Spice up your life.

I’m not going to bang on about salt, well not much. There is a blog on chooroo about salt; ‘Are you being a-salt-ed?’ Suffice to say, you don’t need it, get rid of it. Your taste buds will have a sook at first but eventually, and it doesn’t take too long, you will get used to being salt fee and begin to taste all that glorious food again.

The Heart Foundation website has a link ‘Flavouring food without salt’ and includes recipes.

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/salt/salt-substitutes

Remember: Don’t bother with salt substitutes, most contain potassium, especially if you have heart disease. You might find it will be more harmful to your health. You are better off sticking to spices and herbs, many of which you can grow yourself.

A spice is a seed, fruit root, bark, flower or stem of a plant used to flavour, colour or preserve food.

Herbs also flavour food but come from the leafy green part of the plant.

 

To get you started with some herbs to pack a punch and can be used in your cooking instead of salt: Basil, coriander, rosemary, parsley, mint, dill and oregano. In the tropics grow Thai coriander and Vietnamese mint. I have never had any luck growing rosemary up here but other people have.

History of Spice

The spice trade developed throughout the Indian subcontinent about 2000BC. Cinnamon and Black Pepper were common. Egyptians used herbs for mummification and their demand stimulated world trade.

Around 1000BC herbs and spices were used for medicinal purposes in China, Korea and India. Cloves were used in Mesopotamia and the Romans in the 1st century.

The earliest documented evidence of spices came from Egypt, China and India. Nutmeg from South East Asia was introduced to Europe in the 6th Century. “Spices were among the most demanded and expensive products available in Europe in the middle ages, and therefore used exclusively by the aristocracy.” You will find a detailed history of spices in Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spice

Today many spices bought in supermarkets are blended and ‘diluted’ with other plant products which culminates in very inferior products. Every trip to Bali I ensure I visit the spice gardens. The spices there are very aromatic and far stronger than what I am used to eating in Australia. Fortunately I can bring most of my favourites back home. Every trip to Bali includes a mandatory trip to the beautiful spice gardens. I find Indian spices from an Indian grocer are better in quality and flavour so shop around.

Whole spices have the longest shelf life but it does mean you will need to grind with a mortar and pestle or buy a coffee grinder. I use a mortar and pestle, it takes seconds to grind whole pepper for example. It is worth the effort for a stronger flavour.

For an extensive list of spices and herbs with definitions I suggest looking at the following link.  https://www.spicesinc.com/t-list-of-spices.aspx

Heat, light and moisture damage spices. A few don’ts:

  1. Don’t store in the fridge.
  2. Don’t put in that convenient cupboard above the stove.
  3. Don’t keep in clear jars on the bench.
  4. Don’t add to your cooking by tipping up the jar, the steam will ruin the rest of the jar/bag.

Herbs and spices have a very short shelf life. You need to keep an eye on your stock. Don’t be tempted to buy in bulk unless you use that particular spice all the time.

A cellar is the ultimate place but I live in an elevated house in the tropics so that’s out. Keep small amounts in airtight jars or sealed bags and keep in a cupboard or pantry out of the light. Don’t leave them sitting there for months on end. I’ve done that before and you can imagine the disappointment when I find my spices are ruined, or worse weevils have set up a fine home for themselves there.  Your sense of smell is a first step. No smell? Chuck it out.

An Indian friend introduced me to the masala dabba. Small amounts of frequently used spices can be stored here which lessens the rest of your stock becoming ruined.

When it comes to herbs and spices fresh, fresh, fresh is ideal.

The kitchen of chooroo uses herbs and spices in all of their dishes. If salt is missing, and let’s face it salt was all we had for hundreds of years. (Salt was also used to preserve food which was essential) A smattering of selected spices is welcome in any meal. I tend to eat salads without dressing but I do add capsicum, onion/spring onion/red onion, basil and parsley to salads. I enjoy the flavours of a variety of food and do not always need to spice it up especially fish and shellfish.

Moroccan spice is a favourite for one of the chooroo chefs but he won’t part with his secret mixture. You will find a plethora of recipes on Google. The main ingredients include cumin, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, allspice and cloves. Have a bit of fun and see what you can create for your own secret recipe.

There are numerous Australian herbs and spices and many go very well with game meat. My father often picked wild peaches (which are more commonly known as quandongs) and we enjoyed many a delicious wild peach pie or stewed wild peaches with custard and/or ice cream, but I digress.

Australian bush foods are becoming very popular and it is fun trying different spices grown in our country.

“…eating indigenous foods simply makes sense on an environmental level. “Most of these plants don’t need any extra water or fertiliser, and they’re perennials,” says Bruce. “They have deep root systems which means they’re sequestering carbon and maintaining soil health. A lot of the introduced foods are annuals which require yearly ploughing, and that’s decimating our soil health. So there are lots of very logical reasons why we should be using Aboriginal food, but we should also be determined to do so in an environmentally friendly way. We can no longer afford to farm this country using European techniques.”  Bruce Pascoe. The entire article is well worth reading. https://mattersjournal.com/stories/swallowingourhistory

For further information about Australian herbs and spices there are several sources on Google. I have included a couple of them.

https://www.bushtuckershop.com/collections/rare-native-herbs-spices

https://edibleoz.com.au/collections/native-herbs-spices

-Written by Jane Whitehead

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