Spices play a very important role in the lives of people worldwide. Each spice bears its own distinct flavor and quality. Since it can make or break the taste of every dish, the spices and seasonings market in the US may reach $7.3 billion by 2025. The report linked the growth of the spice market to the consumer’s evolving food preferences. This is due to introducing cuisines from different parts of the world.
Spices are also necessary to provide the extra zest for exotic dishes like saffron shrimp with tamarind chutney and other savory viands. But if you want to cook your own flavourful meals at home, you need to know the different techniques in using different spices. Some of these include dry roasting the spices. or frying the spices using oils. Here are the steps on how to fry spices and master the flavor.
Using A Small Amount Of Oil
This method of frying spices requires the use of a specific type of frying pan to provide an even heat distribution. For this reason, a sturdy cast iron pan can do the trick. You need to put a small amount of a good quality olive oil or vegetable oil in the pan and wait for it to get hot. Then drop in the spices in the hot oil gradually. You may start with the larger spices then slowly drop the smaller ones. Once the spices become fragrant, immediately remove it from the pan.
If the oil begins to smoke, this means that it may be too hot and may burn the spices right away. You need to remove it from the stove or lower down the heat to stop the oil from burning. You need proper timing to fry the spices using this method.
Slow Frying With Onions
Some people call this spice frying method as boohoo or bhunooing. Most of the time, people use it as the base for immediate cooking of various recipes instead of frying the spices for later use. It can help in building flavors gradually rather than adding all the seasonings in one go. However, you need to use more oil for this method.
To do this, you must put the stove on high and heat the oil. As soon as it starts to bubble, you need to lower the heat to medium. Start adding the spices, then turn the heat to the lowest level to allow it to release all the flavors gradually. Once it becomes aromatic, add the onion and continue cooking until the onion becomes golden brown. Then add all the necessary ingredients for your recipe. You can choose this method if you want to cook different sauces, curries, and stews.
You can do this spice frying method if you want to use spices as a garnish or condiment to your meal. Also known as “tadka,” you need to use high heat and two tablespoons of oil or ghee to tone down the flavor of the spices. You must heat the frying pan until it starts to smoke.
Drop small amounts of whole spices into the pan and wait to hear the popping sounds. It will let you know if the spices start to release their flavors in the oil. Once it happens, you can remove the spices using a slotted spoon or strain it to remove the oil. You can use it the fried spices as a sprinkle to jazz up a dish and enhance its flavors.
If you plan to do any of these methods, you must always make it a point to watch the spices closely to avoid burning. If you scorch a single piece of spice, it will affect the flavor of the entire batch. So make sure to stir the spices regularly for even cooking. Remember, frying spices might take some time before you can make a perfect batch. So never feel discouraged if you cannot make an evenly fried batch during your first try. But when you finally master these techniques, you can always use it to make yummier dishes using your spices.
All About Wine Tasting
There’s more to tasting a glass of wine than throwing it down your gullet. We’ll start slow.
Hold the glass over a white background, like a napkin or tablecloth. Colour varies with age, varietal (i.e. Chardonnay is darker than Riesling) and time spent in the barrel. White wines range from almost clear to pale yellow-green, straw/yellow, light gold, gold or old gold, to maderized brown. Reds can be magenta, purple, ruby red, red, eggplant, brick red or orange, red brown and finally, brown. (If you’re not drinking Sherry or Madeira, brown is not a good thing.)
Swirl the wine to aerate it. This releases ethers, esters and aldehydes that combine with oxygen to bring you the wine’s aroma or bouquet. It doesn’t take much practice, but if you’re just learning, start with a white or dress down.
Follow yours. First: the flaws. If there’s a moldy, wet cardboard aroma it may be “corky” or tainted. Drink not, or suffer the consequences. Sulfur (burnt match) aromas may dissipate with a little air time or may not even bother you too much, but too much sulfur dioxide is a problem. If your wine smells like Sherry but isn’t, that’s a problem. Likewise for vinegar. If a wine smells clean, fresh, and ripe to you, get out of the embarrassing tasting spotlight and motion for the waiter to pour. Only cigar smokers swish and contemplate the “legs” of a wine. The “nose” should also be faithful to the grape’s variety, which is something you have to learn over time.
Skip the sip. Soak your taste buds by taking a decent mouthful and rolling it around. Sweetness is detected at the tip of the tongue, so you’ll be aware of residual sugar right away. Varietal characteristics are picked up in the middle of the tongue; tannin (in most reds and wood-aged white) starts there. Acidity hits the sides of the tongue, the cheeks and the back of the throat. Oak — despite all the faux connoisseurs waxing poetic about a Chardonnay’s “complex oakiness,” the presence of oak is usually a negative attribute. Many delicious wines are appropriately aged in oak barrels, a process that enhances a wine’s body and viscosity.Many domestic whites under $15 are not just aged in oak but also oak-fermented — that is, artificially sweetened with oak chips, powders, and essences. The process disguises the natural flavour of the grape varietal with what is all too often the rough-hewn sweetness of, say, burnt caramel popcorn. Too much of any one flavour almost always means it’s out of whack.
