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7 Unusual Herbs & Spices

Learn how to use herbs and spices

There is often some confusion when it comes to the difference between herbs & spices, so let’s start by clearing this up once and for all. Herbs come from the leaf of a plant, whereas spices are derived from specific plant elements like seeds, fruit and even bark! If you consider yourself an avid cook, you’ve probably found that adding herbs or a dash of your favourite spice will give extra flavour to your dish. While you might already have your own go-to selection of herbs and spices, we’ve rounded up 7 unusual herbs and spices you probably haven’t tried. Give them a go and let us know what you think – we’re pretty confident they’ll be on the weekly rotation in no time!

Perilla – Lee’s Asian Grocer
Perilla or Shi-Sho as it’s commonly referred to is an Asian herb belonging to the mint family. With a slightly sweet flavour and a touch of spice, Perilla leaves can be eaten raw, cooked, pickled or used as a garnish. Not only does perilla pair nicely with sashimi, but it can also work in salads, stir fries and even a pesto pasta sauce if you’re feeling experimental. The flavor of perilla is great with chilli, garlic and soy, so play around with a few flavours and you’ll be onto a winner!

Cayenne – 53 Degrees East (also Maker & Monger Grillz)
Derived from the cayenne chilli, cayenne is often used in spicy dishes to really amp up the heat. It’s widely used in Mexican cuisine to flavour dips and meat marinades, but you’ll find it in Indian curries too. Sprinkle it into your omelette mixture, add it to a hearty winter stew or even a breadcrumb batter for fried food. And if you want to try cayenne in a toasted sandwich, pop on over to Maker & Monger to snap up their fiery Pimento Cheese Sandwich featuring a mix of mozzarella, cheddar, capsicum, cornichons leek and garlic – delish!

Kaffir Lime Leaves – Lee’s Asian Grocer
Very popular in South-East Asian cooking, kaffir lime leaves are often used to flavour Thai curries and stir-fries. They have a strong citrus flavour and marry really well with coconut, grated ginger, garlic, chilli and lemongrass. To prepare kaffir lime leaves you need to remove the centre vein, then tear the leaves off before adding to your desired soup, curry or stir-fry – just remember to remove before serving.

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Nigella Seeds – 53 Degrees East
Nigella seeds are hard and crunchy and taste a lot like toasted onions. They’re commonly used in Indian and Middle Easter cuisines and are mostly used to flavour curries, vegetables, salads and poultry. You’ll find them in India used on flatbreads and eaten alongside potatoes or with eggplant! For more ideas on how to use Nigella seeds, visit 53 Degrees East.

Juniper Berries – Reliable Fruit
Known primarily as the key ingredient for making gin, juniper berries have a spicy aromatic and slightly sweet flavour used for adding oomph to marinades, brines, stuffing and sauces. They complement pork, rabbit, venison and beef dishes, and also work well in a pasta sauce – duck ragu with juniper berries anyone?

juniperberries nigellas eeds

Vietnamese Mint – Lee’s Asian Grocer
Vietnamese mint, which has a similar minty taste to coriander, is often found in rice paper rolls because it lends itself well to meat and poultry – especially duck. It’s used sparingly in hot dishes like soups and curries, but is in great in larger quantities for Asian salads, particularly papaya salad. You’ll also find Vietnamese mint in Singaporean laksa because of its spicy flavour. Basically just use it in anything you’d normally use coriander for to enjoy a slightly more peppered taste.

Mache Herb Plant – Cheong’s Fruit & Vegetables
A mache herb has a mild nutty flavour and is most popular in Europe where you’ll find it in salads. It’s quite varied in its culinary usage and is known as one of the most delicate herbs. Enjoy it raw as a salad vegetable or to flavour meat dishes. It also works as a nice garnish because it looks so great on a dish!

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Learn how to make your own bouquet garni  – a simple way to infuse aromatic herbs into your favourite stews, casseroles and soups!

Image credits:
Tony Alter
Eran Finkle
Ole Husby

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