Creating flavour with herbs and spices
By Christina Ross, Accredited Practising Dietitian
Cooking meals at home is a fantastic way to nourish your body, and whether using fresh or dried, ground or whole, herbs and spices pack a flavourful punch to your meals while adding many health benefits too.
While you might think you need a spice pantry and herb garden to use these ingredients, you can start simply with a few versatile herbs and spices that you use across many dishes.
- Ground cumin and coriander – great in Middle Eastern stews and Indian curries
- Cinnamon – sprinkle over porridge or use in a savoury mince (along with ground cumin and coriander)
- Ginger – grate fresh ginger into stir-fries, curries and soups (tip: store in a snap-lock bag in the freezer to keep fresh)
- Oregano – mix with garlic to season meat and fish, before BBQ’ing or baking
- Paprika (sweet or smoked) – add a smoky flavour to a Mexican chilli or sprinkle over your protein of choice (eg. chicken tenderloins, white fish) before baking
Be clever with your herb and spice storage too, to prevent food waste.
- Ground spices are best stored in a cool dark area (eg. pantry). Be sure to keep them in an easily accessible and visible spot, to encourage you to use them more often.
- Fresh herbs can be wrapped in a damp paper towel or tea towel and kept in the fridge. Be sure to use fresh herbs within a couple of days – or better yet, grown your own!
Now that you have mastered the basics, lift your flavour game with these tips.
- Jazz up your salads with leafy fresh herbs eg. freshly torn basil leaves pair beautifully with a tomato and Spanish onion salad, while chopped coriander and mint form the basis of many Thai and Vietnamese salads
- DIY seasoning for when you are feeling creative in the kitchen.
- Chop a range of seasonal vegetables, spray with extra virgin olive oil, then toss with sweet paprika or dried oregano before roasting.
- For an easy marinate or rub for meat, chicken or fish, combine 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil with sweet paprika and dried thyme.
- Create your own Mexican seasoning by combining ground coriander, cumin, smoked paprika, cinnamon.
- Instant flavour when you don’t have a lot of time to mix and match your herbs and spices, opt for ready-to-go options.
- Dukkah (Egyptian spice blend of toasted pine nuts, coriander and sesame seeds) – sprinkle over salad or create a crust on a salmon fillet before baking
- Za’atar (Middle Eastern dried herb blend) – sprinkle over salad or steamed greens
- Chinese 5 spice – stirfy with protein and vegetables
- Pre-made spice pastes – check the ingredient list to ensure the majority of the ingredients are herbs and spices (not oil). Spice and curry pastes are a healthier alternative to “simmer sauces”, and a great time-saver for making a healthier version of your favourite curry. You can take your healthy recipe renovation a step further by boosting the veggies, opting for light coconut milk (or coconut flavoured evaporated milk) and adding a lean protein.