Spice mixes

I recommend buying spices from Asian stores if you can. Places like Chinese supermarkets, convenience stores and market stalls invariably have bigger ranges of spices, which are both cheaper and better than what you’ll find in western supermarkets.

Personally I like to keep a few different spices in my kitchen, and then use whatever I feel like when I’m cooking – ideally you want to avoid buying a bag of spices and then only using 1 teaspoon because the recipe told you to, so I would advise you to find out what spices you like, keep them in stock, and use whatever you want in your cooking. I’ll try to give you an idea about a few different spices and how to use them, but you’ll only find out what you like by trying them.

Whole spices

  • Bay leaves – put them in early, and then avoid them when you’re eating. Otherwise you can roast and grind them, but you’ll probably want to use a spice grinder
  • Cinnamon sticks – either throw them in whole and then take them out when you’ve finished cooking, or dry roast and grind them. You’re going to want a spice grinder for that though, because doing it in a pestle and mortar is a ball ache
  • Cloves – add a few at the start of cooking and cook them for a while, otherwise they’ll be tough
  • Coriander seeds – good in curries, but bear in mind that they can be a bit tough if you don’t either cook them for a long time, or dry roast and grind them
  • Cumin seeds – also good in curries. Fry them for a little while before you add onions etc – until they sizzle and you can smell them
  • Fenugreek seeds – good in Indian style curries. Fry them at the start of cooking and then add your main ingredients