In the kitchen, it is important to know all types of herbs and spices for cooking. We will explain its uses and differences.
The uses of spices are many and varied, from flavoring a product, waking up the appetite, aiding digestion, relieving, or healing stomach ailments.
The herbs have a similar origin that spices, lost to the history of man since been used as a natural medicine from Mesopotamia.
Since ancient times the man with spices, condiments, and herbs, has dedicated himself to flavor foods that lacked it. Today spices are essential to understand such popular cuisines as Chinese or Indian, although they are present in all cuisines of the world to a greater or lesser extent.
Both aromatic herbs and spices, due to the small proportion in which we use them, hardly provide nutritional values, but they do provide vitamins, in the case of aromatic herbs, and some minerals in the case of spices.
When it comes to preserving them, we have fewer problems with spices since as a rule they are dry and we only have to try to keep them in a dry place and preserve them from excess light. With aromatic herbs, we find more difficulties so we give you some ideas to preserve them.
Types of preservation of aromatic herbs:
• Fresh: if they are freshly cut they will need cold for their conservation, if the aromatic herbs are in pots they will preserve their smells and flavor and we can supply ourselves according to need.
• Frozen: in this way they preserve their smells and aromas, to freeze them it is convenient to wrap them in the absorbent paper so that they absorb excess moisture.
• In oil: we can flavor a neutral oil so that it acquires the aromatic properties of aromatic herbs, stored in opaque containers.
• In salt: in this way we ensure its conservation by dehydration, for this we will use the ratio of one part of salt to four of herbs.
• Dry: to dry the aromatic herbs we must do it in large bundles tied, upside down, and in dry areas with direct heat so that they better maintain their aromas. When they are dry they lose volume but not their odor and flavor properties, so we must be careful when using them, if we are going to use them for a stew, for example, we will add them at the last moment of cooking since they lose its aroma from over boiling.
Many are the aromatic herbs and spices that are used in the different cuisines of the world, so it would be very extensive and complex to refer to all of them, so we are going to focus on the most used.
Let’s start with the types of spices and their gastronomic uses:
- Anise or Matalahúva (seeds): widely used in confectionery because it has a sweet taste, we can also use it in the kitchen since many recipes from Southeast Asia include it. Also widely used for making liqueurs.
- Star anise: with a more intense aroma than the previous one, it is used in pastries and in the preparation of fish soups, and in roasts of pork and duck in Asian cuisine.
- Saffron: Introduced by the Arabs to the peninsula more than 1,000 years ago, today it is one of the most significant spices in our cuisine. It is the most expensive species in the world since its collection is very expensive due to the fact that many flowers are needed for one kilo. It not only adds color to the food to which it is added but also gives it a very peculiar taste and smell.
- Cinnamon: bark of the cinnamon tree, cinnamon has been used since ancient times and is attributed to a multitude of both gastronomic and medicinal properties. This spice is mainly associated with pastries (custard, rice pudding, etc.). It is also used in salty cuisine, especially in red meat stews or games to which it provides a characteristic sweet aroma.
- Cayenne: known as chili or cayenne pepper of South American origin and from the chili family. It is used in the preparation of all kinds of dishes in South American cuisine to enhance the flavor of the main genre by promoting salivation.
- Cloves: dried flowers before opening, with a very penetrating and persistent aroma, and therefore its use should be moderate. Used in red meat stews, game, in the preparation of sausages and preserves. This spice is presented ground in the preparation of doughs and bread.
- Cumin: Originally from the Mediterranean basin, it is common to find it both in powder and in seeds, the latter being more flavorful. It has a slightly bitter taste and a strong, sweet smell. It is used throughout the Mediterranean in a multitude of dishes (tripe with chickpeas, flour cakes)
- Turmeric: known as eastern salt, it has a slightly bitter taste and an odor that may be reminiscent of pepper. Used in many mixes of spices such as curry, due to its yellow color and coloring capacity it is used as a substitute for saffron but it is not similar in terms of smell.
- Ginger: dry and ground widely used in oriental cuisine. Fragrant aroma, slightly acidic that brings freshness to dishes. The dry flavor is spicier, having similarities with pepper. Preparation of beers, spirits, spice bread, curries.
- Paprika: comes from the drying and crushing of bell peppers. They can be sweet or spicy. Used for the preparation of sauces, it is an essential ingredient in the preparation of soups and stews in Spanish cuisine. With intense flavor and smell the newer it is.
- Nutmeg: It comes from the Moluccas in Southeast Asia. With a strong, pungent, and slightly sweet aroma, its uses are very varied from pastries (cookies, cakes, etc.) to sauces such as béchamel or in meat stews, sausages, etc.
