It’s taken me too long to realise that buying spices from a supermarket in those little 40g jars is a really bad idea, for at least two reasons: Firstly and most importantly, it suggests an ungenerous approach to the use of spices. They are not something that should be added to dishes by the milligram – a couple of grains here, a couple there. They should be used in abundance – you should know when they are being used in a dish. There’s no place for subtlety where spices are concerned – not in my kitchen. You have to be bold.
I have to thank Taimur and his egyptian salad (lettuce, lots of cumin, lots of lemon juice, olive oil, lots of salt and pepper, lots more cumin) for helping me finally understand this – the first mouthful took a big swing and punched me, very hard, in the face. Bugger subtlety – I’d much rather my food punched me in the mouth than blew in my ear.
Secondly, it’s a complete rip off – two quid for a tiny jar of seeds that lasts a couple of weeks. The worst offenders, and the ones that I have so far managed to avoid, are the bay leaves. Two quid for about ten leaves from a tree that grows in every municipal park up and down the country. Twenty pence for a leaf. Honestly.
So I’m going online to buy in bulk – I want a kilo each of cumin, fennel, peppercorns, coriander, star anise, caraway, cardamom and cloves. And I’m buying a bay tree.
Oh – and don’t ever buy the stuff already ground. Just buy a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder you lazy shit.
Anyway – if I do manage to get hold of eight kilos of spices, I’m going to have to up my game, so here begins the first of a possible series on how to better use your spices. I’ll start with cumin – probably the best spice of all, with just a few ideas:
In your bread – a couple of spoons in your bread mix – really good toasted with strawberry jam.
As a dry rub for beef – pounded with salt and pepper and rubbed over beef fillet 10 mins before frying.
In soup – added to cauliflower soup (or squash soup) – along with a few drops of truffle oil.
With chocolate – grind half a teaspoon and add to a chocolate torte or white chocolate mousse.
In chutney – perfect in a chilli plum and onion chutney
In every curry you ever make – how could you without it?
And of course in a lemon and cumin salad dressing – thanks Taimur
I finally managed to get hold of my spices (see below) – I got the lot – a Kg of each for £40. I then tried to buy the same amount on Ocado in those little jars – would have cost £360. Enough said…