A spice is any dried seed, fruit, root, bark, leaf or vegetable substance that is used as a food additive. There are thousands of spices to be found all across the world. When you are setting up your first kitchen or when you are interested in getting started with cooking, buying the right spices can seem a little intimidating. Start with spices that will cover most of your basic cooking needs and then add more exotic spices as necessary.
Garlic is a common spice in almost every country’s cuisine, and you can find it powdered, as a salt, minced or coarsely chopped. You can use it in nearly any meat sauce or as an additive for pastas or soups.
Dried, powdered onion can often be used in place of fresh onions, depending on the meal. Having dried onion around can be handy for people who cannot cope with onion fumes, and it can make a pleasant additive to many pork and beef dishes.
There are dozens of types of pepper from which to choose. The type you choose should be related to the tastes that you prefer. Red chili pepper is very strong, and its pungent smell can be pervasive. Black pepper is milder, and its scent is more apparent in a dish than its taste. White pepper is milder than either of other peppers.
Thyme is used in many European and American dishes, and it is also a common ingredient in curry and jerked meat. This is a spice with a distinct taste, and it should be used sparingly. It makes an excellent flavoring agent for seafood chowders, soup stock and meat sauces.
If you have any intention of cooking Indian or Middle Eastern food, turmeric is one spice that you must have. This yellow spice has a strong mustard flavor and it is most often used in curries. It has a tendency to turn everything with which it comes into contact yellow, so keep this mind when you are storing it or cooking with it.
Allspice is derived from the berry of the pimento tree and it gets its name from having a flavor that is reminiscent of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. It its powdered form, it is an excellent additive to your baked goods. When it comes in whole dried berries, it can be used in pickling, in stews and in soups.
Basil is one of the most commonly used herbs in the world. It features strongly in Italian dishes and is popular as a spice in most of Southeast Asia. Basil has a strong flavor that is reminiscent of anise. It is often used in pesto sauces, vinaigrettes and tomato sauces.