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5 Spice Rack Staples for a Novice Chef

5 Spice Rack Staples for a Novice Chef

You know that friend with the natural knack for cooking? The one with row after row of labeled spices in their kitchen? They know exactly what spice to throw into each and every elaborate dish without even looking at a recipe. 

Sure, seasoning with salt and pepper is easy. But for us novice chefs, cooking with spices can be a little daunting, especially when you’re still trying to perfect how much chilli to add to your favourite Spaghetti Bolognese recipe. 

We know it's tempting to buy hundreds of spices and try to manage them all, but you could risk becoming overwhelmed, and giving up and ordering in. Starting off with a few staples will help you learn which spices go with what ingredients. You can play around with a few, and then move onto adding more spices to your repertoire once you’re feeling comfortable.

Here are a few of our favourites: 


What is it? Dried seed from the cumin plant, a member of the parsley family

Flavour? Earthy and nutty

Why we love it? Compliments other spices like, coriander, chilli, and cinnamon

What to use it in? It’s most common in Indian, Mexican and Middle-eastern cuisines, but is used everywhere. It works well in curries, stews, and when roasting meat and vegetables. We love it in felafels.


What is it? Dried and ground capsicums

Flavour? Smokey, warm, and sweet (depending on what type you get)

Why we love it? It gives recipes a nuanced taste–sweet and smokey. Paprika adds heat, without being too spicy.

What to use it in? Popular in Middle Eastern dishes. It's great in soups and stews. We love it in cous cous, and roasted on chickpeas.

Chilli flakes or powder

What is it? Dried chilli

Flavour? Hot and spicy

Why we love it? It gives your food a spicy kick

What to use it in? Pizza, pasta, and anything tomato-based. Works well in Asian dishes, especially Thai recipes, like stir-fry. Basically chilli is your go-to when you want your food to have to have a little (or a lot) of "bite."


What is it? Inner-bark from a cinnamon tree

Flavour? Sweet and fragrant

Why we love it? It’s what makes an apple pie an apple pie!

What to use it in? Great in baked pastries for a spicy sweetness, but also works in savoury recipes when mixed with other spices. We sprinkle it into our porridge during winter.

Curry Powder

What is it? A mix of spices–often turmeric, coriander and ginger

Flavour? Deep, earthy and sweet

Why we love it? Curry powder is a pantry staple. You get the flavours of multiple spices in one powder. It's a flavour base to countless dishes, and adds a bit of pizazz to simple recipes.

What to use it in? Curry, of course. But also soups, stews, sauces, pastes…the list goes on. Try roasting your vegetables with a little oil and curry powder to give them a flavour boost.

More Spice Tips:

* Try to avoid turning into a “crazy scientist” when adding spices. Less is usually more. If you add too much, you risk ruining your meal.

* When following your next recipe, take note of what spices it asks you to add, and how they work with the recipe’s specific ingredients. Try to identify different spices while eating your meal.

* Mix spices with oil, then rub into meat, vegetables, nuts, or chickpeas for an easy and tasty marinade.

* Spices don’t always need to be cooked. They can be added to salad, smoothies, pastes, and dips.

* Sometimes spices develop their flavours slowly, so your meal may taste better the next day.

Do you have a favourite recipe that includes one of the spices above? We would love to hear from you. Comment below.


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