and herbs, may be mild or hot and are often sweetened. Indonesian sambals
and Thai chili jam are among the hottest. The Chinese use soy sauce, black beans,
ginger, and garlic to create medium to hot sauces. Korean gochu-jang is a sticky
condiment made with chilies, soybean paste, and rice flour.

Chili oil
Seasoning oil made with dried red chilies is Chili powder
available commercially, but it is easy to make This blend of ground chili, cumin, dried
your own: fill one-third of a bottle with dried oregano, paprika, and garlic powder is
chili peppers, top up with sunflower oil, used to flavor chile con carne and other
close tightly, and leave for 1 month. In southwestern dishes. 13/10
Sichuan cooking, crushed dried chilies
are added to very hot oil, left to cool for
several hours, then strained to produce
a bright red oil, used in many cold
sauces and on its own as a dip.

Yellow ground chili


The color of ground
chilies ranges from
yellow to red and
mahogany. Yellow
ground chili is used
in South America; it
can be mild or hot.

Cayenne or red pepper


The most common ground chili, cayenne is
made from small, ripe chili peppers grown
worldwide. The flavor is tart, slightly smoky,
and intensely pungent. 8/10
PUNGENT SPICES CHILI PEPPERS Capsicum species 243

Thin sauces Chili sauces


Thin sauces are made from crushed Chili sauces are made in most regions where
chilies blended with spices and vinegar chili peppers are grown. The simplest types
to produce fiery liquids. Tabasco are made from whole chilies preserved in
sauce is the best-known example. brine or vinegar. Thick sauces, which may be
cooked or made from raw ingredients, are
used as dips and condiments.

Chili jam and sambal


Chili pastes and thick sauces
enliven stir-fries and slow-cooked
dishes. At the end of this book are
recipes for chili jam (p.293) and
sambals (p.295).
244 PUNGENT SPICES

Mexico
In Mexico, fresh and dried versions of a chili pepper often have different
names. Specific chilies are required for specific dishes; using the wrong
one can alter the balance of flavors. Large, fleshy poblanos are used as a
vegetable, often stuffed; jalapeos and serranos appear in salsas, stuffings,
and pickles; dried anchos and pasillas are often ground to thicken a sauce.
When used fresh, green chili peppers tend to be preferred, and they are
often charred and peeled before being used.

Serrano C. annuum Jalapeo C. annuum


Mid-green, cylindrical, crisp-textured, with a concentrated, Bright green, some with dark patches, torpedo-shaped,
fresh, grassy flavor and very pungent seeds and veins. quite fat with crisp, thick flesh. Sometimes roasted and
It ripens to bright red. Commonly used in peeled. Jalapeos have a light flavor and are medium-hot.
sauces. 67/10 Red and fully ripe they are sweeter and less hot. Also sold
canned en escabeche (pickled) and widely used as a table
condiment. 56/10

Habanero C. chinense Chilaca C. annuum


Lantern-shaped, mid-green ripening to yellow, orange, and Thin, deep red and shiny, with vertical ridges. The deep flavor
deep red, thin-fleshed, and fruity. Mostly used in Yucatn, raw has a hint of licorice. Roasted and peeled, they are used in
or roasted, to flavor beans and sauces. For a hot sauce, blend vegetable dishes, with cheese, and in sauces. Sometimes
roasted habaneros with salt and lime juice. 10/10 available pickled. 67/10
PUNGENT SPICES CHILI PEPPERS Capsicum annuum 245

OTHER CHILI PEPPERS


Mulato (C. annuum) is similar to then pured, de arbls are used in black. It has an astringent yet rich
ancho, but chocolate brown; the taste stews and as a table sauce. 8/10 flavor with herby notes that is
is full-bodied, sweeter than ancho, Poblano (C. annuum) is dark green complex and long-lasting. Toasted and
with notes of dried cherries, and mild ground it is used in table sauces or in
and shiny, with a ridge around the
to medium-hot. Mostly toasted and cooked sauces for fish. 67/10
base of the stem. The shape is
ground for sauces. 35/10
triangular and tapering, and the flesh Gero (C. annuum) is pale yellow,
De arbl (C. annuum) is seldom is thick. Roasted and peeled, poblanos smooth, long, and pointed, with thin
found fresh; it remains bright red are stuffed or fried. They pair well flesh. The taste is lightly floral, mild to
when dried. Slender, curved, and with corn and tomatoes, and have a medium-hot. Geros are used fresh in
pointed, with thin flesh and a smooth rich flavor. 34/10 salsas and moles. 45/10
skin, it is searingly hot and has a Pasilla (C. annuum) is the dried
somewhat tannic flavor. Soaked and
chilaca, slender, wrinkled, and almost

Cascabel C. annuum Chipotle C. annuum


This is round and brown-red, with a smooth, translucent The smoke-dried jalapeo. Tan to coffee-colored, wrinkled,
skin; the seeds rattle when you shake it. It has a lightly leathery, it has a smoky, sweet, chocolate smell and taste. Often
acidic, smoky flavor and is agreeably nutty after toasting. used whole to flavor soups and stews. Soaked and pured, it
Moderately hot, it is toasted and blended with tomatoes or goes into sauces. Available canned in a light pickle for use as a
tomatillos to make a salsa, and crumbled in stews. 45/10 condiment. 56/10

Ancho C. annuum Guajillo C. annuum


This is a dried poblano. Deep red-brown, wrinkled, fruity, This is long and slender, with a blunt point; maroon with
and sweet with rich flavors of tobacco, prune, and raisin, brown tones and a smooth, tough skin, it has high acidity,
and slightly hot. Anchos are toasted and ground for sauces, giving a tangy, pleasantly sharp taste. It is soaked and blended
or can be stuffed. Also available as powder and blocks of for enchilada sauces or crumbled into stews. It colors foods
paste. The most popular dried chili pepper. 34/10 well. 4/10
246 PUNGENT SPICES

Southwest US and Caribbean


West Indians tend to prefer hot chili peppers for marinades, relishes, and stews.
Early hot sauces mixed chili peppers and cassava juice; now garlic, onion, and other
spices give depth to Caribbean chili sauces. In the American Southwest, Mexican varieties
are used in Mexican-inspired dishes, but the local New Mexican chili, using green, red,
and dried, is mild. These chili peppers are hung out to dry in colorful ristras; once dried
they are often ground and sold as Chimayo chili powder or chile colorado.

Jamaican hot C. chinense New Mexico C. annuum


Bright red and squat with thin flesh, Bright green or a deep, intense red, this has a sweet, earthy
this tastes sweet and very hot. Use in flavor. It is roasted and peeled, and keeps well if frozen after
salsas, pickles, and curries. 9/10 roasting. Green is good in guacamole, tacos, and tamales; red
goes into sauces, soups, and chutneys. Dried, this has rich,
dried-fruit flavors. It is used for red chili sauce and other
relishes. 23/10

Scotch bonnet C. chinense Tabasco C. frutescens


Yellow-green to orange-red, similar in appearance to Thin-fleshed and yellow, turning orange or red when ripe, this
the closely related habaero but with a wrinkled top has a sharp, biting taste with a hint of celery. It is mostly used
and flattened base. Very hot and with a deep, fruity, for Tabasco sauce. 8/10
smoky flavor. Used in many Caribbean hot sauces
and in jerk seasoning. 10/10
PUNGENT SPICES CHILI PEPPERS Capsicum species 247

Latin America
Called aj, chili peppers are much used in the Andean countries as a flavoring
and as a condiment; a bowl of uchu llajawaa salsa of chili peppers and
quillquia (Porophyllum ruderale)is always on the table. Many varieties have
only local names; some are mild, others hot or bitter, and some dried chili
peppers have rich flavors of raisin and prune. Chilies are also important in the
cooking of Bahia in Brazil; elsewhere bottled chili sauce is more common.

Rocoto C. pubescens Mirasol C. annuum


Native to the Andes; plump and rounded, yellow to This is popular in Peru and also found in Mexico, where the
orange-red, rocotos are always used fresh in sauces dried form is known as guajillo. Used green, yellow, or at
and condiments, or as a vegetable, often stuffed its ripe, red-brown stage. Fruity and lively, it colors dishes
with meat and cheese. 89/10 well. Good with meats, beans, and vegetables. 5/10

Aj amarillo C. baccatum OTHER CHILI PEPPERS


Common in Peru, both fresh and dried, when it is called
Aj dulce (C. annuum) is sweet, mild, musky,
and herbal-like. It is used extensively in Central
cusqueo. Pointed and hot with raisiny aromas, it is used
America, Colombia, and Venezuela, especially with
with root vegetables, guinea pig, ceviche, and other seafood
beans. 1/10
dishes. Also used in paste form, available online. 7/10
Rocotillo (C. chinense) is a mild Andean chili
pepper, bright red and squashed-looking, that
is eaten as a condiment with corn, beans, root
vegetables, and roast meats. 34/10
Malagueta (C. frutescens) is pale or mid-green,
thin-fleshed, tapered, and tiny. It is native to Bahia
in Brazil and widely used in Afro-Brazilian cooking
and as a table condiment. Malagueta is also the
name given in Portugal to small hot chili peppers
pickled in vinegar. 8/10
248 PUNGENT SPICES

Asia
Asian chili peppers are even harder to pinpoint by name than Latin American
ones. They are usually distinguished by types: large red and green ones, which
are roasted and used in dips and sauces in Southeast Asia; medium-sized,
shiny-skinned chilies, moderately hot, used in Indonesian and Malay cooking;
and more pungent varieties for Thai and Indian curries. Japanese santakas and
hontakas resemble cayennes.

Thai C. annuum Korean C. annuum


Used fresh and dried, these are slender, and dark The bright green, curved, Korean chili pepper is
green or bright red, with meaty flesh and lingering related to the Thai. Fresh ones are cooked in fish,
heat. Add whole to curries and stir-fries or chop for meat, and vegetable stews, in stir-fries, or stuffed
pastes and dips. 8/10 and fried. 67/10

Bird C. frutescens Kashmir C. annuum


The tiny green, orange, and red chilies are all used, Grown not only in Kashmir but in other parts of
often whole, to give a finishing flavor to a dish. They India, this is deep red and has sweet notes yet a
are fiercely hot. 9/10 distinct bite. In India, it is called lal mirch. 7/10
PUNGENT SPICES CHILI PEPPERS Capiscum annuum 249

Europe
A few chili peppers are specific to Europe, and many more are imported or are now
grown here as enthusiasm for chilies has spread. Hungary, Spain, and Portugal are
the countries where local chilies are most used, and they are usually only mildly hot.
OTHER CHILI PEPPERS
Cherry (C. annuum) is orange to Peri peri (C. annuum) is the Piment dEspelette (C. annuum) from
deep red when fresh, mahogany when Portuguese name for small chili the Basque country has an appellation
dried, with a thick flesh and lots of peppers. It crops up in those contrle. Bright red, wide-shouldered,
seeds. It has a fruity flavor and ranges parts of the world colonized by and tapering, it is sweetly fruity and
from mild to medium-hot. It is often the Portuguese. In Africa, it is mildly piquant. Available dried, whole
sold pickled. 15/10 used for the jindungo chili, which or as a powder, and also as a pure or
is similar to the bird chili. 9/10 coulis. 3/10

Guindilla C. annuum ora C. annuum


Brick-red and smooth, this long, tapering Spanish chili is used This is mild and pleasantly earthy. It is soaked and
dried. Large pieces are soaked and added to a dish for extra used to flavor rice dishes and stews. oras are
piquancy; remove before serving. 5/10 essential to romesco sauce and for sweet paprika.
The larger, bell-shaped choricero is similar and, as
its name suggests, is used to flavor chorizo and
other meat products. 12/10

Banana C. annuum Peperoncino C. annuum


Yellow-green ripening to red, curved, with a These are slender, wrinkled, and often curved, with thin
waxy skin, this mild chili is related to the hotter flesh. Used fresh, green or red, in pickles and tomato-
Hungarian wax. Use fresh in salads, stews, based dishes, the flavor is sweetish. 14/10
roasted whole, with legumes or potatoes,
pickled, and as a garnish. 1/10
Preparing
spices
BRUISING, GRATING, SLICING, AND SHREDDING SPICES 251

Bruising, grating, slicing, and


shredding spices
Many spices need some preparation before being added to a dish or used in a spice blend
or paste. Bruising, cutting, and grinding serve to release the volatile oils and perfume of
a spice. Large, bruised pieces of a spice are intended only for flavoring and should be
removed before a dish is served. Mild spices are sometimes cut into bite-sized pieces and
eaten as part of the dish; otherwise, spices should be grated, finely sliced, or shredded.

