Spice it up

Nothing beats fresh, but many herbs are seasonal, and spices not readily produced in New Zealand.

That’s where a spice box comes in handy. Fill it with dried and powdered herbs and spices, keep it handy to the cooktop and add a dash here and there for heat, taste and zing, especially in ethnic recipes. Not only do herbs and spices combine for flavour sensations, many have also been found to have various health benefits. For example, studies have shown that garlic, fenugreek and lemongrass may help lower cholesterol. Among the more popular are chillies, paprika, and cinnamon.

Here are other popular options to stock your spice drawers:

The plant’s seeds and leaves are often featured in Indian cooking as both spice and garnish, and is a key element in garam masala (a blend of ground spices).

Cumin has long been used in traditional medicine and is a rich source of iron. It is used in a popular Indian snack called murukku.

Ginger is an essential ingredient in ethnic cuisine, found in dishes such as chickpea stew, aloo gobi, matar paneer, and dal makhani.

This bright yellow spice gives many Indian dishes their characteristic colour. It’s also known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Cardamom is a spice that provides a wide range of potential health benefits, and is used widely in Asian cooking. Coming from the seeds of plants that belong to the ginger family, people often consume cardamom in teas, such as chai tea, as well as desserts, and savoury dishes.

Ancient civilisations have used cinnamon since 2800 BCE for anointing, embalming, and treating ailments. Cinnamon still provides myriad health benefits as an antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and anticarcinogenic spice.

Research suggests that capsaicin, the phytochemical that makes chilli powder spicy, may play an important role in regulating heart and metabolic health. The spice triggers beneficial protein changes in the body that have been linked to weight loss, cardiovascular benefits, and to alleviating muscle and joint inflammation.

Throughout history, the main use of garlic has been for its medicinal properties in combatting sickness, including the common cold, and for its beneficial effects on heart health. Studies have linked it to reducing high cholesterol, and causing significant reductions in high blood pressure.

Made from the fruit of the Chinese evergreen tree Illicium verum, this spice has a flavour reminiscent of liquorice. It is famed for its distinct flavour, numerous culinary applications, and for medicinal benefits, such as being rich in powerful bioactive compounds.


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