Harissa. This Tunisian Hot Chile Sauce Will Be Your New Favorite

Harissa. This Tunisian Hot Chile Sauce Will Be Your New Favorite

Harissa is a chile-based condiment used in Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian cooking, where it is usually served as a side dish to dip meats into. Add Harissa Spice Blend to olive oil and chopped garlic to create this classic condiment.  Or

• Create a bold, spicy rub for roasted and grilled meats



• Use to flavor soups, stews, salads, couscous, vegetables and egg dishes

• Create a spicy, refreshing dip for fresh vegetables by combining our Harissa Spice Blend with tangy yogurt

• Try in place of mustard on sandwiches

• Add a pinch to vinaigrettes, dressings and sauces

• Use to season steaks, chops, burgers, chicken, prawns or shrimp, fish, or vegetables before grilling

• Add a spoonful to cottage cheese

• Sweat minced shallots in butter, add wine or sherry, reduce, remove from heat and whisk in butter and harissa powder to make a luxurious Harissa Beurre Blanc

• Toss whole blanched almonds in olive oil, salt and harissa, blend and toast in the oven

• Add to vegetables at the start of cooking

• Whip softened butter with harissa blend, add chopped cilantro to make a compound butter for steak or fish

A recipe to try:

Harissa Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

Our Harissa Spice Blend infuses these crispy baked sweet potatoes with the spicy flavor of chiles and a complex array of savory spices. The combination of sweet and spicy makes this dish an addictive side option for everything from burgers to grilled chicken.

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 40 min
Total time: 45 min
Makes 6 servings

2 Tablespoons The Epicentre’s Harissa spice blend
1 Teaspoon ground cumin
1 Teaspoon sea salt
3 Medium Sweet Potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Tablespoon Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Stir together Harissa Spice Blend, cumin and sea salt in small bowl.

Toss sweet potato wedges with oil in large mixing bowl until well-coated. Sprinkle spice mixture lightly over wedges, while tossing, to thoroughly coat.

Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheets, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until potatoes are tender and crispy at edges, tossing once halfway through cooking.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro. Serve hot

The 12 Spices That Will Instantly Make You A Better Cook

The 12 Spices That Will Instantly Make You A Better Cook

a variety of spices

We’ve compiled a list of 12 spices essential to creating unique and flavorful dishes and included some helpful advice for each herb or spice. In no particular order…

1. Ginger

Ginger products are made from dried or fresh ginger root (a rhizome, actually) and the mildly hot, bitingly sweet spice can be used in many ways, both in sweet and savoury dishes. Mix up a delicious ginger marinade for fish, chicken or vegetables. It’s a natural for stir fries and Asian dishes—soy sauce, garlic, and ginger are very happy together. Try adding crystallized ginger to chocolate or shortbread to make a dessert that’s both spicy and sweet. Enjoy ginger cookies, ginger-infused chicken, ginger beer, ginger candy or make a tea with honey to treat what ails you.

2. Cumin

Cumin comes from the dried seeds of an annual plant in the parsley family. Earthy, pungent and slightly nutty, cumin is a commonly used spice in Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisines. It is sold as either whole or ground. We suggest roasting cumin seeds to release its full flavour. Cumin enhances the flavour of many types of dishes is frequently included in curry powders. Use it to season chicken, beef, pork, sausages, soups, stews, eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, couscous, chilli and more.

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3. Basil

Basil plants bear leaves that have a strong aroma that might remind you of mint and cloves. While the leaves’ fragrance is powerful, the taste is more subtle. It is used extensively in Italian and Thai cooking. Basil is rich, spicy and slightly peppery— a lovely culmination of flavors making it delightful to use fresh, dried or frozen. Basil is wonderfully versatile because the leaves can be eaten fresh or cooked. Fresh leaves add extra zing to salads and can double up as a garnish. It greatly enhances the taste of veal, chicken, fish or lamb. When used with mild vegetables such as cauliflower, potatoes, cabbage, squash, eggplant or zucchini, basil accentuates the taste factor. Soups, stews, sauces and marinades with basil add zip and zest.  Many cooks like to use basil in tomato dishes, especially Italian sauces; the two flavors complement one another where the sum is greater than the parts. Lemon basil is often used in chicken dishes and desserts.

