Six Winter Spices

Dried spices add so much aroma & fragrance to hearty winter comfort dishes. Read on for more about some of South Africa’s favourite spices.

Dried chillies Crushed, dried chillies are great for adding heat to a variety of traditional dishes. Add a few pinches to your home-made chakalaka, stir them into a creamy prawn sauce to serve with pasta, or use them to add a kick to your mutton bunny chow! And this simple tomato bredie wouldn't be the same without its tingle of dried chilli!

Bay leaves become more pungent as they dry out, and are a classic ingredient in many stews, curries, stocks, soups and sauces. Add one or two leaves to a hearty beef stew, or use them to add extra fragrance to a warming Chicken Korma Curry. For an authentic touch, press a few bay leaves into the egg custard on top of traditional Cape bobotie.

Coriander seeds, with their spicy citrus flavour, are used to add a distinctive flavour to boerewors and biltong, and are an essential ingredient in many curries and spice blends. Try them in a delicious Hot & Spicy Tomato and Beef Curry, or use a teaspoonful in this hearty Lamb & Butternut Soup. Try dry-roasting the seeds in a hot pan before crushing them, as this helps to release extra flavour. 

Cumin is a wonderfully versatile seed, as its warm fragrance pairs well with many different ingredients. It’s been used in cooking since ancient times, and is popular in a variety of cuisines around the globe. It’s a classic curry spice - lovely in this Fragrant Cape Malay Lamb Curry – and often used in Latin American cooking – try it in Chef Wendy’s Chicken Fajitas! It’s also a popular spice in North African cooking, and pairs beautifully with dried fruit in Moroccan tagines. It’s a pungent spice, so use it sparingly in soups, sauces and mince dishes.

Turmeric Bright-yellow turmeric adds lovely colour to the winter kitchen. Made from the ground-up dried root of the turmeric plant, a member of the ginger family, this spice and colouring agent has been used in India for thousands of years. Bring some sunshine to the table by adding little turmeric to your rice or to curried samp & beans. Here are some of our favourite recipes featuring turmeric: Simple Fish and Coconut Curry, Spicy Lamb and Apricot Sosaties, and Chef Wendy’s gorgeous Indian Butter Chicken

Nutmeg, with its warm, sweet, spicy flavour, is indigenous to Indonesia and has been highly prized as a spice since medieval times. Try it in Chef Wendy's Sage & Nutmeg Butternut Mash, or use it to add lovely fragrance to dishes featuring white sauce, such as cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese. Nutmeg goes particularly well with spinach: add a pinch to this creamed spinach & feta topping for baked potatoes!