How to choose suitable spices for our recipes
Scientific name: Sesamun indicum
Other names: Til
Black, brown or white oval-shaped seeds. They can be eaten raw or toasted, with which its aroma will be strengthened. Nut and toasted nut flavour and taste. The oil must be used carefully as it is highly aromatic.
Added to vinaigrettes to dress salads, fowl casseroles or roasted fish. A few seeds in tempura dough add a special touch to fried food, dishes based on vegetables, on purées or creams. It is also very used in pastry-making and baking. Pretty aromatic oil got from seed pressing can be used in dressings, vinaigrettes and oriental cooking dishes. It is essential in tahini sauce and Hummus, (see recipe).
Scientific name: Pimpinella anisum.
Dark colour oval seeds with grooves, sweet taste and slightly spicy taste. This plant is cultivated in hot and sunny climates. Considered to be a digestion and colic painkiller, diuretic and expectorant.
Used in the making of liquors such as Anise, Chinchón, Pernord, Pastis, etc. We can find it in the kitchen in the composition of curry powder for fish and vegetables, but it is used, above all, in pastry-making and confectionery. It is also used in fruit salads, apple pies, ring-shaped pastry or crumbly shortbreads.
Scientific name: Illicium anisum
Other names: Badiana
Star-shaped fruit that turns brown reddish colour when dried. It is a tree from Chinese origin, from the family of magnolias and it grows up to eight meters height which gives off a soft and pleasant aroma. The same medicinal properties as anise are attributed to star anise. It makes digestion easier after meals.
It is a part of spice combination for liquor-making such as anise, Pastis, Pernord, etc. It is also used to make pork and duck roast fragrant in Chinese cooking. We can use it for fowls and game meat marinades, in pastry making, infusions, dessert sauces, etc.
Scientific name: Crocus sativus
Other names: Zafran
It is an annual plant regenerated from the bulb. The used parts are the orange flower stigmas. Its flower only has three vivid crimson stigmas; that is why it is currently one of the most expensive spices. Spain is one of the main saffron producers.
It has a deep aroma, with a slightly bitter flavour so that, apart from its price, its use is not so advisable in our methods. Saffron also contributes to a yellow colouring to foods. It is considered a tonic and stimulant from a medicinal point of view.
We should consider that we will lose its aroma if we leave it cooking too much time. It is better adding it at the very last moment. It is not advisable to fry it neither, as it will lose its properties. There is also false saffron which is only a colour provider. We must be careful above all when buying it in abundance at the market.
Dishes such as paella or bouillabaisse (Marseilles fish soup) where saffron is essential. It will also be used in legume and vegetable stews, rice, sauces for fish and seafood, soups and creams, desserts, syrups, etc.
Scientific name: Trigonella foenum graecum
Other names: Alholva, Bird’s Foot, Bockshornklee
Annual herbaceous plant, originally from Asia. The oval brown reddish colour seeds are used. Its consumption is pretty extended in Asian and African countries. It has a strong and bitter flavour similar to toasted caramel, slightly sweet aroma. Heart health medicinal properties are attributed to fenugreek and also to fight the lack of appetite, anaemia and diabetes. It was also used to fight skin diseases, abscesses and wounds.
It is part of the spice mixing from Indian curry powder and employed in chutney making. Vegetable soups and legume creams, meat stews, vegetables…etc. Sprouted grains have less strong flavour and aroma and they are employed in salads, meat and fish garnish. The use of fenugreek is not generally very common in European countries.