Trading of spices has been practised since antiquity through overland and maritime routes. It has built and destroyed economies and has come to represent both luxury and the everyday. One of the most everyday spices, pepper, is native to Southern India yet is so commonplace we rarely take note of its place of origin or how it got here, while those spices that are rare or difficult to grow such as saffron and vanilla still command a premium.

Spice is all about warming comfort to me. A meal without any spicing is bland and lacking. At its simplest I think of the Italian stalwart of fast cooking, spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino where the chilli flakes can lift a simple pasta, garlic and olive oil combination to something glorious. Spicing can add heat, savoury complexity and richness to a meal, but can also provide vivid and vibrant colour when required, too. Condiments such as this green harissa or the avocado dressing certainly add colour but also provide fresh relief to the richness of the dishes.

It’s worth noting that spices do go off, especially those that are bought ready ground. I tend to buy in small amounts and replace out-of-date spices regularly. Buying whole spices is preferable although not always practical, but I keep a mortar and pestle to hand because very little beats freshly ground spices.

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