Winter is fast approaching which means slow-cooking, curry crafting and comfort-food-making is almost here. But before we can be ready for the chillier weather we need to get our pantries ready; which means inspecting and refreshing your spice collection. We have a few tips to help you determine if your spices are fit for another season and if not, how to use them rather than turning them over to the bin. We are all about helping you get the best out of your cooking with minimal wastage so we hope some of our guidelines, tips and recipes can be useful when you’re doing your next pantry clean out.
When determining if your spices are still fresh and at their best, your sense of smell is your best ally. To test if your spices still have some mileage, simply give them a gentle shake with the packet seal closed, open and smell. If you are hit with the wonderful aroma of the essential oils, your spices still have some life in them. If the smell is slightly subdued and not quite what it was, you don’t need to immediately throw them away but just get a little savvier with how you use them. This means things like adding a little more than the recipe calls for or using them in conjunction with their whole or ground counterpart. For instance, if you were to make a curry using ground cumin you may also like to mix in some whole cumin seeds to amplify and augment the cumin flavour.
We also recommend if you’re finding your spices may have lost their potency, to use them as soon as you can. Find spice-loaded recipes to use them up for dinners, lunches or even meals to freeze ready for busy week nights. Our website is loaded with a plethora of recipes and great ways to use your spices so below are some of our favourites that are packed with spices you’re likely to have in your collection. Using up what you have is all about cooking smarter so we’ve also included a few swaps you can make to substitute for what you have in your pantry.
This Vietnamese Beef Stew is cleansing, delicious and super simple to make. The Clove and Sichuan Pepper in the Chinese Five Spice powder breaks down the protein in the beef helping your body to digest and process it better whilst the Star Anise has a cleansing effect on your system and adds a subtle sweetness to the stew.
Some substitute swaps you can make: Use a little extra Chinese Five Spice powder if you don’t have Whole Star Anise, Cinnamon or Cloves. Or, make your own combination of Fennel Seeds, Star Anise, Cloves and Cinnamon. The warming flavour of the Cinnamon Sticks can also be obtained with Ground Cinnamon and the savoury aromatic flavour of the Bay Leaves can be substituted with Oregano or Thyme Leaves.
We all know how great spices are in our meals but they can also make fantastic beverages. By adding spices to your drinks, they not only have great flavour benefits but a myriad of health benefits too. In these two recipes, we have used Cayenne Pepper, Ground Cinnamon, Cinnamon Sticks, Cloves and Star Anise however, by following the same techniques and recipe you can substitute with whatever spices you have at your fingertips. Try adding in some Turmeric Powder along with some Ground Black Pepper for a wholesome, warming brew. Or Crushed Chillies along with your Cinnamon for a spicy kick and to help with digestion. Get experimenting with different flavours you like and you never know, you just may come up with your go-to healing elixir.
Our recipe for Spiced Grilled Lamb Chops uses a heap of delicious spices like Chillies Crushed, Coriander Seeds Whole, Cumin Seeds Ground, Cumin Seeds Whole, Fennel Seeds Whole, Mint Leaves and Black Pepper Ground but don’t let that ingredient list limit you. This recipe is all about adding great flavour to your grilled meats which can be done with so many different spice and meat combinations. Simply remove from the recipe what you don’t have on hand and add in some you’d like to use up. If you don’t have Mint Leaves, Thyme Leaves, Oregano or Basil work just as well. Try adding in some Smoked Paprika for a subtle smoky flavour in place of Chillies Crushed or for some crunch and texture in place of Cumin and Fennel Seeds, mix in some Egyptian Dukkah.
Don’t have an abundance of spices to use? Try using up your different spice blends instead like Greek Gyros Seasoning, Mexican Tex Mex or New Orleans Cajun Spice. The combinations are endless so don’t simply throw away what you have to buy new, get creative!
For more recipes and ways to the spices you have, try going on our website and simply typing the spice name into our search bar. Up will pop any recipes or useful tips relating to that spice to give you some ideas and creative inspiration.
Tips for Keeping Your Spices Fresher for Longer
To ensure you get the longest life out of your spices there are some things you can do. Herbs and spices contain essential oils which is where their aroma and flavour come from so getting the best out of your spices is all about protecting and locking in those essential oils. The four ways in which their volatile oils can be damaged or lost are heat, light, dampness and air.
All of our spice packets are made from a high-barrier exchange packaging with air-tight seals for freshness. So, it’s important that when you are done using your spices, you seal each packet properly ensuring they are protected from air and moisture. Once your spices are sealed up store them in a cool, dark spot like your pantry. By following these simple steps, your herbs and spices will remain fresher for longer.
I hope our tips and recipes for sorting your spice pantry have helped to get you started with your pantry refresh this weekend so you’re all ready when the winter months come. To hear me chat a little more about how to properly store your spices check out our YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9up5Z4HMIZQ
If you make anything from our site be sure to upload it onto social media and tag us, we love seeing what you create! Check out our next April blog: Easter is Here! For some great recipes and meal ideas for this Easter weekend.