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4. Bay Leaf

These aromatic, woodsy-tasting leaves are typically sold dried but if you have an opportunity to buy fresh or frozen, go for it. Choose leaves with a rich green color. Add whole bay leaves to soups, stews, and marinades and remove before serving. Bay leaf is often used to season long-cooking dishes like soups, stews, and braises, but it can also enhance the flavor of quicker-cooking dishes like rice, risotto or a pasta sauce. The key is to have at least a little liquid for the bay to infuse and heat to get the process going. Though bay leaf is used most widely in Mediterranean cooking, it has become an established seasoning in Indian, Middle Eastern and many European cuisines. It’s also one of the herbs used in a classic French bouquet garni.

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5. Turmeric

Tumeric is a spice native to Southeast India that comes from the rhizome of a plant in the ginger family. It is sometimes available fresh but is usually sold dried and ground in powder form. Turmeric has antioxidant properties and a host of many other health benefits. It boasts a peppery warm flavor. Its intense colour mimics that of saffron and is a great budget-friendly substitute when looking to achieve the rich yellow hue in any dish — be careful to not get it on your clothes! It’s a popular Indian spice, a must-have for giving curries a full-bodied flavor and in Malaysia cooks use it to flavor a popular chicken dish called kapitan. It is used in Sri Lanka’s Colombo powder. Turmeric is what colors American processed cheese, mustard, butter, yellow cake mix, popcorn and dozens of other products.

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6. Black Peppercorns

Black pepper is one of the most versatile and widely-used spices in the world. Available in several varieties, peppercorns are actually the dried berries of the pepper plant (piper nigrum), native to Asia. The same plant also produces white and green peppercorns. For the best flavor always choose whole peppercorns over pre-ground versions: the flavor of freshly ground or cracked pepper makes the small effort in preparation well worth it. Black pepper’s uses are almost endless, adding both heat and that extra bit of dimension to many dishes. Try coating meats with crushed peppercorns or add it to warm beverages such as chai tea. Add to fresh fruit for an extra kick or mix with other spices for a flavor-enhancing blend.

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7. Oregano

With a hearty, robust flavor, oregano is ideal in dishes that contain other equally strong or acidic ingredients, providing that this-is-Italian flavor for pizza or your favorite spaghetti and meatballs. It’s readily available both fresh and dried. Fresh oregano has a milder, more delicate flavor. The two most common types of oregano are Greek and Mexican. Mexican oregano looks similar to Mediterranean oregano, but Mexican has a stronger resinous and earthy flavor. (The plants are from different but closely related botanical families.) Mexican oregano has a stronger, more robust flavor.

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8. Mustard

Mustard seeds need to dry roast or fry and pop in hot oil to release their full potential. In stir fries, toss them in oil with finely minced aromatics like ginger and garlic or curry leaves. The seeds’ spiciness makes them choice additions to rubs and seasoning blends. When cooked in oil the taste of mustard seeds will remain subtle, adding a less pungent flavor to things like curry pastes, sauces, or stews.After toasting, mustard seeds mellow out and can be incorporated into a sauce or dressing to provide a nutty, earthy flavor as well as a bit of texture.They’re also used for pickling. There are three varieties of mustard seeds: yellow, brown and black — each can be used to make your own mustard condiment.

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9. Cinnamon

Super tasty and versatile, cinnamon is used in both sweet and savory dishes. The whole quills or cinnamon sticks can be added to stews, used to flavor curries, mulled wine, punches, added to stewing fruit and rice dishes (including rice pudding). It’s distinctive taste and aroma is enjoyed solo (think cinnamon rolls) and in combination with other warm spices like cloves, nutmeg, and allspice (in cakes, cookies and fruit crisps, breads, pies, puddings and more). In savory dishes, it may appear in soups, sauces, chutneys, curries, catsup, pickles, squash, potatoes, green beans, red beets, applesauce, vinegars, meat, fish and poultry glazes and marinades and grains. Try it in hot drinks like cider, mulled wine coffee, tea and cocoa too. Cinnamon is widely used in spice mixes for savory dishes in Asian, Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, for example in tagines.

