Adding flavour or colour to food, spices are the seed, fruit, root or bark of a plant, whereas herbs are the leaves, flowers or stems. Spices can also be used in medicine, religious rituals and perfume production.
The word ‘spice’ comes from the Old French ‘espice’, derived from the Latin ‘species’, which also meant foodstuff. The trade in spices began as early as 2000BC in the Indian subcontinent and East Asia. Arab caravans opened up the spice routes, and Alexandria became a major trading port. During the middle ages, spices were the most expensive and sought-after products in Europe, with Venice growing rich on imports. The control of access to spice-producing regions was a main reason the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama sailed to India in 1499, and the discovery of the New World introduced new spices, such as allspice and chilli.
By the 18th century, men from the East India Company wanted to recreate the exotic tastes they had experienced, and curry was introduced in coffee houses. The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy by Hannah Glasse, published in 1749, was the first British cookery book containing an Indian recipe.
In cooking, spices may be used fresh for maximum flavour, but are more usually dried or ground as they last longer. Once thought to ‘balance’ food and stave off diseases, spices used in larger quantities in dishes can also provide a substantial amount of minerals, iron, magnesium and calcium, with paprika being particularly rich in vitamin A.
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
2 x 240g tuna steaks
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges to serve
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander,
plus extra leaves to garnish
sea salt and black pepper
large, flat oven tray
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 and lightly grease the oven tray. Place the tuna steaks on the tray.
In a bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, chilli, garlic, lemon zest and juice, paprika and coriander. Season the mixture, then top the tuna with it, dividing it equally.
Place in the oven and cook for 20-25 mins until the topping is golden, and the tuna is cooked throughout. Transfer to plates, garnish with coriander and lemon wedges, and serve.
More recipes with added spice are in the October 2021 issue of LandScape magazine...
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