For much of human history, spices — from pepper to nutmeg — have been highly prized across cultures. At times, they were even considered some of the world’s most important commodities, more so than gold.
And today, as contemporary cuisine grows more adventurous and consumers seek out bolder and more intense flavors, spices have spiked.
Gone are the days when the most daring thing in a kitchen cupboard was a dusty bottle of mixed spice and a collection of broken bay leaves. Peek inside a kitchen now and chances are you’ll find such aromatic wonders as turmeric, cumin and fennel seeds.
Spices aren’t just used for their flavor and aroma — some also bring a dash of appetizing color. Want to put some zing into your cuisine but not sure what goes with what? Try our guide to the art of aromatics.
These have an aniseed flavor and a warm, sweet aroma and can be either ground or fried. Add them to meat, fish and vegetable dishes and even to your bread if you want to turn it into something more interesting.
Try them in: Spiced roast beef, sticky pork belly or fennel blossom ice-cream.
We all know that cinnamon is the perfect go-to for cooked apples, pastries and puddings, and for poaching fruit, but that’s only part of this spice’s allure. It can also be used to add a tantalizing strand of flavor to meat, poultry and vegetable stews.
Try it in: Lamb biryani, Bolognese sauce or stewed chicken.
Turmeric doesn’t taste of much – it’s musky, mildly warm and bitter – and chefs use it more for its glorious yellow color. Sprinkle it into the water when you’re cooking rice to add a vibrant hue. Otherwise, use it to complement vegetable, bean and lentil dishes. It’s also great in curries and soups.
Try it in: Chickpea curry, Mediterranean stew or stuffed eggplant.
Cumin is often found in Indian and Mexican cuisine and is used in curry powder and the spice mixture garam masala. With a warm and peppery flavor, ground cumin can transform sauces and marinades into something really flavorsome or it can be sprinkled over salads to pep them up.
Try it in: Steam-roasted carrots, grilled lamb burgers or baby back ribs.
Cardamom has a spicy-sweet flavor and is part of the ginger family. You can add the whole pod to a dish, or use the seeds whole or ground. It’s widely used in Indian cooking, and, surprisingly, Scandinavian baking.
Try it in: Pulla bread, which is traditionally made in Finland at Christmas time, honey chicken or Somali beef stew.
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