Shake up your spice rack with exciting new varieties to transform your meals. Move over mustard and pass up the paprika, it’s time to try some other weird and wonderful spices from around the globe!
Buying and storing
There are thousands of spice varieties and mixes out there so we’ve selected a collection that you can get your hands on in bigger supermarkets, Asian food shops and online.
Spices last longer if kept in air-tight containers in a cool, dark place. Ground spices last for six months to two years and whole spices for up to four years. FYI, a coffee grinder makes easy work of hard whole spices.
The A – S of unusual spices
Made from the gum of the giant fennel plant, asafoetida is a powdered spice with an onion-garlic flavour that’s favoured in Indian cooking. It works well in veggie dishes, stews and pretty much any recipe that uses onion and garlic.
Try it in these delicious carrot, onion and spinach bhajis.
Baharat is an Arabic spice mix made with coriander, cumin, cardamom and more. It has a warm, sweet flavour that’s great for meats, stews and rice dishes.
Give it a go with this slow roasted lamb and Baharat with yogurt and mint dip.
Not to be confused with the more common green cardamom, black cardamom has an intense smoky flavour with hints of ginger and menthol. It’s used in savoury dishes in India, China and Vietnam.
Sample it in this aromatic wild mushroom pilaff.
Looks a lot like ginger but tastes noticeably different (it’s peppery, spicy and more citrussy than ginger), galangal is a common ingredient in Indonesian and Malaysian dishes. It’s becoming more widely available in the UK and can be bought as a root or paste.
Taste the difference in these flavour filled Thai fishcakes with dipping sauce.
Kaffir lime leaves
A staple ingredient in Thai dishes, dried kaffir lime leaves have a distinct spicy, citrussy flavour that holds well in cooking (so go easy when adding!)
Use them in this easy vegan Penang curry.
These tiny black seeds add aroma and crunch to stews, curries, breads and pastries in Middle Eastern, North African and Indian cuisine. They taste of pepper, oregano and onion, which might be why they’re sometimes known as black onion seeds.
Sprinkle them in this recipe for simple summer greens with coconut – delish!
Ras el hanout
This Moroccan spice blend can include 40 or more different elements – yeesh! As the ingredients differ, it’s tricky to describe the taste but ultimately, it’s a rich, complex flavour that goes well with meat, especially lamb. Equally good in a veggie tagine though.
Try making your own blend with this how-to. Don’t panic – this one has a mere 13 different spices!
With its standout colour and tangy taste (like lemon but not as sharp) this spice is great for salads, dips, spice blends and dry rubs for meat. Sumac’s flavour is reduced the more it’s heated so add towards the end of the recipe if possible.
Try it in this succulent pomegranate and sumac roast chicken.
Unlike regular peppercorn, Szechuan peppercorn delivers a sharp, mildly citrussy flavour as well as a slight mouth-numbing, tongue-tingling sensation. Wow! It’s generally used in Chinese, Indian and Tibetan food and is well worth a try.
Get a hit with these Chinese salt and pepper spareribs.
Next time you’re in the spice aisle, be bold with your choices and discover some amazing new flavours!