Bruising spices
Soft-textured fresh spices such as lemongrass, ginger, galangal, aromatic ginger, and zedoary (white turmeric)
are often bruised before cooking to release their flavors, then added whole for later removal.

1 Remove the upper part of a lemongrass stalk


(or peel a knob of the other spices). 2 Crush the lower part of the lemongrass stalk (or the
peeled knob) using the back of a heavy knife or a
wooden meat pounder.

Extracting juice from


ginger
Many Asian dishes call for the pure flavor of
ginger juice, which can be quickly extracted
from a fresh root.

1 Grate the ginger or chop finely in a


food processor.

2 Wrap the shavings in a piece of cheesecloth


or a dish towel and squeeze the juice into a bowl.
252 PREPARING SPICES

Slicing and shredding spices


Some dishes require disks of fresh spices, while others call for spices to be shredded or chopped.
The procedure for spices such as ginger, galangal, or zedoary (white turmeric) is given below.
Lemongrass is cut into fine rings from the base, stopping when the texture becomes fibrous.
Makrut lime leaves should be shredded as fine as a needle if they are to be eaten.

1 Peel as
much fresh
rhizome or root
2 Using a
sharp knife,
slice the root
as you need, thinly across
cutting off the grain into
any woody or a series of
dry bits. fine disks.

3 Stack the
disks, press
down firmly,
4 Line up the
slivers and
cut them across
and shred them to chop. To
into fine slivers. chop more
finely or mince,
mound up the
pieces and
chop as herbs
(p.119).

Grating fresh spices Grating dry spices


Fresh roots and rhizomes, such as wasabi and horseradish, Although most spices are ground, some of the
and ginger and its relatives, are best grated. A Japanese larger ones are more easily grated. For nutmeg,
oroshigane, designed specifically for grating wasabi and use a nutmeg grater or the finest holes of a
ginger (p.113), grates more finely than any Western grater. normal grater.

Grating galangal Grating dried ginger


A very sharp Western grater will produce a pulp that is Dried ginger, turmeric, and zedoary (white turmeric) are very
suitable for some purposes, such as extracting the juice. hard and therefore best grated on a fine citrus grater or rasp.
DRY-ROASTING AND FRYING SPICES 253

Dry-roasting and
frying spices
Roasting whole spices in a dry frying pan is especially common in Indian cooking. The
process intensifies the flavors and makes the spices easier to grind. Other dishes call for
spices to be fried before other ingredients are added. Frying brings out the flavor, which
is imparted to the oil. The aroma of fried spices permeates a dish more fully than that of
raw spices, but once a liquid is added the amount of fragrance they release is reduced.

Dry-roasting spices
Some seed spices, notably mustard seeds, tend to jump around as they roast, so have a lid available
to cover the pan. A tablespoon of spices will be ready in 23 minutes, whereas a large quantity
can take up to 810 minutes to brown evenly. With large quantities, roast each spice separately.

1 Heat a heavy pan until it feels hot when you hold


your hand over it.

2 With the pan over medium heat, toss in


the spices. Stir them or shake the pan
constantly. Let the spices darken and smoke a
little, and they will soon give off a heady aroma.
If they are changing color too quickly, lower the
heat and make sure they do not burn. Turn the
spices into a bowl to cool before grinding them.
254 PREPARING SPICES

Dry-roasting in an oven or microwave


Dry-roasting in an oven
Dry-roasting a large quantity of spices
may be easier in an oven preheated to
500F (250C) for 12 minutes. Spread the
spices on a baking sheet and roast in the
oven until they darken and are aromatic,
shaking and stirring from time to time.
Let cool before grinding.

Dry roasting in a microwave


Spread the spices in one layer on a plate
or dish and cook uncovered at full power.
Roasting 24 tbsp will take 45 minutes.
Stir the spices once during cooking.
Cool before grinding.

Frying spices
Prepare all the ingredients of a dish before frying its spices. Some spices are fried for only a
few seconds, others for up to a minute. All will darken, and some, such as cardamom pods,
will puff up. Remove the pan from the heat to add more ingredients, and stir quickly to
prevent them from burning in the oil.

1 Pour a thin film of sunflower oil into a heavy frying pan and
heat until you can see a faint haze rising over the pan. 2 Fry whole spices before ground ones, adding them in the
order they appear in the recipe. Spices should sizzle when
they hit the hot oil and brown almost instantly. Watch them
closely to prevent burning.
GRINDING, CRUSHING, AND MAKING SPICE PASTES 255

Grinding, crushing, and making


spice pastes
Freshly ground or crushed spices are always more aromatic than spices bought already
ground. You will soon appreciate the difference if you take the trouble to grind, say, a
teaspoon of coriander seeds and put them to one side for an hour or two. Then grind
another spoonful. Smell the older batch and then the freshly ground seedsyou will find
that some of the aroma of the first batch has already dissipated.

Grinding spices Crushing spices


Some whole spicesallspice, cinnamon, and cloves, for Some spices need only to be crushed, rather than
exampleare aromatic, but most need to be crushed or pulverized to a powder. A mortar and pestle works
ground to release their aroma. A blender can be used for well because you can easily see and control how
a large quantity, but most spices are too hard to grind much the spice is broken upand you can enjoy
evenly in a food processor. its fragrance at the same time.


Using a mortar and Using a rolling pin
pestle Put the spice in a plastic bag,
Choose a mortar that is deep, spread out the seeds on a
sturdy, and roughly textured, hard surface, then crush
because many spices are very firmly with a rolling pin.
hard and considerable force
is needed to grind them
by hand.

Using an electric mill


Most spices can be ground
in a spice mill, or a coffee
grinder kept specially for the
purpose, although a few, such
as anardana (see p.161), are
too sticky.

Making spice pastes


Spice pastes are made by crushing fresh spices (such as garlic, ginger, galangal, or zedoary) together
with dry spices or herbs and sometimes a little liquid. The technique is widely used in India and
Southeast Asia, and in Mexico. Use a mortar and pestle or the small bowl of a food processor.

Making a dry Making a wet


spice mixture spice mixture
If using any dry spices, Crush the garlic or
grind them first, either in ginger, then work in
the mortar or in an electric the ground spices,
grinder or spice grinder. and finally the liquid
if needed.
256 PREPARING SPICES

Fresh chili peppers


Chili peppers come in many shapes, colors, and sizes, and the flavor changes from the
young, green state to the mature, red or red-brown state. When chilies are dried, their
flavor changes again. Often fresh chili peppers are used whole or sliced in a recipe, but
sometimes they benefit from seeding or roasting, especially if they have tough skins.

Roasting fresh chili peppers


Most chilies can be used without peeling, but some are roasted and peeled because the skin is tough
or because peeling will improve the texture and give a pleasant charred flavor. Small chilies can be
roasted on a preheated dry griddle or heavy frying pan. Turn them until they darken and soften.

1 Hold large chilies directly over a gas flame, turning from


time to time so that they are charred evenly and the flesh
doesnt burn. Or, lay them on a grill that rests above an electric
burner. Alternatively, hold them close to the preheated element
of the broiler and turn them as they blister and blacken.

3 Carefully peel off


the skin and
rinse. Dry the chilies
on paper towel.

2 Once they are evenly charred, put the chilies into a plastic
bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let sweat for
1015 minutes.
PREPARING FRESH CHILIES 257

Freezing chili peppers


Fresh chilies can be frozen after roasting. There is no need to peel them because the skin will come
off when the chilies have thawed.


Freezing unroasted chili
peppers
Blanch unroasted chilies with stems
intact for 3 minutes, then drain in a
colander. Let cool completely, place
in a plastic bag, and freeze.

Removing seeds and veins from fresh


chili peppers
Capsaicin, the pungent principle that gives chilies their heat, is present in varying degrees
in the seeds, white veins, and skin. Capsaicin can sting the skin and eyes (see below).
Removing seeds and veins before cooking reduces the heat of a dish.

CAUTION
If you are not used to handling
chilies or have any cuts or a sensitive
skin, wear thin rubber or plastic
gloves to protect against the capsaicin.
Remember that the seeds and veins
are the hottest part of chilies. Avoid
rubbing your eyesif you do, rinse
them at once with cold water.
When you have finished handling
chilies, use soapy water to wash your
hands thoroughly, as well as the work
surface and any utensils.
If your hands do suffer chili burn,
put them in a bowl of cold water or
light vegetable oil.
If you burn your mouth when eating
a chili, a drink of water will make it
worse. Instead, chew a piece of bread
or try yogurt or milk.

1 Cut off and remove the stems, and


slice each of the chilies in half. 2 Cut out the veins and scrape
out all the seeds, then rinse.
258 PREPARING SPICES

Dried chili peppers


Large dried chili peppers, widely used in the cooking of Mexico and the southwestern US,
are usually toasted, then soaked and pured before use in a sauce. Toasting enhances
their flavor; for a milder dish, the chilies are just soaked. In Mexico, smaller varieties of
dried chilies are frequently ground or pured straight into a sauce. Asian cooks are more
likely to toast small dried chilies before grinding them.

Removing seeds and veins from dried chili peppers


As with fresh chilies, removing the seeds and veins from dried chilies before use reduces the heat of the dish. Seeds
and veins are best removed before toasting, so that the chilies are ready for soaking or grinding immediately after
they have been toasted.


Shaking out seeds
Wipe the chilies clean,
then either tear them apart
or break off the stems and
shake out the seeds.

Toasting dried chili peppers


Toasted dried chilies darken in color, blister, and crackle as they release their aroma. Dont let them
scorch or they will taste acrid and bitter. Once toasted they are ready for soaking or grinding.

Using a griddle
Place cleaned dried chilies on
a preheated griddle or heavy
frying pan for 12 minutes,
turning them so that they dont
burn. Alternatively, toast them
for 23 minutes in an oven
preheated to 500F (250C).
PREPARING DRIED CHILIES 259

Soaking dried chili peppers


If you need small, soaked dried chilies for an Asian spice paste, tear them into pieces and add to
water. They should be ready for use in 15 minutes.

1 Place toasted or cleaned, dried chilies in a bowl and cover


with almost-boiling water. Keep the chilies submerged
by setting a saucer or plate on top of them and let soak for
2 Rub the soft chilies through a wire strainer to remove the
tough skins, then make a sauce by blending them with
other ingredients and some of the soaking liquid.
15 minutes or until softlarge, thick ones may need longer.

Grinding dried chili peppers


Wipe the chilies clean, remove the stems, and tear the skins into pieces. Retain the seeds and
veins if you need additional heat in the dish; otherwise remove them before grinding.

Using an electric
grinder
Dried chilies can be ground
to a fine consistency in
an electric spice grinder or
coffee grinder. Better results
are obtained if the dried
chilies are first toasted.
260 SALT

Salt
Sodium chloride
Salt is a mineral, primarily composed of sodium chloride (NaCl), and is found
in most parts of the world. It is the main mineral constituent (78%) of the worlds
oceans, and is also found in crystalline form known as rock salt. It is essential to
animal life, yet we call it common salt and tend to take it for granted without
much thought to its production or its history.