Aftertaste is what lingers after you swallow. A long pleasing aftertaste with a nice balance of the other components is the sign of a high quality wine.
What was the body of the wine like? Light (like skim milk), medium (like whole), or full bodied (like cream)? If it was a white wine, how was the acidity? Too little and flat? Just right, crispy, fresh and pleasing, or too high and burning your mouth? For a red wine, tannins are a big factor. Light tannins make for a soft wine. They can be present, ripe and pleasing, or too high, leaving a dry mouth feeling that may indicate some cellar time is needed to chill out. How long did the “finish” last? A couple of seconds, or much longer, as great wines tend to? Is it ready to drink? Are all of these components appealing to you? Is it worth the price? Can you think of a food it might go well with? And most important: was it good for you?
Remember, red wine is not necessarily more sophisticated than white, and not necessarily the only choice with meat. In fact, because whites are generally lighter in weight than reds, they lend themselves more easily to a wider range of foods. While there are any number of great sipping wines, light- to medium-bodied wines that are high in acidity and sugar and low in alcohol tend to be the most flexible and complimentary to our lighter, more dynamic diets. Food-friendly whites include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc; the best choices among the reds are Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Gamay, Pinot Noir.
Regional wine qualities tend to reflect the specifics of regional cuisines. So picking a region to tour often means choosing what kind of food you want to eat for ten days straight.
Here are some top wine picks in Europe:
Northern Italy: Piemonte and the Veneto are greatly influenced by the rich subtelty of their butter-worshipping French and Swiss neighbors. Whites: From Piemonte, Pinot Bianco, Soave, Pinot Grigio with shellfish and fish; the sparkling Prosecco from the Veneto. Reds: Franciacorta Rosso (Cabernet Franc, Barbera, and Merlot) with meat; Amarone (Molinara, Rodinella and Corvina), Barbera, and young Nebbiolo with lamb and game.
Central Italy: Trendy cuisine from Tuscany and Chianti favors lighter pastas, vegetables and seafood. Whites: Verdicchio, Orvieto (Trebbiano and Garbanega), Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Reds: Sangiovese, Morellino, Rosso di Montalcino, Chiantis, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino. For tricky-to-pair cured hams and cheeses, fruitier reds are a good choice: Valpolicella (Corvina, Molinara, Rodinella), Barbera, Dolcetto, Ruffina.
Sicily and the South: Campagna and Sardegna—land of hard sheep’s milk cheese, salty fish, tomatoes and plenty of garlic—favor sweeter, prunier wines like Greco and Fiano from Campagna and Vermentino from Sardegna.
Northern and Central France: Delicate butter and cream sauces paired with exquisite veal stock reductions and tarragon call for great big wines that have high acidity. For fish or vegetables in light cream sauces, escargot, and oysters: Loire Chenins (Vouvray and Montlouis), Loire Sauvignons (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé), and Champagne. For veal, pork, and white meat birds: Loire Cabernet Francs (Saumur, Chinon, Bourgueil) and the Gamay wines of Beaujolais. For red meat and game: Bordeaux and red Burgundies.
Provence and Southwestern France: Like Southern Italy, salty fish, tomato sauces, peppers, olive oil, and herbs go well with the regions many rosés and Ugni Blanc from Cascogne. With light meats and heavy seafood, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, Condrieu, and Hermitage Blanc. Heavy goose liver pâté and duck can take heavy black wines like Cahors (Malbec), Madiran (Tannat), Bandol (Mourvèdre), and Syrah-Grenache (blends from Châteauneauf du Pape, Gigondas, Côtes de Roussillon, CÔtes de Lubéron, Corbieres, St. Chinian, and Minervois) and northern Rhône Syrahs like Cornas, Côte-Rôtie, and Hermitage.
Alsace: For the cuisine of this region, which is heavily influenced by its potato-, goose-, and sauerkraut-eating German neighbors, heavy aromatic whites are in order: Alsace Pinot Blanc, Tokay-Pinot Gris and the flowery and fruity Gewürztraminer.
Germany: Wines that are high in acid provide a necessary counterbalance to the fatty, bland, carb-and-meat-centric northern European diet. The Mosel Rieslings are citrusy, whereas Rhine River wines tend to smell vaguely of peaches. Nahe River wines are a combination of the two. Rheinhessen wines tend to have smoky undertones to their fruity flavour. Wines from the Rheingau region are dry. The increasingly popular Rheinpfaltz (or just “Pfaltz”) style is both full and fruity and includes Gewürztraminer, Scheurebe, Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir), and Chardonnay.
