Spices for the winter

Winter requires warming food and that means it’s time to play with different flavours that bring out the best of seasonal ingredients.


This means digging into your spice cupboard for things you may have bought for a specific recipe once upon a time or perhaps heading out to stock up on a few underrated - or underused - staples.


I’m talking:


Cinnamon - Sticks are an essential ingredient for your mulled wine, even just one will lift the flavour of your poaching liquid for a simple poached pear dessert and even, off the plate, cinnamon sticks make a great addition to any festive decor you’ve got going on with the added bonus of a gorgeous scent! Ground cinnamon is my secret addition to a Chilli Con Carne or a Lasagne at this time of year to give it that extra winter touch and I’ll add a pinch to my coffee if I’m feeling festive!


Star Anise - Boldly flavoured like liquorice, even just a hint will change the flavour of a dish. To jazz up a Sunday roast, add 3 star anise to some chicken stock and roast your chicken in as you normally would. Or if you’d rather create a hug in a mug, paired perfectly with ginger cordial, some fresh oranges and a generous dash of rum, star anise is paramount to enhance  my favourite rum punch!


Cloves - They look like little sticks and remind me of Christmastime as a child at school where we stuck them into oranges for a reason I’m struggling to comprehend right now, but the flavour pairing is natural and something that’s stuck with me throughout the years. For some festive treats, add a pinch of ground cloves and finely grated orange zest to your basic shortbread recipe and you’ll be thanking me later! They also go really well with apples, so if you’re planning on making an apple crumble this winter, simmer them with some cloves before adding to your crumble. Make sure to remove the sticks before serving - you don’t want to get one of those in your teeth!


Allspice - A bold flavour synonymous with winter, the versatility of allspice makes it an important staple on any spice rack. My favourite jerk shrimp includes a teaspoon of allspice which immediately transports me to the Caribbean and just half a teaspoon in a ginger cake is enough to make any afternoon tea and cake a treat!


Ginger - Ground ginger goes into almost every curry I make and makes a simple stir-fry that bit tastier. It’s, of course, essential for the annual gingerbread season or get some fresh ginger and make yourself a punchy lemon & ginger tea.


Nutmeg - Pairs perfectly with winter squash, I add a pinch to my butternut squash as I roast it, will feature in my pumpkin soup or elevate some simply sauteed spinach.


Cardamom - Another staple in my mulled wine recipe, cardamom pods are far punchier than they look. They should be crushed gently before use to maximise the flavour that’ll come from them and can be added to rice before cooking to season with its own unique flavour.


If you’ve got an old jar of any of these guys sitting in your cupboard, check the date first as everything is, of course, better if it’s fresher but now you’ve got a couple of ideas to put to use!


Happy cooking!


Lauren Loudon




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