Studying the Spices.

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by taylor94, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. taylor94

    taylor94

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    Been looking into getting to know my spices and educating my palate on them. I have been studying the spice, smelling them and some of them tasting as well (without it being cooked). I have written a little bit about each one that I have studied so I can get the knowledge in my head rather than on paper. Let me know what you think and if anything needs touching up.

    Paprika

    Paprika is the spice from dry bell peppers or chilli peppers that have been grounded down into a powder. It is used in powder form and can be bought normal or hot. Paprika has a very distinct dark red colour and is easily spotted. When I think of spices Paprika is one of the first things that comes into my head. Used commonly all over the world but mainly associated with Hungarian cuisine. Paprika like all other spices has a distinctive taste. Sweet and hot in taste but also has a sweet aroma to it as well. Although it adds flavour to food it also adds colour. High in vitamin C and antioxidants. Paprika works in many dishes whether it is used for colour of flavour. Great on chicken, pork and veal. Works well with sauces, garnishes and for BBQ’s.

    Cayenne Pepper

    Cayenne pepper is a hot chilli pepper that is used to flavour dishes with a hot kick. This spice is used for making dishes spicy, and used often in the making of hot sauces. Cayenne pepper has a deceptive mild aroma unlike its fiery taste. When using Cayenne pepper in cooking it is essential to be careful about how much you add as it is strong in small doses making it very easy to over use resulting in an overpoweringly spicy dish. Used a lot in Mexican and Cajun cuisine but is a staple in Asian cooking as well.

    Nutmeg

    Nutmeg is the seed from the nutmeg tree that also is the source of the mace spice. Nutmeg can be bought ground or as a whole seed but is better quality grated from the seed which has a more intense flavour. It is slightly egg shaped and quite small. It has a sweet taste and works well with cinnamon, eggs, cheese, sweet dishes, savoury dishes and is a common ingredient in a white sauce and is best used in small amounts.

    Turmeric

    Turmeric also known as Indian Saffron is an Asian spice and is part of the ginger family. It has a orangey-yellow colour and a mustardy aroma. It has a slightly bitter, earthy, peppery taste with a little bit of a kick. Turmeric adds colour to foods as well as enhancing their flavours. When you cook with turmeric the flavour of it becomes stronger so when using remember less is more. It is important in curries and chutneys but goes well with duck, chicken and rice.

    Cinnamon

    Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the bark of certain trees. It can be bought as cinnamon sticks or as a powder. Mostly used in Sweet and savoury dishes and works brilliantly with apples. It has a strong aroma and a spicy, bitter but sweet taste. Used often in baking, but also in some meat dishes as well.

     
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Paprika is not extracted, it is simply ground dried peppers, is it not?
     
     
  3. taylor94

    taylor94

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    reworded too - Paprika is the spice from dry bell peppers or chilli peppers that have been grounded down into a powder.
     
  4. teamfat

    teamfat

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    You may want to mention smoked Spanish paprika, pimenton.  Good stuff as well, if you haven't tried it.  A little can go a long way.

    mjb.
     
  5. slayertplsko

    slayertplsko

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     I remember being in your position just a few years ago, not knowing much about spices and certainly not knowing how to use them. I believe the best way to learn how to use them is to cook some representative dishes from traditional cuisines where these are used.

    So starting with the Capsicum genus (chilies and peppers).

    When it comes to chilies (those small and hot members of Capsicum), Mexican cuisine provides the greatest variety. There you need to be able to distinguish between subtle differences in taste of different chilies. In other world cuisines, there isn't much distinction and so not much to learn.

    Well, there is much more to paprika than just hot and sweet. I'm speaking as someone who lives just a few miles from Hungarian border and has got a Hungarian grandmother. Wikipedia gives as much as six grades of quality, though I have never used all of them. I think all you really need is a good quality sweet variety (look for the word édes, which is Hungarian for sweet). Two cities in southern Hungary are most famous for their paprika - Kalocsa and Szeged, so look for the words kalocsai or szegedi (SZ is pronounced as S, S as SH and CS as CH in cheese, roughly of course). It should really smell almost like when you cut red pepper, it should have that fresh smell. And bright red colour. And of course, among the different quality grades, there are different colours, e.g. rósza is quite pale and almost pinkish if I remember correctly. And there is also smoked paprika produced in Hungary (if you see the word füstölt, that's it), though I find the Spanish one better.

    And if you can get some good quality édes paprika, I urge you to try the classic recipe - paprikás csirke:

    Rather than chicken, I think it's better to use a hen or a rooster, simply something with tougher meat that would benefit from long stewing (it's also more traditional). So cut the bird into pieces (like six or eight). Heat some lard or goose fat in a pot and brown the meat, removing it then, lowering the heat and slowly stewing about three or four chopped large onions until completely sweet (they will be brown from the first moment because of the browned bits of meat, so use your tongue, not your eyes). Remove from heat, add a good tablespoon of paprika and stir it into the onions, taking care not to burn it. Then return the meat into the pot and add some water, salt, pepper, cover it with a lid and braise for as long as necessary. In the end you may add sour cream mixed with a bit of flour and simmer for about five minutes. It's best served with nokedli, small dumplings. My way is to mix a cup of sour cream, an egg, and enough flour to make a rather thick batter. You can then ladle it on a small chopping board and use a knife to cut away small dumplings and drop them into salted boiling water or use a strainer designed for that specifically (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Halusky_strainer_without_text.jpg). Here's a great video that shows how the former is done:

    Then there is the Spanish pimentón de la Vera, which is smoked. There are three grades - sweet (dulce), bittersweet (agridulce) and hot (picante). So again, learning some Spanish dishes might be a good idea.

