Herbs And Spices- Do You Know Them All
Herbs And Spices- Do You Know Them All
Bay leaves Mint
Caraway seed Oregano
Cayenne pepper Pelargonium
Celery seed Pepper
Chervil Poppy seed
Cloves Sesame seed
1. Aromatic herbs and spices have been used in
cooking from the earliest times and they were used
extensively during medieval times when spiced food was
popular. The upsurge in vegetarianism in recent years
has increased awareness of the benefits herbs and spices
can bring to what might otherwise be plain dishes.
Although there is little nutritive value in herbs with the
exception of parsley, they form an important ingredient
in most every menu.
2. Herbs and spices are usually at their best when
picked fresh and used immediately but it is nearly always
more practical and convenient to use them in the dried
state and excellent results can still be achieved. The best
time to gather them for drying and storing is just before
they begin to flower. They should be picked in dry
weather whilst they are still fresh and crips and before
they have been exposed to excessive sunlight. After
removal of all discloured leaves they should be hung up
to dry in bunches or in paper bags. The most satisfactory
and hygienic method and also the cleanest, is to dry them
in a cool oven or in a microwave. With the exception of
sage, which is best dried and stored whole, large leaves
should be picked from the stalk before drying.
3. Herbs should find a place in every kitchen.
They help to bring out the natural taste of food, at the
same time contributing their own subtle flavour and
stimulating the appetite. Herbs should be added at the
start of the cooking process to ensure the flavour blends
into the dish.
4. Herbs and spices constitute additional
seasoning and flavouring agents and, as such, it is
necessary to guard against excessive use. In this
connection it is emphasised that herbs and spices are
used in cooking to improve the dishes natural flavours,
not to hide them.
If particular herbs and spices need to be removed from
the finished product they should be tied up in a small
muslin bag before use and are then easily removed befor
5. Fresh herbs can also make an attractive
garnish. Parsley in particular, both chopped and whole,
is well suited for this purpose. This particular herb is
rich in Vitamin C and should be used frequently.
6. Dried herbs and spices obtained commercially
should only be purchased in small quantities as their
flavour and aroma deteriorate with lengthy storage.
They should only be kept in airtight containers. Flavour
from dried herbs is stronger therefore use only a third of
the amount if substituting dried for fresh.
Angelica: Known for its green candied stalk which is invaluable with
glace cherries as a sweet decoration. A piece of the stalk
added with fruit to be stewed reduces the tartness a little.
Allspice: This is so called because of its flavour, a blend of cloves,
cinnamon and nutmeg. It is the unripe fruit of the pimento
tree. Allspice is ground and used in sauces, pickles,
sausages, fruit pies, cakes and milk puddings.
Aniseed: The fruit and seed of the aniseed plant used for pickles and
confectionery: sweet, spicy in flavour.
Balm: A sweet smelling herb, formerly used as a medicine for
those suffering nervous complaints and depression. It is
now used in soups, stews and casseroles.
Basil: An important culinary herb, which has a nutmeg flavour and
has a special affinity for tomatoes and all dishes that feature
tomatoes, also rich stews, sausages and soups; also used to
make basil vinegar.
Bay leaves: The leaves of the bay laurel or sweet bay tree. They may be
fresh or dried (when the flavour is more pronounced) and
are used in many soups, stews, fish and vegetable dishes, in
which case they can be used in a bouquet garni.
Borage: This grows in swampy soil. The young leaves can be used
in sald. The herb is mainly used in drinks such as claret cup
Capers: Flower buds of the caper bush dried and stored in vinegar or
brine. Used in pickles and sauces they are graded according
to size, smallest being the best.
Caraway Seed: Grown mainly in Holland the seeds are about 5mm long,
shaped like a moon, brown in colour. They are used in seed
cake and certain breads, sauerkraut, cheese and also some
liqueurs such as Kummel.
Cardamon: Aromatic seeds from the cardamon plant used to flavour
soups, curries, meats and baked goods.
Cassia:Resembles cinnamon in flavour colour and aroma but is
coarser and less expensive. May be used instead of
cinnamon but is less suitable for puddings.
Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne is a red pepper which is obtained by grinding
chillies. It is used on savoury dishes and cheese straws. It is
pungent and very hot and should be used sparingly.
Celery Seed: The seed of the celery plant. Used when celery is out of
season for flavouring soups, stews, fish sauces and cheese
dishes. If used in soup or sauce it should be tied in a piece
of muslin. Celery seeds and salt are ground together to
make celery salt.
Chervil: Chervil has small neatly shaped leaves with a delicate
aromatic flavour. It is used fresh or dry. Because of its
attractive shape it is frequently used in decorating cold
Capsicums: The family name for a number of varieties of pepper. There
are two main types: Hot such as chillies and sweet such as
those used as a vegetable.
Chives: Chives are cultivated principally for their leaves which
grown in thick tufts resembling a coarse grass. They may be
cut freely as new leaves quickly replace those taken. In
flavour it is milder than onion and is invaluable in
flavouring hors d’oeuvre, fish, poultry and meat dishes.