EARLY HISTORY
Some of the earliest salt works recorded date back 6,000 rich by taxing traders. It led to private fortunes being
years ago to the Chinese province of Shanxi, where wars amassed, and also to government riches, for salt was
were fought over control of the saltwater Lake Yuncheng. usually a state monopoly and salt taxes were levied (not
The water evaporated in summer, leaving deposits of salt unlike oil in the 20th century). At times the Roman army
crystals to be harvested. Conflicts between producing was paid in salt, which is the origin of the word salary.
states and consumers were common throughout history; it Salt has been viewed as a gift from the godsmyths
was a high-value commodity, salt routes were established and superstitions abound; it was among the offerings
across the classical world, cities on these routes became found in Egyptian tombs; in Vietnam, salt, water, and rice

Maldon sea salt


Salt has been harvested from the Essex marshes
for 2000 years. Seawater was heated in pots
over open fires until the water vaporated,
then the pots were broken open to take
out the salt. Today Maldon salt, a family
business started in 1882, produces one
of the finest sea salts
with a distinctive Cheshire rock salt
flaky texture. The Romans settled
in this part of North
West England partly
due to the presence of
brine springs, and salt
has been produced
here for about 2000
years. Today only one
vast underground
mine is active,
producing salt for the
table and for gritting
roads in winter.
SALT SALT Sodium chloride 261

are also offerings for life in the next world, and in the popular. Rock salt has even been used to impressive
countryside are symbols of survival when faced with effect as a wall in the aging room of a Sydney butcher,
typhoons, floods, and poor harvests. In the Christian and to help with the aging process. Wieliczka in Poland was
Jewish religions, salt signifies longevity and permanence. one of the oldest and biggest mines in Europe, and is
Bread and salt were the offerings given to a new now a museum. Towns in mining regions are often
household, bread the symbol of food and salt its named for their salt connections: Halle in Germany,
preservation. Hallstatt and Salzburg in Austria, Salt Lake City in the
US and Middlewich, Northwich, and other -wich towns
SOURCES OF SALT in Cheshire.
The sea is one source of salt; salt lakes like Yuncheng
USES OF SALT
in China, Uyuni in Bolivia, and the lakes of the Rocky
Mountains in the US are others, but the main deposits From earliest times salt has preserved both bodies and
are underground rock salt. Germany, for example, is food. The Egyptians used salt in preserving mummies,
estimated to have 24,000 cubic miles of salt underground. in central Asia and in South America bodies have been
Sea and lake salts are produced by controlled preserved in salty desert soils.
evaporation to ensure the product is virtually pure: Thousands of years ago when people moved from
symmetrical, small crystals indicate pure salt. Rock a diet based on hunting and fishing and started
salt is mined all over the world; the largest mines are rearing animals and cultivating crops, they needed
at Goderich in Canada and Khewra in Pakistan. Sold as salt for themselves and their animals because there
Himalayan salt, in recent years, this has become very is more salt in animal tissue than in plant tissues. Early

Trapani sea salt Fleur de sel


Trapani on the coast of Sicily is a landscape Fleur de sel (flower of salt) is sea salt collected by scraping
of pyramids of white salt, large, shallow pans, only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of the
and windmills. The salt is harvested manually salt-pans. The crystals are purer and finer than coarse sea
after the seawater has evaporated from the salt. In France it is produced at Gurande in Brittany, the
pans and piled up in pyramids. It is crushed Ile de R and in the Camargue. Spain, Portugal, and
to various grades as required. Vancouver Island also produce high quality fleur de sel.
262 SALT

Mediterranean civilizations used salt in their diet, some which acts as a preservative. Pickles still have an important
like the Romans ate very salty food. They also used salt place in the East Asian diet, and salt is seldom found
to preserve fish, olives, and other vegetables. They salted as a condiment on the table. Salted and dried fish are
fresh vegetables to remove bitterness and gave us the found throughout the region, as are fermented sauces
word salad. Meats and cheeses were salted to preserve and pastes based on fish or seafood, and spices or
food for winter. soybeans soaked in brine: nam pla and kapi in Thailand,
The Romans also made garum and liquamen, sauces teuk trey and prahok in Cambodia, nuoc mam and
made by layering fish scraps and salt weighed down tuong ot in Vietnam, blachan and trassi in Indonesia
in earthenware jars. In earlier times, in China and Japan, and Malaysia.
fish and vegetables were fermented, using salt and Salt as a condiment and a preserving agent has been
allowing fermentation to take place to produce lactic acid, part of life since the Neolithic era, adding taste and flavor

Himalayan rock salt Seaweed salt


The salt can be reddish or pink or almost Seaweed salt is produced in a growing number of places
transparent when used in small crystals. where sea salt is harvested. The most common seaweeds
It is popular with health food advocates used are wrack, dulse, nori (laver) and sea lettuce. They are
because it has fairly abundant trace minerals. dried, ground, and mixed with salt crystals. Most seaweeds
Blocks of the salt can be used as serving add a tangy note to the salt, but nori has a mellow, sweet-
dishes or for food preparation. salty taste. Seaweed salt is good with potatoes and eggs.

Spiced salt Falk salt Celery salt


Many different spices are used to make This Swedish company has been Commercial celery salt is made with
spiced salt: allspice, cayenne or chili producing salt since 1830. The salt is ground celery seed or the essential oil.
powder, clove, coriander, cumin, mace, harvested in the traditional way in Cyprus. It can soon develop a stale taste, so buy
and peppercorns are the most common. Vegetable carbon is added to the salt to in small amounts. If you grow celery
Spiced salt can be used as a rub for give black salt its color. The large crystals (p.80) chop some leaves (or leaves from
meat before grilling or roasting, and can be crumbled in your fingers and look garden celery) and combine with salt
is also good with vegetables and striking when sprinkled over rice with crystals for a mild-flavored celery salt.
legumes as well. some finely chopped parsley. It is traditionally used in a Bloody Mary.
SALT SALT Sodium chloride 263

to foods and ensuring our survival. Almost every part much of it in processed foods.
of the human body contains salt, which, with water, is Table salt, which has anticaking agents added to make
necessary to the nourishment of cells. Sodium allows it free-flowing, is best avoided. Kosher salt has a larger
the body to move oxygen around, transmit nerve pulses, grain size than other salts because of the way it is
and move muscles; chloride is needed for digestion and processed. It derives its name from its use in the
respiration. The body loses salt constantly through bodily koshering process for meat; the salt itself is not kosher.
functions and it has to be replaced. That said however, Herbs and spices have a useful role in adding flavor
only a small amount is needed; excess can lead to high to food without using salt. Fresh herbs are good in pasta
blood pressure and kidney failure. Today we are in danger dishes, with vegetables, fish, meat and rice. Marinating
of abusing salt. Five to six grams a day is sufficient to meat and fish adds flavor (see pp.302303), chili peppers,
remain healthy, but many people consume far more, garlic, and ginger pep up stir-fries, and sauces and dips
(see pp.289301) add zest to just about any food.
Green tea salt Goma shio
This Japanese salt is a combination of matcha tea Goma shio is a Japanese mixture of roasted sesame
powder and salt crystals. Matcha is the finest green seeds and coarse salt. Black sesame gives a more
tea; its delicate green color is attractive when the striking appearance, and the aroma and flavor of
salt is sprinkled over food or used as sesame are pleasantly dominant. Use as a dip, or
a dip for fried foods. Japanese shops condiment for rice, vegetables, and salads. Goma
sell green tea salt, but it is easy to shio is sold in health food shops, but it is very easy
make at home: stir together to make your own. See the recipe on p.271.
2 tsp salt crystals and
tsp matcha.

Cornish smoked salt Murray river salt


Smoked salts are produced by the cold smoking This salt is harvested from aquifers in the
process. The woods most commonly used are Murray-Darling basin in Australia. The salt
alder, apple, hickory, and mesquite. The subtlety has a soft texture, mild taste, and a white or
or strength of the smokiness depends on the pale pink color, thanks to the natural minerals
wood used. Smoked salt can give food, if not in the aquifer.
a barbecue flavor, at least a smoky taste.
Recipes
266 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Herb mixtures
Dried or fresh herbs can be used in many combinations. The composition of even the
classic mixtures is usually determined by the kind of dish they are to go witha guiding
principle, whether in European bouquets garnis, Iranian blends, or Latin American
blends in which spices are often included with the herbs. If the balance of a mixture
is not quite to your taste, change the proportions so that you have a mix you like.

Bouquets garnis Fines herbes


A bouquet garni is a little bundle of herbs used Another classic mixture from French cooking,
in classic French cooking to flavor slow-cooked fines herbes is a blend of delicately flavored
dishes. Tied with string, or wrapped in cheesecloth, summer herbs: chervil, chives, parsley, and
the bouquet garni is removed before serving. tarragon, with equal proportions
A basic bouquet garni consists of a bay leaf, of the first three and half
23 fresh parsley stems, and 23 sprigs of thyme, the amount of tarragon.
but flavorings can be varied according to the dish The chopped herbs make
to be cooked. Here are a few suggestions: an excellent seasoning
for omelettes and other
egg dishes, for cream
FOR LAMB
sauces, and for salads
Rosemary, garlic, oregano or marjoram, and thyme
Lavender, savory, and myrtle
of soft leaves.
Lemon thyme, mint, and parsley
Tarragon
FOR POULTRY
Parsley, bay, tarragon, and bruised lemongrass
Marjoram, rosemary, and savory
Lemon thyme, lovage, parsley, and an outer piece of leek
Persillade
Chop together finely 1 garlic clove and a small
FOR GAME handful of flat-leaf parsley sprigs. Stir the mixture
Parsley, juniper berries, thyme, and bay into a dish a few minutes before serving or scatter,
Lemon balm, marjoram, mint, and celery
raw, over the dish before it goes to the table.
Rosemary, myrtle, and a strip of orange peel
Persillade makes a fresh-tasting topping for poultry,
FOR FISH fish, and vegetables. Mixed with bread crumbs, it
Parsley, tarragon, thyme, and a strip of lemon peel can also be pressed over a rack of lamb toward the
Fennel, bay, and lemon thyme end of cooking.
Dill, parsley, scallion, and lemon balm

FOR BEEF
Bay, parsley, thyme, and an outer piece of leek
Oregano, bay, garlic, and a strip of orange peel
Gremolata
Thyme, savory, marjoram, and a little hyssop Prepare a persillade (above) but include the grated
peel of half a lemon. The classic garnish for
FOR PORK
Milanese osso buco, gremolata is also good with
Sage, celery, parsley, and thyme
grilled or baked fish, lentil and bean soups, and
Lovage, rosemary, and savory
Orange thyme, tarragon, and bay salads. It is also sprinkled over or stirred into meat
and poultry stews.
Black currant sage
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES HERB MIXTURES 267

Herbes de Provence Cuban adobo


This is traditionally a variable blend of dried In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, many
herbs, but there is no reason not to use fresh dishes start with a sofrito: a mixture of herbs, spices,
when available. One version is described below, and vegetables cooked together to give the basic
but fennel seed, sage, basil, bay, and hyssop are flavoring to a dish. The other flavoring blends are
also used. Use for braised meat and game dishes, adobos; used dry as rubs or liquids as a marinade. To
especially those cooked in a red-wine sauce, and use this recipe as a rub, omit the orange juice. Adobos
with tomato dishes and root vegetables. are also used in much Central and South American
cooking; the flavors change according to the region.
3 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried marjoram 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp dried rosemary 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves

1 tbsp dried savory 2 handfuls of cilantroleaves and sprigs

1 tsp dried lavender flowers 3 garlic cloves, crushed

Crumble or grind the herbs and store in an airtight jar 1 tsp ground cumin
for 23 months. 2 tsp ground black pepper
7 tbsp (100ml) bitter orange juice or lime juice
Blend everything in a food processor and keep in
a nonreactive jar in the refrigerator for 45 days.
Farcellets Use as seasoning (p.269).
Farcellet is the Catalan word for a little bundle,
and these little bundles, tightly bound in bay leaves,
contain sprigs of dried savory, oregano, and thyme.
Use to flavor long-cooked dishes of meat, poultry, Winter herbs
or vegetables. Remove before serving. This is a simple blend Richard Olney used regularly,
as I found when helping him prepare his winter
supplies. Coarsely crumble or grind roughly equal
amounts of dried thyme, oregano, and winter
Chilean alio savory, and store. Marjoram can replace oregano.
Alio means seasoning or dressing and is used
throughout South America for herb and spice
mixtures, either to rub onto meat, poultry, or fish,
or to flavor soups and casseroles. In every market Herbed pepper
you can buy bundles or little packets of alio. This Only use dried herbs and vary them if you wish.
version comes from Three Generations of Chilean The blend is good with root vegetables, as a
Cuisine by Mirtha Umaa-Murray. stuffing for chicken, and in winter soups.
1 tbsp dried thyme 1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp dried rosemary 1 tbsp dried winter savory
1 tbsp dried oregano 1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried sage 1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried mint 1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp dried lemon balm 1 tbsp ground mace
1 tbsp dried marjoram Crush or grind all the herbs finely. Sift Rosemary
1 tbsp dried tarragon and combine with the pepper and mace.
Store in an airtight jar for 23 months. A clove
Mix and crush the herbs, and store in an airtight container
of crushed garlic and a little grated lemon peel
or in a plastic bag in the freezer.
can be used with the herbed pepper to good effect.
268 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Mediterranean herb Khmeli-suneli


and spice blend This mixture is from the Republic of Georgia. Many
1 tbsp dried mint varieties of mixed herbs and spices are sold under
the name khmeli-suneli in markets in Tbilisi. Every
1 tbsp dried savory or hyssop
region and every family has its own version of
1 tbsp dried oregano
khmeli-suneli. Here is one:
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin 1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground coriander 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves

