Open up a new world of flavour with your festive spices
13 December 2017 | Schwartz
You’ve baked an army of gingerbread men, drunk yourself giddy on mugs of mulled wine and prepared plenty of mince pies – but you’ve still got tonnes of Christmas spices left to use up. Sound familiar? Seasonal spices are actually incredibly versatile, stealing the show in a wide array of cuisines from all over the world. Cooking with ginger is a staple of Asian dishes, while cinnamon recipes venture far further than the simple Christmas cookie. So give your taste buds a change from traditional holiday recipes and try something new this festive season.
This vegetarian twist on an Italian classic is sure to become a family favourite at dinnertime. Nutmeg recipes often pair the sweet spice with dairy as it cuts through the fat of the milk – and in this recipe, it works wonderfully with ricotta cheese. When cooking with nutmeg, make sure you don’t use too much; a little bit goes a long way and this dish calls for just a quarter of a teaspoon. As well as nutmeg, add garlic granules and peppery basil to the cheese, which will beautifully coat the spinach, onion and mushroom mixture. Layer with lasagne sheets and creamy white sauce, before finishing with a sprinkling of Parmesan – this will make sure the top turns a lovely golden brown.
If you’re wondering how to use star anise outside of mulled wine, why not try this delicious Asian-inspired stir fry? This pretty dried fruit (yes, fruit!) is one of the five flavours in the aromatic Chinese Five spice mixture, and perfectly complements rich red meat. For this recipe, marinate slices of steak in a syrupy mixture of soy, sherry, cinnamon and whole star anise. The distinctive aniseed flavour of this star spice balances the saltiness of the soy, and the acidity of the sherry brings it all together. After about an hour, fry the beef in a hot wok – and don’t forget to include the mouth-watering marinade to make your meal extra tender. You can serve this dish a variety of ways: lay it on top of a bed of rice or noodles, and toss in whatever kind of crisp green veg you like.
The key to any curry is the perfect paste, and making your own results in a far fresher flavour. This Indonesian recipe is packed full of herbs and spices, and lets you use up those ground cloves, too. Cloves are one of the strongest spices around and are bursting with flavour, so you’ll only need a tiny bit to bring your paste to life. Add warming cinnamon, fiery chilli flakes, golden turmeric and earthy coriander to the crushed cloves for a total taste sensation. Throw the fresh ingredients – which include citrusy lemongrass and slightly sour tamarind paste – into the dry mixture, blitz it together and use it as the base of any curry for a spicy Rendang kick.
Looking for something light after heavy festive feasting? Swap gingerbread men for our savoury spiced bowl of goodness, which is the perfect way to warm you up without leaving you stuffed. The robust spice of ginger is thought to be great for your digestive system, and the fiery cayenne chilli pepper is sure to blow away any trace of a winter cold. Add tonnes of veg to this heavenly broth – Napa cabbage and winter radish are great choices for a truly authentic dish. Top it all off with crispy rice and a fried egg for a more filling treat.
It may be cold outside, but you can bring some sunshine into your kitchen with a tropical fruit pudding. This cinnamon dessert offers a refreshing – and healthier – alternative to the Christmas cookies you may have grown tired of over the festive season. Zesty pineapple is coated with a sweet glaze laced with rum for a Caribbean kick. While we love this dessert freshly made on a throwaway grill in the summer, it’s probably a tad too early to get the barbeque out just yet. Luckily, the flavours are just as scrummy when grilled inside or flash-fried in a pan.