Herbs and spices I couldn’t cook without

‘Variety is the spice of life’

… or so they say. I certainly couldn’t cope without a variety of spices and herbs in the kitchen.

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There are so many out there. Some are vital to certain dishes, and can linger in the back of the cupboard going pale and tasteless. Others are staples of any cuisine.

Here are the herbs and spices that will never end up at the back of my cupboards – I use them too darn much!

Ground black pepper

Along with rock salt, this is my absolute essential seasoning.

I add it during the cooking process rather than on the plate.

Garlic

Another must-have, I keep a stock of garlic cloves in airtight containers, using them grated normally to distribute flavour evenly, but also slicing or adding whole to roast chicken.

I also keep some garlic powder nowadays, again for even mixing in as well as ease.

My more recent obsession is smoked garlic. I first discovered it in a deli shop in Oban, Scotland, and let me tell you, I could smell a bulb of the stuff ALL DAY LONG. Mmmmm.

Crushed chilli flakes

I long for the day when I make some of my own. Nothing in my opinion adds heat more effectively.

And how fantastic do things like pizzas and lamb chops look with flakes strewn over them?

Thyme

I never have enough time for thyme. It goes so well with so many meat and veg dishes.

Oregano

This herb is perfect for Italian pasta or pizza dishes. I’d probably choose it over basil to go with tomato too (not that I dislike basil).

Cumin

This spice imbues casseroles, curries and chillies with a rich earthiness and a marvellous colour.

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Rosemary

Simple to grow and simple to use. A little goes a long way in chicken dishes, and I almost always include a few sprigs with lemon and garlic in roast chicken dinners.

Cinnamon

Whether ground or sticks in form, I adore the scent (so festive and comforting) and drop it into tagines, casseroles and many a sweet dish.

It even comes in handy when decorating a winter table or Christmas tree!

Bay leaves

I have had a potted bay tree for years now, following me from home to home.

Toss two or three leaves into a soup base or casserole and you end up with a gorgeously deep sweetness throughout.

It keeps its scent really well after drying too, and like smoked garlic, it’s another herb I could sniff all day long.

So is there any herb or spice I can’t stand? Well, coriander leaf serves its uses, but I’m not overly keen (especially uncooked in something). And – controversy here – I could live without mint if I had to give something up for good…

So how about you – which herbs or spices do you absolutely have to have in stock? Are there any you cannot stand?

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