These essentials get you started

Setting up a spice cabinet for the first time? Or just ready to spring clean your old one? Here are the herbs and spices the experts say are must-haves for every home cook.

• Chili Powder

This blend is great for seasoning tacos, bean chili, fajitas, meat, steak and many other Southwestern and Mexican favourites.


• Cinnamon

Sweet cinnamon is essential for much of the baking done in Canada and the U.S., but also makes an appearance in almost every region of Asian cuisine, Indian curries and masalas, Moroccan tagines, Mexican chocolate, tea blends, and as an accent in Cajun dishes.

• Cloves

This potent American cookie and pastry spice crosses as many borders as cinnamon.

• Curry Powder

True Indian cooks prefer to create their own blends of spices for curry, but prepared blends have become a staple for westerners looking to replicate Indian dishes. It provides instant flavour and brilliant colour to rice, stews, sauteed onions, and, of course, curries.

• Ginger

This rhizome provides warmth to American and Canadian baking recipes, Asian stir-fries, Jamaican jerk, barbecue blends, and Indian curry and tandoori mixes. Dried ginger is much more pungent and hot than minced or grated fresh ginger, which has a milder, almost lemony flavour.

• Paprika

This mild, bright red chili pepper comes in numerous varieties. The classic sweet Hungarian paprika is a central ingredient in goulash and an accent for tuna salad and devilled eggs. It also plays a pivotal role in Mexican, Cajun, Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine. Try smoked paprika to add deep, savoury notes to your cooking.

• Nutmeg

Just a bit of freshly grated nutmeg complements almost any recipe where cinnamon also is used. It provides complex, sweet vanilla-like undertones to baked goods and ethnic cuisines. It’s best to buy nutmeg whole, then grate as needed.

• Thyme

While thyme does not have the same cross-cultural range as other herbs and spices, it still plays an important role in traditional French, Italian and American dishes. It’s a critical ingredient in bouquet garni, herbes de Provence and Italian blends for use in meat rubs, roasts, poultry and stuffing, tomato-based dishes, soups, stews and potatoes.

last but not least: Basil, Bay leaves, fresh Chilies (flakes), Cumin, Oregano and Rosemary.

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