- Pepper: originally from India, from the pepper tree, it is a rounded berry whose main function is to reactivate the function of salivation and therefore promote appetite. This spice is used in many cases whenever we want to highlight the original flavor of a product or when we want to include a spicy touch in a recipe. There are many varieties of pepper depending on the ripeness of the berries (pink, white, green, black, Jamaica)
- Sesame or sesame: Native to Asia and East Africa, its use has been known for 5,000 years. The smell of dried fruit, this spice is used in pastries, in the preparation of doughs, bread, and cakes; but also in salty cuisine such as hummus. Its oil is also highly appreciated for its hazelnut fragrance, slightly spicy, perfect for making salads.
- Vanilla: it is the pod or fruit of the climbing plant of the same name and whose origin is in Central America. Very fragrant with a sweetish taste and smell, it is used in pastry recipes, ice creams, compotes, creams but also to add characteristics to rice dishes, legs, and foods rich in carbohydrates.
Among the Aromatic Herbs we can find the following:
- Basil: of Mediterranean origin, it is characterized by its large leaves of spectacular greenery, very tender that can be eaten whole in a salad. With a sweet and aniseed flavor, this herb combines perfectly with the tomato with which many recipes are made and particularly in Italian cuisine such as pesto.
- Savory: a leaf with a spicy and slightly acid flavor is used as a condiment in meat and fish marinades, also as a dressing in the preparation of sausages and bean-based stews as it helps to eliminate gases.
- Chives: with a taste and smell similar to chives but more subtle and sweet, chives go perfectly with salads, eggs, soups, creams, etc. It should not be heated as it loses most of its flavor.
- Coriander: also called Chinese parsley or coriander, it can be used from the seed to the stem and leaves. This slight aniseed and sweet aromatic herb shares use with parsley, being very useful in dressings and vinaigrettes, sauce, curries
- Dill: With a marked aniseed flavor, it is used for the preparation of cold sauces and vinaigrettes, as well as for seasoning fish, poultry, and salads. This herb is a good intestinal tonic, preferably use it fresh since once dry, the herb loses most of its properties. Widely used as a seasoning for salmon, also for marinades, salted fish, and preserves.
- Tarragon: there are two varieties, the French more aniseed and sweet with hints of vanilla that never bitter, and the Russian more intense and robust but that when cooked tends to bitter. It is used to flavor vinegar and as a base in some sauces, also raw in salads or as a dressing for poultry, butter, and fish.
- Peppermint: a variety of mint with more rounded and tender leaves with a less intense flavor and something sweeter, less refreshing. Combines in the preparation of stews and soups providing a refreshing touch.
- Laurel: evergreen tree, of Mediterranean origin, has vital importance since the Roman Empire, with a very penetrating and persistent smell. It should be used very dry since otherwise, it can be indigestible, and in the same way it should be removed before serving the stew for the same circumstance. Laurel is an aromatic herb widely used in stews, marinades, pickles, stews, soups, and bread vegetables.
- Mint: widely used since ancient times with many varieties being the most used peppermint. With a balsamic flavor, its main characteristic is the freshness it brings to the palate and therefore makes the flavors clean and separate very well. To refresh lamb stews and other red meats, as well as to accompany salads, desserts, fruits, ice cream, etc. It develops its aroma better when it is mashed with sugar. It should be added at the last minute when hot as it can become bitter and tends to blacken.
- Oregano: a plant with green leaves and white flowers, very aromatic, it can be consumed both fresh and dry. Used in Italian cuisine in many dishes, it combines perfectly with any sauce that has an acid touch, tomato, lemon, vinegar, and also to flavor meat and fish.
- Parsley: it is the most popular aromatic herb worldwide except in Asia. With a slightly spicy and acid flavor, it perfectly completes any dressing, it is also very common to use in salads, sauces, marinades, or marinades for meat and fish. Many medicinal properties are known to be anti anemic, rich in vitamin C and A, the latter more than any vegetable.
- Rosemary: with a woody trunk and a hard leaf, it is used as a flavoring agent in many dishes due to its characteristic field and wild smells. It is used in meat roasts, stews, fish sauces, sautéed vegetables, etc.
- Sage: Mediterranean origin with a strong smell with sweet nuances. As part of many sauces and in fillings and sausages since its main characteristic is to reduce the flavor impact of fats.
- Thyme: it is an aromatic herb used throughout the Mediterranean basin to flavor soups, stews, sauces, meat roasts, etc. In its variety of lemon thyme, its smell is more acidic, almost citric.