Cooking with Spices has been around since ancient civilisation.
These days we don’t have to travel far to get our hands on cooking spices. A short drive to your local supermarket, a visit to an ethnic store or from the comfort from your home, you can shop online for a variety of cooking spices. Spices dried or fresh are packed with minerals, vitamins and essential oils. When cooking with spices and herbs, don’t just think about the flavours and taste also spare a thought for all the goodness that they add to your well being. I just want to stress that don’t be afraid to use herbs and spices in your everyday cooking.
What is Spice? Spice is any part of the plant other than the leaf. Example, the seed as in cumin, bark as in cinnamon, roots as in ginger, stalk as in lemon grass, bud as in clove and fruit as in chilli . Spices are use for flavouring, colouring and preserving food. Most spices have medicinal values just like herbs. My aim here is instil the knowledge of using natural and simple ingredients to enhance the flavour and taste of everyday meals we cook at home. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Cooking with spice -Anise Seeds
The anise seed is one of the old fashioned spice and has many valuable properties. It has many household uses including the prevention of fermentation and production of gas in the stomach. Anise is good stomach remedy to overcome nausea and colic. For cooking, anise seed is used in sauces, soups, bread and cakes.
Anise spice carry some of the important plants derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
The main essential volatile oil that gives the characteristic sweet, aromatic flavour to anise seed is anethole. The seeds are an excellent source of many essential B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.
This spice seeds are one of important source of minerals like calcium, iron, copper, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium. 100 g dry seeds contain 36.96 mg or 462% daily required levels of iron.
Anise seeds are used to prevent anxiety, colds, and halitosis -bad breath, to relieve flatulence. Anise tea can be made by adding a cup of boiling water to three tsp of crushed seeds. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes and drink.
Black pepper also known as peppercorn:
The pepper fruit, also known as the peppercorn, is actually a berry obtained from pepper plant. Pepper corn is one of the most widely traded spices in the world since ancient times.
The outer layer of the black pepper helps in the breakdown of fat cells. Piperine the phytochemical contained in the pepper increase metabolism which means it helps the body to burn more calories which helps in weight loss. Peppercorn also helps in the transport of other nutrients.
Peppercorns contain an impressive amount of plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties. Peppers have been in use since centuries for its anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-flatulent properties. This cooking spice is used for preserving foods as a result of its antibacterial properties.
The colour of this cooking spice; peppercorns found on the markets are nothing but the same pepper fruit, The peppercorns are picked from the plant at different stages of maturity and subjected to different methods of processing hence the different colours. In general, the red peppercorns are harvested while half-matured and just about to turn red. The black peppercorns is derived when they left to dry under the sun light until they become shrivel and turns black . Alternatively, green peppercorns are picked while the berries are still unripe and green. The white peppercorn is obtained when the ripe berries are soaked in the brine in order to remove its dark, outer skin, exposing inner white-colour pepper seed.
The active compounds in the pepper may aid digestion by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. It has also been found that piperine can increase absorption of selenium, B-complex vitamins, beta-carotene, as well as other nutrients from the food.
Black peppercorns contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, and magnesium.They are also an excellent source of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins.
Peppercorns are a good source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-A. They are also rich in flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants like carotenes, cryptoxanthin, zea-xanthin and lycopene. These compounds help the body remove harmful free radicals and help protect the body from cancers and diseases.
Adding this spice to your dishes will help with the taste, digestion and also overall health and well being.
Cooking with Spices- Capers
Capers comes from the flower bud of the caper bush also called Flinder rose. The edible flower bud is used for seasoning and the fruit caper berries are usually consumed when pickled as well. Capers were used in ancient Greece to prevent gas there by preventing flatulence. It is also used to prevent diarrhoea, aid digestion and increase appetite. Capers are the second richest source of phytosterol after lettuce. Eating diets rich in phytosterol helps your heart by lowering LDL Cholesterol ‘the bad cholesterol’, it also helps inhibit breast, colon and prostrate cancer. Capers contain Vit A, B3, B2, and K. Capers also have calcium, copper, iron and high in sodium because of the salt added during the pickling process. The white spots on pickled capers is called rutin. This chemical compound crystallises during the pickled process. Rutin strengthens the capillaries and helps with easy flow of blood circulation through the small vessels in our bodies. Capers are delicious with fish, meat dishes, salads and pasta salads.
