A Quick Guide To Herbs & Spices

We all know what salt and pepper go with (i.e. everything), but what about those other spices locked away in your cupboard?

I’m a big fan of herbs and spices and have always believed that they give food that extra kick. Like many others, however, I have loads of them in my cupboard with no clear idea of what they can be used for.

Here is what I’ve discovered through my research:

Beef: When I first moved to Malta I realised that Maltese people love their beef as much as the Scottish do, which is why it’s incredibly important to know what gives beef the spice-up it deserves. The obvious choices when cooking beef are red wine and garlic, but as far as herbs and spices go, the list is: rosemary, thyme and Chinese five-spice in their dried forms and rosemary and thyme in their fresh form.

Pork: As one of the most versatile meats, pork can be given a kick with many-a-herb and -spice. Try rosemary, thyme or Chinese five spice in their dried forms, or fresh sage, rosemary and thyme. Alternatively, mustard, garlic and apples are great too!

Chicken: This always feels like a healthier option to red meat and the great part is the fact that almost anything goes with it. Fresh herbs include thyme, rosemary, parsley, tarragon, marjoram and sage; dried ones can be all of the aforementioned, along with harissa, chilli powder, herbes de Provence and garam masala. Ginger, mustard, lemon, garlic, soy sauce, pesto and white wine also compliment this poultry dish perfectly.

Fish: Fresh from the sea, a good fish dish can be created using an array of herbs and spices including chervil, chives, dill, marjoram, cilantro and tarragon, or dried coriander, chilli flakes and za’atar. Lemon, mustard, sherry, pesto, ginger and soy sauce are also great additions.

Lamb: This is where it starts getting a bit more exotic. Try lamb with cinnamon, dukkah, harissa or za’atar in their dried forms or freshly cut rosemary, thyme, parsley and mint for an amazing boost.

Vegetables: Although not many think of adding herbs and spices to vegetables, these can actually enhance the flavour manifold. Try thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, za’atar and chilli flakes, or fresh dill, thyme, rosemary, oregano and marjoram. Alternatively, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, butter and pesto all go down a treat with veggies!

Potatoes: Probably one of the best-loved vegetables anywhere in the world, there’s a lot you can add to these. Try some garam masala or herbes de Provence to give them a kick, or fresh rosemary, thyme and parsley for a boost of colour and flavour. And, while extra virgin olive oil, butter and pesto are good, try mashing your sweet potatoes up with a dash of Jack Daniels and some brown sugar for a real treat!

Do you have any other advice on how to use herbs and spices in food?

Let us know in the comments section below!