Crumble or grind the herbs and combine with the fennel 1 tsp ground marigold petals
seed, cumin, and coriander. Store in an airtight container 1 tsp dried mint
or in a plastic bag in the freezer. Use as a rub for meats to
1 tsp dried dill
be grilled or roasted, or add to long-cooked dishes of meat,
poultry, or vegetables. 1 tsp dried summer savory
1
2 tsp fennel seeds
1
2 tsp ground cinnamon
large pinch of ground cloves
Green masala Pound or grind all the ingredients to a
This Indian masala is excellent with fish or chicken. powder. Store in an airtight container or in
a plastic bag in the freezer for 23 months.
2oz (60g) fresh ginger Use the mixture in a marinade for or rubbed
2 garlic cloves onto meats to be grilled, and in vegetable
dishes, soups, and stews.
46 hot green chile peppers
Savory
large handful of cilantroleaves and young stems
1
2 tsp salt
Peel and chop the ginger and garlic; remove the seeds from
the chilies and slice the flesh. Put all the ingredients into a food Svanuri marili
processor and blend to a paste with a little water. The mixture
This piquant flavoring, sometimes called Svaneti
will keep for up to 2 weeks in a tightly closed container in the
refrigerator, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. A simpler salt comes from the Svaneti mountain region of
masala can be made without the cilantro, if you prefer. Georgia. Blue fenugreek, somewhat milder than the
fenugreek that is widely available, grows up in the
Caucasus and is used in this salt and garlic based
blend. If you cant find it use ordinary fenugreek.
Adjika
1 tsp ground coriander
This chile and herb-based paste is popular in
1 tsp ground fenugreek
Georgia and the neighboring countries.
tsp ground chili powder
2 fresh red chilies, seeds removed 3 garlic cloves, crushed
5 garlic cloves, crushed 2 tbsp sea salt
handful of chopped parsley Mix the spices into the garlic and stir in the salt. Use to
handful of chopped dill season vegetables and salads or combine with olive oil
to serve as a dip.
3 tbsp chopped walnuts
salt
34 tbsp olive oil
Put all the ingredients except the oil into a blender and
pulse until you have a rough paste. Add the olive oil, little
by little, until it is smooth. Add to meat and poultry dishes
or slow-cooked beans.
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES HERB MIXTURES 269

Seasoning
Seasoning is a paste used for flavoring meat, poultry, and fish in the English-speaking
Caribbean islands. Ingredients and recipes vary from island to island and cook to cook, but
they commonly include fresh herbs: parsley, mint, thyme, celery, oregano, cilantro, culantro,
chives, scallions, and garlic. Spices used include ginger, cloves, cinnamon, allspice,
curry powder, paprika, pepper, and chile peppers, along with other flavorings such as
Worcestershire sauce, bitter orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, and oil.
Seasoning is most often used as a marinade, but it can also be used in sauces or stirred into
a stew. To use as a marinade, rub the seasoning onto food and leave for 12 hours for small
fish and seafood; up to 34 hours for large, whole fish, pieces of chicken, or meat; and up to
12 hours for large pieces of meat or a whole chicken.

Bajan seasoning Jamaican jerk seasoning


As its name indicates, this version of seasoning This seasoning is spice- rather than herb-based.
comes from Barbados. It is used primarily as a rub for pork and chicken.

68 scallions, coarsely chopped 36 scotch bonnet chile peppers, seeds removed and
coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
46 scallions, coarsely chopped
handful of fresh parsleyleaves and small stems
3 shallots, quartered
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
small bunch of fresh chives
small piece of fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed, coarsely chopped
1 3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
4 cup lime juice
1 tbsp ground allspice
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process
to a paste. Taste and add more lime juice if necessary, plus 2 tsp ground black pepper
salt if you wish. Refrigerate in a nonreactive jar for 45 days. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1
2 tsp grated nutmeg
1
2 tsp ground cloves

Trinidad seasoning 34 tbsp sunflower oil

68 scallions, coarsely chopped Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and
blend. If necessary, add a little water or more oil.
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
Store, refrigerated, for up to 6 weeks.
3 garlic cloves, crushed
bunch of culantro or cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
small handful of fresh mint leaves
small piece of fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1 hot green chile pepper
good grinding of black pepper
1
4 cup lime juice
Blend all the ingredients to a paste in a food processor.
Taste and add more lime juice as necessary. Salt may also
be wanted. Store as Bajan seasoning (above).
Nutmeg
270 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Mixed herb platters


A bowl of herbs accompanies almost every Iranian purslane, watercress, mint, and scallions are those
meal. The freshest possible herbsmint, chives, most often encountered.
scallions, parsley, dill, tarragonare put on the The Vietnamese share this passion for fresh
table as an appetizer or to eat with other dishes. herbs. No meal is complete without a bowl of
In Lebanon, a platter of fresh vegetables and fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, rau ram, red and green
herbs is always part of a mezze table: cucumbers, perilla, mint, cucumber, and lettuce leaves.
radishes, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, parsley,

Iranian herb mixtures Chubritsa


The Iranian passion for herbs carries over to their Chubritsa is the Bulgarian name for summer
cooked dishes. Large quantities of fresh herbs are savory, and is widely appreciated there. A simple
used in summer; in winter dried herbs are used. table condiment of dried savory, paprika, and salt,
Herbs dry well in Irans hot climate, retaining called Sharena Sol (mixed or colorful salt) is
their flavor and color; they are available from regularly on the table. Savory is also combined with
Iranian markets. smaller quantities of dried fenugreek leaves, dried
spearmint, paprika, a dash of chili, and salt to make
Rice mixture (sabzi polo) has equal quantities of a more robust mixture that is used to flavor meat
parsley, cilantro, chives, and sometimes dill. stews and bean dishes. Almonds or seeds such as
pumpkin seeds can also be added.
Stew mixture (sabzi ghormeh) includes parsley, Grind the dried leaves and pass through a
chives, and cilantro with a little fenugreek; sieve to make a powder. If you use the nuts or
powdered dried lime is invariably included, and seeds, dry roast them, cool, and grind. Combine
sometimes dill and mint. them with the herb powder and then add the
remaining ingredients.
Soup mixture (sabzi she) has parsley, chives,
and cilantro as staples, and sometimes mint
and fenugreek.

Moroccan mint Fenugreek


BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 271

Spice mixtures
The art of blending spices has been practiced for centuries in many parts of the world.
In much of China, Japan, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa (especially
East and North Africa), the Caribbean islands, and Latin America, these mixtures are
an important element in distinguishing regional cuisines. If the balance of a mixture
is not quite to your taste, change the proportions so that you have a mix you like.

Japan
In Japanese cooking emphasis is placed on bringing out the pure flavors of the food itself.
A number of aromatic ingredientssoy products, seaweeds, dashi, dried bonitoare used,
but few spices. Wasabi, sansho, chili, mustard, ginger, and sesame are used in moderation.

Seven-spice powder Goma shio


Shichimi togarashi, often just called shichimi, Goma means sesame and this simple mixture
translates as seven-flavors chili. Plain ground is used as a condiment for rice, vegetables,
chili is ichimi togarashi; shichimi is chili with six and salads.
additions. There are variations to the formula
depending on the region; perilla, mustard seeds, 4 tsp black or white sesame seeds
toasted and dried chili may all be used. Even if there 2 tsp coarse sea salt
are more than seven ingredients, the name doesnt Dry roast the sesame seeds lightly for a minute or two,
change. Hemp seeds are usual in Japan, but you stirring and shaking the pan. Cool, then grind briefly with
can use poppy seeds as an alternative. the salt to keep a coarse texture. Store in an airtight jar.
The aroma is primarily of tangerine peel with Sesame is a popular flavoring in Korea, and a similar
Korean blend would use up to 2oz (60g) toasted sesame
iodine notes from the nori (laver); chili is the
seeds to 2 tsp salt.
dominant but not overwhelming flavor, and the
texture is gritty. The mixture can be bought mild
or hot, so adjust the amount of chili to your taste
when making your own. Yuzu peel may be added
to seven-spice powder to give it a tart note. Use
as a condiment for spicing udon (wheat noodles),
soups, nabemono (one-pot dishes), and yakitori
(chicken pieces broiled on a skewer).

2 tsp white sesame seeds


1 tsp crushed dried tangerine peel
2 tsp nori flakes (aonori)
2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tbsp sansho
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp hemp or poppy seeds
Grind the white sesame seeds and tangerine peel coarsely.
Sesame
Add the nori and red pepper flakes and grind again. Stir in
the remaining ingredients and store in an airtight container
or in a plastic bag in the freezer.
272 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

China Thailand
Chinese cooks use single spices, five-spice The success of Thai cooking depends on the complex
powder for a more complex flavor, and a rich combination of flavors in a curry paste, sauce, soup,
blend of mixed spices with soy sauce and sugar or dip. The skillful blending of herbs, spices, and
to flavor the broth for slow-cooking pork or beef. other flavorings, such as fish sauce, dried shrimp,
and shrimp paste, gives zest to vegetables, fish,
meat, and poultry. Curry pastes differ from region
Chinese spiced salt to region and from house to house; they are usually
Spiced salt is widely used with barbecued or prepared when needed and not stored, but these
grilled meat and poultry. It is usually served pastes will keep for about 2 weeks in a closed jar in
in small dishes and sprinkled onto the food the refrigerator, or can be frozen in small pots if you
as it is about to be eaten. prefer to make larger amounts.

3 tbsp coarse sea salt


1 tbsp five spice powder Red curry paste
Combine the salt and five spice powder in a heavy-based 10 dried hot red chile peppers
frying pan and dry roast, shaking and stirring to ensure 1 tsp shrimp paste (kapi)
they are well mixed and dont stick to the pan. In about 1 tbsp coriander seeds
5 minutes the mixture should be fragrant and look lightly
toasted. Transfer to a plate and leave to cool, then store in 2 tsp cumin seeds
an airtight container. 5 garlic cloves, chopped
In Sichuan, spiced salt is made by dry roasting 1 tbsp 6 shallots, chopped
Sichuan pepper until fragrant, grinding it when cool, and
stirring it into the salt. 2 lemongrass stalks, lower third only, sliced
6 slices of galangal
1 tsp grated makrut lime peel
2 tbsp chopped cilantro roots
Five-spice powder 1 tsp ground black pepper
In Chinese culture the balance of the five flavors Cut the chile peppers and soak them in a little warm water
(salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and sweet) ensures for 1015 minutes. Wrap the shrimp paste tightly in foil
medicinal and culinary potency. Five-spice powder and dry roast for 12 minutes on each side. Dry roast the
is sometimes extended to seven with the addition of coriander and cumin seeds, cool, and grind.
dried ginger, cardamom, or licorice. Use sparingly Put the chile peppers and their water into a food
processor with all the other ingredients and blend to a
to flavor slow-cooked dishes, in marinades, and to
smooth paste, or pound in a mortar. Red curry paste goes
season meat or poultry to be roasted or grilled. well with beef, game, duck, and pork.

6 star anise
1 tbsp Sichuan pepper
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tsp whole cloves
2 tsp ground cassia or cinnamon
Grind all the spices together to a powder.
Sift, and store in an airtight container or
in a plastic bag in the freezer.

Sichuan pepper
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 273

Green curry paste Massaman curry paste


Green curry paste is the hottest type you can make, This paste derives its name from the Muslim
but you can reduce the number of chile peppers or traders who brought spices to Thailand. Some
leave out the seeds. Green curry paste is good with of its spices are more commonly used in India
fish and seafood, chicken, and vegetables. and it has a rich, warm flavor.

