Autumn is on its way...
It’s time to swap delicate berries and juicy stone fruits for robust squashes and dark greens. It’s a time to embrace soups curries, indulgent cheeses and rich chutneys. It’s also a time to start thinking about boosting our immune systems to help ward off those nasty coughs and colds.
Introduce a bit of spice
Integrating warming spices into our daily meals—whether they’re cooked at home or enjoyed out—is one of the best ways to prevent illness, keep our bodies warm and dynamically enhance the foods we eat. Ayurveda, a form of indigenous (and possibly pre-historic!) Indian health and wellness system teaches us to “let food be thy medicine” and by taking conscious care of what we put into our bodies we can maximise our health and feel like our best selves.
One way of doing this is by using the right combination of spices and herbs to compliment – or even anchor—our meals. Warming spices not only enhance our food with aromatic intrigue, but they can have a range of benefits on our bodies. Most especially, they boost immunity, stabilise energy and blood pressure levels and balance out those of us who are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures.
Put down that pumpkin spice latte!
Don’t be mislead, warming spices are not limited to hot peppers, chillies and spicy foods, instead, they include a range of spices with fragrant, dramatic and magical flavours.
These include turmeric, black pepper, ginger, mustard seeds, cardamom, fenugreek and cinnamon. That being said, try and resist that Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s probably not going to do you much good. Instead, consider new ways to engage with these spices and start including them in your meals: Look out for fresh turmeric in your local grocer and try grating the tasty bright orange anti-inflammatory gingery root over plain basmati rice or chop into matchsticks and pickle in lemon juice with black peppercorns for weeks of crunchy enjoyment.
Gently toast mustard seeds in oil and pour over dark greens for a warming spiced salad. Consider buying a massive hunk of fresh ginger and grating the entire thing; freeze the grated ginger in an ice-cube tray so that you have plenty of it handy for hot ginger tea or for your Asian cooking projects. Roast a handful of fenugreek seeds and stir into your curries and dals.
Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy warming spices is by creating your own spice blends to use again and again. Buy a mortar and pestle! Try dry frying cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and a bay leaf to create your very own garam masala (which directly translates to “warm spice mix”). You can never compare the fragrance of a freshly ground spice blend made from whole-roasted spices.
You can buy a wide range of whole spices at The Refilling Station to experiment with your own spice blends. Store the whole spices and blends in airtight jars (preferably opaque as natural light can damage your spices over time) in a dry cool place and enjoy for months (or even years) to come!
If you haven’t got the time (or interest) to create your own blends, check out the Spice & Green range of spice blends at The Refilling Station. They carry a range of Indian, Middle Eastern and Canadian blends that you can buy in bulk for cooking adventures at home!
This article has been adapted from a piece written for the Autumn 2019 Leeds Independent Life publication. https://leeds.independentlife.co.uk/
Images courtesy of Spice and Green