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Using herbs and spices

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I love cooking but there is one thing that is still evading me, and that is what are all the different spices and herbs for. I have added different spices to thing that i cook and have done pretty good so far, but now i am seeing that i have some spices in my rack and don't even really know what they are or could be used for. Could someone give me some advice on where to find out what each herb is for or is it all just a guess game?
post #2 of 24
There are several books available on that topic. Were it me I'd go over to Amazon and do a search (don't forget to use our direct link).

In addition, many ethinic type cookbooks have lots of information about herbs and spices as used in that cuisine. For instance, the new "Where Flavor Was Born," which explores the foodways of the Indian Ocean region, has a large section on the herbs and spices used, and what they are like.

Mostly it's a game of experience. As you gain more time in grade using spices, you'll develop a feel for what they contribute to the dish, and how they work with each other.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thank you very much i will have to go check that out.
post #4 of 24
Hi Jason,
I agree with KYHeirloomers advice. A lot has to do with trial and error and tried and trusted methods can help you a lot.
While you're finding your way about, this rule of thumb might help.( not carved in stone though) - If the herb you have is delicate in appearance, ie. Coriander (cilantro), parsley, add it at the end of cooking or use it raw. The flavour will deteriorate with long cooking. On the other hand, Rosemary or Bay add more to a dish if they are added early on. Dont forget flowers too they can be lovely in salads, adding not only taste, but smashing colour.
Check the books out, theres plenty about, but i would go for recent publications, as some of the older ones have some odd ideas. 2 I have suggest that growing coriander should be solely for the seeds, as the leaves have an acrid punget smell and taste that no one would want. You might think it was a Victorian book, but it was 1985. Times change
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
Wow that was very well spoken, thank you and i will have to look up some of the books. Do you have any that you would suggest i use bughut? I am still new at all the spices but just talking about food makes me want to cook, but i want to say thank you for telling me about the times to add spices. That may be why i can never really taste them is because i am adding them to soon or too late.
post #6 of 24

Spice Advice

I also have a suggestion. If you have the time and Internet access, try doing a Google search for the spices/herbs you have to learn what they are and what you can use them for. The best and easiest way to learn is to actually practice using them. I've been into herbology for years now, but am now really getting into using them for cooking as well rather than just using them medicinally. And keep in mind when doing your "research" that not everything you read will be kosher (yes, times do change or rather, people and tastes change) and if you read a lot then you will be able to sort out the odd ideas and the really good ideas. At least, this is what I've done. I don't have the money to buy a lot of books, so do most of my reading/research online. :smiles:

Good luck!
deltadawn758
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thank you delta i have done a goggle serch on coriander but that was about it. And i have a lot to learn but i can't find a good site that tells me what they are used for just mainly ones that have there orgins. Have any ideas?
post #8 of 24

Search phrases

Have you tried different search words phrases like: coriander uses culinary cooking

Try using different search phrases. I haven't found any one good site yet with all the uses for different herbs and spices.

I DID find one site here recently that listed some herbs to use with certain types of food but can't remember what the link is since I just printed it out as a hard copy. If I can find the link I'll post it here.

:roll:
post #9 of 24
Just a tip i thought might help Jason. Try using herbs that you cant get wrong. ie. try recipes that use them in large quantities as they are the predominant flavour in the dish. Tabouleh, a cold salad mix of bulgar wheat and various raw veg has an enormous ammount of flat leaf parsley and mint. You really get a taste of the herbs. Curry made from scratch by dry roasting or frying the whole/ground spices will be good pactice and adding loads of coriander and methi at the end will make the world of difference.
Salsas are a great way of experimenting with herbs too. Tomatoes and mint/Dill and cucumber/crushed pineapple chilli and mint.
Just dont get too hung up on whats "right" If you experiment and it tastes good then I guess its good
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much bughut and you too delta, this is the first time i have actually got answers on questions like these. You and so many others here are very helpful!
post #11 of 24
I have also wondered the same about herbs and spices. I have been cooking independently ever since I was 12 but some spices are still "greek" to me lol. :lol:
post #12 of 24
One other piece of advice. If you don't already own a good, general cookbook, such as Joy of Cooking do go invest in one. Not only do they provide good, reliable, basic recipes, most of which rely on traditional herbs and spices, they also have indexes that describe ingredients, their common uses, and sometimes, suitable substitutions.

Also, a quick google of "spice chart" got me a bunch of sites that list common spices and their uses. They are VERY generalized, and I don't always agree with their advice, but they still can be a very good starting point. Here's one example: Herb & Spice Chart

Also, if you go to the Penzeys Spices website, the online store gives you some general advice as to how a specific herb or spice is typically utilized.

The more you cook with them, the more you'll develop an instinct for what works with what. Have fun with it. If it turns out lousy, you've only wasted one batch of food. Not the end of the world, and you've gained a bit more knowledge, which is invaluable.

I can't imagine not using herbs and spices. Life would be so bland!
Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
-M.F.K. Fisher
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Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
-M.F.K. Fisher
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post #13 of 24
Something else to consider, Jason, is that herbs and ground spices lose their potency relatively quicky. It's a good idea to go through your collection annually, and purge any that are a year or more old, replacing them with fresh.

This applies less to whole spices---which is another reason you should consider buying them that way and grinding your own as needed.

Also keep in mind that the two main enemies of herbs and spices are heat and light. So, as much as possible, keep them in a cool, dark location.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #14 of 24
a good book that i recommend is

culinary artistry. It has a lot of combinations and what works with what. a awesome investment even for the home cook.
post #15 of 24
Ghettoracingkid-

Great recommendation. I have this book and absolutely love it.
David
www.iswhaticrave.com
What do you crave?
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David
www.iswhaticrave.com
What do you crave?
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post #16 of 24
Thread Starter 
GhettoRacingKid: Thanks so much that is another book i will have to look into getting!
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
I wanted to say thanks to RouxTheDay I have the cook book you recommanded on order. I will let you know howit all works out. Thanks again!
post #18 of 24
I'm not a pro but I have somewhat a "feel" for spices. One thing I always like to know is what spices are in the food I'm eating. If you find that out as much as possible, you can relate spices and their combinations, to what it is you're tasting.
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
I actually have been trying to do that these last couple of days as well Andy. Not very easy for me to pick themout though, do you have a good method?
post #20 of 24
I ask when I notice something "different" or especially good. Hopefully the cook would like to brag about it :D Or the server knows and will tell me.
post #21 of 24
Thread Starter 
Good way to do it!! haha and then you can take that with out the door, hmm quite clever. i will keep that in mind!
post #22 of 24
Last stab at it is looking up a recipe afterwards hoping the ingredients were similar to the recipe.
post #23 of 24
Thread Starter 
I could see how that would work. I worked in the resturant buiness for about 4 years, and that would work on a lot of dishs.
post #24 of 24
Hi...
I am new to this forum and herbs and spices are commonly used in my household. I grow some of my own fresh ones by the kitchen window and outside my deck in pots that survives the very cold, snowy weather. What I have just inside my pantry door is a listing of all the herbs and spices that can be used in various dishes and/or which meat or vegetables they are suited for. Just for referencing. Most of the time the recipes that I used calls for certain herbs and/or spices and since I have a computer set-up by my kitchen, I can easily look it up in the internet and add the info to my list.
Take care...
elizabeth
Bill and Izzie: Proud parents of a soldier.
Looking back on all the mistakes I've made in my life, all I can say is I've gotten a lot of miles out of stupid.
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Bill and Izzie: Proud parents of a soldier.
Looking back on all the mistakes I've made in my life, all I can say is I've gotten a lot of miles out of stupid.
Reply
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