2 tsp coriander seeds 2 tbsp coriander seeds


1 tsp cumin seeds 2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp shrimp paste (kapi) 6 green cardamom pods
1
2 tsp chopped galangal, or 1 tsp dried 2 cinnamon stick
2 tsp chopped fingerroot (krachai), or 1 tsp dried 6 whole cloves
2 lemongrass stalks, lower third only, chopped 10 dried hot red chile peppers
1
1 tsp grated makrut lime peel 2 tsp grated nutmeg
1
4 shallots, chopped 2 tsp ground mace
3 garlic cloves, chopped 1 tsp shrimp paste (kapi)
1 tsp ground black pepper 2 tbsp sunflower oil
1
2 tsp grated nutmeg 5 shallots, chopped
small bunch of cilantroleaves, young stems, 4 garlic cloves, chopped
and roots, chopped
1 tbsp chopped galangal
1
4 cup chopped fresh Thai basil leaves
1 tbsp chopped cilantro root
15 small hot green chile peppers, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, lower third only, sliced
Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds until they darken;
Dry roast all the whole spices and chile peppers; let cool,
cool, then grind. Dry roast the shrimp paste, wrapped
then remove the pods from the cardamoms and grind all
tightly in foil, for 12 minutes on each side. Let cool.
to a powder. Combine with the nutmeg and mace. Wrap the
Combine all the ingredients and blend in a food processor
shrimp paste in foil and dry roast until its aroma rises.
or with a mortar and pestle until you have a smooth paste.
Heat the oil and lightly fry the shallots and garlic until
they start to color, then add the galangal, cilantro root,
and lemongrass. Fry for a minute or two longer, then
transfer to a food processor or mortar.
Add all the other ingredients and blend or pound to a
smooth paste. Use with meat and poultry.

Chile peppers

Cumin seeds
274 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Cambodia
Cambodian food is as intensely spiced as that of its neighbors; market stalls are piled high with
chile peppers, garlic, ginger, galangal, coconuts, herbs, fish pastes (prahok), and sauces. Cambodian
fish sauce also includes ground peanuts, an ingredient not used elsewhere. Many dishes are based
on herb pastes called kroeung. These are made with seven or eight basic ingredients, which may be
added to depending on the dish to be made. Pastes may be predominantly red (from chile peppers),
yellow (from turmeric), or green (from lemongrass).

Kroeung Green kroeung


Pastes are made fresh and used immediately, 312oz (100g) lemongrass, chopped
but in a sealed container the paste will keep for 134oz (50g) fresh galangal, chopped
23 days in the refrigerator. Traditionally ground 1 tbsp ground turmeric
with a mortar and pestle, the paste is now easily 1
2 tbsp lesser galangal, chopped
made in a food processor, adding a little water
4 garlic cloves, chopped
if necessary.
4 shallots, chopped
134oz (50g) lemongrass, lower part, sliced 3 dried red chile peppers
1 tbsp fresh galangal, chopped Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
1 large garlic clove, chopped Use as described opposite.
2 shallots, chopped
5 makrut lime leaves
3oz (80g) peanuts, dry roasted
2 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fish sauce
1
2 cup thick coconut milk
Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
Sometimes more coconut milk or a little stock or water is
needed to achieve a smooth paste. The paste can be used
as any curry paste, adding vegetables, fish or seafood,
meat or poultry, and some liquid.

Lemongrass

Turmeric
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 275

India and beyond


The first requirement of an Indian cook is to become a good masalchi, or spice-blender. A masala
is a blend of spices; it may contain two or three, or a dozen or more. It may be added to the dish,
whole or ground, at different stages of cooking. For rice and some meat dishes, whole spices are
traditional; the most common ground mixtures are the garam masalas (hot spices) used in northern
cooking. A garam masala is usually added toward the end of the cooking time to draw out the
flavors of the other ingredients and preserve the aromas. Indians have taken their masalas to other
parts of the world where they have settled: Malaysia, South Africa, and the Caribbean islands.
Curry powder originated in Chennai (Madras), where local cooks working for British households in
the 18th century introduced Indian dishes to the newcomers.

Standard garam masala Dhana jeera powder


This masala and its variations are best for meat and This simple mixture of 4 parts coriander seeds to
poultry dishes, especially those cooked in tomato or 1 part cumin is a common seasoning in Gujarat
onion gravy. It also makes a good flavoring for and Maharashtra, and is often used ground as
spiced bean or lentil soups. the basis for masalas.

2 tbsp black cardamom pods


112 cinnamon sticks
1
4 cup coriander seeds Bombay masala
3 tbsp cumin seeds This masala has richness and texture from the
2 tbsp black peppercorns use of coconut and sesame and poppy seeds. It is
1 tbsp whole cloves particularly good with lentils and vegetables. If it
2 tejpat leaves, crumbled
is added to the dish at the beginning, it will give
a subtle flavor; for a more pronounced taste, add
Extract the seeds from the cardamom pods and discard
it when the cooking is almost completed.
the pods. Break the cinnamon. Dry-roast all the spices over
a medium heatthis will probably take 810 minutes.
8 green cardamom pods
Let the spices cool, then grind them to a powder and sift.
The masala will keep in an airtight jar or in a plastic bag in small piece of cinnamon stick
the freezer for 23 months. 2 tejpat leaves or 1 sprig of curry leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
VARIATIONS
2 tsp coriander seeds
Gujarati masala
Add 1 tbsp sesame seeds, 2 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp ajowan 1 tsp cumin seeds
seeds, and 34 dried hot chile peppers. 6 whole cloves
Kashmiri masala 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded dried coconut
Use black cumin seeds and green cardamom instead of 2 tsp sesame seeds
black, and add 2 blades of mace and 14 nutmeg, grated. 1 tbsp poppy seeds
Punjabi masala Take the seeds from the cardamoms and discard the pods.
Reduce the coriander to 2 tbsp and black cardamom to Break up the cinnamon; crumble dried tejpat leaves or strip
1 tbsp. Add 1 tbsp green cardamom pods, 2 tsp fennel seeds, curry leaves from the stem. Dry-roast the cardamom seeds,
2 blades of mace, 1 tbsp black cumin seeds, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, leaves, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, and
ginger, and 1 tbsp dried rose petals. cloves until lightly colored. Let cool.
Dry-roast the coconut and sesame and poppy seeds
over gentle heat until they color; the coconut should be
dark brown. Let cool, then grind with the spices. Store in
an airtight container or in a plastic bag in the freezer for
23 months.
276 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Tandoori masala Aromatic garam masala


Tandoori chicken is one of the dishes most Westerners This masala blend is mild, with a subtle emphasis on
think of when Indian food is mentioned. The smoky cardamom. It is used for kebabs and classic moghul
flavor of tandoori meat or fish comes from the clay dishes made with butter and cream or yogurt.
oven in which it is cooked, the slightly sour flavor
from the spicing and the yogurt marinade. You can 2 tbsp green cardamom pods
use the masala for food cooked in the oven or on a 1
2 cinnamon stick
grill. To get the deep red color of restaurant tandoori 2 mace blades
food, you will need some red coloring from an 2 tsp black peppercorns
Indian market. 1 tsp whole cloves
Black salt is a rock salt, sold as a pink powder or in
Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and discard
reddish lumps in Indian markets. It has a pronounced
the pods. Break the cinnamon into pieces. Combine all the
sulfurous smell that dissipates in cooking. If you cant spices in an electric spice grinder and grind to a powder,
find it, use a little extra sea salt. then sift. Store in an airtight container or in a plastic bag
in the freezer for 23 months.
1
2 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
6 whole cloves Chat masala
3 mace blades This masala is used in small quantities with fruit
2 tsp ground turmeric and vegetable salads. It has a fresh, sourish taste.
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground hot chili powder
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp amchoor
1
2 tsp ajowan seeds
1 tsp black salt
1 tsp anardana
1 tsp sea salt Amchoor
1 tsp black salt (see left)
Crush the cinnamon lightly and dry-
1 tsp coarse sea salt
roast the whole spices until they darken
and start to smoke. Let cool, then grind 1 tbsp amchoor
them. Combine all the spices with the salts. 1
4 tsp asafetida
To use, stir 1 cup plain yogurt and combine 1
2 tsp crushed dried mint leaves
with 23 tsp of the masala.
1
2 tsp ground hot chili powder
Grind all the whole spices and salts to a powder, then stir
in the remaining ingredients. Store in an airtight container
Bengali panch phoron or in a plastic bag in the freezer for 2 months.

This mixture of whole spices is used to flavor


legumes and vegetarian dishes.

1 tbsp cumin seeds


Masala for fish
1 tbsp fennel seeds 1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp mustard seeds 2 tbsp coriander seeds


1
1 tbsp nigella seeds 2 tsp ajowan seeds

1 tbsp fenugreek seeds 1 tbsp ginger juice (p.223)

Combine all the spices and store in an airtight container. Grind the spices and combine with the ginger juice. Add a
Use to flavor hot oil before other ingredients are added, little water if the mixture is too dry. Rub into the fish and
or to spice ghee (clarified butter) that is poured over dal leave to marinate for up to 1 hour before cooking.
before serving.
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 277

Sambhar powder Tamil curry powder


This powder is much used in south Indian This southern Indian blend is used to flavor rice or
cooking, which is mostly vegetarian, to flavor is stirred into a vegetable curry just before serving.
legumes, vegetable dishes, sauces, and soups.
The dal in the blend serves as a thickening agent 10 sprigs of curry leaves
and provides a nutty taste. 1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1
4 cup coriander seeds
3 dried hot chile peppers
2 tbsp cumin seeds
pinch of asafetida
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp toor dal (yellow lentils)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal (split black lentils)
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
Strip the leaves from the stems and fry in the oil until
10 dried hot chile peppers lightly colored. Remove from the pan and fry the other
1
4 tsp asafetida items until they change color, stirring and shaking the
1 tbsp ground turmeric pan. Let cool.
Grind the curry leaves; add the other ingredients
1 tbsp channa dal (yellow split peas) and grind to a powder. Store in an airtight container
1 tbsp urad dal (split black lentils) for up to 2 weeks.
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Dry-roast the whole spices for 45 minutes.
When the spices have darkened and give
off their aroma, add the asafetida and Massal
turmeric, and stir for 1 minute. Massal is the spice blend of the French islands
Transfer to a bowl.
of the Indian OceanMauritius and Runion. The
Fry the dal in the oil until they
darken. Keep stirring to prevent
proportions of ingredients vary. It is used, with
burning. Add them to the turmeric, to flavor dishes variously called caris,
spices, mix well and let curries, or massals.
cool, then grind. Store in
an airtight container and 2 tbsp coriander seeds
use within 2 weeks. 2 tsp cumin seeds
Mustard seeds 2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves

Madras curry powder small piece of cinnamon stick


1 tsp ground hot chili powder
2 dried hot chile peppers
1
1 tsp grated nutmeg
4 cup coriander seeds
Dry roast the whole spices until lightly colored and let
2 tbsp cumin seeds
cool. Grind finely, then stir in the chili and nutmeg. Store
1 tsp mustard seeds for 23 months in an airtight jar.
112 tbsp black peppercorns
6 curry leaves
1
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
Roast the whole spices in a dry frying pan and let cool.
Dry the curry leaves in the pan briefly, then add to the Grated
whole spices. Grind to a powder, sift, and stir in the ginger nutmeg
and turmeric. Keep in an airtight container or in a plastic
bag in the freezer for 2 months.
278 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Sri Lankan curry powder


1 tbsp uncooked rice 1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds 2 sprigs of curry leaves
1
2 cinnamon stick Dry roast the rice. Add the spices and curry leaves, stripped
3 green cardamom pods from the stems. Stir over low heat to prevent burning, until
all the spices turn dark brown. Let cool, then grind finely
3 whole cloves
and sift. Stir a teaspoon or two into a curry just before
1 tsp black peppercorns serving. Fenugreek and chile can be added to the blend.

Malay curry paste Malay curry powder


2 lemongrass stalks, lower third only Malay curry spices show the influence of the large Indian
thumb-sized piece of galangal, chopped population. The curries are usually cooked in coconut
6 garlic cloves, chopped milk; lemon grass and garlic are sometimes added.
2 shallots, chopped 1
2 cinnamon stick
6 hot chile peppers, seeds removed and chopped
5 dried hot chile peppers
1 tsp ground mace
1 tsp green cardamom seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground turmeric
Mix all the ingredients in a food 1 tsp ground galangal
processor, adding a little more oil or
water if necessary to make a smooth Grind the whole spices to a powder and stir in the turmeric
paste. Store in a closed jar in the and galangal. Store for 23 months in an airtight container
refrigerator for a week. Galangal or in a plastic bag in the freezer.

Indonesia
These spice pastes are used throughout Indonesia; they vary from island to island and
vary according to traditional regional cooking styles. There are generic bumbus used
throughout the country based on colorwhite, yellow, red, and orange.

