As the weather cools down, we start turning to more warming foods to keep us satisfied – suddenly salad just doesn't hit the spot anymore. Some spices just seem to scream autumn and can transform your food from bland and tasteless into a fall feast! Here are five of the best to keep in your kitchen:
Cinnamon – This popular spice goes well with both sweet and savoury dishes, from pumpkin pie to Moroccan tagine. It's at the top of my list because it's used widely during the colder months and is definitely an autumn staple as far as spices go. It's great for your blood – by adding it to your food you'll be helping to regulate your blood sugar and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. It's also a powerful anti-clotting agent.
Nutmeg – Like cinnamon, nutmeg works well in a variety of dishes, whether sweet or savoury. An antibacterial, nutmeg can kill cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth as well as aid digestion. However, it should be used in moderation and avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women. In extreme cases, overdosing on nutmeg can cause hallucinations, convulsions and even miscarriage. A pinch or two is a safe amount to add to your autumnal dishes.
Ginger – Tea, biscuits, cake, beer, bread...you can put the word 'ginger' in front of all of these. This spice is so versatile...and so good for you! It helps to increase blood circulation, aid digestion, reduce pain and inflammation, fight colds and flu and is an effective remedy for nausea – pregnant women have sworn by it for centuries to ease morning sickness.
Cloves – These can be used to liven up savoury dishes such as stews and curries but also go very well with fruit – try adding a few to an apple crumble for a little extra taste. Health-wise, they help to reduce inflammation and are a natural painkiller and anaesthetic, especially good for toothache. You know that funny tasting liquid the dentist gives you to swish around your mouth at the end of your appointment? That's made with cloves, because they have a slight numbing effect and therefore help to reduce pain.
Allspice – This is not, as some people believe, a mixture of spices, but the dried, unripe fruit of the pimenta dioica plant. It's called allspice because it seems to combine the flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and therefore can be used in place of any or all of these. Allspice is an anti-inflammatory and can also be used to fight infections and treat gas and bloating. It's a good all-rounder!
What are your favourite spices and how do you use them?
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