Spices and herbs can be dangerous weapons in the kitchen. They can both make the blandest of dishes into a masterpiece and turn great dishes into disasters if not properly added. Adding too much of any spice can ruin a dish, particularly with strong flavors such as clove. Too much of a certain spice will make all the other flavors of the dish null. To fix a tainted stew, the best method is to increase volume.
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Add more of the other ingredients. The best way to tone down the flavor of anything is to add more of the other ingredients in the recipe. In a stew, consider adding more tomatoes or other vegetables, increase the stock, add more carrots and strong-flavored items such as onions and garlic. Increasing the volume of the stew will spread out the clove flavor so that it appears less intense.
Balance the spices. If you’ve added too much of one powerful spice, balance it by adding more of another powerful spice. Depending on the flavor base of your stew, combat the cloves with additions of equally strong spices such as chili pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, hot paprika or lemon pepper.
Incorporate cream or dairy-based ingredients. Dairy is often used to tone down the spices in hot Asian or Indian foods, and though cloves are not often considered a hot spice, they can be subdued with the addition of a dairy base. Depending on the type of stew, dairy might not be appropriate. However, if the cloves make the dish inedible, dairy is a good option. Add 1 cup milk or cream, plain yogurt, sour cream or whatever you have on hand. Adding dairy will also help to add volume and spread out the clove flavor.
Add honey or another sweet substance to balance the spice. Many cooks add sugar or honey to over-spiced foods. Add a 1/4 cup to begin with and adjust taste or add more after tasting. If you don’t have honey, add sugar or brown sugar to try to dull the clove flavor.
Take out the cloves. To prevent further flavor infusion, take out the cloves once you realize they are too powerful. This can only be done if using whole cloves rather than powdered cloves.