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10. Rosemary

Rosemary has a piney aroma and a distinctive sharp flavor. It can be used fresh or dried. Rosemary is an incredibly powerful herb and can easily overwhelm a dish if you use too much. It’s best to start with the minimum called for in a recipe and work your way up to taste. Also, remember that the rosemary flavor will gain strength the longer a dish cooks, particularly those with a lot of liquid. Rosemary has a place in everything from meat and chicken, to vegetables, soups, baked goods, and even cocktails. It can go into a marinade or braise and get worked into a compound butter to melt over the finished dish. Rosemary is a natural accompaniment to lamb, its bracing flavor a perfect match for the inherent gaminess of lamb.

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11. Cardamom

Cardamom is an alluring spice with a seductive aroma. Its bright green pods conceal black pearls of flavor which liven up a wide array of dishes. It is a common ingredient in Indian spice mixtures such as curries, often blended with things like cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic and turmeric. Cardamom is also used extensively in the Middle East to flavor coffee and it often appears in Scandinavian breads, cookies, and other baked goods. Cardamon pairs well with fruits, either in sweet or savory recipes. Cardamon and orange, for example, in a glaze for meat, or cardamom and peach with baked pork, or a cardamom spiked apple sauce.

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12. Coriander seed

The small, creamy brown seeds of the coriander plant give dishes a warm, aromatic and slightly citrus flavour totally different to fresh coriander leaves. They are commonly used in Indian cooking as well as featuring in Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. Although the difference in flavor between ground and whole coriander is nuanced, the powder works best for incorporating flavor seamlessly into doughs and batters, while the texture of whole or gently cracked seeds complements meat rubs or condiments like gremolata or chutney. Coriander’s pleasant yet subtle flavor can enhance sweet and savory dishes of any origin, from yeasted doughs and cookies to sauerkraut and racks of lamb.

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7 Remarkable Health Benefits of Cinnamon

7 Remarkable Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Who doesn’t love cinnamon? It’s used in all kinds of sweet and savoury dishes and makes a perfect topping for your favourite coffee drinks. But aside from being one of our favourite spices, adding cinnamon to your diet can benefit your health.

1. Cinnamon and Diabetes

Studies have shown that cinnamon supplements lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. In a related study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that a teaspoon of cinnamon helped tame blood sugar in people without diabetes.




Another study (suggests that because of cinnamon’s natural effect on blood sugar and lowering the body’s insulin resistance it may also be ideal for those who are categorized as being prediabetic.

It also reduces LDL cholesterol levels.  LDL is also known as the harmful cholesterol. Reducing it may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Cinnamon combats free radicals

The body produces free radicals which are small molecules that arise when atoms are paired with unpaired electrons. When this happens, free radicals start damaging other areas of the body, such as DNA and cause cell deterioration.

The body produces free radicals which are small molecules that arise when atoms are paired with unpaired electrons. When this happens, free radicals start damaging other areas of the body, such as DNA and cause cell deterioration.If your body has enough antioxidants available, they will react safely with free radicals and prevent any cell damage to the body.  One teaspoon of cinnamon has as much antioxidant capacity as a full cup of pomegranate juice or a half-cup of blueberries.

3. Cinnamon fights infections

Due to its antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic properties, it is effective on external as well as internal infections. It helps in destroying germs in the gall bladder and bacteria in staph infections. In studies, cinnamon has been effective against ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria and other pathogens.

Due to its antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic properties, it is effective on external as well as internal infections. It helps in destroying germs in the gall bladder and bacteria in staph infections. In studies, cinnamon has been effective against ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria and other pathogens.

4. Benefits for Inflammation

Cinnamon contains a natural anti-inflammatory property called cinnamaldehyde making it a perfect herbal remedy for pain and swelling. It improves your circulation, due to the presence of a blood thinning compound. Good blood circulation ensures oxygen supply to your cells, leading to higher metabolic activity and further protection against heart disease.

Cinnamon contains a natural anti-inflammatory property called cinnamaldehyde making it a perfect herbal remedy for pain and swelling. It improves your circulation, due to the presence of a blood thinning compound. Good blood circulation ensures oxygen supply to your cells, leading to higher metabolic activity and further protection against heart disease.

5. Cinnamon and Weight Loss

Cinnamon has a regulatory effect on blood sugar levels and simultaneously increases insulin levels in the body. It imitates the biological activity of insulin and increases the metabolism of glucose. Since high blood sugar levels can lead to increased storage of fat by the body, cinnamon helps prevent this increased storage of fat and enables you to lose weight. In addition, it influences the manner in which sugar is metabolized by the body and prevents the transformation of the metabolized sugar into fat. A boosted metabolism will also allow you to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time.




