Friday, December 2, 2011

5 types of spices and how to blend them

When you are familiar with the spices you soon will learn that there are 5 categories to consider before you blend:
1.-Base spices
The bases of your blends are spices that are mild and can go with most combinations. Their flavor and texture serve as a cohesive element with the other herbs. Use your base spice as 60% of your blend.
Examples of base spices are: Coriander, fennel, cumin, turmeric, parsley, poppy seeds, chervil, elder flowers and paprika (although paprika is from the chili family, it is not hot and can really enhance any blending.)
2.-Sweet spices
Sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg have been associated with sweet dishes, however, I generally like to use them as 20% of my blending. They tend to balance the savory food and to give to the tongue a full sensation of satisfaction.
Examples of sweet spices and herbs are:
Cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, vanilla, aniseed, bergamot, lime leaf, rose, cassia
3.-Pungent spices:
When you smell a pungent herb it really has a full impact on your nose. It is a high note on your musical scale and they usually have a heating and astringent effect. When combining your pungent spices, use them as 10% of your blend. You will be delighted to recognize the freshness that this small proportion gives to your blend.
Examples of pungent spices are: asafetida, calamus, caraway, cardamom, celery seed, cloves, ajwan, bay leaf, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, dill seeds, fenugreek seeds, galangal, ginger, juniper, licorice root, mace, nigella, orris root, pink pepper, star anise, wattleseed, zedoary
4.-Astringent spices
The tangy taste of some spices make a invaluable complement to your spice blends. The sour taste of tamarind, for example, gives the digestive juices a message of full secretion, satisfaction and completeness. For the tangy tastes, use them as 5% of your blend. This will enhance the sweet spices and will give moisture to your digestion.
Examples of astringent spices are:
Amchur, barberry, black lime, capers, kokam, pomegranate, sumac, tamarind, orange peels, basil, black lime, fennel, lavender flowers, lemongrass, mint, marjoram, myrtle, Vietnamese mint, tarragon.
5.- Hot spices:
Hot spices represent only 3% of your blend. Of course this depends on your personal taste. I personally combine them with less enthusiasm, to give the other spices a chance to take their room in the digestive palate. In small proportions they provide a proper stimulation of the tongue, which releases endorphins, giving us a sense of well being. Hot spices need to be used in the right amount to give that effect, and not to overwhelm the taste of other spices.
Examples of hot spices: chili, horseradish, mustard, and pepper.
Spice combination guidelines
I usually start my blending by roasting the base spices. Roast the turmeric (for example) first and for a longer time (it will digest better, and will dispel the poison ingredients in turmeric.) This precaution gives me peace of mind if I use my blend in raw foods. Then add the other percentages in tsp. (not in weight) and roast for 1 to 2 minutes. The blend releases its fragrances and the permutation is somehow even.
Fragrant spices
Don’t roast the fragrant herbs like lavender flowers, basil, rose, mint or hibiscus. They loose their delicate essential oils. I usually blend them separate and add them to the food a few minutes before the end of the cooking process.
Blending percentages
Base spices 60%
Sweet spices 20%
Pungent spices 10%
Astringent spices 8%
Hot spices 3%

After you have made your blend for the week, store it in a glass container with a big mouth so it is easy for you to access with a cooking spoon. Seal it well and keep it a dry place.

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