5 Essential Spices for the Student Pantry

By The Student Body Team

November 18, 2018

There’s one secret to cooking that all chefs, foodies and your grandparents know; you can’t make delicious, wholesome food without adding spices to your cooking.

But there are so many spices to choose from so it’s hard to know where to begin. We thought we’d save you the trouble and give you the ultimate starter guide to spices. These 5 spices should always have a place in your pantry:

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Native to the region spanning from the Middle East to India, cumin was an important commodity in the spice trade and has become synonymous around the world in Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean, Spanish, Middle Eastern and even Chinese food. This versatile spice has nutty aromas with a distinct hearty earthy flavour.


Classic dishes:

Cumin was made to go with beans (black, kidney or pinto) in a delicious tomato sauce giving the dish an authentic Mexican taste - like in this chicken and kidney bean paellaTransport yourself to the markets of Marrakesh with the sprinkle of cumin in a simple vegetable and chickpea stew.

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Famous for its connection to pirates of the South American and the Caribbean region, this spice is simply capsicum that has been dried and blended into a powder. It can come in three major varieties; smoky paprika that has been burned slightly prior to being dried, spicy paprika which has a combination of chillies and capsicum that have been dried and blended together, and the more traditional paprika, which blend various varieties of capsicum together. Paprika is a deep red spice that has a subtly sweet and rich flavour.


Classic dishes:

Goulash, a Hungarian working class meal, is a stew of slow cooked meat and vegetables and its essential ingredient is paprika. Paella is a traditional Spanish large pan rice casserole. In addition to usually combining chicken, seafood and legumes, Paella is famous for its utilisation of smoky paprika providing this dish with its famous Spanish flair.

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Black Pepper Corns

Just get it and use a shit load of it. Some fruity berry notes, black pepper corns are spicy, zesty and delicious. The key here is to purchase black pepper corns whole. They are cheaper and when cracked fresh have a lot more flavour than its pre-ground counterpart


Use it in everything...

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This spice, which is known for dying your food yellow also makes a flat dish come to life.  Native to India and a member of the ginger family, this root spice is usually dried and blended up into a dry powder.  


Classic Dishes:

A mild coconut curry with a little lightly toasted turmeric will really pop with the bright yellow colour and the subtle flavour of turmeric.

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This classic spice has sharp, hot notes with winter fruit aromas. Cinnamon is most traditionally used in winter desserts like stewed fruit and rice pudding but is also a key component in various curry powders and pastes.


On a cold winter morning, nothing hits the spot better than a hardy bowl of porridge. To treat yourself add a touch of cinnamon and a sprinkling of brown sugar or a drizzle of honey.


Though you may think cinnamon is a sweet spice, it can add an extra level of depth to a slow roasted lamb shoulder. The key here is to add dried fruit in combination with cinnamon and a touch of honey to your usual essential roast ingredients, garlic, onion and red wine.

Finally - salt (whilst not technically a spice) is important in your cooking. Although too much salt can be bad for you, it is vital that you have salt in your pantry. The best pastry chefs will use a pinch of salt in all their desserts. It acts as a neutral balance for your palate and amplifies the flavour of the food you are cooking.