Wednesday 30 September 2020

Spicing It Up

 I tidied up my herb and spice rack yesterday. A salutory experience 

Some stuff was way past its use by date. 2019 items I'll probably keep - but 2005 no way! Then there was the banana essence. I had a Margeurite Patten wartime recipe, for making "mock banana" from stewed parsnips. But I never did make it. And the label says "colouring may cause hyperactivity in children" That went in the bin too.

I've been building up my spice collection for years - and refilling jars from cheaper packets. So I have three different sizes/styles of Sainsbury's jars. I like the newest [fully recyclable] ones best with clearly labelled jar and lid. My alphabetical collection goes from Bay Leaves to Za'atar. Since discovering Yotam Ottolenghi I've acquired some fairly exotic stuff. I've bestrewn salads with crimson sumac, and sprinkled Ras Al Hanout in tagines. My dear Mum wouldn't recognise most of these. I was born the year after rationing ended. Mum's kitchen cabinet had very few spices; 

  • ready grated nutmeg for rice puddings
  • cloves for apple pies and crumbles
  • mixed spice for Christmas cakes and puds
  • ground ginger to sprinkle onto melon slices
  • caraway seeds for seed cake
  • mustard powder, made up for roast beef - a rare treat
And there was fresh mint from the garden for mint sauce or to go in the the new potatoes. 
And that was it! Pepper was a dusty white powder - never freshly ground from a peppermill. No curry powder [and rice was round, short grained, just for puddings] And saffron... despite living near the town of Saffron Walden, we knew nothing of this costly golden ingredient. How things have changed - the supermarkets stock dozens of herbs and spices sourced from all around the globe. 
But what's my favourite spice? I use smoked paprika a lot, and turmeric - but like Mum, I'm really fond of nutmeg. When I grate it over my rice puds, memories of Sunday lunches 60 years ago come flooding back.... 
What's your special spice? 


  1. Hmmmm...good question. I really like Paprika and Tumeric is also a favourite. We use mustard seeds for recipes. I'm more fond of herbs though- Giant chives grow in our garden and I adore them as well as Marjoram with tomatoes. Mint tea is something I love too.

  2. Last time our daughter (39) came to visit she wanted to make us a new Brazilian recipe she had tried. She said we'd need to buy Paprika but I said that I thought I had some in the pantry. I knew it was old but was shocked when she found it and began laughing out loud. She said
    " You have had this longer than you have had me!"
    How time flies!

    1. 39+ years MUST win the prize for the oldest spice in the rack! I do hope your daughter bought you a new jar!

  3. When we tidy up in the spices we realise how quickly time goes, I think there is always some way too old! My favorite spice is pepper, paprika and chili.

  4. I have a tin of Paprika that must be as old as the others'! I bought it in Sicily because I liked the tin, never occuring to me to chuck the contents. I've just been shamed into doing that now. Apart from that, I use Basil a great deal.

  5. Favourite spices are smoked paprika, cinnamon and cumin. We use lots and lots of spices. I really like adding panch pouran to fried green beans and peppers when making a curry. We nearly always buy our spices from the Indian or Chinese supermarkets in Newcastle. The large packets are much more cost effective than the small jars. We have large resealable tubs for many of our spices.

    1. I do agree about buying from the ethnic supermarkets - much better value than the British ones.

  6. My latest go to is celery salt! I use a lot of turmeric. Cheers

  7. Too funny - I did the exact same thing yesterday! Hauled out all the little jars, wiped them all down, topped up each and made new labels. Then I washed the lazy Susan that I store them on and wrote down all the ones that I need to replace. I also listed a few new ones to try including Sumac and Zaatar!
    I love cinnamon - but now love to use ground Cumin and Coriander in a lot of dishes.

  8. My favourite is nutmeg too. It reminds me of semolina made by my dear Nana.


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!