Spicing up winter

Generally I find that by the middle of winter, some of the romance of crisp frosty mornings and the excitement of first snowfall and new winter coats have passed. Winter starts to drag—the days are short, the skies grey, and nights long. There is a cold that creeps in, and the best way to banish it is with some fabulous warming winter recipes.

When the team sat down to discuss hearty winter cuisine, immediately spices were on everyone’s minds. Spices are the aromatic ingredients used to flavour and in some cases preserve food, and to me they conjure up thoughts of warm and wintery comfort food; rich stews, spicy soups, sweet aromatic baked delights.

Unlike fresh ingredients, most spices keep for several months. In centuries gone by, as exploration, travel and international trade grew, spices became very significant commodities and generated untold wealth for brave and enterprising traders. Some of the most romantic voyages in the world have been undertaken in the name of the spice-trade. Almost without exception it’s the spices, their flavours and aromas that make a dish, a cuisine or even a culture, distinct and easily recognisable.

Throughout history, inspired cooks and diners of every calibre have embraced the exotic flavours that spices have brought to their lives. Today most of us, however conservative our cooking styles, have a selection of spices in the store cupboard.

-Karen O’Neill