14 Essential spices for any kitchen

Reader's Digest Editors

The key to creating flavourful meals, no kitchen worth its salt does without a well-stocked spice rack. Here's everything you need to start one of your own. 

1. Caraway

Caraway

Caraway seeds have a delicate aniseed taste.

Try adding a pinch of them to potato salad or coleslaw. Or stir a tablespoon into your mixture when making homemade biscuits and bread.

 

2. Cardamom

Add crushed whole pods of this pungent spice to rice dishes such as pilafs or rice pudding.

A pinch of ground cardamom seed lends an exotic touch to stewed fruit.

 

3. Chillies

crushed chilis

These belong to the same family as red and green capsicums. There are hundreds of different varieties of chillies, ranging in heat from mild to very fiery. They contain vitamin C, but they are rarely eaten in large enough quantities to provide useful amounts.

Give tomato sauce or salsa a spicy tang by stirring in a finely chopped fresh chilli.

 

4. Cinnamon

Add a sprinkling of ground cinnamon to stewed fruit or, for a soothing drink when you have a cold, pour hot water over a cinnamon stick and sweeten with a little honey.

Read more: 3 Festive spices to make you feel great

 

5. Cloves

cloves

As well as lending a pungent warming taste to both sweet and savoury dishes, cloves are used for their antiseptic and pain-relieving properties.

If you’re suffering from a toothache, chewing a clove or rubbing a few drops of clove oil around the affected area will help to ease the pain.

 

6.  Coriander

The seeds have a sweet, slightly fruity flavour. Add a pinch of ground coriander seed to meat dishes, casseroles or tomato sauce. Or sprinkle some into biscuit and cake mixtures.

 

7. Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds

These have a strong liquorice flavour that is popular in Mediterranean dishes. A few crushed seeds make a delicious and distinctive difference to baked fish dishes and casseroles.

 

8. Ginger

ginger

The Chinese were using ginger as a medicine as early as the sixth century BC. Ginger tea can be made by grating a 1-cm piece of fresh root ginger into a mug of boiling water.

Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then strain, sweeten with a little honey and sip slowly. 

 

9. Horseradish

horseradish

Phytochemicals found in horseradish are believed to help fight cancer and have antibacterial properties.

A little freshly grated horseradish is good in mashed potato, or mix it with some Greek yoghurt to make an appetising dip.

 

10. Nutmeg and mace

Nutmeg is the seed of a tropical evergreen tree and mace is the seed’s outer coating. Both have a sweet, warming flavour.

A little freshly ground nutmeg is excellent in cheese sauces, stewed fruit or rice pudding.

 

11. Paprika

paprika spice in spoon

The flavour and the heat of paprika vary according to the blend of ground red capsicums used to make it and its country of origin. Hungarian paprika tends to be hotter than Spanish.

Add a pinch to tomato sauce or mix some into egg mayonnaise to give it an added kick.

 

12. Saffron

Saffron is the dried stigma of the purple-flowering saffron crocus. It takes 1500 flowers to yield 1 g of saffron, which explains why it is so expensive. Fortunately, a few strands are enough to flavour and colour most dishes, such as risottos, paella, cakes and biscuits.

 

13. Star anise

star anise

The warm aniseed like flavour works well with sweet or savoury dishes. It is commonly used in Chinese cooking.

Use a whole star anise in a tropical fruit salad or sprinkle a pinch of ground star anise over vegetables you plan to roast.

 

14. Turmeric

This member of the ginger family is a key ingredient in curry powder.

A pinch of ground turmeric adds a subtle spicy touch to soups and rice dishes, as well as a rich yellow colouring.

 

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter