Seasoning food with spiced and herbs is an art. With hundreds of spices to choose from, the art of seasoning and using them in food is rather complex. At least if you want it to taste good.
Most people stick to the few spices they know. This may include, for example, pepper, curry, ginger, Basil, to mention a few. But if that is you, you are missing out on amazing opportunities. Spices can completely change a dish and take it from mediocre to something absolutely extraordinary. But in the same way that spices can boost a dish, they can also completely destroy it if used incorrectly.
To take advantage of the great benefits that spices have, you need to first learn what spices are available, and then which spices match with what dishes and tastes. Furthermore, you also need to learn which spices pair well together. Because generally, you use more than one spice in your food.
In the times when you want the food to taste in a certain way, you should also use spices in the cooking.
With all that said, let’s dig into the world of spices, and what you need to know about them.
A Guide to spices and seasoning food
Many dishes need spice in order to taste anything. Without spices, many dishes tend to be rather tasteless, boring, and flat. And without spices, it is difficult to make a dish that has that “wow” factor. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.
Salt is actually not a spice, but a mineral. But that doesn’t matter because it is of utmost importance in cooking. Salt is basically needed in all dishes and salt is the basis for getting a good taste on the food. Many different things that you add to foods like broths, oils, or funds often have quite a substantial taste of salt. This should be kept in mind when cooking food. Should you have taken too much salt it can be diluted by adding more liquid, but it is much easier to add salt as opposed to fixing a dish that has been over-salted.
Spices that are strong lose their strength the more fat there is in the food. That is, if you cook for example a pot and you feel that it is too strong then you can add fat such as whipped cream, oil, or butter to lower the strength of the spice and simply round off the flavor. Hot spices that give strength to the food are chili, black and white pepper, sambal oelek, and chili powder. White pepper is a stronger spice than black pepper and chili pepper is stronger than chili powder. Freshly ground spices are usually stronger than the pre-ground counterpart. Furthermore, the ground spices are usually better for sauces and the spices that are coarsely ground tend to be better for meat.
How much should you season your food?
How much you should season your food varies on a lot of different factors (more on that later). But in learning more about anything, an important part is always to try and experiment. This is the ultimate way to get a better understanding of how spices work and impact a dish’s taste. So try it out and taste as you add more spice. If you go for a recipe, then you should choose to start from the recipe if you are not sure how much to season and that you even taste to add. If you are still unsure that it could be too strong, you can always reduce the amount of seasoning in the recipe.
When seasoning, it is important that you start out carefully and then add more as you go. It is easier to add additional seasoning afterward than it is to handle an overseasoned dish. For example, if you make a sauce with cream as a base then you may need to season a little more because the strength of the spice can be lower in the cream.
Also, keep in mind that when you season meat you use out of coarsely ground spices as there is a risk that you take too much with ground pepper.
Seasoning for beginners
When you are starting out, and have not yet explored the world of spices, it is best to simply follow the recipe and its spice recommendations and measurements. However, as you evolve and learn, the spicing part of a dish is something that you can do more as you feel like, and add as much or as little as you find appropriate. The ultimate goal is, of course, to learn how to add spices blindly and as you feel appropriate. After all, it is not “by random” when you actually know what you are doing.
Develop your ability to combine the basic flavors to get even better taste in the food. If you become aware of where the different basic flavors are and how they can be combined, cooking will be both easier and more fun.
Umami – which since 2000 is regarded as the fifth basic taste, can be described as sweet salt broth flavor that can enhance other flavors. Sodium glutamate is the chemical term that has long been found in spice mixtures. Naturally, it is found in, for example, Parmesan cheese, seafood, Parma ham, and tomato. Nowadays you can also find umami spice on both can and tube!
Here are some tips with spices and tastes that can be helpful:
- Acid reduces sweetness
- Sweet decreases acid and bitter
- Acid highlights salinity
- Umami enhances other flavors
What spices do you need?
What spices you need for your cooking depends on how used you are and what you like to cook. Salt, black pepper, white pepper, chili, and some herbs are a good base in the spice shelf. Then you can complement with exciting flavors depending on what you like or are curious about.
The key thing here when it comes to learning more about the world of spices is actually using them. If you want to learn more, a tip is to buy a bunch of new and exciting spices that you havenät previously tried before. In turn, you can look up dishes you can make using those recipes. Normally, it is the other way around, but this time, you challenge yourself to try new spices. When you have bought a new spice, google for recipes that include that recipe. This is a great way to explore new spices, what they taste like, and how you can use them for other dishes in the future. Ultimately, this will give you a greater understanding and expertise in the seasoning of food.
How should the spices be stored?
Do you usually place your spices above the store? It’s not the best place. The heat from the stove can affect the durability and the light may even bleach many spices. Ultimately, this means that the spices will lose taste over time. Therefore, instead, keep your spices in a cool and dark place. A good place is the kitchen cabinet. Here, they will last longer and keep their fresh and aromatic flavors for a longer period of time.
When it comes to fresh spices and herbs, it depends on what type. Hearty fresh-cut herbs, for example, rosemary and thyme should be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in resealable plastic bags and put into the refrigerator. More delicate herbs such as basil should be stored in a glass with one inch of water left at room temperature. If you grow herbs in a pot, place it where it has access to sunlight, and don’t forget to water.
Using fresh spices in cooking takes your food to entirely new heights. Having home-grown spices tastes the best, partly because they can be harvested immediately before cooking, and partly because they grow slower, which means they have the opportunity to develop a richer taste. When spices and herbs are dried, they will lose flavor. At the same time, when cooking with herbs, you need to have in mind the ratio of fresh spices vs dry. Dried herbs are often more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs which means you need less to achieve the same taste. The correct ratio is one tablespoon of fresh herbs to one teaspoon of dried herbs.
Buy whole spices
Whole spices last longer than the ground counterparts, and when you grind right when you need it, it will have a more fresh and vibrant taste since all of the smells and aromas are released. Get a grinder, or if you don’t have one, you can also use a mortar and pestle.