A-Z of herbs and spices

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All you need for flavourful dishes

ALLSPICE
Made from dried pimento fruit it can be sold ground or whole – the flavour is often described as a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

BLACK PEPPER
The ripe and cooked fruit of the piper nigrum which boasts a robust hot flavour. Widely used as a base for seasoning dishes alongside salt.

CORIANDER
The leaves and the seeds of this herb are used to add freshness of taste and, with the leaves, colour to a dish. A bit of a love it or loathe it herb.

DILL
Boasts a warm, enriching flavour with a hint of aniseed to it. Pairs extremely well with fish dishes.

ELDERBERRIES
Usually sold dried, these add a burst of berry flavour once rehydrated. Great for preserves.

FENNEL
Has a strong liquorice taste and the bulb, seeds and leaves can all be used. Braise the bulb as an interesting salad addition.

GALANGAL
Looks like ginger but this root adds citrus notes to Malaysian, ai and Indonesian dishes. Most usually found in its dried form, some Asian supermarkets will sell it fresh.

HARISSA
A hot mix of chillies, garlic, spices and often rose petals, used in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Adds depth of flavour and heat, pairs well with chicken.

ITALIAN SEASONING
Premixed for Italian dishes, often contains oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary and sometimes red pepper flakes. Great for Bolognese.

JERK SEASONING
Used in Jamaican dishes to add spice to meat. Usually includes allspice, Scotch Bonnet chilli powder and thyme with additions of sugar and nutmeg.

KAFFIR LIME LEAVES
Add a citrus hit to Thai dishes, usually available dried. Release flavour by either bruising the leaves or lightly breaking them. Remove before serving the dish.

LEMONGRASS
Another Thai ingredient that adds that all-important citrus tang. Incredibly woody so needs to be removed before cooking ends, or blitzed very finely.

MINT
Offers a cooling, refreshing taste that goes well with lamb dishes and as a foil to summer fruits like strawberries.

NUTMEG
Commonly teamed with cinnamon, used to enhance sweetness and depth to home baking. Also great in béchamel sauce.

OREGANO
Adds a warmth and pepperiness, commonly used in Italian dishes and in the tomato sauce for pizzas.

PAPRIKA
Can be used to colour dishes a vibrant red and add a touch of smokiness to food. Consumed in many, many world cuisines.

BOUQUET GARNI
A bundle of herbs, can be wrapped in muslin, adds flavour to stocks, soups and stews. Remove before serving.

ROSEMARY
Strong in flavour, use sparingly for a woody, aromatic flavour. Pairs extremely well with lamb dishes, a great addition to focaccia bread.

SAFFRON
Colours food and adds a complex, honey-like taste to dishes. Made from the stigmas of crocuses, highly expensive.

TARRAGON
Tastes of aniseed, flavour is robust and pairs well with chicken. Favoured in French cuisine, used in their béarnaise sauce.

TURMERIC
Yes we cheated a little. Enhances curries with warmth of taste and colour. It can stain, so be careful when using.

VANILLA
Helps to enhance the sweetness of your home bakery. Can also be used in custards and sauces. Comes in seeds, bean or extract form.

WHITE PEPPER
Earthier in flavour than black pepper, it has less of a punch, but is more complex in flavour. Goes well with carrot and parsnip mash.

EXTRA HOT CURRY POWDER
Only for the brave, a pre-mix that usually contains extra quantities of chilli. Great for that vindaloo.

YELLOW MUSTARD SEED
Used widely in Indian cuisine to add heat to dishes. Toast them lightly to really release their flavour.

ZA’ATAR
A Middle Eastern spice mix which contains za’atar (similar to thyme), sumac and sesame seeds. Used for seasoning meats or made into a dip with breads. Distinct in flavour.

Catherine Devane