If your cooking skills are basic and you’re getting bored with the same old dishes, you’re missing an easy win. All you need is 6 foolproof spice combinations that you can use with any type of meat and/or veg and suddenly the world (of food) is your oyster and your taste buds are zinging.
Honestly, it’s really not that difficult to take your meals from bland to bold provided you’re armed with what you might call a starter kit of spices used in different regional cuisines. Use each ‘set’ for chicken or fish, beef or pork or any meat you desire. If you’re looking to create an exciting vegetable dish, try your spice kit on roasted potatoes, sautéed or steamed greens, in stir fries and in marinades.
Here are the 6 most popular cuisines, as suggested by Mike James; an independent foodie working with UK experience provider and cooking lesson specialist Into the Blue:
1. Italian Cuisine
Ask any Italian and they’ll tell you that their country’s cuisine is a heartfelt affair. Italian cooking is based on traditional produce and flavours that include olive oil and garlic, balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese. Pasta and meat, much of it cured, figures heavily. To get the flavour of Italy into your Spaghetti dish or Roast Chicken Breast, use:
Oregano (1 tsp), Basil (1 tsp), Garlic (3 cloves), Chopped Tomatoes (1 tin) for each 500g of meat.
2. Greek Seasoning
The traditions of the Greek kitchen have travelled far and wide including well known dishes such as Moussaka, Kleftiko, Gyro and Tzatziki. Greek food at its best is freshly harvested or caught, prepared simply with local, seasonal ingredients and a few key flavours. To add a Hellenic touch to your Grilled Fish, Lamb Chop or Feta Cheese Salad, use:
Oregano (2 tsp), Olive Oil (4 tsp), Lemon Juice (4 tsp) for each 500g of meat.
3. Mexican Cooking
From simple Tacos to Chicken Enchiladas and Chilli Con Carne, Mexican cuisine is as exciting as it is popular. Many dishes include, or are accompanied by a spicy tomato salsa, guacamole (made from avocados), refried beans and sour cream. To give your chicken or vegetables the Mexican treatment, make sure you add:
Chilli powder (2 tsp), Lime Juice (1 lime) for each 500g of meat.
4. Indian Cuisine
India is a vast subcontinent with an array of different traditional cooking styles and flavours that is nigh on impossible to master. There’s a wealth of aromatic and unusual spices used in Indian cuisine including Turmeric and Cardamom, Fenugreek and Saffron. Console yourself with the fact that you can achieve a hint of India by adding:
Cumin (½ tsp), Coriander (½ tsp), Curry Powder (2 tsp) for each 500g of meat.
5. Oriental Seasonings
To sum up the rich tradition of Chinese, Japanese and all other Far East Asian foods as ‘oriental’ is of course a huge simplification, but hopefully permissible for the little trained cook. Whether you’re marinating chicken pieces or preparing a sumptuous Seafood Stir Fry, add some Eastern promise by using these key flavours:
Soy Sauce (60ml), Rice Vinegar (5 tsp), Garlic (3 cloves), Ginger Powder (¼ tsp), Sugar (2 tsp), Red Pepper Flakes (1 dash) for each 500g of meat.
6. Thai Cooking
Thai cuisine is known the world over for its creamy curries and spicy, exotic flavours that are as mouthwatering as they are distinctive in taste. Create an authentic tasting marinade or basis for a great Thai curry by adding these ingredients:
Soy Sauce (60ml), Coconut Milk (120ml), Thai Fish Sauce (30ml), Green/Red Curry Paste (2 tsp), Fresh Coriander (handful, chopped) for each 500g of meat.
Unfortunately, in the absence of vibrant local markets selling fresh spices, most of us are having to rely on supermarkets or grocery stores for our supply of herbs, spices and special ingredients. But maybe if you’re a relative beginner in the kitchen that’s not such a bad thing. Many brands make it easy for the home cook, with ready made spice mixtures such as Mediterranean Seasoning, Fajita/Enchilada Seasoning, Chinese 5 Spice Powder and various strengths of Curry Powder.
For the more discerning home chef, you can subscribe to Spice Box Recipe Kits delivered by post at regular intervals. These lovingly prepared boxes contain all the fresh spices and recipes you need to prepare delicious and unusual dishes from all over the world. With all the cooking instructions you need alongside the fresh spices themselves, you’ll be able to wow your friends and family with adventurous dishes such as Texan Braised Beef, Yucatan Fish Tacos or Moroccan Tagine in no time!