Cinnamon also delays the passing of food from the stomach into the intestine so you feel satisfied for a longer time and eat less. This helps you lose weight. Cinnamon also helps the body to process carbohydrates more efficiently and this assists you in losing a few pounds. Studies show that abdominal fat is more sensitive to the effects of cinnamon than fat from other parts of the body.

6. Cinnamon’s role in treating Neurodegenerative Diseases

According to research published in the journal Molecular Biology, chronic inflammation plays a major role in the development of various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, and meningitis.
In addition to potentially boosting cognitive function, cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin, two compounds found in cinnamon, have an inhibitory effect on the aggregation of a particular protein called tau. Tau plays a large role in the structure and function of neurons. This protein can begin to accumulate, forming “neurofibrillary tangles” that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Both compounds were found to protect tau from oxidative damage that can lead to dysfunction.

7. Cinnamon as a digestive aid

Cinnamon is effective in relieving abdominal discomfort brought about by excess gas. Cinnamon extracts can be used to treat gastrointestinal problems such as flatulent dyspepsia or gastrointestinal spasms and help calm the stomach. Cinnamon is a carminative because it helps break up intestinal gas and can be useful in fighting diarrhea and morning sickness.

For people with heartburn, it can be used as a post-meal digestive aid and in stimulating weak digestive tract.

 

Why Pepper Makes You Sneeze

Why Pepper Makes You Sneeze

It’s a burning question. We all understand how onions bring on the tears but why does pepper make us sneeze?

There are 2 reasons why pepper is particularly sneeze-inducing. The first is that, like other spices, it is often used when finely ground. As with any other tiny particle in the air, it can stimulate nerve cells inside the nose and trigger the sneeze reflex to forcefully clear out the offensive particulate.



The other reason is on account of the chemical composition of pepper. Pepper contains a chemical called piperine, which gives the plant its flavour. Piperine stimulates the nasal nerve endings, causing the brain to trigger muscles in the nose and throat to get rid of the particles.

Piperine is present in white and green pepper but black pepper is the most irritating.

Know yer nose!

  • When you sneeze, air rushes out of your nose at 100 miles per hour!
  • The human nose has 5 million scent receptors
  • Sneezing is called sternutation
  • Our nose produces 1 to 2 pints of mucus every day
Fenugreek Is The Spice That Can Spice Up Your Sex Life

Fenugreek Is The Spice That Can Spice Up Your Sex Life

Fenugreek spices up the male libido

Fenugreek is a spice that is best known for its use in curry dishes. But its benefits go beyond your taste buds — it can help you amp up your sex life.

A 6 week study reported in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that a fenugreek supplement boosted libido in 82% of men. 63% of the men taking the fenugreek noted an improvement in the quality of sexual performance and 67% of men indicated that it enhanced their sexual recovery time.



Fenugreek (known by its botanical name Trigonella foenum-graecum), is a plant used both as an herb (the leaves) and a spice (the seed); it’s a common ingredient in many curries. It has been studied in the past for its effects in blood sugar maintenance in diabetics and its cholesterol-lowering effects among those with hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and high triglycerides).

Fenugreek seeds are rich in a chemical compound known as saponins. According to the study authors, one of the common saponins found in fenugreek is diosgenin which affects the production of a number of sex hormones. The men in the study reported pronounced and welcome improvements to their sexual desire, arousal and performance. In addition, 82% of the men taking the fenugreek also reported higher levels of general energy. Whether the latter effect was a direct result of fenugreek or from increased sexual activity was not described. But we’re guessing the men in the study don’t really care!

Fenugreek has also been shown in studies to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It has been used for treating menopausal symptoms, treating digestive problems and to stimulate the production of milk in breastfeeding women.

Fenugreek Increases Sexual Desire and Arousal in Women

In a 2012 study, researchers recruited 80 women aged between 20 and 49 who reported they had low sex drive. They were randomly divided into either a control group, who received a placebo or a group that was given an oral dose of fenugreek supplement (600 mg/daily).



The results showed a significant increase in sexual desire and arousal as well as a marked increase in sexual activity. Discussing the findings, doctors said estradiol stimulates vaginal lubrication and blood flow, positively affecting a woman’s capacity for sexual arousal and orgasm, and that the study results appear to support this beneficial effect in women.