It’s said that spice is the variety of life, and for good reason! Spices are a very important factor when it comes to your food. Not only will they enhance the flavor of your dishes, they will also bring out the natural character of your cooking.
Let’s highlight some of the basic spices you need in your kitchen, starting with salt.
I’m a big fan of Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, which is one of the premium spices we use in The Chopping Block’s kitchens. This salt is different from all other salts. First of all, it’s extracted from the sea, plain and natural with nothing added, it dissolves easy in cold water as well so it’s excellent used in a brine, and it’s easy to work with. This means that you do not need a grinder for it, you just work it with your fingers as you sprinkle it on your food. It retains moisture very well, so you could let it sit out on a nice dish or container on your kitchen counter.
A lot of my students ask what the difference is between black and white pepper. Pepper is the fruit of the pepper plant, but they’re processed differently. Black pepper is picked when almost ripe and sun-dried, which turns the pepper black, while white pepper has the outer layer removed before or after drying. White pepper is also not as strong and it blends in easily with the dish. I prefer to use white pepper in a white sauce, such as béchamel.
Pepper is best used freshly ground, so you'll need a pepper grinder, preferably one with multiple levels of coarseness. This is important, since you may need a different grind for different dishes. For example, you should use a coarse pepper grind for seasoning a steak while you'll need a finer grind for a salad or vinaigrette.
To get the most out of your pepper, purchase whole peppercorns, especially if you got yourself a nice grinder. This way you have a fresh product every time and you’re also not wasting anything. The already ground pepper will lose its strength after a while and particularly if exposed to air and lots of light.
To grind other spices, such as coriander and cumin seeds, it's a good idea to purchase a mortar and pestle, which helps to release the oils from the spices bringing the best out of them.
If you could use some new salts (including our popular truffle salt), seasonings and spices, they are all 20% off this month in our stores. That goes for all spice accessories as well, such as grinders. We also offer a great cooking class that focuses on flavor combinations made from herbs, spices, oils and vinegars called Flavor Dynamics, which is part of our Cooking Lab series. We're already sold out through April, so make sure to reserve your spot in May now.