All spiced up – who knew?

My method of cooking is like painting by numbers. I follow recipes to the tee, (tsp and Tbsp inclusive). I don’t think this makes me a ‘real cook’, someone who boldly invents, estimates and improvises.

I’ve a dear friend just like this, a ‘Creative Cook’, only she more often than not ‘uncooks’; a word I recently heard to describe the task of preparing raw food meals. This sounds simple enough, right? Toss a salad or plate some colourful crudités perhaps?

Not so, because I think a ‘real cook’ also needs to show some serious commitment to creating enticing, wholesome meals with as much uncompromising regularity as us mothers and homemakers do. (No flitting in, making a huge impression once in a blue moon, thank you very much!)

So it stands to reason that finding creative ways to keep meals, cooked or uncooked, interesting, three times a day, seven days a week, must involve a handful of powerful surprises. And this is where my ‘Creative Uncook’ unleashes her secret wonderment, spices!

The freedom of being able to toss in a little of this, and sprinkle a little of that into spontaneously created meals, is beautiful to watch.

I realise too that ‘real cooks’ actually sample their food while cooking, instead of relying on recipe success.  Until recently, eating didn’t necessarily mean truly tasting my food, let alone sampling it in the making. Contrary to ‘Creative Uncook’ who sees every meal preparation and sit-down occasion as an opportunity to experiment, discover, analyse and discuss the refinement and combination of ingredients.

As if I needed any further confirmation of my apparent kitchen shortcoming, last week, while tackling a kitchen cupboard clean out, I threw out spices with an expiry dating back to early 2010.

The good thing is that by eating far more plant-based foods, my taste buds have been retuned, my palette cleaned, and a new respect, awareness and gratitude for what’s on my plate, ignited. With this fresh start to each meal, together with a well-stocked assortment of spices, and the inspiration of ‘Creative Uncook’, I’ll be spicing things up a bit!

I also know now that, aside from colour and taste enhances, spices are some of nature’s most powerful healers! Here’re just a couple of the health benefits to five of my favourites;

1. Basil – this strong antioxidant increases blood circulation to the heart and brain, plus it contains magnesium which helps reduce inflammation.
2. Cinnamon – I add this to my morning’s bowl of oats. It has fibre, iron, manganese and calcium, and is a natural antioxidant. The health benefits include reduction of arthritis, boosts memory function and helps prevent yeast infections.
3. Cumin – one of my most favourite spices, which improves energy levels, aids in digestion and because it’s rich in iron and vitamin C it’s great for boosting the immune system.
4. Paprika – probably the first spice I used as a young adult, for colouring but now it’s used to give a light peppery flavour to my food. A whole paprika pepper is known to have six to nine times more vitamin C than a tomato. Because of this, it can also help absorb iron-rich foods and help keep common infections at bay.
5. Turmeric – I’ll be using this in my scrambled tofu, giving the dish a bright yellow colour and distinctive flavour. The medicinal value of this spice has been studied for its effects on preventing the spread of prostate, breast and pancreatic cancer. It’s also been known to detoxify the liver, help with fat metabolism and treat depression.

4 thoughts on “All spiced up – who knew?

  1. I get stressed about preparing dishes that can’t be tasted along the way. A soup, curry or raw dish can be adjusted in secret, but once you cut into that pie, it’s noticeable! 🙂
    I’ve only just really started to experiment with spices since living here. I had no idea how amazing herbs and spices are – for flavour and especially for health. Thanks for the synopsis.

  2. Thanks for your comments Larissa, lovely to hear from you and good to know that we don’t all cook by numbers!

  3. I love to just through things together and be creative and generally use recipes as starting points. I am trying to force myself to at least follow the recipe EXACTLYish the first time to get an idea of the tastes that the creator was going for.

  4. Good strategy Rebecca; beginning off with the recipe’s general concept then doing your own creating. I was there with regular foods, but turning vegetarian and then transitioning to veganism I’m taking the opportunity to begin and learn all over again.

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