With mornings much crisper than they were just a bit ago, the sweatshirts have been broken out of their space saver vacuum bags, pants have replaced shorts, and the smell of winter is in the air. And with this great season comes warming food. Hearty soups, nice and thick creamy dishes, cooked fruits, fruit pies, and roasted dishes are aplenty, all of which can be accentuated by the ever-important warm spices.
The warm spices have a warming effect on the body.
Recently, I made a fruit compote with apples, walnuts and dried cranberries, and then I walked around the kitchen asking people what they smelled. Every answer was the same; it invoked the feeling of the holidays. This is no coincidence, since the spices used during the cooler months served a purpose beyond flavoring in years past in our culture, perhaps contradictory to their usage in hotter climes such as India and Nepal. The warm spices have a warming effect on the body.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, pepper (especially white pepper), ginger and star anise all are members of this elite group of flavorings that add so much character to our food. Creamy soups benefit greatly from the infusion of nutmeg, white pepper, and if the profile is right, any combination of the warm spices I listed above (of course, make sure that you use great caution should you try to experiment with cream of crab and licorice soup…I’m not convinced that will turn out too well).
If you are a crème brulée fan, try adding any of the listed spices, and the same goes for a good cake recipe. Molten cake is phenomenal with a moderate amount of pepper, cardamom and cinnamon. Basically, your tastes and preferences will dictate what works for you. While in hotter climes, spice blends such as Indian curries or Moroccan ras el hanout are used to encourage perspiration, these other spice blends have the same warming effect, aiding the body’s circulation and allowing flavors otherwise impossible to obtain.