I was asked last week by my mother what she should have in her arsenal of spices to resemble big bold flavors.
I should start off by saying that it is important to go through your spices and make sure you remove old and stale ones. Just because it is a dry spice or herb doesn’t mean it has an infinite shelf life. The leafy green herbs should be an un-faded green and paprika and cayenne should be red, not brown. Go through all of your spices and give them a check. Take the ground up spices and rub them in the palm of your hand and the whole spices and crush them down. This should release the oils of the spices and be very aromatic. If you are not sure of what the smell is or it doesn’t smell like what the label says then throw them in your compost.
As for spices that should be in your pantry is totally up to your desired taste. What may be amazing to one is a complete miss to another. Know what you like and don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors and flavor combinations. Have some fun in the spice aisle next time you are shopping and pick one out that you’ve never used before. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and I am sure you will be surprised with some of the creations you come up with.
As a chef myself I have many misses when it comes to new dishes, but it is the mistakes that teach us most. If you try something new and it doesn’t work then keep at it until it does. Talk to friends and family about your experiences and before you know it you may come up with something that is put into your permanent recipe book.