Spice it up!

Whether we like it or not, we’re all having to get used to cooking at home. Here’s our guide to giving those meals a real kick… 

Eating out is a no-no and takeaways are a distant memory… we’re all having to get creative in the kitchen right now. You may not think you’re a great cook, but needs must. And one brilliant way to make your meals ‘sing’ is to spice things up a bit.

We know from experience that most kitchens will have a shelf where the spices are stored. Chances are there are quite a few that have been pushed to the back and almost forgotten. Now’s the time to bring them out, or restock at the supermarket, and try something different. Your family will thank you for your efforts!

Not all of us are clued up on which spices are which and how best to use them. So, we asked spice kit brand Spicentice.com to put together a beginners’ guide to all things spicy. Here’s their flavour profiles of 13 common spices and advice on how best to use them in the kitchen to transform a dish.

The experts say that cumin carries a smoky and earthy flavour that’s best used in Mexican cuisine, but oregano’s peppery and aromatic qualities are great in Mediterranean, Greek, Italian, Mexican and Cuban cooking. And while sweet and pungent nutmeg is most often used in baked goods, it can also be added to savoury dishes for a warm note.

Ketan Varu from Spicentice.com said: “Many home cooks are wary about experimenting purely because they’re unsure how a particular spice is going to affect the dish. Spices can transform a meal by adding a range of flavours, from a hint of sweetness to a kick of heat – not to mention, many also boast fantastic health benefits which will help boost your immune system. Now’s a great time to take the plunge and spice up your home cooking.”


1. Cardamom

This warm, aromatic spice is widely used in Indian cuisine. It’s also great in baked goods when used in combination with spices like clove and cinnamon.

2. Cayenne Pepper

Made from dried and ground red chilli peppers, Cayenne Pepper adds a sweet heat to soups, braises, and spice mixes.

3. Cinnamon

Found in almost every world cuisine, cinnamon serves double duty as spice in both sweet and savoury dishes. It has a very unique flavour and is extremely aromatic. Cinnamon goes well with apples, beef, chocolate, in curries, stews and spicy dishes.

4. Cumin

Smoky and earthy, cumin is used in a lot of south-western US and Mexican cuisine, as well as North African, Middle Eastern, and Indian dishes. It can be found ground or as whole seeds, and is great in curries, soups, stews, and spice rubs, or with beans.

5. Fenugreek

Although this herb smells like maple syrup while cooking, it has a rather bitter, burnt sugar flavour. It’s found in a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern dishes and the ground seeds are often used in curry powder, spice blends, dry rubs and even tea blends. Fresh and dried fenugreek leaves can be used to finish dishes like sauces, curries, vegetable dishes and soups.

6. Garlic Powder

Garlic powder is made from dehydrated garlic cloves and can be used to give dishes a sweeter, softer garlic flavour.

7. Ginger

With a spicy, zesty bite, ginger can be found fresh in root form or ground and dried. Fresh ginger is great in stir-fries and marinades or grated into cookies and muffins, while ground ginger works well in curry powders, spice mixes and in general baking.

8. Nutmeg

Sweet and pungent, nutmeg is often used in baked goods but it also adds a warm note to savoury dishes. It’s often used with cheese sauces, too.

9. Oregano

Used primarily in Mediterranean, Greek, Italian, Mexican and Cuban cooking, oregano is amazing fresh but is just as good if you use a good quantity of dried. It’s peppery, aromatic, and earthy and is great with vegetables, in beef stew, in sauces, with meat and fish and with beans.

10. Paprika

Paprika can be sweet, hot or smoky, but most often adds a sweet note to dishes, as well as a brilliant red colour. You can also get a spicier version which is often labelled ‘hot paprika’. Use it in stews, spice blends, and goulash, or as part of a dry rub for roast potatoes. It’s also a great way to add a kick to burgers. Just sprinkle some on the raw meat or across the top when on the grill.

11. Rosemary

Strong and piney, rosemary is great with eggs, beans and potatoes, as well as grilled meats. Fresh rosemary is also good for adding to soup and stew, or you can stuff poultry with a few sprigs during cooking. Many people also use it during grilling – when laid in coals it gives a great flavour to meat and vegetables.

12. Saffron

Saffron is the most expensive of spices and has a very subtle but distinct flavour that adds bitterness to food that, when used in dishes with lots of sweet or acidic flavours, balances out perfectly. It is used mostly with fish and rice and is a key ingredient in paella.

13. Turmeric

Sometimes used more for its yellow colour than its flavour, turmeric has a very mild woodsy flavour. It is used in many curry powders for colour and flavour.