Introduction to Spices

This is “spices 101” where Carla will explain some everyday spices. The principles you learn here will give you the tools to be confident and comfortable when it comes to using the right spices in the right dishes to get perfect results.

This is “spices 101” where Carla will explain some everyday spices. The principles you learn here will give you the tools to be confident and comfortable when it comes to using the right spices in the right dishes to get perfect results.

Read the transcript of this video
[MUSIC] Hi, welcome to Top Chef University. I'm Carla, finalist from Top Chef New York. Our first course is all about the basics and in this lesson, we're spicing it up. Spices have an almost mystical reputation in history and cuisine. And the spice section of your grocery store houses a myriad of multicolor powders. We're gonna take you through some of the most common spices. Some are used to give a bold aroma, while others are used for a delicate finish. We're also gonna show you how to toast and grind your spices. To produce flavors that are both unique, and delicious. So let's begin. Spices have an exotic and fascinating history as one of the world's primary trading commodities. The Spice Route, right? Now this is because a spice will radically transform a meal from one of bland textures into an extraordinary sensory delight. And this is what I call peacock, right? There's nothing like taking it from the bland to look fabulous. And there's so many spices available today to give flavors all over the world. Unlike herbs there often just as good dry and they should be an essential component of any kitchen. So here, we'll go through the main spice that you'll find in some common dishes. There is of course an enormous range of spices. But for now, let's just cover the basics and the essentials. Although not technically spice, salt is the most common ingredient in cooking, or at least it should be because you know what I say If you don't use it, you're not gonna get any compliments. Now kosher salt like the one here is a coarse, full flavor variety used by most chefs. It has a clean taste and contains no iodine. Other salts you'll come across include fleur de sel, or Maldon, a favorite amongst chefs, used for finishing dishes, which means we use them sprinkling them on at the end. And there's also the common table salt, which is used in baking. Now, pepper is probably the second most common ingredient in cooking. It has a spicy kick that adds real vibrancy to many dishes. Again, there is a huge variety. Here we have a mix of whole peppercorns. Which can be used in broths or ground up on steaks and salads. Now here we have paprika Which contains several dried red peppers ground into a fine powder. This spice is often used in Eastern European cooking. It can give a sweet peppery flavor to many dishes. And these days you hear of chefs using, what, smoked paprika. Now this spice is a pungent finely ground mustard seed used in barbecue sauces and dressings. Moving on over to cardamom. These are seeds that come in many different colors and flavors. And because they're quite sweet and spicy, they can be used in baking as well as curries. You may taste cardamom in, let's say, an almond croissant. Saffron is the most expensive spice available. It is the stigma from the crocus flower. With each flour producing only three tiny stigmas. Can you imagine? Which just makes it more expensive. Particularly popular in Mediterranean dishes such as piaya. The star anise comes from China, and this beautiful star spice has a strong licorice flavor. It is used in Chinese and far-eastern cuisines, Such, in stews and soups. Cloves, these are dried myrtle flower buds. These have a strong aromatic flavor. Often used in baking and deserts, they can also be good with a roast. You may be familiar with some in a ham. Cinnamon. Cinnamon is actually dried bark. It has a sweet flavor, often used in desserts. But it's also used in savory dishes from the Middle East. Here we have ginger. This is a strong, sweet and tropical root used in baking, as well as many Asian dishes. The nutmeg is a large seed, found in the West Indies. It has a pungent flavor, used in savory as well as sweet dishes, like custard. Here we have fennel seeds, this is very popular with a liquorish aromas. Particularly used in Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. Now this is just a tiny collection of the spices, now to really unlock their essence and get the most out of them Let's walk over here a little bit so I can show you about toasting and grinding them which is totally the way to go. Let's start by heating the pan, medium high heat now you want to make sure you're watching them. I'm gong to take our fennel teas and just put them right into the pan. [SOUND] Now, you want to make sure that you get a little bit of color, but you don't want too much color because if they turn brown they turn bitter. Brown equals bitter, got it? So, we're gonna get them a little toasted and as you toast them, the aroma is gonna be released, and it's gonna smell so yummy. I mean, if you wanna make people feel like you know how to cook, throw some spices on the stove, right? We're gonna take half of them and put them in a spice grinder. Now I'm calling it a spice grinder. Because I don't drink coffee. But, if you do drink coffee, you wanna make sure that you have two set aside. One specifically for your spices and one for coffee, okay. So you put them in there, shut if off and [SOUND]. Now this gets your spices really [SOUND]. [SOUND] Ground, really nicely. So here you have your ground spices and it smells so amazing and so fresh. If you don't want them that fine and you don't have a coffee grinder, let's use a mortar and pestal. Put your spices in here and you just Grind them up like this, this circular motion. [BLANK_AUDIO] And that's it. We'll grind them a little more, but you get the idea. Now, the third way that you want to handle your spices is with the microplane. You just simple take your microplane and let's take this nutmeg and just grind it, just like that. That's it. Smells so amazing. Again. Peacock. Now, in the next lesson, we'll bring you your zesty side when we talk about the essentials of citrus. [MUSIC]
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Introduction to Spices


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