One of the main reasons that my top five pantry items post had no herbs or spices is that I couldn’t pick just one. Physically impossible. I’ve expanded my collection hugely over the last few years, particularly as I set myself the challenge of learning to make curry from scratch instead of using ready made curry pastes (though I still use these – they’re awesome for a fast dinner).
During the summer, having been assaulted once too often by jars and bags falling out of my cupboard, and having discovered that I had not one but three containers of ground cinnamon, I decided that something needed to change. So I cleared out the dreaded junk drawer and turned it into my spice rack.
Best decision I’ve made in years. Everything in jars that fit nicely in the drawer and hold a full Asian market sized bag of most herbs and spices. Everything is visible at a glance. The majority of the jars, which originally contained one of my favourite brands of jam, are recycled and look pretty pretty. The remaining few were donated to me by a friend who was having a clear out, in exchange for a jar of my apple butter.
It’s a rather large collection, but it’s not all of it. This little caddy is also filled with herbs and spices and generally lives on the worktop. Some of these aren’t used often (cayenne pepper) or only come in either very small bags (40g) or very large ones (5kg) (like oregano) or are things that need to be used quickly (most dried herbs).
My running total then!
In the caddy I have black peppercorns (use quickly), dried oregano (use quickly, bag size issue), herbes de Provence (same as oregano), cayenne pepper (don’t use often), green cardamom (don’t use often), and star anise (end of a big bag).
Working left to right, front to back in the drawer, we have…
Garlic granules, ground fenugreek, ground coriander, onion granules, ground ginger, a tin of whole nutmegs and a little yellow tub of asfoetida. These get used quite a lot, particularly if I’m going through a curry kick.
Next row there’s ground cinnamon, whole cumin, bay leaves (from my parent’s bay tree!), turmeric, and a giant (half kilo) tin of smoked paprika. These get used a lot making Mexican, Tex-Mex or Southern food. I get through a lot of cinnamon in baking and preserving as well.
Next back there’s whole fenugreek, garam masala, Chinese five spice blend, ground cloves and a small tin of mixed spice. These are largely used in curries, but the cloves and mixed spice also get brought out for baking – especially anything involving apples like crumble or pie. The couple of unlabeled jars have a bbq rub and “steak” spice blends in them, made by a friend of mine.
There’s actually another row of jars behind the visible rows, in the same format. These are whole yellow mustard seeds, kala namak (black salt, which I’ve yet to play with) dried chilli flakes, dried (English) mustard, a small jar of ground allspice (as opposed to mixed spice) and (Indian) curry masala.
Some jars get used very regularly (oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, nutmeg, cumin, bay); some are the less used but critical ingredients for certain dishes (asafoetida, fenugreek, dry mustard, star anise) and even fewer are largely around for when I’ve run out of something, or it’s late and I need “pantry dinner” or when it’s close to payday and I’ve moths and gum in my purse (dried chilli flakes, onion and garlic granules, ground ginger).
I find that I reach for the drawer almost every day and I’ve not had a “smashed in head by falling tin of paprika” or a “breakable item of kitchen kit smashed by jar escaping from press” incident since I moved them down from the press. For the record, I’m currently down a sugar bowl, two Wedgewood plates, two measuring cups (on different occasions), the rim of a kilner jar, a nice water glass and one of my favourite mugs thanks to several years of divebombing spice jars.
Anyone else have creative storage for spices? Any herb or spice that you couldn’t live without or that makes you want to run a mile?