What’s in your spice cupboard?
My spice rack started off very modestly. When I first moved into N’s his spice collection consisted of five clear jars full of completely unknown elements and a wonderful thing called a masala dabba (spice box). Now for those of you who don’t know a masala dabba is a round stainless steel box with a lid that contains approximately 8-10 small stainless steel containers. I can almost guarantee you that if you look hard enough you will find one in every South-East Asian household.
It is ingenious, I urge you all to go and get one. It means you can use so many beautiful spices without having to open half a dozen small bottles or jars with slightly grubby hands whilst trying to avoid burning your food. An Indian masala dabba generally contains a combination of the following spices: coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, red chilli powder, paprika, garam masala, dried mango powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, salt, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and mustard seeds (phew!). However, I’m sure my mum and mum-in-law will read this and tell me there’s a few more I’ve forgotten!
Herbs I find are a bit trickier. I do use dry herbs and I keep a lot of them in stock but there’s nothing as delicious as using fresh herbs. I used to buy a small pack of thyme and then for the next week everything I made tasted the same as I had to use up the packet before it spoiled. When I finally learnt that freezing herbs works so well it transformed my life. Some herbs you can freeze whole like thyme and rosemary, but others like coriander, parsley and basil require a little more work so I buy those ready frozen. The Waitrose Cook’s Ingredients range is an absolute blessing!
My spice rack has evolved the more and more I cook. With each new recipe I try I often end up buying myself a new little jar of something magical. A spice and herb rack doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to by one of those purpose built turntables with clear jars. My rack is just a two tier metal shelving unit which I have lined with card so the jars don’t wobble. Your spice rack should be something that works for you and for your kitchen. Below I have listed the contents of my collection just in case you’re looking for some inspiration. There are still a few things on my wish list that I haven’t got round to buying, such as star anise and fennel seeds, but I seem to be managing pretty well with what I’ve got.
Do add a comment and let me know what your must-have spices are, as I’m always looking for new ideas…Whether you build a small collection or a large one I hope you love the food it helps you create.