Monday, May 19, 2014

wholefood step-by-step: #19 (herb &) spice up your life

Cinnamon, tumeric, ginger, paprika, nutmeg, chilli what a bland old world it would be without you. But more than just your flavours it is your aromas and medicinal qualities that you bring to our kitchens and cooking that I am thankful for.

It is easy to fall into a habit of using the same flavours in our cooking, flavours that we grew up with, that we know go together and are confident will make a dish sing.

I was inspired to write this post to encourage you to step outside your herb and spice comfort zone and seek out flavours you haven't tried, do some research, find recipes that perhaps use your favorite everyday spices in ways that you wouldn't have thought to. Or skip the recipe and create your own.

For me, it is this creative, unexpected use of flavours that sets good food apart from memorable meals. Like Robin's spaghetti bolognaise with star anise, or any of Rachel's recipes in the Hungry Girls cookbooks. Pete Evans recipes too make great use of many flavours taking simple meatballs or a plain piece of fish to something memorable without any fancy cooking techniques, rather it is the combination of flavours that set the recipes apart.

If you need to dust the cobwebs off your dried herb and spice rack and restock it, I recommend Gourmet Organic Herbs I buy them at my local health foodstore but you can buy them online here. Whether you buy organic, or non-organic from the supermarket, the main thing is that you have them on hand and they are not out of date.

And if you are reading this thinking, there is no way my kids will eat coriander, cumin, tumeric and so on I say to you, give them a go you will be surprised! Part of what needs to happen in the food culture we create for our children is to develop their tastes for things outside of sugar and salt and the way to do this is to cook with a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. These foods are nature's medicine and if we stay with thoughts of what they won't eat then that will be the reality. We must put aside our own stumbling blocks to what our children will eat and just cook, cook with love and flavour and keep presenting real, flavoursome food over and over and over again and they will eat it I promise! And more than that, in time they will love it.

The weather is cooling here in Australia so it is a good time to cook with warming spices such as chilli, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Give my dahl recipe a go. Or enjoy a warming cup of chai.

How is your spice rack looking? What are your favorites?


  1. You are certainly someone I would like to cook for me Nikki, I am positive you would create something tasty with lots of flavour:) I enjoy using herbs fresh and dried and I love the taste of cumin and cinnamon is one of my favourites now, I enjoy it sprinkled onto porridge each morning. But I agree adding flavours like herbs is good, to open our children's minds to new things and just keep trying, I know I have too;) xx

    1. :) it would be my pleasure to cook for you Catherine. I love cumin and cinnamon too xx

  2. Mmmmmm.... love your recipes for dhal and chai. Very similar to mine :). I love cooking with herbs and spices. They are nature's medicine, I have cured my hormonal imbalances through cooking with carefully chosen and prepared spices. xxx

  3. When I started cooking real food (no more hamburger helper!) about 11 years ago, I learned that herbs and spices were the key to making "healthy food" delicious food! Over the years I have loved getting more familiar with flavors that I didn't always use, like garam masala, curry blends, etc... I've always loved chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, cilantro, basil, thyme, rosemary, the list goes on ... When my baby turned 6 months old, I introduced solids and he wanted nothing to do with them. It was always my intention to have my children eat what I eat, but at that age, I tried to start with just plain avocado, plain sweet potato, etc... Not until he was 8 months old when we gave him some quacamole with lime, onion, and cilantro, did he eat a bite! He wanted FLAVOR! It really opened my eyes! He has loved strong flavors ever since - curries, lots of cinnamon, even some heat. Now, at 19 months old, paneer tikka masala with cilantro rice is his favorite meal!


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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