By Mariève Inoue
Most people use seasonings such as salt and pepper, parsley, and thyme, on a regular basis when cooking. But what about less common spices? Always on the lookout for ways to make our food tastier, divine.ca has five unique spices for you to incorporate into your cooking, in an effort to diversify your palate. Plus, we’ve got hints on how to use them and recipes to try for each one!
Sumac comes from the berries of a wild bush that grows in Mediterranean regions. It is widely-used in Middle Eastern and Greek cooking, usually in salads or with red meats. It is available in both berry and ground powder form.
Note: the sumac spice (Rhus coriaria) used in cooking should not be confused with the more common, poisonous sumac berries (Rhus vernix) that grow in certain regions of North America.
The taste: sour, tart, and slightly fruity.
How to use it: try adding a pinch of it on top of hummus, or using it as a rub for grilled meats. Why not try sprinkling a small amount on white rice to add a bit of flavour? You can also use sumac to make several beverages, from “Sumac-ade ” to sumac wine, and tea.
Chinese star anise
Chinese star anise is a spice that closely resembles anise in flavour, and is sometimes used as a substitute. It is obtained from the star-shaped fruit of a tree that grows in China. Chinese star anise is commonly used in Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian cooking, and is one of the ingredients contained in Chinese five-spice powder. It is available in whole star form, and can be separated or ground as needed.
The taste: very similar to anise—sweet, and liquorice-y.
How to use it: Chinese star anise goes well with meats and poultry, especially pork and duck. It can also be used with fish and beef, and works well with seafood, especially shrimp and lobster. It can also be put in jams, and in sweets.
Cardamom comes in the form of small pods containing seeds, which grow in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Indochina and Tanzania. It is one of the world’s most ancient spices, commonly used in Indian cooking, as well as in baking in the Nordic countries. Cardamom is available in pods (whole or split) or seeds (loose or ground), but is best preserved in its original pods.
The taste: intense, very aromatic and sweet.
How to use it: try adding a pinch to your ground coffee, and to pastries, cake and other sweets. It can also be added to curries, meat and poultry, as well as lentils.
Szechwan pepper comes from the dried berry of a tree and is not actually a member of the pepper family. Unlike black pepper, which comes from India, Szechuan pepper originates from China. It has a unique aroma and flavour, and sets the stage for hotter spices. It is often used in Szechuan cuisine together with star anise and ginger.
The taste: it has lemony overtones, and causes a slight tingly feeling in the mouth.
How to use it: Szechuan pepper goes well with fish, and poultry dishes, as well as fried eggplant. It can also be used to make a mean spicy chocolate frosting!
Fenugreek originaes from India and Southern Europe, and also grows wild in the Mediterranean and North Africa. It comes from the small seeds of a bean-like plant. Fenugreek is used as a spice for cooking, but also has therapeutic uses, mostly for treating animals. It is available whole and dried, and as a powder ground from the seeds.
The taste: strong, aromatic, with a bitter aftertaste similar to celery.
How to use it: fenugreek can be used in curries, as well as in pickles and chutneys. Mixed into the dough, it can be used to make spicy bread. It can also be infused to make tea.
Originally published by Divine.ca