I’ve always been pretty good at cooking.

It’s something I take for granted – I just intuitively move my way through my meals, having a hunch about how much of this to add, and how much of that, and tasting it and knowing it needs a little something extra and how to achieve what I need (the answer is usually add more sea salt).

I have a secret to confess – I despise writing out exact recipes, and it’s because of this innate cooking intuition that I have. I like to think that because I know exactly how much of this and that would taste good that everyone should know how to do that. So when I try and write my recipes out with exact quantities, I’m always left going ‘Well I don’t know!!! I just throw stuff on there and it works out!!”.

While writing all the recipes for the candida cleanse program, I seriously struggled. I would find ANYTHING to procrastinate with to avoid trying to conform my kitchen masterpieces into a formula. But alas… it had to be done, because many people simply can’t function in the kitchen without that exactness that comes with a well written recipe.

This article is not about recipes anyway. I’m not giving you any exact quantities – I’m giving you some guidelines that may help you to experiment and find that you CAN cook intuitively too!

I’m going to tell you about certain spices that can be used together in your dishes to transform them into a boring plate of veg or a drab omellette into a Mexican, Thai, Indian, Moroccan, Chinese, Cajun, African, or Italian sensation!

Seriously – spices are your best friend in the kitchen if you want to be healthy, and knowing how to use them will take your cooking to a new level. Most people think healthy food is boring because they are used to piling on their processed sauce and condiments in order to get their food tasting decent. All you need is a little know-how on what goes with what, and you’ll be flying.

You’ll Never Have a Boring Meal Again!

The following are spice themes of 12 different regions that you can use to recreate the spirit of that country’s dishes. You don’t have to use all the spices listed at once (and note that most of them will do very well with a pinch of sea salt to bring out the taste), but it will be a good guide to get you thinking about what sort of new flavours you can create in your kitchen:

Mexican Inspired

Chipotle, Chili Flakes, Garlic, Oregano, Paprika, Cayenne, Onion Powder, Cumin

 

Jamaican Jerk Inspired

Allspice, Chili Flakes

Italian Inspired

Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Garlic

Indian Curry Inspired

Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander, Cardamom, Fenugreek, Chili

Indian Tandoori Inspired

Paprika, Cumin, Coriander, Cloves, Cinnamon, Ginger, Garlic, Cayenne, Turmeric

Chinese Inspired

Anise, Cinnamon, Pepper, Fennel, Cloves

Cajun Inspired

Cayenne, Pepper, Onion powder, Garlic, Chili, Thyme, Sweet Basil, Bay Leaf

Thai Inspired

Ginger, Galangel, Fennel, Garlic, Sweet Basil, Chili, Lemongrass

Baharat (Middle Eastern) Inspired

Allspice, Paprika, Pepper, Cumin, Coriander, Cassia, Cloves, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Coriander

Moroccan Inspired

Coriander, Ginger, Garlic, Cumin, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Turmeric, Cardamom

Greek Inspired

Oregano, Onion Powder, Garlic, Pepper, Parsley, Paprika, Thyme, Nutmeg

Lebanese Za’tar Inspired

Thyme, Sumac, Toasted Sesame Seeds

I’m not really sure how extensive everyone’s spice collection is. Mine is super meager here in Australia, and even back home I don’t have half the spices above. But my most used ones are definitely cumin, rosemary, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, and salt and pepper.

However, I’m thinking that when I go home I want to ramp up my spice rack with some really nice, good quality organic herbs, spices, and spice blends.

So Why Should I Know The Above Combinations? Can’t I Just Buy Spice Blends to Do it For Me?

Yes, use spice blends by all means. They make the above combinations a cinch… you don’t even have to think! I wouldn’t mind having a few lining my pantry.

But then why don’t I use them currently?

Because most of the ones you pick up at the supermarket have some very questionable ingredients added, such as:

  • Corn or Rice Starch
  • Hydrolyzed corn or soy protein (MSG)
  • Unspecified “Spices” (probably MSG)
  • Natural Flavouring (nuh uh, not natural)
  • Soybean Oil (or other vegetable oils)

I’d prefer if my spices just be spices, thanks.

However, just because single spices are a little bit more innocent, they still aren’t ideal. Aside from the pesticides, almost all cheap non-organic spices are treated with irradiation (literally shooting radiation at them), or fumigation (exposing them to carcinogenic gas) when they come into the country.

Organic spices on the other hand are guaranteed that they had steam used on them instead to kill bugs, which is a harmless method compared to irradiation or fumigation. You can read more about the difference between organic and non-organic spices here.

None of my spices are currently organic, and they weren’t back home either. Spice quality was never a top priority for my pocket book or health, and it’s probably not for yours either – hey, that’s okay. Take things one step at a time – it’s taken me two years before I’ve gotten around to deciding that maybe I should switch my collection over to a higher quality.

Plus it’s because I started looking through The Spice Trader website (sorry, they only ship to Canada) and their spice blends look SO good…. damn my food is going to be tasty! Problem is that I can’t decide now which ones I want and I’m afraid I’m going to spend my life savings!

Okay, so yes, organic spices do cost more…. but I figure it’s not that bad. It’s kind of like an initial investment for something you use all the time and they last seemingly forever. Plus I’ve been reading that these fresh organic herbs and spices are so flavourful that you only need half as much you normally would – so the cost does even out!

For Those Americans Out There…

Don’t feel left out. I know The Spice Trader looks good, but Mountain Rose Herbs is a fantastic online store with a great reputation for supplying health conscious people with their organic spices. So check ‘er out.

Are you an intuitive cooker? Or a recipe follower?

photos by julia manserovacasadequeso, John Donges, Neil Alderney, wili hybrid, Vinoth Chandar, Chi King, Dylan, Stuck in Customs, William Bullimore, Soy ignatius, ya.zan, George M. Grutas