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Herbs and Spices

Consulting Hospitality

As promised, here are the spices we have identified for you to have a look at. Spices have become very popular in contemporary Western cuisine. What would an apple pie be without cinnamon? Or a piece of roast meat without some freshly ground black pepper? Indeed, we use many spices and some of them come from very far. As their cuisines already reveal, India and Sri Lanka are some of the richest spice countries on the planet. When going a bit further east we find the Thai and Malay kitchens where also lots of fresh herbs and spices are used. We have a Thai Shrimp Soup on the menu in which I use lemon grass, black pepper, coriander, coriander leaves, lime leaves and Garlic. It’s fantastic. However for some really good Indian food I can just recommend Sue’s Indian Raja, they prepare very authentic and delicious Indian dishes. My favorite is palak with mushrooms instead of paneer. It contains lots of spinach, some cardamom and other spices and is ideal with some Naan bread and a salted Lassi! (Courtesy of Raymond Blanc, from the Book Blanc Vite) Cardamom is a natural diuretic and can help digestion. Cinnamon is useful in treating some gynaecological conditions and suppressing some viral infections. It contains chromium, which helps the body to use sugars. Coriander, herb and seeds, combines sedative and stimulant effects; the seeds if chewed are an aid to digestion. Cumin is a good general tonic, and is antiseptic and antibacterial. Fenugreek contains carotenes, and can improve glucose tolerance in diabetes. Garlic contains active sulphur compounds, alliins, as do the rest of the Allium family (onions), which are widely believed to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. It is a natural antiseptic and antibiotic, can lower cholesterol in the bloodstream, lower blood pressure, and enhance the immune system. Ginger, a rhizome spice, is available fresh, dried and powdered, is warming and carminative (relieving intestinal gas, relaxing and soothing the gastrointestinal tract). It is anti-inflammatory, and analgesic, used in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis. Horseradish is a member of the Cruciferae (cabbage) family, and is pungent (like mustard); it is an excellent digestive, stimulant of salivary and other digestive juices. Mustard, containing active compounds similar to horseradish, is also a crucifer; it is an excellent digestive, can help joint pains and problems of the chest and lungs, and can have anti-cancer properties. Saffron contains carotenoids. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant. As you see, many of the daily used spices are also good for you and their application should not always be that difficult. For example instead of salt my parents use a clove when boiling soups or potatoes. A bay leaf in the water for boiling vegetables adds some aroma. Garlic, onions and shallots are the basis of the French and Belgian cuisines, they are necessary to form the base of the flavour. One great chef once told me that Garlic is the soul of the French cuisine, and actually of a lot of cuisines! When frying fish or meat just add a toe or two of garlic, unpeeled. It will become soft whilst roasting in the juices from the meat and add flavour to the meat or fish. When done, squeeze the mashie garlic out of its peel and spread some on a piece of dark bread! Add some thyme or rosemary to virtually any roast and indulge in the flavour and scent. Use some ginger when making chicken soup and add a bay leaf, a piece of lemon grass and some cardamom pods. My grandparents used to grate some fresh horseradish in every plate before the hot soup was added. It was both delicious and healthy. Sprinkle some cinnamon on the apple pie before it goes in the oven! But I think most of you knew that already! 

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