DEBBIE MURPHY COLUMN: Healthy range of herbs will spice up your 2022

With International Hot and Spicy Food Day landing on January 22, I thought it could be good to start our new year with some full-on taste, writes Debbie Murphy.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 9:45 am
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 9:46 am
Add some spice to your life in 2022

Many of us may have started the new year with good intentional changes: a new eating plan, new exercise routine, plans to try something new, sort something out, or just to do something more (or less!), but whatever you have chosen to do (or not to do) a change in tastes can really help kick-start life a little.

There is archaeological evidence that would suggest spices have been used for more than 6,000 years, and not just for their taste.

They have been used in medicinal, preservative and antimicrobial preparations, with many civilisations having noted down their uses.

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Nowadays, spices are more known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are used to help with a variety of symptoms, such as indigestion, stomach complaints and high blood pressure.

There are even studies to suggest that some spices can help reduce the risk of heart disease and type II diabetes. And evidence is increasing!

Garlic, chillies, allspice, oregano, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, mint, rosemary, turmeric and cumin all appear to top the spice and herb charts with us. They are easy to get hold of and it seems we have heard of most. But have you tried them?

New flavour combinations can bring food to life, and they can also make simple ingredients taste amazing.

As a chef, I love to experiment, so I would like to share a few tips to boost your diet with some new tastes:

Forget spaghetti bolognese

Add 1 tsp ground turmeric, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp garlic powder and ½ tsp ground cinnamon to your minced meat and chopped tomato sauce. Add some tinned beans and stuff into tortillas. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 190C. Serve with guacamole.

Forget plain coffee

Brew coffee as usual, then whisk a pinch of nutmeg, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon and ¼ tsp ground ginger into your milk before mixing.

Forget plain roasted chicken

Mix a blend of 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried mint, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp allspice,

2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon zest, ½ tsp garlic powder together. Rub into the top of a whole chicken and bake.

Forget the usual curry sauce

Mix lime juice and zest, 1 fresh chopped red chilli, 1 bashed and chopped lemongrass stalk, 1 tbsp fresh ginger, 2 crushed garlic cloves. Stir into one chopped onion in a lightly oiled frying pan. Cook until soft. Add pieces of chicken, prawns or chopped tofu and brown. Add one 400ml tin of coconut milk, cover and simmer until cooked. Serve with coriander and sticky rice.

Forget boiled egg and soldiers

Boil eggs as usual, but oven bake slices of bread which have been topped with a little melted butter (or olive oil), 1 tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp chilli powder and ¼ tsp garlic powder. Cut into soldiers and dip.

Forget the usual fruit salad

Top with chopped stem ginger from a jar, drizzled with a little of the syrup over some Greek yoghurt.

Forget the usual smoothie

Add some fresh turmeric root (lots of places sell this now and it’s beautiful!), a little ground ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg.

There are lots of spices to experiment with and it’s a great way to make something you regularly eat into something quite different.

You can find packs of spices that can be stored in the freezer if you are worried about wastage, or you could try growing your own from space as small as a windowsill.

Boosting your diet with spices could help reduce your risk of chronic illness, but it can also do great things for your mind.

Kick start a new you with some exciting tastes and welcome in 2022 with something hot and spicy.