What are they?
A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or vegetable substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Cooking spices are an essential ingredient to flavorsome appetizers and entrées. Using spices does not necessarily imply “hotness” although many spices do indeed contribute to heat.
Spices may be available in several forms: fresh, whole dried, or ground and dried. Generally, spices are dried. A whole dried spice has the longest shelf life, so it can be purchased and stored in larger amounts, making it cheaper on a per-serving basis. Some spices are rarely available either fresh or whole, for example turmeric and must be purchased in ground form. Small seeds, such as fennel and mustard seeds, are used both whole and in powder form.
What do they do?
Spices are an everyday part of family cooking. They are used as simple flavoring for many entrées the most frequently used being pepper. Combinations of spices are used as rubs when preparing ribs, chops, steaks and even roast joints.
One of the better known uses of spices is in the making of curry.
Where to buy them.
There are many spices readily available in grocery stores and there are even some specialty spice shops both in the high street and on line. If you are a budding amateur cook like me, then you will be into using spices to enhance the taste of your meals. What always interests me is how to best combine the various spices to benefit the dishes. Professional chefs have the ability to combine various spices to bring out the best flavor. I have experienced the opposite whereby getting the combination wrong has a disastrous effect.