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01935 826464 / 826416

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Spices - what we use and why

Bay leaf is one of the oldest herbs or spice. It is native of Asia Minor and is known by the name of sweet bay, bay laurel, noble laurel and true laurel. These leaves have an aromatic odour and are bitter and spicy.

Cardamom is world's second most expensive spice and is the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family having seeds embedded in pods. It is one of India's favourite spices, used in curries, savoury and sweet dishes, ice cream and custards and is often combined with almonds and saffron. It is used medicinally as a stimulant, for indigestion and flatulence. Fruits and seeds have a pleasant aroma and leave a sweet, pungent taste behind when chewed. Cardamom has a sweet, lemony, eucalyptus flavour. It is also sometimes considered to be an aphrodisiac in traditional systems of medicine.

Bay leaves


Cayenne pepper powder comes from red hot chili peppers that are not only good to eat but are great for your health. The fruit or body of the peppers is dried then ground down, pulped and baked into cakes, which are then sifted to make the spice known as cayenne pepper. Red hot chilli peppers are sometimes referred to as cayenne peppers.  It has been used for centuries as a medicinal and culinary herb.  Cayenne pepper is used to provide the heat for many spicy dishes.

Cayenne pepper

Chillies are one of the largest traded spices in the international market. Chillies are also known as red chillies, capsicum or paprika depending on the species and variety. This spice is extensively used for food flavouring and colouring and also for certain medicinal properties. Red chillies are available in a number of varieties, colors and fragrances. Dry chillies and red chillies powder are widely used for colouring and flavouring in different cuisines and dishes and as a major ingredient in various seasonings, pepper and tabasco sauce.  Medicinally, they are used to control rheumatic disorders and they are a good source of vitamin C.


Cinnamon is the dried bark of various species of laurel. It is widely used in cooking, having a sweet taste and a warm, woody aroma. The smell of cinnamon is pleasant, stimulates the senses, yet calms the nerves. It is available as a powder but is much better bought in sticks. When ground, the flavour becomes stronger.


The word clove is derived from the word clou which means nail. It originates from India and is the aromatic flower bud of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. It is used as spice in cuisine all over the world to impart its distinctive flavour.  Since the aroma is strong, only little is required to be used.


Coriander seeds are widely used in whole or in a powdered form for food seasoning and flavouring, aroma and garnishing.  Coriander tastes sweet and tangy, with a slightly citrus flavour and used in fish and savoury dishes and as a basic ingredient of curry powder.


Cumin seeds can be used for cooking as whole seeds or ground to a powder. The spice has a nutty aroma and a taste that is bitter, but not hot.  Cumin is usually dry-fried before use and is used to flavour rice, stuffed vegetables, many savoury dishes and curries.


Fennel seeds have a sweet and aniseed-like flavour and, used in cooking, add a warmth and sweetness to curries. It is also used as a mouth freshener!


Fenugreek is the small seed that is produced from the pod of a bean-like plant. Natural fenugreek seeds come in many shapes, but are generally angular, yellowish brown in appearance and are very hard. When the seeds are ground they have a spicy aroma and an aromatic and bittersweet flavour.  In powdered form, fenugreek is one of the main ingredients of curry powders.


This is an aromatic mixture of ground spices used as a base in many Indian dishes. The proportion of spices varies according to the dish being cooked but typical ingredients are cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, with substitutions or additions made depending on whether the dish includes meat, vegetables or fish.

Garam Masala

Garlic is one of the most popular spices in the world and is quite similar to onion. The difference is that in the onion there is single bulb whereas garlic produces a compound bulb consisting of segments, or cloves.  Garlic is used in virtually every type of cuisine and medicinally some of the conditions for which it is claimed to have positive effect include heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, improvement of immunity, regulation of blood sugar level and an aid to fighting the common cold!


Ginger derives its name from the Sanskrit word stringa-vera, which means "with a body like a horn". The spice is used extensively for culinary and medicinal applications and has a peppery flavour and is slightly sweet with a pungent and spicy aroma.


Mango Powder is a dried spice, extensively used for its taste and flavour adding a tangy, sour flavour. The taste of the spice is somewhat similar to tamarind.

Mango powder

This herb is often used with lamb. It has a sweet, pleasantly pungent and strong flavour with hints of a sharp lemony taste. Indian mint has a stronger flavour and a more pungent aroma than Western varieties and is often added to biryanis.  It is also used as an ingredient in lassi - the refreshing North Indian drink.


Mustard seeds come in three basic varieties, white brown and black.  White mustard seed (actually yellow) has the mildest flavour and black the strongest. The white variety is used in a ground form to make English mustard. Mustard has a hot flavour when it is mixed with water. The seeds can also be put whole into very hot oil and 'popped'.

Mustard seeds

Nutmeg & Mace are derived from the same plant; nutmeg seed being the seed kernel derived from the fruit and mace being the lacy covering on the seed kernel. It is one of the most sought after and internationally traded spices after pepper, chillies and basil.  Both nutmeg and mace have a nutty, warm and slightly sweet flavour and are used to add a sweet and savory flavour to dishes such as pies, puddings, cakes and vegetables as well as egg, lamb and fish dishes and to beverages.

Nutmeg & Mace

Black Onion seed, also known as Kalonji Seeds or Nigella Seed, has a distinctive flavour and is typically used to flavour naan bread. It is also used as a spice in the preparation of oil based pickles.

Onion seeds

Oregano is a member of the mint family and has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity.


Paprika is a spice made from the grinding of dried fruits of Capsicum Annuum (e.g., bell peppers or chili peppers).  It is a red or brown powder and milder than cayenne.  It is used to add color and flavour to dishes such as eggs, fish, chicken, crab and cheese.


Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is the dried fruit of a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae.  Peppercorns, and the powdered pepper derived from grinding them, may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper, white pepper, or green pepper. Green peppercorns are simply the immature black peppercorns.  Once ground, pepper's aromatics can evaporate quickly which is why most culinary sources recommend grinding whole peppercorns immediately before use.


Saffron, the most expensive spice by weight, is derived from the flower of the saffron crocus.  It has a bitter taste and a  hay-like fragrance.  Saffron is used mainly to colour rice dishes, sweets, puddings, sauces and soups to bright yellow.


The Star Anise tree has eight-pointed, woody, star-shaped fruits (actually seedpods) that contain anethole, which give anise its distinctive flavour which is licorice-like, but stronger.  The seed pods are collected unripe for chewing as a breath freshener and digestive tonic, and when ripe, for the oil used in oriental cuisines, herbal medicines and other commercial products, including Sambuca and Pernod.

Star Anise

The fruit of the Tamarind tree has a fleshy, juicy, acidulous pulp which, when dried and used in cooking, has a sour and acidic taste. It is used in many meat or pulse based dishes to add a distinctive sour quality.


Turmeric is an essential spice in Indian food, giving food a rich, appetizing color and a warm, earthy aroma and taste.  Turmeric is currently being investigated for possible benefits in Alzheimer's disease, cancer, arthritis, and many other clinical disorders.  It also helps the body to metabolize fats and so aids weight loss.


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