FIONA HUGUES SHOWS THAT A TOUCH OF SPICE ADDS BRIGHTNESS, HEAT & EXCITEMENT TO FAMILIAR BAKING.
Back in the first century, spices made up more than half of the goods imported to the Mediterranean from Asia surpassing the need for parrots, palm oil, cooks and eunuchs. The recipes that follow are three of my tried-and-true family recipes, some refashioned to pay homage to my favourite spices: cinnamon, so mysterious it was once believed to be harvested by large birds; cardamom, a beloved ingredient in medieval royal French cameline sauces; and black pepper, said to cure feminine disorders when blended with honey and vinegar. I avoid the dull, fusty flavours of ready-ground spices and always buy whole spices and grind them myself in an inexpensive spice-dedicated electric grinder. Most spices benefit from a short dry roast in a heavy pan before you grind them; stir frequently until they pop or smell fragrant and remove from heat. Mind not to burn them or they will become bitter. I find these freshly roasted ground spices hold their flavour well for up to four weeks in an airtight container.