Cooking with spices -Caraway
Caraway seeds are used in traditional medicines as well as food value, this cooking spice has several health benefiting nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. It is useful for colic in infants when taken with water. It also aids in digestion and helps to get rid of gas from the bowel.
Caraway seeds are rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 38 g of fiber, 100% of daily recommended intake of fiber. These active compounds in the caraway seeds are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.
Caraway spice is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium.
Caraway has several health benefiting flavonoid antioxidnats such as lutein, carotene, crypto-xanthinand zea-xanthin. These compounds are functions as powerful anti-oxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body hence protect from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.
Caraway contains several health benefiting essential oils. Examples include, carvone, limonene, carveol, pinen, cumuninic aldehyde, furfurol, and thujone.
Cooking with Spices -Cayenne Pepper (Chilli)
This is a very famous spice used in most Asian, African and South American dishes. It has been used for spice for over 9000 years. Studies have shown that, the capsaicin found in chilli protect DNA and prevent cancer by stopping the transformation of cells. I use this alot in my cooking as it give any dish a nice heat. The bonus is its good for you too like most cooking spice..
Although this spice is hot and intolerable even in small amounts, chillies are one of the health-benefiting spice items packed with minerals, vitamins and certain phyto-nutrients. It is no wonder this wonderful spice common in both modern as well as in traditional medicines for its disease preventing and health promoting properties.
Fresh cayenne peppers, red or green, are rich source of vitamin-C. 100 g fresh chilies provide about 76.4 mg or about 127% of RDA of this vitamin.
The spice contains very high levels of essential minerals. Even if consumed in small quantities regularly would provide sufficient levels of iron, copper, zinc, potassium, manganese, magnesium and selenium. Selenium is an anti-oxidant trace element required by the human body for smooth heart and liver functions.
Cayenne peppers are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1)
Cooking spice -Cumin:
Cumin seeds contain numerous phyto-chemicals that are known to have antioxidant, carminative and anti-flatulent properties. The seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Cumin is believed to have anti carcinogenic properties.
Its seeds contain certain health-benefiting essential oils such as cuminaldehyde.
The spice is an excellent sources of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. It also contains very good amounts of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, and other vital anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
The seeds are also rich source of many flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, and lutein.
Cooking with Spices- Cloves:
Clove is from a flower bud just like capers.
This popular cooking spice has anti bacteria, anti funga, antiseptic and antiviral properties. Cumin also contains eugenol and carophyllene which is powerful antimicrobial agent. These compounds travel through the blood stream killing parasitic larvae and eggs, bacteria, yeast. Cloves also help to fight viral infections. Cloves improve metabolism and help to remove toxins from the body.
Further, this cooking spice buds contain very good amounts of vitamin A and beta- carotene levels. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties.
Additionally, clove spice is a good source of vitamin-K, vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), vitamin-C and riboflavin.
It appears ancient Egyptians were the first to cultivate this spice and has been around for more than 5000 years. Garlic is a natural anti biotic antimicrobial, antifungal cleanser and anti-oxidant and helps the body in preventing diseases. Garlic has been used to prevent intestinal worms and parasites from ancient times by the Romans, Chinese and the Greeks. Regular intake of garlic can help to thin the blood and reduce cholesterol and blood fat.
It has now been scientifically proven that garlic is more effective at killing food poisoning bacterial in the intestine than antibiotics. Garlic can slow the growth and kill more than 60 types of fungi and 20 types of bacteria as well as viruses.
Garlic is an excellent source of minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. The bulbs are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium. Selenium is a heart-healthy mineral, and is an important cofactor for antioxidant enzymes within the body.
Garlic also contains many flavonoid anti-oxidants like carotene beta, zea-xanthin, and vitamins like vitamin-C. Vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
This spice is one of the first to arrive in Europe and was obtained by ancient Greeks and Romans from Arab traders. It is believed to have originated from the Himalayan foothill of Northern India. Ginger contains antioxidants and antiseptic properties.
Cooking with Ginger spice is not only delicious but contains a host of health benefiting essential oils such as gingerol, zingerone, shogaol, farnesene, and small amounts of ß-phelladrene, cineol, and citral. Gingerols help improve the intestinal motility and have been anti-inflammatory, painkiller (analgesic), nerve soothing, anti-pyretic as well as anti-bacterial properties. Studies have shown that it may decrease nausea induced by motion sickness or pregnancy and may help relieve migraine headache.
Have you recently experimented with any spice or herbs in cooking or as tea and what was the result like or do you have a personal favourite or favourites??
Please comment below would love to hear from you 🙂