Cinnamon: The dried bark of the cinnamon tree. It may be used whole
or finely ground and is used mainly as a spice for flavouring
sweets, puddings, cakes and buns.
Cloves: The dried flower buds of the clove tree. Used in flavouring
fruit, pickles and many other foods.
Coriander: A plant grown for both the leaves and its seeds. Its leaves
are used in oriental cookery and to flavour cold soups and
salads. The seeds which are hot and spicy are an essential
ingredient in curries.
Cumin: Seeds similar to caraway though with a different flavour
which are used in curry powder, seasoning sausages, rice
dishes, soups, cheese and canapes.
Dill: The feathery leaves of this European plant are used as a herb
and the dried seeds as a spice. Dill leaves have a mild
caraway like flavour and need to be used in fairly large
quantities. Used in salads and as a garnish for scrambled
eggs and white meat dishes. Classically used with salmon in
the Scandinavian dish Gravad Lax. The dried seeds are
more pungent and are used to flavour vinegar and dill pickles.
Fennel: Traditionally associated with fish this herb has a strong
aniseed flavour, it can be used in court bouillon when
poaching fish. The tuberous root of Florence Fennel is used
as a delicate vegetable.
Fines Herbs: This is a mixture of fresh herbs usually chervil, tarragon and
parsley and is referred to in many classical recipes.
Fenugreek: This plant belongs to the pea family. The pods contain
brown seeds which are roasted and dried, then ground for
use as a spice. Fenugreek is an ingredient in curry powder.
Garlic: A bulbous vegetable similar to a small onion or shallot. It
has a very pungent flavour and should be sparingly used for
flavouring salds, stews, sauces etc.
Ginger: The root of a plant widely grown in the Far East. It should
be boiled in water and sugar syrup until soft. Ground ginger
is used for baked goods and the whole root is used in
curries, pickles and sauces.
Mace: This is the dried outer of the nutmeg seed. Ground or in
blade form it is used to flavour soups, sausages, cakes and
Marjoram: A sweet herb which may be used fresh in salads, pork, fish,
poultry, cheese, egg and vegetable dishes and when dried,
can be used for flavouring soups, sauces, stews and certain
Mint: Various mints are grown for culinary use but mostly garden
or spearmint is used. An aromatic green leaved herb, the
leaves of which when chopped and mixed with sugar and
vinegar make mint sauce. Used also for flavouring new
potatoes, peas, lamb and cold dishes.
Mustard: The seed of the mustard plant, ground to a fine powder after
most of the oil has been extracted. It is used in mayonnaise,
devilled dishes and welsh rarebit.
Nutmeg: The nutmeg tree which grows in tropical countries bears a
large fruit similar to an apricot which when ripe splits.
Inside the nut is the seed which is the nutmeg. Its main uses
are in baking and pastry work. It can also be used in pastas,
egg and cheese dishes. It is grated and used sparingly.
Oregano: Is similar in flavour to marjoram but stronger. Used in
Italian and Greek style cooking such as salads, soups,
stuffings, pasta sauces, vegetables and egg dishes.
Paprika: A red powder prepared from a variety of sweet red
capsicum. An essential ingredient of goulash and also used
in pizzas and in pasta and chicken dishes.
Parsley: Probably the most commonly used herb. Used in fresh and
dried form as a garnish. It can be added to almost every
salad or deep fried in sprigs as a garnish. Fresh parsley
combined with lemon juice makes an intersting sorbet.
Other uses are dressings, soups, casseroles, fish, cheese,
Pelargonium: A plant with snowy flavours and fragrant leaves which adds
an unusual sweet flavour to milk puddings.
Pepper:Dried berries from the shrub of the pepper plant which
grows in tropical climates. The black peppercorn being
unripe and the white fully ripe. They are used whole as a
flavouring agent or when ground for seasoning.
Poppy Seed: Small seeds of the poppy plant. Blue-black in colour.
Mainly used for garnishing bread and rolls but can be used
in pastries, dips, salad dressings and curries.
Rosemary: Rosemary is a strongly flavoured herb and should be used in
moderation. It may be used fresh or dried in sauces, roats,
stews and fish dishes.
Saffron: Grown maihnly in Spain they are the dried strands from the
saffron crocus. This is a flavouring and colouring spice
used in rice dishes and giving a yellow colour. It is very
Sage: Common sage has pale green leaves. It has a strong slightly
bitter taste. It aids the digestion when eaten with fatty
foods. Mainly used as a stuffing for prok, duck and goose.
Sesame Seed: Rich, sweet nut-like flavour. Closely resembles the flavour
of toasted almonds, mainly used to decorate yeast products.
Tarragon: A bright green attractive leaf used fresh to flavour bearnaise
sauce and vinegar. Coloured for decorative purposes in cold
fish and chicken dishes.
Thyme: The root of a plant of the ginger family similar in
appearance to fresh ginger but bright orange when peeled.
Vanilla: Long black pods derived from the climbing orchids. Infuse
a pod in milk or cream when making custard or sweet
sauces. Vanilla essence is extracted from the vanilla pod
and is used for flavouring sweet dishes
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