What’s big on flavour and low on kilojoules? Spices – simply add to any dish for a satisfying, healthy flavour kick. The Sprout team show you some tasty ways to spice up your life, as well as a lip-smackingly good curry!
Give every meal a low-kJ flavour boost
Spices are a kilojoule- and sodium-free way to pack flavour into your meals – and are also rich in health-giving antioxidants. They’re a much healthier way to dress up your dinner than using packet sauces, which are often high in sodium (salt), which contributes to high blood pressure and your risk of stroke.
Spices – and their flavour cousins, herbs – can give a range of foods, such as vegies, pastas, curries and soups, an appealing boost of flavour.
Most spices taste best after they have been heated, as this helps to release the volatile oils that add aroma and flavour to dishes. It’s best to toast spices at the start of the cooking process, before adding liquids such as water, wine, or stock. Do this by adding them to your frying pan when cooking onions or garlic.
For convenience, many people buy ground spices rather than whole spices, (which you need to grind or grate yourself). Ground spices will begin to lose flavour after around six months, while whole spices can last up to two or three years.
It’s worth noting spices won’t spoil but they will lose flavour – so taste them to determine if they’ve passed their best! Spices retain their flavour most when stored in airtight containers in dark cupboards as heat and sunlight will cause them to lose their flavour faster.
If you haven’t used a spice before, ensure you smell it, or even taste a little, before you add it to your dish so you’ll know how it will affect the flavour of your food – before it’s too late!
Using herbs and spices
Try these great ways to add herbs and spices to your everyday meals:
Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg over 1/2 roast butternut pumpkin. The nutty flavour of the nutmeg complements the sweet flavour of the pumpkin beautifully.
Sprinkle fresh rosemary over roast potato, sweet potato and eggplant.
Make a dry rub for meats with equal parts ground coriander and cumin.
Star anise gives Asian-style soups a fantastic aroma and flavour. Add two or three dried star anise to your soup while cooking.
Paprika gives chicken great colour and smoky flavour. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon over chicken breast before cooking.
Cumin makes hommous extra tasty. Add 1 teaspoon per 400g can chickpeas while blending.
For a spicy, authentic Chai drink, combine 1/2 teaspoon each cardamom and cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract with 250ml skim milk.
Add a little cayenne pepper to Mexican or Cajun dishes for a lovely heat. Try adding 1/2 tablespoon to chilli con carne while cooking.
Spice for life
Did you know that culinary spices have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any foods? Antioxidants help to prevent damage to cells, which is why they are believed to play a role in reducing the risk of certain diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Researchers in Norway have found that just 1/2 teaspoon of cloves has the same amount of antioxidants as 1/2 cup blueberries, while 1/2 teaspoon oregano is equal to 1/2 cup sweet potato. No wonder then, that these researchers described spices as “important contributors to our antioxidant intake”.
Sprout is an Adelaide-based cooking school founded by Callum Hann (Masterchef 2010 runner-up) and Themis Chryssidis (APD and personal trainer). Callum and Themis are passionate about teaching others to prepare healthy, fresh, tasty meals and sharing handy nutritional advice. Visit Sprout at www.sproutcooking.com.au.