Around the world flavours in spices

Written for Yumbles

Hints of Spring are definitely in the air, and it’s the perfect time to give your menu a makeover with a new wave of flavour. With a truly international array of spices to choose from, you can start your holiday planning early with far flung tastes – from smoky Mexican chillies and fragrant Middle Eastern barbeque mixes, to exotic flavoured salts and artisan seaweeds. Take a whistle stop tour around the world,  starting at your dinner plate.

Mexican heat – Ancho Poblano

We’re so used to thinking about chillies as hair-raising little monsters of heat, that we don’t often consider savouring any flavour from them. In fact, chillies have a diverse range of taste and flavour. Ancho Poblanos are delicious little chillies that have a surprising hint or raisin-y sweetness – perfect in marinades and dressings, as well as stews.

Flowers from Morocco – Ras el Hanout

Traditionally, this spice blend is prized as being the best of a shopkeeper’s collection – and if you find yourself in a bazaar in Morocco, you’ll soon find that every stall has a unique and individual way of making it up. But there are a few key ingredients you can’t ever mess around with – cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger are all-common, along with fragrant rose petals, star of anise, cumin and coriander. Stir it into a vegetable stew and serve with fluffy, fresh flat breads for a tagine-inspired dish.

Safari flavour – Suya Spice

From Morocco to the plains of West Africa, Suya is a common spice blend in Nigerian cooking, and has a distinctive texture, as well as flavour. Made up of peanuts, ginger, cayenne pepper and black pepper, it’s perfect paired with beef stew or barbequed fillets, giving it a earthy kick of heat.

Coastal tastes - Cape Malay

Traditional spice mixes and flavours often have a long and complex history wound up in their layers of flavours, as different ingredients are drawn in over time from local sources, far flung traders, and the odd random addition. Cape Malay hails from the coast of South Africa, but owes its sweet and spicy combination of notes to Indonesian traders who once made port there. With the addition of fennel seeds to add an extra hint of zest to typical spicier hints, this is perfect in a tomato and chicken stew, served over fluffy pilau rice.

Celtic stories – Shony Seaweed

We’ve come to love and appreciate seaweed through Japanese cuisine in particular, but seaweeds in general are a woefully under-represented group when it comes to our plates. Packed in nutrients and with subtle, delicious varieties of flavour, the rise of artisan seaweeds looks set to change that, and Shony seaweed, named after a Celtic sea god, has an addictive mix of sweet and salty flavours that makes it ideal for adding to everything from popcorn to fries, roast potatoes, and even granola.