Bumbu Bali 1 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar


2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
20 shallots, chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, lower part only, finely sliced
6 red chile peppers, seeds removed and chopped
2 makrut lime leaves, shredded
finger-length piece of fresh galangal, chopped
Put all the ingredients except the oil, lemon grass, and
finger-length piece of fresh turmeric, chopped
lime leaves into a food processor and pulse to a smooth
small piece of ginger or fingerroot, chopped paste. Add a little water if needed.
5 candlenuts (substitute macadamias) Heat the oil in a wok or heavy pan and add the paste
2 tsp shrimp paste (trassi) together with the lemongrass and lime leaves. Cook over
high heat, stirring constantly, until the paste smells
1 tsp black peppercorns
aromatic and has darkened slightly.
1 tbsp coriander seeds Pour into a sterilized jar and cool before use. To keep,
3 cloves top with oil and keep in the refrigerator, or freeze.
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 279

Middle East and North Africa


Iranian spicing tends to be mild, using sesame, saffron, cinnamon, rose petals, coriander, and small
amounts of cardamom, caraway, and cumin. Souring spices such as sumac, dried limes, barberries,
or pomegranate also play an important part. Spice mixtures (advieh) vary greatly from the Gulf to
the central plateau, and are prepared for specific dishes.
The peoples of the Gulf have a taste for highly spiced food. Each country has its spice blends,
called baharat (meaning spice). Enthusiasm for spicing spreads throughout the Arab countries to
Israel and Turkey, where spices and herbs are often combined in milder blends; the widely used
dried chile flakes may be fiery or subtle. The spicing of the eastern Mediterranean continues in
North Africa, where sophisticated blends are used, particularly in Tunisia and Morocco.

Advieh for stews Lebanese seven spice


2 cinnamon sticks mixture
2 tbsp coriander seeds
This is Anissa Helous recipe.
112 tbsp green cardamom pods
1 tbsp black peppercorns 1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp cumin seeds 1 tbsp ground allspice
2 tsp grated nutmeg 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp powdered dried lime 1 tsp grated nutmeg
Break the cinnamon into pieces. Grind all the whole spices, 1 tsp ground coriander
sift, and combine with the nutmeg and lime powder. Keep 1 tsp ground cloves
in an airtight container or in a plastic bag in the freezer
1 tsp ground ginger
for 1 month.
Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container
or in a plastic bag in the freezer.

Advieh for rice


2 tbsp ground cinnamon
Bizar ashuwa
2 tbsp ground dried rose petals
This blend comes from Oman, thanks to Philip
1 tbsp ground cumin or green cardamom seeds
Iddison, and is based on a recipe from Al Azaf,
Combine the spices and use to flavor steamed rice or the Omani Cookbook by Lamees Abdullah Al Taie.
rice cooked with herbs in the Iranian way (p.324). Store in
an airtight jar or in a plastic bag in the freezer for 1 month. 1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cardamom seeds
2 tsp ground hot chili powder
1
2 tsp ground turmeric
23 tbsp white vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Grind the whole spices and mix with the chili and turmeric.
Combine with enough vinegar and the garlic to make a stiff
paste. Add to slow-cooked dishes or use as a rub for meat
or chicken.
Iranian advieh
280 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Basic baharat Syrian baharat


1 tbsp black peppercorns
In these baharats the balance between the spices
varies from one country or region to another. If 2 tbsp allspice
you dry roast the whole spices briefly, the flavors 15 cloves
will be enhanced. Use a small heavy pan, toss and 1 tsp green cardamom seeds
shake so that the spices dont burn and when 2 tsp grated nutmeg
they are fragrant, after 34 minutes, tip onto a
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
plate to cool. When cool, grind and combine
with the other ingredients. Dry roast the whole spices if
you wish, leave to cool then
grind them and mix thoroughly
2 tbsp black peppercorns
with the cinnamon. Store in an
1 tbsp coriander seeds airtight container. Some recipes
small piece of cassia or cinnamon stick include ground galangal. Nutmeg

2 tsp cumin seeds


2 tsp whole cloves
seeds from 6 green cardamom pods
1
Saudi baharat
2 nutmeg, grated
This is sometimes called Gulf Baharat or Kabsa
2 tbsp paprika
spices, the former because a mixture akin to this
Grind all the whole spices and mix with the ginger, nutmeg, is found around the Gulf and the latter because
and paprika. Sift and store in an airtight container for the spice blend is used in kabsa, a popular Saudi
2 months. Fennel seed and turmeric are sometimes added
rice dish with chicken.
to baharat.
The mixture is used in kibbeh, in meat stuffings for
1 tbsp green cardamom seeds
pastries, in tomato and other sauces, and in stews and soups.
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
Iranian baharat 1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black pepper 1 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1 tbsp cumin seeds 2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp allspice 1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp coriander seeds 2 tsp ground dried lime
1 tbsp green cardamom seeds
Dry roast the whole spices if you wish, grind them when
1 tsp cloves cool, and mix with the other ingredients. Store in an
1 tbsp ground cinnamon airtight container.
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground dried lime
Dry roast the whole spices and leave to cool. Grind them
and mix with the ground spices. If grinding the dried lime
yourself, make sure you discard the seeds before grinding.
Store in an airtight container or in a plastic bag in the freezer. Saffron
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 281

Turkish baharat Yemeni hawaij


2 tbsp black peppercorns This blend is recommended for soups, grilled meat,
2 tbsp cumin seeds and vegetable dishes.
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
10 cloves
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tsp green cardamom seeds
1 tsp green cardamom seeds
1 small piece cassia or cinnamon
1 tsp saffron threads
tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp dried mint
Combine all the ingredients in an electric spice grinder and
Dry roast the whole ingredients, leave to cool, then grind. Rub
grind to a powder. Store in a plastic bag in the freezer for
the mint between your fingers so that it crumbles. Combine
up to 2 months.
all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

Turkish red chili paste Yemeni hilbeh


2 tbsp ground fenugreek seeds
Tomato and red chili pastes are widely used in
large bunch of cilantroleaves and small stems
southeastern Turkey. The town of Gaziantep,
surrounded by orchards of almond and pistachio 4 garlic cloves, crushed
trees, is renowned for its excellent food. These sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
pastes are made at home after the bell and chile seeds from 34 cardamom pods, crushed
peppers have spent time drying in the sun. Jars of 1
4 tsp caraway seeds
the pastes can be bought in Middle Eastern shops 24 hot green chile peppers, seeds removed and chopped
and you can make your own as long as your
juice of 12 lemons
peppers have dried out in the hot sun.
Soak the ground fenugreek in plenty of hot water and leave
3 red bell peppers overnight, or for at least 8 hours. It will separate into clear
liquid at the top and a gelatinous mixture in the bottom of the
6 long red chilies
bowl. Pour off the liquid, then set aside. Blend the cilantro,
juice of 1 lemon garlic, and all the other ingredients with the juice of 1 lemon.
1 tsp ground black pepper Add the fenugreek and blend again. Taste and add more
lemon juice or salt if necessary. A little water can be beaten in
2 tsp sea salt
to thin the mixture; it should be like a soft paste. The texture
Grill the bell and chile peppers, or roast in the oven at should be slightly frothy from the fenugreek, and the taste
400F (200C) for 1520 minutes, turning them as needed. pungent and slightly bitter.
When the skins have charred, put them into a plastic bag Hilbeh is stirred into stews at the end of cooking, or served
or a bowl with a lid and leave to cool. This makes it easier at room temperature as a condiment to accompany dishes,
to get the skin off. or simply eaten with Middle-Eastern flatbread. Chopped
Peel the peppers; if the chile peppers wont peel easily tomatoes are sometimes added; in the Jewish community
scrape the flesh from the skins with a sharp knife. Discard in Calcutta, where it is popular, a little fresh ginger is used.
the membranes and seeds. Cut the flesh into pieces and Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.
blend to a puree.
Add lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Taste for seasoning.
Store in a sterilized jar and keep in the refrigerator.
Use in meat dishes, in marinades, with wheat and bean
dishes, or as a condiment.

Fenugreek seeds
282 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Yemeni zhug Dukka


This paste is a combination of garlic and peppers This Egyptian nut and spice blend varies from
plus whatever spices the cook chooses. It is popular family to family. It is served at breakfast or as
in Israel, where it has spread beyond the cooking of a snack later in the day. It has also become
Yemeni Jews. There are red versions, as this one, fashionable as a nibble with drinks and an
and green ones with more cilantro and also parsley appetizer and now can be found everywhere
instead of sweet peppers. on bruschetta, roasted vegetables, and grilled
fish. My favorite use for it is spread on a rack
2 small red bell peppers of lamb to be roasted.
2 hot red chile peppers
8 garlic cloves 4oz (120g) sesame seeds
2
2 tsp coriander seeds 3 cup hazelnuts

1 tsp cumin seeds 2oz (60g) coriander seeds

seeds from 6 green cardamom pods 1oz (30g) cumin seeds

handful of cilantroleaves and young stems salt to taste


olive oil, to serve
Remove the seeds from the bell and chile peppers, then cut
them into pieces. Chop the garlic coarsely. Blend all the Dry roast all the ingredients separately until the sesame
ingredients to a paste in a food processor. Store in a closed is golden, the hazelnuts are losing their skins, and the
jar in the refrigerator for 12 weeks, covered by a layer of oil. coriander and cumin darken and give off their aroma.
Zhug is used as a condiment and a sauce for grilled fish or For large quantities use a hot oven, 500F (250C).
meat, and is added to soups and stews just before serving. Let cool.
A spoonful or two of zhug can be added to hilbeh. Remove loose skins from the hazelnuts. Put the
ingredients into a food processor and grind to a coarse
powder. Dont overwork or the oil from the nuts and
sesame will be released and turn it into a paste. Store in
Aleppo blend an airtight container. Serve at room temperature with
Middle-Eastern bread and olive oil. Dip the bread into
This mixture is used for grilled and roasted chicken the oil and then into the dukka.
and lamb, and for preparing kfte and kibbeh.

1 tbsp black peppercorns


1 tbsp allspice berries Ras el hanout
seeds from 5 green cardamom pods Ras el hanout is a Moroccan mixture of 20 or more
1
2 nutmeg spices. Many versions contain aphrodisiacs as well
1 tsp coriander seeds as herbs and spices. A typical blend could include
1 tsp cumin seeds allspice, ash berries, black and green cardamom,
cassia, chufa nuts, cinnamon, cloves, cubebs,
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
galangal, ginger, grains of paradise, lavender, mace,
1 tbsp Turkish or Aleppo red chili flakes (or paprika)
monks pepper, nigella, nutmeg, orris root, black
1 tsp sumac pepper, long pepper, rosebuds, ground turmeric,
Grind all the whole spices and blend and the potentially hazardous belladonna and
with the cinnamon, chili flakes, cantharides (Spanish fly). Exported blends that are
and sumac. Store in an airtight already ground tend to be less exotic. In Tunisia, ras
jar or in a plastic bag in the
el hanout is a simpler blend of rosebuds, black
freezer for 23 months.
pepper, cubebs, cloves, and cinnamon.
Ras el hanout is usually sold whole, and ground
as required. It is used with game, lamb, couscous,
and rice.
Cinnamon quills
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 283

Zaatar Tunisian bharat


Zaatar is a generic name for a number of herbs The simplest Tunisian mixture uses equal
with a thyme-savory-oregano aroma (p.98). This amounts of ground cinnamon and
mixture is popular in the Middle East, sprinkled on ground dried rosebuds or petals,
meatballs, kebabs, and vegetables, or used as a dip. sometimes with the addition
Mixed to a paste with olive oil, it can be spread of a little black pepper. It is
over bread before baking. used for fish, roast and
grilled meat, couscous,
2oz (60g) sesame seeds and tagines.
1oz (30g) ground sumac
Ground cinnamon
1oz (30g) dried zaatar or thyme, powdered
Dry roast the sesame seeds for a few minutes, stirring
frequently. Let them cool, then mix with the sumac and
zaatar or thyme. Store in an airtight jar or in a plastic
bag in the freezer for 23 months.
Qlat daqqa
This blend of five spices is from Tunisia, where it
is used primarily with lamb and vegetable dishes.
It is particularly good with pumpkin and other
La kama winter squashes, eggplant, spinach, and chickpeas
This Moroccan mixture is used for harira, the soup and other legumes.
eaten to break the Ramadan fast, for stews, and as
2 tsp black peppercorns
a seasoning for chicken.
2 tsp whole cloves
1 tbsp ground black pepper 1 tsp grains of paradise
1 tbsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground turmeric 1 tbsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp grated nutmeg Grind the whole spices to a powder and combine with
2 tsp ground cumin the cinnamon and nutmeg. Store in an airtight jar or in
Combine all the spices and store in an airtight container a plastic bag in the freezer for 23 months.
or in a plastic bag in the freezer for 12 months.

