Winter is the time when dream of hot exotic countries. A hint of the warm ambiance from those places can be found in fragrant and warming spices that boost the taste of dishes and drinks and help us fight colds and depression.
Some of the warming spices include star anise, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and many others. They are added into desserts and main dishes, alcoholic and alcohol-free beverages, and are widely used in alternative medicine.
Star anise is characterized by its pronounced taste and flavor and its especially nice appearance: an eight-pointed star. This spice is widely used in Chinese cuisine where it is added to both main dishes and desserts. In European cuisine, star anise is used primarily in baking. A young star anise can add an original flavor to any pastry. But you should use only a sprinkle of it because the spice’s strong taste can spoil a dish. In addition, star anise is good for your health: it facilitates stomach and intestinal digestion, and it can cheer you up like coffee. By the way, star anise goes very well with coffee and boosts its beneficial qualities.
Ginger root is added for a spicy flavor into different dishes and drinks. Ginger is consumed fresh, dried, marinated, or candied, in one piece, sliced, or ground. It can also be added into salads, soups, meat, vegetables, mushrooms, cereals, beans, and cheese. It is a frequent ingredient in desserts, pastries, and numerous drinks. For sauces and soups it is better to use ground ginger, while for meat dishes fresh root is best. In India, ginger flour is used to make sweet and non-sweet dough. In some Asian countries, ginger is candied in syrup and covered in chocolate for candied fruits and jams. In Europe, they make ginger bread and ginger ice cream. In Japanese restaurants marinated ginger root is served with sushi and rolls. Ginger is known to freshen your breath, improve digestion, stimulate blood flow, boost immunity, treat colds, and help you lose weight.
Nutmeg is normally used dried and ground. It is most often added to desserts, chocolate, pastries, jams, and drinks (like cocoa). But nutmeg can also be used in meat and fish dishes, with mushrooms or vegetables. In eastern countries it is also added to soups, sauces, salads, and rice. Nutmeg is an ingredient in the famous béchamel sauce so valued in Italian and French cuisines. In Switzerland, nutmeg is used to flavor a cheese fondue. Nutmeg helps your human body to digest meat and dairy products. It is often added to milk along with honey and cardamom to be consumed at night to help you sleep better. Nutmeg also calms our nervous system and helps treat gastrointestinal problems and sexual disorders.
Cardamom has a fragrant aroma and pleasant taste with a slight lemon undertone. It is widely used in Indian cuisine. It can be green (most widespread), white (most appropriate for desserts and drinks), and black (because of its strong taste it is used to add a piquant taste to main dishes). Cardamom usually goes well with meat and cereals; it tastes good in chocolate desserts and adds a sophisticated touch to different drinks. This spice is a popular component of many folk remedies because it helps treat bronchitis, gastrointestinal and gynecological diseases, and removes toxins from your body.
Cinnamon is probably the most widespread of all the “warm” spices in our part of the world. It originated from Sri Lanka and then was disseminated all over the world from there. This spice is used as a powder or in sticks; it is added to sweet and hot dishes, into coffee, tea, and mulled wine. A regular cherry or apple pie seasoned with cinnamon turns into a festive Christmas dessert. This spice is also added to marinades and poultry dishes. It has a soft taste and flavor and so is easily combined with other spices. Cinnamon is an effective remedy for cold and heart conditions.
Cloves are miniature dried flower buds of the clove tree. They have a piquant taste and a strong aroma. Cloves are most often added to marinades, pastry, meat dishes, soups, sauces, and warming drinks. It is not often used in sweet dishes, but when combined with cinnamon, it can add a special flavor. Desserts make use only of the tops of the clove buds. This spice has antibacterial, anesthetic, anti-spasmodic, and other medicinal qualities. Inhalations with clove oil are especially helpful for colds, runny noses, and coughing. Cloves help us warm up, facilitate digestion, and strengthen our liver and stomach function.
All these spices can be used separately or in different combinations. By varying your spices, you can get new interesting tastes and flavors.