French recipes,  Health, beauty and more...

Spices to have in your kitchen


I use herbs and spices in my cooking every day. They give flavour to, and spice up our dishes. In addition to their taste, they are full of health benefits*.

Spices have been present in French cuisine since the Middle Ages. Most of them were brought back from far away countries and were extremely expensive. They were used at that time to preserve certain foods and
were also used as medicine.
Spices come from bark, flowers, fruit or even seeds. Theyhave a very strong taste and therefore must be used sparingly.


Star anise
Star anise is a spice from China with a very strong aniseed taste. Often used whole, in infusion, we can also recover and grind the seeds to obtain a powder. It gently flavors rice during cooking. It can also be used in sweet dishes. Star anise is one of the ingredients of Christmas gingerbread.
Beyond its taste, star anise is also known for its virtues concerning the digestive sphere such as spasms, bloating and indigestion.


Pink pepper
Mainly produced in Brazil and Madagascar, pink pepper or “false pepper” combine a sweet centre with peppery flavors. An impeccable balance which allows a very easy use.
They are bought whole and are crushed just before use for maximum flavor. Pink berries also have interesting health properties: they are known to be anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antispasmodic. The essential oil of pink pepper is used to soothe the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatism. A few drops in a hot bath are ideal for a moment of relaxation.
In cooking, pink pepper goes well with fish (such as tuna tartar or salmon « en papillote ») as well as with meats (roasted or grilled) or various sauces.


Cinnamon is in fact the bark of a tree, which while drying rolls up on itself. It is found in Asia, Madagascar and Brazil.
Cinnamon is known since Ancient Times and is used for its culinary properties as well as for its medicinal virtues. Indeed, cinnamon, composed mainly of fibers, contributes to the good functioning of the intestinal transit. It is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and one of the best antioxidants. It is also known to be an ideal appetite suppressant as well as a tonic with a stimulating action. Mixed with honey, its antiseptic action is multiplied tenfold. As with many
spices, be careful with the quality of cinnamon used and with overdosing. It is not recommended for pregnant women and young children.
In the 16th century, in France, cinnamon was used in more than half of the dishes listed. Today, it is mainly used in the West in desserts such as apple and pear pies, cakes, fruits compote or cookies. In North Africa, India, Greece or in oriental cuisine, it is used with savory dishes. For exemple, Moroccan pastilla is a delight. It is a puff pastry stuffed with meat sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar: a surprising and delicious sweet and salty combination.
We can also use it to flavor our hot drinks: teas, hot chocolates or hot wines.


Native to Indonesia and Madagascar, the clove is the bud of a flower from the clove tree. It has a very strong flavor, so it must be used sparingly in cooking. Often 2 or 3 cloves are enough to flavor an entire dish. It is used either whole, in infusion, pricked in an onion, or ground or grated into powder. In France, it is used to flavour traditional dishes such as sauerkraut, pot-au-feu, or meats in sauce such as beef bourguignon or veal blanquette. It is also used to
flavour hot drinks such as tea or hot wine.
Like many spices, the clove also has many therapeutic properties. Indeed, it has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anesthetic virtues. It is often used in dental hygiene as well as to relieve muscle and
joint pain. It can also be used as an insect repellent, especially for moths. The clove allows to perfume the house by making pretty apples of amber.


Cumin is a seed from the Middle East. Its very pronounced taste evokes fennel and anise. We can find it in seeds or powder. The seeds are better preserved but it is preferable in this case to grind them before use. Be careful when you use it in cooking because its taste is very pronounced.
It is present in almost all the cuisines of the world. It is used in both raw and cooked preparations. When used in cooking, add it at the end to maintain its flavors. It goes perfectly with vegetable dishes: fried zucchini, eggplant, peppers, ratatouille, tian of vegetables, mixed salads and raw vegetables.
Cumin is known to go very well with carrots: mashed, grated or fried. It is also used to flavour sauces and marinades as well as certain meats, especially white meats or seafood such as prawn or shrimp.
Cumin has many health benefits such as digestive and diuretic properties. It can also be used to stimulate milk production for breastfeeding women.


Contrary to what one might think, curry is not a spice but a mixture of several spices. It is composed of turmeric, dried garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, curry leaf, mustard seeds, chili pepper … A mixture that makes it one of the best known and used ingredients in the world. Very easy to use, curry
goes with almost everything: red and white meats, fish, seafood, vegetables… just sprinkle it on your dishes to give them a sweet and smooth flavor.
Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, curry brings together all the benefits of the different spices that are used to make it.


Nutmeg is considered a precious spice. The process to obtain it is long and meticulous, which makes it one of the most expensive spices in the world. Derived from the fruit of the nutmeg tree, it is found mainly in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Latin America. The nuts can be found whole or powdered. However, it is recommended to buy them
whole and then grate them only when using them. This allows them to retain a maximum of flavor, and they can be kept for years. Its aroma is very strong, a pinch is usually enough to season a dish. It is used to flavour meats, soups, béchamel, vegetables and most potato-based dishes. I love to use it to flavour a good mashed potato or a gratin
Nutmeg also goes well with some desserts. It is one of the Christmas spices, so it can be found in gingerbread, truffles and desserts made with winter fruits.
Nutmeg also has many beneficial properties on the whole digestive system. It also has analgesic and anti-rheumatic virtues as well as tonic properties. However, beware of overdosing.


Cayenne pepper
As its name indicates, the Cayenne pepper comes from Cayenne, and is very powerful. Widely used in different cuisines all around the world, I often use it when I cook Italian. It flavors olive oil and spicy sauces like arrabiata or puttanesca. In fact, it goes well with any dish that you want to spice up: meat, poultry, fish, eggs … depending on your taste. Moreover, the cayenne pepper is rich in vitamins A, C and E, folic acid and potassium.


Saffron comes from the pistil of a flower. It takes 60,000 flowers to obtain 500g of saffron, which makes it the most expensive spice in the world.
Saffron originated in the East, mainly in Iran, and is now produced in Spain, France, Italy, Greece and South America.
It is used both to perfume and to colour our dishes. In order to release all its flavors and colors, it must be infused in a hot liquid: water, wine, broth, cream … before adding it to the recipe.
It is found in many traditional recipes such as bouillabaisse. It goes equally well with potatoes, rice, meat, fish and shellfish. I often use it in Italian cooking, for example, to make risotto Milanese style or arancini.
Be careful to choose it well. Because of its price, saffron is often counterfeited. It is better to buy it in pistil than in powder. It must be red and smell strongly of saffron.
Saffron is also known for its numerous properties. It was even considered as magic in the past. Mixed with honey it is an excellent antiseptic. It also has digestive and sedative virtues. Finally, it is a powerful antioxidant.


Its name alone makes you want to escape. Sweet and delicate, vanilla goes perfectly with a large number of desserts but also with certain savory dishes, especially fish and shellfish. Vanilla is grown in many countries.
The two most famous types of vanilla are the Bourbon vanilla, originating from Oceania, and the Tahitian vanilla.
In principle, only the seeds in the pods are consumed. But the pods can be used in infusions or to flavour a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar.
Vanilla enhances all desserts: fruit compotes, cakes, syrups, creams, custards, cannelés
Moreover, vanilla is a natural anti-stress and anti-depressant. It fights against fatigue and insomnia, has antiseptic and antivenom properties. It also has many benefits for the skin.

The last essential spice, which is perhaps the most important, is Pepper. I will devote a separate article to it.

*If you wish to use spices for medicinal purpose, seek professional advice.

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