Tabil
Taklia Tabil means coriander, and it is also the name
This mixture of garlic and coriander is used to of a spice blend found only in Tunisia, as far as
flavor soups and stews just before they are served. I can discover.
Popular throughout the Arab world, it is widely
3 tbsp coriander seeds
used in Egypt with melokhia, a dish that is virtually
the national soup. 1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
3 garlic cloves 2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt 2 tsp chili flakes
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Pound or grind all the ingredients together coarsely, then
1 tbsp ground coriander dry in the sun if you live in a hot place, or dry in a low
1
2 tsp cayenne oven, 250F (130C), for 3045 minutes. When quite dry
and cooled, grind to a fine powder.
Crush the garlic with a little salt and fry in the oil until Tabil is used for stews, sauted and stuffed vegetables,
golden. Stir in the coriander and cayenne, mix to a paste and beef dishes. Store in an airtight container or in a
and fry, stirring, for 2 minutes. Use at once. plastic bag in the freezer for 12 months.
284 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Africa
On the Horn of Africa and down the east coast, people have always looked eastward for
their flavorings. In West Africa, chile peppers tend to dominate, together with local herbs
and spices; in South Africa, Indian and Malay communities have influenced the cooking,
with curries, sambals, and blatjangs.

West African pepper blend Berbere


Pepper blends are used as a seasoning for fish, Berbere is a fiery mixture used in Ethiopia and
meat, and vegetables. They may be used as a dry Eritrea. Rather like garam masala (p.275), it is a
mixture or made into a paste with the addition of complex blend of spices made to suit the dish and
onion, garlic, tomatoes, red bell peppers, dried the taste of the cook. It is used primarily to flavor
shrimp, and palm oil. stews (called wats) of meat, vegetables, or lentils,
but also to coat foods to be fried or grilled, or
2 tbsp black peppercorns served as an accompaniment. Ethiopian cardamom
2 tbsp white peppercorns or korarima is different from the cardamoms used
1 tbsp cubebs in Asia. If you cant find it, use black cardamom.
1 tbsp allspice berries The key spices are chile peppers, ginger, and
2 tsp grains of paradise
cloves; others vary, and some are not found outside
the region.
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp dried hot chile flakes 1520 dried hot red chile peppers
Grind the whole spices and combine with the ginger 1 tsp coriander seeds
and chile flakes. Store in an airtight container or in a seeds from 5 korarima or black cardamom pods
plastic bag in the freezer for 23 months.
12 allspice berries
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
South African curry powder 8 whole cloves
This mixture comes from the Cape. It is used with 1
2 cinnamon stick, broken
a paste of ginger and garlic pounded with salt; 1
2 tsp ajowan
2 tsp ground turmeric could be added. 1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds Heat a large, heavy frying pan and dry roast the chile
peppers for 23 minutes, turning and stirring. Add the
2 tsp cumin seeds other whole spices and roast for an additional 56 minutes,
small piece of cinnamon stick stirring constantly, until all the spices have darkened.
seeds from 5 cardamom pods Let cool, then grind, including the ginger, to a powder.
Store in an airtight container or in a plastic bag in the
Grind all the ingredients and store freezer for 23 months.
for 23 months in an airtight
container or in a plastic
bag in the freezer.

Cardamom
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 285

Wat spices Mitmita


This is a simple blend and quick to prepare. 12 tsp chile flakes
tsp ground cloves
3 long chile peppers 1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp black peppercorns 1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp whole cloves tsp ground allspice
1
2 nutmeg 1 tsp ginger
2 tbsp ground hot chili powder 1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground ginger tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp salt
Dry roast the peppers, peppercorns, cloves, and nutmeg, Combine all the ingredients
and grind them when cool. Stir in the chile, ginger, and and store in an airtight
cinnamon. Add to a wat (stew) toward the end of cooking. container. Use as Berbere.
The spice mixture will keep in an airtight jar or in a plastic
bag in the freezer for 23 months. Chili

Europe
Early European food for the rich was spiced predominantly with pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and
ginger, sweetened with honey, or later with sugar, and moistened with vinegar. By the 16th century
the sweet element had diminished, and when, in the 17th and 18th centuries, spices became more
widely available they were used less ostentatiously. Cookbooks of the 19th century began to record
curry powders (from recipes sent home by colonial administrators) and mixtures that were often
called kitchen pepper. Today few European spice blends are still in use, although Europeans
consume quantities of spiced foods from other parts of the world.

Quatre pices Italian spice mixture


The classic French blend is used primarily for This blend is good sprinkled on chicken or pork
charcuterie and other meat products. It is useful to chops to be grilled or baked, to flavor a loin of
flavor a glaze for baked ham and to season fresh pork to be stuffed and roasted, and rubbed onto
pork before cooking. a shoulder of lamb to be slow-roasted, wrapped
in foil with apricot leather or other dried fruits.
2 tbsp black or white peppercorns
1 tsp whole cloves 1 tbsp white or black peppercorns
1
2 tsp grated nutmeg 2 nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp juniper berries


1
Grind the peppercorns and cloves finely, then combine with 4 tsp whole cloves
the nutmeg and ginger. Store in an airtight container or in Grind all the spices in an electric spice
a plastic bag in the freezer for 12 months. grinder (it may be easier if you crush the
Cinnamon sometimes replaces ginger, and I have also nutmeg first with a rolling pin). Store
come across mixtures that use allspice instead of cloves, the powder in an airtight container
and mace instead of nutmeg. or in a plastic bag in the freezer
for 34 months.

Juniper berries
286 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Sweet baking spice Pickling spices


This English mixture, sold as mixed spice, is This is an English mixture of whole spices used
used for cookies, fruit cakes, mincemeat, and when pickling fruits and vegetables in vinegar.
baked or steamed puddings. The selection and
proportions of spices vary according to individual 2 tbsp pieces of dried ginger
taste; some cooks add ginger to the blend, but I 112 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
prefer this version. 2 tbsp mace blades

1
3 tbsp allspice berries
2 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp allspice berries
212 tbsp whole cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp whole cloves
Combine all the spices and use to
4 mace blades
flavor the vinegar that is to be used
2 tsp grated nutmeg in making the pickles. The spices
Grind the whole spices to a fine powder and mix with the can be added directly or put into a
nutmeg. Store in an airtight container or in a plastic bag in cheesecloth bag for later removal.
the freezer for 23 months. Mace

The Americas
Many culinary influences can be traced in the Americas. In the US and Canada, English and
French spice blends once predominated in the north, but now Mexican, Caribbean, and African
ideas are widely popular. The Caribbean islands show a variety of colonial traditions (Spanish,
French, and English) as well as immigrant influencesnotably African, Indian, Sri Lankan, and
Chinesein the development of their cuisines. Mexico has maintained strong pre-Columbian food
styles. Much of South America shows some vestiges of Spanish or Portuguese culinary traditions,
combined with Indian food patterns in the Andes and with African traditions in Brazil.

Aj paste
Aj pastes are popular throughout the Andean countries and vary widely in flavor and
heat depending on the chile. Rocoto, mirasol, or amarillo would be used in the Andes,
if you cant get these use chilaca or Spanish guindilla. This potent paste is from Bolivia,
where it is used as the base flavoring for stews and thick soups. Fresh herbscilantro
or quillquia, basil, oreganoare usually added just before the dish is served.

2oz (60g) dried hot chile peppers, seeds removed Dry roast the chile peppers for 12 minutes and soak in
4 garlic cloves 56 tbsp hot water for 30 minutes (p.259). Drain and tear
1
into pieces. Crush the garlic with the salt.
2 tsp salt
Blend all the ingredients to a smooth paste.
3 tbsp sunflower or olive oil Store for up to 1 month in the refrigerator
under a layer of oil.

Chile peppers
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SPICE MIXTURES 287

Barbecue spice Virgin-Islands spiced salt


This is a medium-hot spice blend to rub onto meat The Virgin Islands were once an important stop
before grilling. for the British Royal Navy, and salt-based curing
and seasoning is still practiced there, although
1 tsp black peppercorns the salt harvesting on nearby Salt Island is no
1
2 tsp cumin seeds longer undertaken.
1
2 tsp dried thyme
1
3 tbsp sea salt
2 tsp dried marjoram
1
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp cayenne
1
4 tsp whole cloves
2 tsp paprika
1
2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp mustard powder
1
1
4 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1
2 small onion, chopped
Grind the peppercorns and cumin; crumble or grind
the herbs if necessary; and combine all the ingredients. 2 sprigs of fresh parsley
Spread the mixture over the meat and leave for 23 hours Grind all the ingredients in a mortar or food processor and
before cooking. store in the refrigerator. Use to rub onto fish or steak before
grilling, or over a chicken before roasting.
For a dry mix omit the garlic, onion, and parsley and add
a crumbled, dried bay leaf and 14 tsp dried rosemary to the
Cajun seasoning blend. This will keep for 23 months in an airtight container.

The gumbos and jambalayas, blackened fish and


grilled meats of the Cajun and Creole cooks of
Louisiana, are flavored with aromatic herbs, hot Poudre de Colombo
chile peppers, and other spices. Commercial blends
Colombo is the name of a curry made on the
use dried garlic and onion, which I find have a
French Caribbean islands, originally by indentured
synthetic taste, so I mix the dry ingredients and
workers from Sri Lanka. The curry powder does
add fresh garlic and onion.
not have the heat of those from some of the other
1 tsp paprika islands, and is very similar to Sri Lankan curry
1
2 tsp ground black pepper
powder (p.278).
1 tsp ground fennel seeds 1 tbsp uncooked rice
1
2 tsp ground cumin 1 tbsp cumin seeds
1
2 tsp mustard powder 1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cayenne 1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp dried thyme 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp black mustard seeds
1
2 tsp dried sage 4 whole cloves
1
2 tsp salt 112 tbsp ground turmeric
12 garlic cloves
Dry roast the rice until lightly browned, stirring frequently.
1
2 small onion Put it aside to cool and add the whole spices to the pan.
Combine all the dry ingredients. Crush the garlic and Roast until they give off their aroma and darken in color.
onion in a mortar and add to the dry ingredients. Let them cool.
Rub the mixture onto meat or fish and let marinate Grind the rice and spices to a powder in an electric
for up to 1 hour, then grill or fry to form a crisp crust. spice grinder, then stir in the turmeric. Store in an airtight
Alternatively, stir some of the mixture into rice dishes container or in a plastic bag in the freezer for 23 months.
or gumbos.
288 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

West Indian masala Steak recado


Just as laborers from Sri Lanka took Colombo Spice pastes called recados are essential to the
powder to the French islands, Hindus from cooking of the Yucatn peninsula in southern
the subcontinent took their masalas with them Mexico, which is itself firmly rooted in Mayan
to Trinidad and Tobago. This recipe comes traditions. On market stalls bowls are piled high
from Trinidad. with red, black, and khaki pastes; similar pastes
are found in Cuba. This is a khaki version.
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp anise seed 8 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp whole cloves 1 tsp allspice berries

1 tsp cumin seeds 1 tsp black peppercorns


1
1 tsp fenugreek seeds 4 tsp cumin seeds
1
1 tsp black peppercorns 2 cinnamon stick

1 tsp black mustard seeds 1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp ground turmeric 4 whole cloves

ground hot chili powder to taste 2 tsp dried oregano


1
3 garlic cloves, crushed 2 tsp salt

1 medium onion, chopped 1 tbsp cider or wine vinegar

Dry roast the whole spices and let cool. Grind them Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend
finely, then combine with the turmeric and, if you wish, to a paste. Store in the refrigerator; the flavors will develop
some ground chili powder. if kept for a day before using, and the mixture will keep for
Pound together with the garlic and onion, or blend in a several weeks.
processor to a smooth paste. If necessary, add a little water, The recado is used to rub on steaks for grilling or frying,
tamarind water, or lemon juice. Store in the refrigerator but even more commonly in chicken and other dishes
for 34 days. preserved in escabeche (a lightly spiced pickle).