    Of course, there is also piment d'Espelette from Basque, Turkish Maraş pepper, Aleppo pepper from Syria and Kashmiri red chili from India. Oh yeah, and cayenne.

    Cumin, caraway, and coriander

    Caraway is commonly used in central and eastern Europe, so I may look up some recipes if you're interested. It pairs excellently with sauerkraut.

    Cumin and coriander are used in many parts of the world, but Middle Eastern dishes provide a good start. A simple lentil soup might be a good place to start. Paula Wolfert gives this recipe:

    First you make the soup by first rinsing a cup of red lentils, 1/4 cup of fine bulgur and the same amount of short-grain rice, then place it all in a deep saucepan with 6 cups water and a tablespoon of ground cumin, and salt, of course. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring often. That's the soup, simple. Now you sauté two large sliced onions in olive oil in a skillet, first at medium high until golden brown and then on low until they're deep brown but not burnt. You stir in a tablespoon of ground coriander and a pinch of cayenne and pour all of this over the soup and stir.

    Of course, there are many much grander versions of lentil soup around Middle East, but this one shows how cumin and coriander can work together in this context.

    Cinnamon

    Apart from the European inventions like cinnamon buns or apple strudel, in India and Middle East, cinnamon is actually used much more often in savoury dishes. It works amazingly well with tomatoes and also with beef, I think. Try these stuffed courgettes (the recipe is my own creation, but is in the spirit of Levant):

    You need two medium courgettes, each about 6 inches long. Halve them lengthwise and scoop out the flesh to create four boats, finely chopping and reserving the flesh. You may stuff them with just a simple meat-tomato-and-rice stuffing of coarsely ground, or better still, finely chopped beef and rice, with a touch of ground allspice and cinnamon, some chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper. You may sauté the meat with the flesh from courgettes in olive oil, adding tomatoes later, and parboil the rice. So stuff the courgettes. Now make a tomato sauce: sauté some chopped garlic in olive oil, add tomatoes, a stick of cinnamon and a tablespoon of pomegranate syrup, salt and pepper, and simmer until it thickens. Now bake the courgettes for about 30 minutes in medium oven with the sauce, covered with aluminium foil.
     
  6. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    I don't know that cayenne per se is used in Asian or Mexican cooking. I never see cayenne in Asian or Mexican markets. Each cuisine that uses hot chili powder seems to cultivate its own variety of chili or chilies. Most of them are a deeper red and have more depth of flavor and often a bit less heat, gram for gram, than cayenne.

    The world of chilies is vast and can be overwhelming.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  7. slayertplsko

    slayertplsko

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    I second that, haven't noticed it before.
     
  8. michaelga

    michaelga

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    Here is a great resource concerning spices and their characteristics.  

    http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/engl/index.html

    The best part is that it includes the name of the spice in many languages and all the scientific data behind the flavours.

    A truly great site - I wish I could easily back it all up so I never loose it...
     
  9. genemachine

    genemachine

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    Yes, please, this can't be said often and loud enough. I just recently discovered the stuff. Works brilliantly in hearty bean stews, which are becoming my staple in this never-ending winter.
     
  10. michaelga

    michaelga

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    wtf?
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  11. genemachine

    genemachine

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    What's wrong with smoked paprika?
     
  12. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    Now this is the way you leaern. Very Good.  Anyone know how smoked Paprika is processed?
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  13. slayertplsko

    slayertplsko

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    It's dried over smoke? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
     
  14. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Please tell us, Ed.

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013
  15. genemachine

    genemachine

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    Traditionally, it is smoke-dried very slowly. About two weeks in oakwood smoke.
     
  16. rick alan

    rick alan

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    from Genemachine:

    "What's wrong with smoked paprika?"

    wtf from GA Mike may have been for the bean stew as winter staple, not everyone's choice. ;-)~

    Rick
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  17. genemachine

    genemachine

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    Hehe, I like it - dried beans that is of course. Great white ones with bacon, vegetables and said smoked paprika. Absolutely a winter thing for me.
     
  18. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    FIRST AND ONLY TIME i SAW IT WAS IN A BACKYARD OF A RESTAURANT IN PUERTO RICO   . Guy took regular 5 lb. can of paprika  put it in a pot wet it down, let it dry a bit then put it in a cheesecloth like sack and tied it up inside a large outdoor cooker that the used for b b q then lit fire with various types of wood and chips. 8 or more hours later it was much darker and tasted smokey . He said longer I keep it in stronger it will get and the  more he will charge for it.
     
  19. rick alan

    rick alan

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    While we're on the subject, my Mexican buddy Sergio tells me authentic chipotle is really made from the  juachinaga (red snapper) pepper, having especially thick and tough flesh, and lore has it that it is ideally smoked in pecan wood, and typically the wood of fruit or nut trees in general.  The peppers are smoked whole.

    And, according to the same source, all peppers come from Mexico, mais bien sur!

    Rick
     
  20. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    Rick

    Are you sure you're spelling that correctly? I can't find any information searching for "juachinaga."  "Red snapper" chili or pepper just brings me up a ton of recipes for red snapper with chilies. I'm curious. 

    The can of Mexican chipotles in adobo I just opened lists jalapenos as the ingredient.

    Chilies are a new world food.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013