Cooking with Spice
Rachel, co-founder of Rooted Spices, and I met over dinner and we quickly connected on the subject of food and food writers. What struck me instantly was Rachel’s passion for ingredients and great cookery, it is a passion which we share. After, that meeting she very kindly gifted me a selection of samples; which included both her single origin spices (more of which later) and some of her unique spice blends. They were absolutely phenomenal: fragrant, aromatic and vibrant; simply everything you would want your spices to be. I couldn’t believe the comparison between her product and the spices I have in my spice drawer at home. In fact they were incomparable, and just like that I became an instant spice groupie. A few weeks later I shared a recipe I had made with her Golden Spice Blend through the Mimi’s Bowl feed. This blend is a heavenly mix of turmeric, cinnamon and black pepper and it makes an incredible base for my Golden Porridge.
Spices are a fantastic way of adding flavour to food and there is no reason why kids food should be bland and boring. If you want a foodie of the future then spices open up a whole new world of cooking and possibility (far beyond food that is unsuitably spicy for kids). This month I am thrilled that Rachel and her co-founder Clara have offered to share a little more about the spices they are passionate about and their top tips for spicing up our home cooking.
introducing Clara and Rachel, founders of Rooted Spices, who want you to know that not all spices are born equal..
…where spices grow has a huge impact on their taste. Clara and Rachel put together a range of Single Origin Spices to challenge the dusty jars of lacklustre spices, listed as coming from countries of multiple origins. The concept behind Rooted Spices incubated for well over a decade. Founders Clara and Rachel met at school and were united by a sense of adventure. At the age of 17 they travelled together to Nepal and as they continued to travel throughout their twenties (Clara living in Spain, Turkey and the Middle East and Rachel driving to Mongolia as well as culinary-focus trips while working on The Sunday Times food desk) they’d bring home and share spices which were so superior to anything they could get their hands on in the UK. In 2017 they founded Rooted Spices and began importing a range of Single Origin Spices – as well as creating their own blends. They continue to spread the word about the huge impact quality spices have, and how a pinch of something potent really does make a world of difference.
Tip 1: Spice Spring Clean
This time of year is ideal for doing a spice spring clean – you’ll be shocked what’s lurking at the back of your cabinet. We ran a competition earlier this year asking customers to send us photographs of the oldest spice they could find in their kitchen. The winning entry was from East Berlin! There’s no harm in decades-old spices, but also no point, as powders use their potency over time. Keeping a fresh spice cabinet is both achievable and incredibly pleasing. Whole spices will keep longer than pre-ground, but we recommend buying spices ‘little and often’ and trying to use them within six months of opening, for best results.
Tip 2: Think Beyond Salt and Pepper
British diners are quick to reach for salt and pepper, but a pinch of something potent can make a world of difference. Turkish cafes often have pots of Pul Biber on the table. In Japan, noodles might be seasoned with Shichimi Togarashi and Middle Eastern chefs reach for bold blends like Za’atar when cooking chicken or fish.
After all, a finishing flavour is often the most present in a mouthful – so start exploring the options beyond salt and pepper, and instantly elevate even the plainest of dishes.
Tip 3: Never scrimp on cinnamon
There is loose labelling surrounding cinnamon – read packs closely and you’ll notice that shop-bought ‘cinnamon’ might in fact be ground cassia bark. It’s closely related, but has none of the natural sweetness of ‘True Cinnamon’. When using a good quality cinnamon it can replace sugar in porridge and will bring rounded, warm flavours to a dish. There shouldn’t be any astringency or artificiality. We spent quite a long time tracking down a top quality product from Sri Lanka, and we think it’s one of the starkest examples of the difference between a cheap, supermarket sample and a superior, single origin spice.
Tip 4: How to store spices
Spice racks are often mounted on a patch of wall next to the hob, and glass jars are lined up on a windowsill. In fact, spices should be kept away from heat or direct sunlight to stop them becoming sun-bleached and losing their potency. We store our spices in opaque tins, which also have the benefit of packing nicely alongside each other in a draw.
Tip 5: Children and Spice
There are so many health benefits surrounding spices, as well as the bonus of helping children develop a varied palate – which is why spices are great when weaning. It’s best to start with gentle flavours like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Olive (daughter of Rooted Spices co-founder Clara) has been enjoying Golden Blend (a mixture of cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper) in her morning porridge since she was seven months old. Avoid anything too hot (eg cayenne pepper), and think about turning to the spice cabinet alongside the medicine cabinet – cinnamon and cloves have pain relief properties which can be useful when teething, and nutmeg is known for its calming effect.