Long Pepper

Today, a shaker of black pepper is found on table settings all across the world. But for thousands of years, there was another contender for adding spice to food. Long pepper (Piper longum) is a close relative of black pepper (Piper nigrum). As opposed to the small spheres of black pepper, the long pepper is, …

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Real or fake wasabi?

All but the most committed of sushi chefs have given up on using true wasabi (Wasabia japonica), a semiaquatic herb native to the mountain streams of central Japan’s Nagano Prefecture. Most sushi fans are actually eating a mixture of ground horseradish, Chinese mustard, and green food coloring. Fresh wasabi rhizomes—which are different from roots—prove extremely …

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Black Garlic

These inky cloves have aged like a fine wine. Garlic growers have to find creative ways to preserve their harvest. If left in a warm, humid environment for a few weeks, the pungent bulbs turn inky black. Despite appearances, the yield isn’t spoiled. This savory iteration is simply called “black garlic.” By placing garlic in …

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How ‘Ennobling’ Helped Italian Aristocrats Solve the Problem of Garlic

The ingredient would have otherwise been too cheap to grace noble tables. Peasant food in action in Annibale Carracci’s The Beaneater, c. 1585. PUBLIC DOMAIN FOR THE 16TH-CENTURY ITALIAN NOBLE, garlic posed a unique, culinary dilemma. To demonstrate status, a person of taste and means served food prepared with the finest, rarest spices, such as …

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Saffron or not?

It seems the practice of selling fake or adulterated spices continues even in the 21st century and Saffron is the biggest victim of them all. Knowing what you buy is just as important for food as it is for anything else. When you buy a computer, you would want to know the memory space, speed, …

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Garlic presses

Essential kitchen tool or a destroyer of garlic flavour? Anthony Bourdain calls the garlic crusher (otherwise known as a garlic press), which crushes garlic into a pulp, an “abomination”, but other chefs claim they enhance garlic by releasing the oils. Knife-cut garlic will caramelise in cooking, unlike pulp, although a crusher will quarantine the slightly …

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Pickled Seeds

Photo: Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott Acid. Spice. Salt. Texture. Savvy chefs have tricks for bringing each of these elements to every dish, and Thomas McNaughton of San Francisco pasta temple Flour + Water is no exception. Potent pickled seeds are his game, which the chef deploys to lend a lightness and acidity that he …

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Basil Varieties

Left to right): Cinnamon basil, ‘Red Rubin’, bush basil and ‘Greek Mini’. Sally Tagg Sweet or ‘Genovese’ basil is the most popular variety, with its large, fresh green leaves prized for pesto. Lemon and lime basil have a distinctive, citrusy kick to their flavour and scent. ‘Mrs Burns Lemon’ is the best of the bunch. Purple …

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Spice use

“The best tip I’ve ever been given, and the one I pass on the most, is to always use whole spices rather than pre-ground ones,” he explains. “We always use whole spices in the restaurant, freshly roasted and ground for each recipe: the flavour you get out of them when used fresh like this is …

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The science of how spice affects your body

  Eat some chilli, and your mouth feels like it’s on fire — because, as far as your body is concerned, that’s what your brain actually thinks is happening. This video explains the weird, wonderful and oddly addictive effect that capsaicin has on the human body. <iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/qD0_yWgifDM?feature=player_embedded” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Storing herbs

There isn’t one way to store all of your fresh herbs because herbs themselves fall into two categories: hard and soft. Food52 explains the difference and suggests the right method to keep each type of herb fresh for a longer time. Hard herbs are the ones with woody stems, like rosemary, oregano, marjoram and thyme. …

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