Thursday, 16 November 2006

spice rack

For a long time I’ve been meaning to go through my spice rack and list all the items there.

I did it for my fridge and freezer back in May and I did my liquor cabinet in June. Now I have an open invitation to do my spice rack from Rowena at Rubber Slippers in Italy.

After cleaning through her spice rack, Rowena wondered how other people use their spices and developed a series of questions. Although not a meme, if anyone is interested in taking part just blog about your own spicy experiences and shoot Rowena an email.

1. Which is the most indispensable spice on your spice rack?
Black pepper. Ever since I was a wee one these two have been so important to me. My parents didn’t use much salt in their cooking (Australia went through a salt scare in the 80s) so food was flavoured with pepper rather than salt. I simply adore freshly milled black pepper. Dreamy. As I got older I started with chilli too, but pepper always remained in my heart.

2. Which is the most used? This being determined by a near empty bottle compared to the others.
I use cassia a lot. It’s also known as “baker’s cinnamon” because it has a much stronger flavour than cinnamon and packs a real punch. I only use it in sweet food though because for some strange reason I hate cassia/cinnamon in savoury food (there’s goes all North African cuisine!).

3. Which is the least used?
Szechwan pepper. It seemed like a good idea at the time but whenever I mill it the texture becomes gritty in the food. I also don’t like sea salt over my food as a seasoning for the same reason – it feels like there’s sand and shells in the food. Wow, I never realised how fussy I am about textures! Lemon myrtle is another unused spice. It’s an Australian native and extremely pungent (almost eucalyptus) so has to be used sparingly.

4. Is there a spice or seasoning that you know of or just learned about and would like to add to your collection?
I’ve been trying to get my hands on wattle seeds for a while now. They’re native to Australia and add a coffee-chocolate flavour to desserts. Another Australian native I’d like to cook with is the akudjura or bush tomato. They are supposed to be very strong and taste sweet on entry with a lasting acidic end. The other spice I’m after are nigella seeds. No, these are not named after the Domestic Goddess but are pungent members of the buttercup family. The seeds are also known as kalonji and have a peppery onion flavour. Nigella seed is used a lot in Indian cooking, for instance in the five spice mix panch phora.

5. Are there any health remedies that you practice with the use of spices?
Peppermint water is great for indigestion. I had a lot of tummy problems as a kid (maybe it was all that pepper and chilli) and I found peppermint water to be wonderfully soothing. Jonas' flu remedy is arguably the world’s most disgusting drink: honey, crushed garlic, grated ginger, lemon juice and a bit of chilli with hot water. It’s foul but he swears by it. I’m still skeptical.

And here is my spice rack in full:
all spice (pimento) – whole
aniseed – seeds
asafoetida powder – yellow (hing powder)
bay leaves
caraway – seeds
cardamom – green pods
cassia – ground
cayenne pepper – ground
chilli – dry, flakes
chilli – dry, whole
cinnamon – ground
cloves – ground + whole
coriander – ground + seeds
cumin – ground + seeds
curry leaves
curry powder
fenugreek seeds
ginger – ground
juniper berries – dried
lemon myrtle – ground
mustard – powder + seeds
nutmeg – ground
orange blossom water
paprika – smoky + sweet
pepper – black (whole) + white (ground) + cayenne (ground) + Szechwan (whole)
peppermint water
poppy seeds – black
salt – coarse sea salt
salt – fine table salt
sesame – white
spice mixes – “Season All” + "Cajun" + "Mexican" + "tagine"
star anise
sumac – ground
Szechwan pepper – whole
Tajin – Mexican chilli & lime seasoning
vanilla – bean + essence

So what's your favourite and least favourite spice? Let Rowena know!



  1. dear Anna,
    my first time here,and what a info on spices,thanks for sharing ,I would love to know what is Marjoram,is it related to nutmeg?,and is Sumac powder is something related to samhar powder,do let me know,thanks

  2. ^too easy!
    spice makes a big difference in my cooking i find. though if you put too much in it can get crrrrrazy!!! lolz!1!1!!

  3. Anna, I appreciate all of the thought and effort put into your responses to the questions. Very interesting to hear about the black pepper and cassia, and your opinions on the szechwan pepper and sea salt!

    Your answers to question #4 are news to my ears...never heard of wattle seeds but they do sound like something that I might need to look into. I've heard about the nigella seeds and am more determined than ever to get some, thanks to your input!

    I'll keep peppermint water in mind the next time I've eaten too much. Thanks for the tip, and thank you again for participating in this non-meme.

  4. Have enjoyed reading your blog, - you can find the spices like Nigella seeds and wattle seeds along with 1000's of others at

    There is a wealth of information on there.

  5. maree - glad you enjoyed the blog. i'm a big fan of herbie's. it's a great spice store and both ian and elizabeth hemphill are always so helpful with advice. even better the shop is in the next suburb from me!

    mantu - majoram is closely related to oregano and it's called "murru" in bengali. sumac is berry that's ground into a sour powder and it's called "kankrasringi" in bengali. hope this helps.


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