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Embrace the spice!

Driven by globalization and the growing multicultural population, spices that were once exotic and unfamiliar are becoming familiar and universal. Flavours in this group include: chilli, pink peppercorn, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and turmeric. So with the cold weather this month, heat up the kitchen with some on trend spice and spicy cuisines.

A great starting point… Authentic Mexican food is vibrant, delicious, fresh and fun. It is also colourful, spicy and uses an amazing array of chillies, both fresh and dried. Whether it’s flavourful fish tacos that tickle your taste buds or fajitas that fire you up, Mexican cooking is packed with flavour; among the herbs and spices that give it its distinct kick are a variety of chillies (fresh, dried, smoked and pickled), alongside oregano, coriander, cinnamon and cocoa. Garlic, onions, lemons and limes are also used generously. The Mexican food style is very earthy, humble, and rich in flavours because they use a wide range of ingredients from all over the country.

However, if you’re feeling adventurous, then take a flavoursome trip to the orient for the best spicy food. The more open minded and better travelled diners are also opening up the market for national cuisines that remain largely untapped in the UK. Such as: Malaysian, Korean, Indonesian and Sri Lankan. The only problem is that the likes of Malay food is that “It takes a lot of coaxing to get customers to try less familiar dishes.” As stated by Norman Musa, an ambassador for Malaysian cooking in the UK. However, you do not want to miss out on Malay food as it is in general, rich and aromatic with herbs like lemongrass, tamarind, dried and fresh chilies, ginger and garlic. Superb!

Having a look at one of Britain’s favourite cuisines… Indian food has been one of the most popular cuisines in the UK for quite some time now, not to mention the most ordered dish to be the glorious and ever-so-popular chicken tikka masala. So here’s the deal with Indian food: most Indian restaurants in the West serve Northern Indian (or Punjabi style) food – rich, creamy curries and sauces; dishes like butter chicken, korma, tandoori baked meats and naan bread.

However, even though us Brits have become a bit more inquisitive of spice and flavours, Southern Indian food is the least explored. In Southern India, vegetarian meals are the norm. Instead of the cream, South India goes for seeds, popped spices, tomatoes, coconut and various dals (lentils) used as accompaniments. Southern Indian food also consists of a variety of dishes such as; lemon rice, Biryani, tamarind rice, and the like. Just a heads up, by and large, Southern Indian cuisine is perhaps the hottest of all Indian food.

What are the spices that make up this glorious southern cuisine you ask? Some of the chief varieties of spices produced here include cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, curry leaves, mustard, asafoetida, tamarind, chilies and fenugreek seeds. So you think Indian food is just chicken tikka masala and palak paneer?  Think again.

We as a country should embrace more cuisines like these, with great unapologetically, punch-you-in-the-face, get-the-adrenaline-pumping flavours!