You may have noticed by now that we use a lot of herbs and spices in our recipes here at Elevated and for the month of June 2022, we took that up a notch by inviting Marcia Clarke of Abundance Food Leeds to be our guest chef.
Marcia’s heritage hails from the Caribbean and she uses jerk and cajun seasoning blends in her dishes, which are not a million miles from our own Elevated BBQ House Rub. The flavours you wish to get and therefore the spices you use are down to personal preference to a point, so you will find dozens of blends online or in stores to use.
But what about if you are looking for functionality from your food? Here James takes a look at some of the main spices in jerk, cajun and BBQ rubs and explains what they can help you with if you add them to your diet.
Forget the name suggesting it’s a blend, allspice (also known as Jamaica pepper, pimento or pimento) is the dried, unripe berry of the Pimenta dioca. It’s called allspice as despite it being from a single plant, it has hints of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper. It’s been used traditionally as a pain reliever, to increase circulation, improve mood and as an anti-fungal.
Used as a commodity in ancient times, black pepper is now the number one spice used in the UK. To get the best flavour, buy our own and use a grinder… it really is just as easy as buying the ready ground stuff. From a medicinal point of view, it stimulates stomach acid and so can increase digestion, while it’s also thought to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Many of its benefits come down to a compound called pipperine which helps absorb nutrients such as selenium, B vitamins and betacarotene (a precursor of vitamin A). Pipperine also helps the body burn energy and can support detoxification. Paired with turmeric, black pepper enhances the bright yellow spice’s antioxidant properties.
One of the oldest spices known to man, the dried bark of the cinnamon tree comes in two forms Ceylon cinnamon (from Sri Lanka) and Chinese cinnamon. The latter is thought to be more flavoursome and is more expensive to the point where people often call it true cinnamon, with Chinese cinnamon taking on the name cassia. It’s long been used as a medicine and is said to help with arthritis, asthma, cancer, diarrhoea, fever, heart problems, menstrual problems and more.
Native to the Moluccas islands, cloves have been consumed in Asia for well over 2,000 years but didn’t become popular in Europe until the Middle Ages. Cloves contain a compound called eugenol that has been used to help prevent toxicity from pollutants, as an anaesthetic and as an antibacterial agent – the latter two are why dentistry treatments often contain extracts of clove.
One of the few plants that is both a herb and a spice since both its leaves and its seeds are used. Native to the Med and Middle East it has been consumed for more than 7,000 years. Medicinal properties include its use as a digestive and to relieve flatulence, it also has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-anxiety properties.
Small in size but massive in flavour, cumin (which is native to Egypt) has been used since biblical times when it was a currency. The seeds when ground are said to be good for the digestive system as they stimulate pancreatic enzymes.
Here you want to be careful to use garlic powder rather than garlic salt – mixing the two up could seriously affect the salinity of a dish! We could write a whole article on the benefits of garlic (hm, that’s an idea) – it’s been used medicinally since 1500BC after all. Here are just a few of them Supports the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseaseReduces high blood pressureReduces cholesterol and triglyceride levelsSupports the prevention and progression of cancerReduces blood glucose levels and supports the prevention of diabetesSupports liver healthSupports immune system function
Native to south-eastern Asia, India and China, ginger has long been important in Chinese medicine and was even mentioned by Confucius in his writings. Imported by the Romans into Europe some 2000 years ago, it has many uses and was even one of the spices used against the Plague in England. In 19th century pubs, some containers of ground ginger were put on the bar and added to beer, which is, perhaps unsurprisingly, where ginger beer comes from. Nowadays Jamaican ginger is said to be the best quality. It’s long been used for alleviating wind and to reduce stomach cramps, while it has also been used for nausea (including morning sickness). Substances called gingerols are also potent anti-inflammatories.
The seed of an apricot-like fruit tree from the Moluccas, the Spice Islands of Indonesia. One of the spices carried by Muslim traders on the old spice routes of biblical times, it can help against wind and is also effective against diarrhoea, while it has strong antimicrobial properties.
Oregano and marjoram are both similarly-related species of the mint family. Its little flakes release more flavour if you crush them, so get the pestle and mortar out just before you use them. Originally a northern European plant, their spread to the Mediterranean is what saw them become so popular in the cuisines of Italy, Greece and Spain. Oregano oil is an especially potent antimicrobial with studies finding it more effective against certain bacteria than prescription drugs. It’s also has huge antioxidant properties: gram for gram you are looking at 42x the activity of apples, 30x more than potatoes, 12x more than apples and 4x more than blueberries!
Paprika/smoked paprika/cayenne/chilli flakes
Obviously you have very different heat profiles between these but they are all members of the same family with health giving properties coming from the substance capsaicin. Capsaicin is a strong pain reliever, can lower body temperature in intense heat and can increase the body’s fat burning furnace.
Native to the Western Med, thyme was used by both the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians (who used it to mummify the pharaohs). It’s known to have strong antispasmodic, antibacterial and fungicidal properties and is also high in antioxidants.