As well as using the best local and seasonal fresh produce, here at EBL Events, we love to use spices as an easy way to create fantastic flavour, adding that extra special something to any dish. Herbs and spices have been used for centuries; the Egyptians mummified their dead in them; there are herb and spice references throughout the Bible and many of the original spices traded during the Middle Ages - black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg – are still in daily use. Here are some of our favourites to add flavour, especially at this time of year:
Not to be confused to with traditional anise as they are completely different plants, and while both spices have the same trademark aniseed or liquorice flavour, star anise is more bitter. The fruit of a small tree native to China and Vietnam (hence why it’s a major ingredient in Chinese five-spice blends), its boat-shaped seed pods give the fruit a unique star shape. We love using star anise with a sweet, marmalade glazed roasted ham - with duck fat chips on the side.
Did you know that vanilla orchids take two to four years to fully mature, and their flowers only bloom for one day of the year? 80% of the world’s vanilla is grown in Madagascar and for the plants to produce beans, they have to be pollinated on the same day as they flower – which explains the high market price. The beans themselves are dark brown pods filled with thousands of flavoursome seeds – those are the little black specks you’ll find in a classic EBL crème brulee or a crunchy vanilla bean shortbread that give baking dishes that intense, creamy sweetness.
The rarest and the most expensive spice in the world. Why? Because more than 225,000 stigmas must be handpicked from the saffron (or Autumn) crocus to produce just one pound of saffron. Its spicy, bitter flavour and dark orange strands makes saffron immediately recognisable and it’s used throughout the Mediterranean in local dishes like French bouillabaisse and Spanish paella. Less is more - we love to use it in our Risotto a la Milanese – or we add a pinch to a simple chicken broth to really elevate the flavour.
Mace and nutmeg come from the same fruit, which grows on an evergreen tree native to the Spice Islands in Indonesia – the Moluccas. Nutmeg is the inner brown seed, and mace is the deep red outer membrane. Its warm and slightly sweet flavour makes it a lovely addition to Pastel de nata – Portugese tarts – we also love to add a grating of nutmeg to a tranditional lasagna or bechamel sauce.
This spice, also native to South Asia, is one of the fastest-growing dietary supplements and is now a staple in many health food shops and even cafés in the UK (anyone tried ‘golden milk’ yet?) A member of the ginger family, turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine and in India it’s believed to help with medical conditions such as diabetes, pain, rheumatism, osteoarthritis, eczema – even memory loss. At EBL Events, we love it for its favour and combine it with cardamom in our warming monkfish curry - or in our turmeric and black pepper crispy squid.