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SPICES OF LIFE

‘Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves’ has a musical ring — it could have been an alternative name for the Spice Girls. But no, the combination is one of baking’s most popular flavourings — mixed spice.

Depending on the manufacturer, the combo may also include ground ginger, cardamom, coriander seeds, caraway and cassia.

Cinnamon is obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree. It’s one of the oldest spices known and is the predominant scent used in incense. It’s equally popular in savoury or sweet dishes. Cassia — prepared from the bark of the cassia tree — is similar in taste to cinnamon but it has a more delicate aroma.

Allspice is often confused with mixed spice but it is the pungent and sharply aromatic unripe berry of the pimento tree.

Mixed spice is a fragrant reminder of Christmas as it is often included in celebratory bakes such as English festive cakes and North America’s pumpkin pie. However, it is also a tasty addition to savoury foods. 

Add it to poultry stuffing, sprinkle it over lamb before roasting or add it to Moroccan tagines.

Make your own combo by combining one tablespoon each of ground cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg with one teaspoon each of ground cloves, coriander and ginger. Mix well. Store in an airtight container in the dark.

LITTLE SPICED LOGS

1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons each: chopped parsley, mint
1 clove garlic chopped
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
salt and pepper to taste
500g lean minced beef
Sauce: 3/4 cup Greek-style yoghurt
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
salt to taste

Place the onion, herbs, garlic, mixed spice and seasonings in a food processor and quickly pulse to blend. Add the mince and mix until well combined.

Shape into 8 logs about 3-4cm thick. Thread onto wooden skewers, if preferred.

Grill or pan-fry on a ridged frying pan for about 5 minutes each side, until cooked.

Combine the ingredients for the sauce and serve with the logs. Serves 4.

 

MIXED SPICE CARROT COOKIES

A hybrid carrot cake/cookie.

125g butter, softened
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 egg, well beaten
3/4 cup gluten-free self-raising flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup grated carrot

Beat the butter and maple syrup until well combined. Beat in the egg then sift in the flour and mixed spice. Mix well. Add the sultanas and carrot and mix well. Chill for 1 hour or until firm enough to roll.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

Take tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls. (Dust your hands with gluten-free flour if the dough becomes too sticky.) Place on the tray about 4cm apart. Flatten to about 1cm thick with the back of a soup spoon.

Bake for about 20 minutes until starting to colour. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container — in the freezer, if preferred. Makes about 24.

PARTY NUTS

3 cups blanched mixed nuts eg almonds, cashew nuts, macadamias

50g butter
3 teaspoons ground mixed spice
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Combine the nuts in a large roasting dish. Melt the butter and stir in the spices and salt. Pour over the nuts. Stir to coat evenly. 

Bake for about 35 minutes, stirring often, until golden and crunchy. Stir well and cool.

  

Store in airtight containers in a cool place or in the freezer. Serve as nibbles. Makes 3 cups.



Columns by Jan Bilton
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