Recado rojo: red achiote paste


112 tbsp achiote seeds Grind the first six ingredients to a powder in an electric
1
2 tbsp coriander seeds spice grinder. Achiote seeds are very hard, so it will take
1
a little time. Crush the garlic with the salt in a mortar, then
2 tbsp black peppercorns
gradually work in the ground spices. A hot red chile pepper
1
2 tsp cumin seeds could be added; crush it with the garlic. Moisten with
3 whole cloves the vinegar or bitter orange juice so that you have a
smooth paste.
2 tsp dried oregano
Form the paste into small disks or balls and let them
5 garlic cloves dry, or put the paste into an airtight jar. Whether dried
1 hot red chile pepper or as a paste, the recado will keep for several months
(optional) if refrigerated.
To use, mix with more bitter orange juice. The recado is
1 tsp salt
essential to the local specialty, pollo pibil (chicken wrapped
12 tbsp wine vinegar or in banana leaves and steamed or baked). Fish and pork can
bitter orange juice be cooked in the same way, and the mixture gives depth to
soups and stews.

Dried oregano
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SAUCES AND CONDIMENTS 289

Sauces and condiments


Most regions of the world have developed their favorite saucesto use as a dip, to
accompany dishes, or as an integral part of the cooking process. East India Company
traders introduced relishes and ketchups to Britain, and condiments and sauces based
on herbs and spices were among the first foods to be manufactured commercially.

Salsa verde Pesto


2 handfuls of fresh parsley sprigs, chopped This Genoese sauce for pasta also goes well with
a few sprigs of fresh mint or basil, chopped vegetables and as a dip or a spread for bruschetta;
1 garlic clove, crushed a thin version makes a good sauce for fish.
1 tbsp capers, chopped
4 handfuls of fresh basil leaves
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
approx 23 cup (150ml) extra virgin olive oil 1
4 cup pine nuts
salt and freshly ground black pepper 1
4 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
Blend the herbs, garlic, capers, and anchovy fillets to a 56 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
coarse paste in a food processor. Scrape down the sides
and trickle in enough oil through the feed tube to make Put all the ingredients except the olive oil into a food
a smooth sauce. Season to taste. processor and blend. Scrape down the sides and add the oil
Serve with poached or baked slowly through the feed tube until you have a thick green
fish, grilled meats, or with sauce. For a thinner sauce, add more olive oil. If you dont
artichokes, cauliflower, have a processor, put the basil and garlic in a large mortar
or broccoli. and pound with a pestle. Add the pine nuts, a few at a time,
then the cheese and oil alternately until you have a thick
paste. Add more oil to obtain the consistency you want.

VARIATIONS
Basil Cilantro pesto
Use cilantro instead of fresh basil and walnuts in place
of pine nuts.
Parsley pesto
Parsley and lemon sauce Replace the basil with parsley and use either pine nuts or
1 tbsp Dijon mustard blanched almonds.
juice of 1 lemon Arugula pesto
5fl oz (150ml) extra virgin olive oil Replace the basil with arugula and use walnuts or pine nuts.
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3oz (90g) parsley, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
Whisk the mustard into the lemon juice, add the oil, season,
and stir in the parsley and shallots. Serve with grilled fish,
seafood, or chicken.

Arugula
290 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Basil, mint, and Tartar sauce


red pepper sauce To 114 cups mayonnaise add 1 tsp each of chopped
34 sprigs of fresh mint
parsley, shallot, capers, gherkins, and green olives.
The sauce is good with all fish and seafood, whether
large handful of fresh basil leaves
served hot or cold.
1 red bell pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar Remoulade sauce
3 tbsp olive oil Into 114 cups mayonnaise work 1 tsp Dijon
Strip the leaves from the mint sprigs and chop them mustard and 1 pounded anchovy, then stir
finely with the basil. Scorch the red pepper over a gas in 2 tsp each of chopped parsley, chervil,
flame or under the broiler until blackened all over. Put tarragon, capers, and gherkins. The sauce
it into a plastic bag and let cool, then rub off the skin. goes well with lobster and other seafood.
Remove seeds and membrane, rinse, pat dry, and chop
the flesh finely.
Mix the garlic and seasoning into
the vinegar, then add the oil. Stir
in the herbs and red pepper. This Ravigote sauce
sauce goes well with cold fish, To 23 cup vinaigrette add 1 tbsp chopped capers,
such as poached turbot
1 tbsp chopped shallot, 23 tbsp chopped fresh
or salmon.
herbs (parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon). This
sauce is good with potato salad and grilled fish.

Mint
Sorrel sauce
Sorrel sauce can be made quickly to accompany
fish and eggs. A thick version is also good with
Horseradish and apple sauce lamb chops.
This Austrian sauce (Apfelkren) makes a change 2 cups sorrel leaves
from the standard horseradish cream. It goes well 1 tbsp butter
with beef, with smoked meats and sausages, and 1
2 cup crme frache or whipping cream
with smoked eel and trout. For a milder sauce,
use more cream or add a few fresh bread crumbs salt and freshly ground black pepper
to the mixture. Remove any thick stems from the sorrel and cook the leaves
gently in the butter. They will wilt quickly. Stir in the cream
2 tbsp lemon juice a little at a time; sorrel is acidic, so it is important to balance
1 the sorrel and the cream. Taste and find the balance that
2 cup grated fresh horseradish
suits you. Season with a little salt and pepper.
1 large tart apple
salt and sugar to taste
1
2 cup whipping cream
Stir 1 tbsp lemon juice into the horseradish so that it
doesnt discolor. Peel, core, and grate the apple, and
stir it into the horseradish with the remaining lemon
juice. Season with a little salt and sugar, and let stand
for 15 minutes. Whip the cream lightly and fold it into
the horseradish mixture.
BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SAUCES AND CONDIMENTS 291

Romesco sauce Barnaise sauce


This famous Catalan sauce is particularly popular This sauce is the classic French accompaniment
in Tarragona. Serve it with fish and chicken, and for grilled steak.
with grilled vegetables.
2
3 cup dry white wine
2 ora chile peppers 3 tbsp white wine or tarragon vinegar
1 small, dried hot chile pepper 3 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp blanched almonds 5 sprigs of fresh tarragon
2 tbsp hazelnuts freshly ground white pepper
6 tbsp olive oil 3
4 cup unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves 3 egg yolks
1 slice of white bread, without crusts salt
2 piquillo peppers or 1 red bell pepper, roasted, 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
peeled, and diced or a mixture of tarragon and chervil
2 tsp tomato paste Put the wine, vinegar, shallots, tarragon sprigs, and a good
1 medium ripe tomato, peeled, seeds removed, grinding of pepper into a small, heavy pan over low heat.
and chopped Simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced to 23 tbsp.
2 tbsp white wine vinegar Strain through a fine sieve, pressing the shallots and tarragon
well to extract maximum flavor. Return the liquid to the pan.
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter gently in another pan and set aside. When it
Break open the chile peppers, remove the seeds, and soak has cooled to lukewarm, pour off the clear liquid to use later;
the flesh in hot water for 30 minutes. discard the white residue.
Dry roast the almonds and then the hazelnuts. Rub the Set the pan with the wine and vinegar infusion over very
skins from the hazelnuts in a cloth. low heat and whisk in the egg yolks and a little salt. Add
Heat 2 tbsp oil and fry 2 of the peeled garlic cloves until the melted butter, a tablespoon or so at a time, whisking
lightly colored. Remove the garlic, and fry the slice of continuously. Wait until each spoonful is absorbed before
bread in the same oil. Remove when lightly browned. adding more butter. Remove the pan from the heat before
Put the drained chile peppers, all the garlic, the bread, adding the final spoonful; it will be hot enough to go on
nuts, roasted pepper, and tomato paste into a food cooking the sauce. Stir in the chopped tarragon and check
processor or blender. When you have a smooth sauce, that the seasoning is to taste.
transfer it to a bowl and stir in the tomato, the remaining The sauce can be kept warm for a short time in a bowl
oil, and the vinegar. Taste and season. If the sauce is placed over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water.
too thick, add a little more olive oil or vinegar, or a little
water. The sauce will keep for 23 days, covered, in VARIATION
the refrigerator. Sauce paloise
Replace the tarragon with mint and serve the sauce
with poached fish, grilled chicken, or lamb.

ora chilies

Bowles mint
292 BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES

Green mojo Harissa


Green mojo is a dipping sauce from the Canary This fiery chili sauce is now widely available
Islands, usually served with papas arrugadas commercially, but it is quick and easy to make, and
(wrinkled potatoes): Put unpeeled new potatoes you will find it has more flavor than many on sale,
in a pan and almost cover with cold water. Add which predominantly have a chili bite, but little
1
3 cup salt for each pound (500g) of potatoes. Bring more. It is used throughout North Africa, but it
to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until the is especially popular in Tunisia. It is usually made
potatoes are done, about 15 minutes. Drain, but with dried chile peppers; the local chile pepper
leave the potatoes in the pan over low heat, shaking resembles the slender guajillo of Mexico. If you
them from time to time. They will be wrinkled and prefer to use fresh chile peppers for a table sauce,
salty on the outside, but soft and tender inside. substitute the same quantity as dried and omit
Served with this mojo, they are decidedly the soaking. Harissa is used in cooking and as
moreish. The mojo is also good with fish, meat, a condiment with eggs, couscous, and tagines.
and salads.
312oz (100g) dried hot chile peppers
1 green bell pepper 2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 hot green chile peppers 1
2 tsp salt
10 garlic cloves 1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coarse salt 1 tsp ground caraway
leaves from a bunch of fresh parsley 1
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin olive oil
4 tbsp wine vinegar Break the chile peppers into pieces and discard the seeds.
6 tbsp olive oil Soak the flesh in almost-boiling water for about 30 minutes,
until soft. Meanwhile crush the garlic with the salt.
Remove the seeds and veins from the bell and chile
Drain the chile peppers and pound or process with the
peppers, then chop coarsely. Crush the garlic with the
garlic and spices. Add 12 tbsp olive oil, or more, to loosen
salt. Blend all the ingredients in a blender or processor,
the mixture. Store in a jar under a layer of olive oil for
or pound in a mortar, until you have a smooth paste. Thin
34 weeks.
with water if you wish.
Harissa is usually thinned with oil and lemon juice, water,
Covered with a layer of oil in a closed jar, the sauce
or a few spoonfuls of hot stock from the dish with which it
keeps for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
is to be served.

Chile peppers Coriander


BLENDING HERBS AND SPICES SAUCES AND CONDIMENTS 293

Preserved lemons Thai chile jam


Preserved lemons are a specialty of Morocco, This relish, called nam prik pad in Thai, is similar to
although they are used elsewhere in North Africa. Indonesian sambals. It is served as a condiment or
Traditionally used as a flavoring for meat, fish, and stirred into soups, stir-fries, and rice dishes.
vegetables, they have a distinctive, slightly salty taste
that is also good in salads, salsas, and dressings. 1 tsp shrimp paste (kapi)
8 large, hot red chile peppers, fresh or dried
10 lemons 8 garlic cloves, cut in half
coarse sea salt 8 shallots, cut in half
Cut 5 of the lemons lengthwise into quarters, but stop short 1
4 cup dried shrimp
of separating the quarters completely by leaving the lemons
3 tbsp sunflower oil
uncut at the stem end. Gently pull the lemons open and
sprinkle salt, about 1 tbsp per lemon, onto the exposed flesh; 1 tbsp fish sauce
close up the lemons again and put them into a canning jar. 2 tbsp palm or granulated sugar
Press down well and put a weight (a clean, heavy stone will
2 tbsp tamarind water (p.157)
do) on top, then close the jar.
After 23 days the lemons will have released some of their Wrap the shrimp paste in foil and dry roast in a pan, or
juices. Pour in enough juice from the remaining 5 lemons to in a preheated oven at 400F (200C), for a few minutes.
cover them completely and leave for 1 month. If a piece of Remove stems and, if you wish, seeds from the chile
lemon is exposed to the air it may develop a harmless white peppers. Dry roast the chile peppers, garlic, and shallots
mold that can be washed off. separately in a heavy pan, or in the preheated oven. Do not
The lemons will keep for up to a year; the flavor mellows let them burn. When the chile peppers, garlic, and shallots
with keeping. Only the chopped skin is used; discard the are soft, put them into a food processor with the shrimp
flesh and seeds when you take the pieces from the jar. paste and blend, scraping down the sides if necessary.
Pound the dried shrimp and add them to the mixture.
Heat the oil and fry the paste until it smells fragrant, then
add the fish sauce, sugar, and tamarind water, and cook
until all is well mixed and slightly reduced. Let cool, then
Nam prik store in a jar in the refrigerator for 23 weeks.
This sauce, which translates literally as chile
water, is popular throughout Thailand. Served
with rice, fish, a