Ginger is one of those ingredients that can be many things to many people. Not only is it used in cuisines around the world, but it also comes in a variety of forms—fresh, pickled, dried, and crystallized among them People who bake may immediately call to mind the ground ginger they use in gingerbread or the jewel-like crystallized ginger they add to holiday cookies and cakes.
Others think first of ginger’s savory contributions: the brightness that minced fresh ginger adds to Chinese stir-fry, or the refreshing tang of pickled ginger served with sushi. Rarely used as the sole flavouring in recipes, ginger combines particularly well with the warm spice notes of cumin and coriander in savory preparations. Garlic, mustard seed, turmeric, and the whole palette of Indian seasonings would shine less brightly without ginger’s glow.
In sweets such as quick breads, muffins, and preserves, ginger is part of a classic triumvirate along with cinnamon and cloves. In each of its incarnations, however, ginger makes its simultaneously hot and refreshing presence known.
Fresh ginger packs the most punch
Light tan with knobby, fingerlike branches, fresh ginger is available at most supermarkets, although I usually find better quality ginger at Asian markets, where it moves off the shelves faster. The best fresh ginger has smooth, unblemished skin. It should be hard and break cleanly with a snap. Fresh ginger will keep for a week at room temperature and for a month in the fridge. Cutting pieces from it doesn’t ruin the integrity of the root; remove any of the cut edge that looks less than firm and use what you need of the rest, which remains in perfect condition.
To mince ginger: Peel and square off the root. Slice with the grain; stack the slices, julienne, and then chop. Ginger coins (above right) are perfect for marinades.
I almost always peel ginger; the skin comes off easily with a vegetable peeler or a small paring knife. I make an exception if I’m using it in a marinade or sugar syrup from which it will be retrieved. In those cases, I simply slice the ginger and smash it slightly to release its aromatic oils.
Young ginger, a real treat if you can find it, is less fibrous with a pale, thinner skin that doesn’t need to be peeled.
When slicing ginger for a julienne, trim the root into a rectangle and slice it lengthwise. Stack the slices and cut them into matchsticks. To dice the ginger, cut the matchsticks crosswise into cubes. You can also make ginger “coins” by slicing the root into rounds across the grain.
Pickled ginger is fresh ginger that’s been brined. More and more supermarkets are carrying pickled ginger, and you’ll always find it at Asian markets. Pickled ginger is great with fish. I love to pair ginger, especially pickled ginger, with fatty fish like salmon because the ginger makes the fish feel less rich. Pickled ginger is easy to make. Simply peel fresh ginger and slice it into thin ribbons. Cook the slices for a few minutes in lightly salted water, drain, and flavour to taste with sugar and a good-quality rice vinegar (I like a ratio of four parts vinegar to one part sugar). Allow the ginger to cool and store it with its brine in a canning jar with a good lid in the refrigerator. I like to use the brine in vinaigrettes or as an intriguing base in place of vinegar in emulsified sauces like beurre blanc or hollandaise.
Dried and crystallized are best for baking
As with all aromatic flavourings, the dried version is an echo of the fresh form, and in the case of ginger, the dried can’t replace the fresh. But dried ginger has its merits, lending its warm, sweet aroma to cakes, cookies, and puddings. If the texture of the dessert allows, however, I add an equal amount of grated fresh ginger along with the ground; I find the resulting one-two punch of the fresh and dried is doubly delicious. Look for crystallized ginger that isn’t rock hard, stuck together, or otherwise denuded of its sugar coating—signs of age or poor quality. The best crystallized ginger, which comes from Australia, is so good that I like to eat it out of hand as an after-dinner sweet.
Experiment with Ginger
- Mix an easy, delicious marinade for chicken, fish, meat, or even vegetables, made with chopped fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
- Store peeled fresh ginger slices in a mild dry sherry. The resulting flavoured liquid makes the base for a delicious pan sauce for chicken.
- Whirl some peeled, fresh ginger in a blender with plain yogurt, a little sugar, and a dash of salt for a creamy, Indian-inspired summer drink.
- Infuse a sugar syrup with fresh ginger slices. Add the syrup to iced tea and lemonade, or pour it over fresh or poached fruit.
- Cut fresh ginger into a fine julienne and fry the sticks in oil for a delicious, crunchy garnish for fish.
- Add flavour to butter by mixing in some ground ginger and chopped lime zest; use the butter to top grilled fish.
- Brighten buttery scones or shortbread by adding finely chopped crystallized ginger to the dough.
- Dip crystallized ginger in bittersweet chocolate to serve on a dessert plate.
Robert Wemischner wrote The Vivid Flavours Cookbook (Lowell House) and co-wrote with Karen Karp Gourmet to Go (Wiley), a guide to operating a specialty food store.
Image by Marge Nauer from Pixabay