AUSTRALIAN GOOD FOOD GUIDE - Home of the Chef Hat Awards

Savour the Seasons and Spice Up Your Cooking Year-Round

By Joseph Steele.

As the seasons change, so do our palates - there is an eager transition from the hearty dishes of Winter to the light flavours of Summer where spices play a key role in this culinary transition.

Join us on an aromatic exploration of seasonal cooking and discover how the thoughtful use of herbs and spices can enhance the taste of seasonal dishes. Spices help us to open our palates to the full essence of the seasons.

From the comforting embrace of cinnamon during chilly Winters, to the refreshing zest of basil under the Summer sun, curating your spice rack to the character of the season is easier than you think.

In the chilly throes of Winter, we start to crave the hearty warmth of a comfort meal. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and star anise start to take centre stage and really shine in Winter cooking. Aromatic and delightfully warm, these spices add a depth to their dishes that is instantly recognisable.

Savour the Seasons and Spice Up Your Cooking Year-Round

Cinnamon’s sweet and woody warmth is a staple in Winter cooking. Found in everything from oatmeal to mulled wines, it’s a nostalgic reminder of cosy Winter nights. Nutmeg adds a complex smack of spice to creamy sauces and decadent desserts like custard and apple crumble. Cloves and star anise deliver deep, intense notes that lend themselves perfectly to slow-cooked meats and spiced cakes.

As the Winter melts, giving way to the bright energy of Spring, our dishes tend to take a more verdant path. Dishes become lighter, tastes become brighter and the overall shift cleanses the palate from the hearty dishes of Winter. Spring heralds the arrival of spices like fennel, mint and dill.

Savour the Seasons and Spice Up Your Cooking Year-Round

Fennel with its varying profiles is a wonderful addition to the Spring plate. Fresh fennel is crisp and sharp with a subtle anise quality. Added to salads or grilled fish, it is the perfect element to add a bright spark. Mint’s cool freshness infuses a peppery touch to everything from Spring peas and new potatoes, to lamb dishes with herby yoghurt; while the delicate, wispy fronds of dill provide a citrusy tang that completes Spring vegetables and are a vital element in elevating cucumbers or grilled fish.

At the height of Summer, the kitchen becomes a hub for aromatic creations. Whisk yourself away to exotic lands through the brightness of coriander, basil and lemongrass, while technically herbs, these staples can be found in any Chef’s spice rack. Fresh, fiery dishes, piquant heat and intensity become characteristic of Summertime cuisine.

Savour the Seasons and Spice Up Your Cooking Year-Round

Ground coriander imparts a nutty and citrusy tone to meals. Offering a zesty burst to curries, or a brighter note to grilled meats, coriander is a lively spice in both its fresh and dried forms. Basil is the stalwart of Summer herb gardens. Deliciously sweet and peppery, its versatility finds it in everything from fresh salads to classic pesto. Perfect for Summer dining, the complexity of lemongrass enhances every dish, from the bold and piquant flavours in its raw form, to the floral and citrusy profiles as it mellows out.

Autumn ushers in mellow days and crisp evenings. As a result, it also brings with it an earthy richness and a palette of spices that reflect the moods of the season - ginger, turmeric and saffron tend to come to the forefront in Autumnal cooking. Harnessing the earthy richness of Autumn, these spices reflect the mood of the season.

Savour the Seasons and Spice Up Your Cooking Year-Round

Ginger invigorates everything from spiced pumpkin soup to a warming ginger tea with its fiery zest. A spice with great medicinal properties, ginger also aids in comfort and digestion. Turmeric is not only vibrant on the palate, but in colour as well. With tones that reflect the hues of the changing leaves, turmeric brings its golden glow and slightly bitter taste to the dishes it's used in. Add it to roasted root vegetables or heavier soups for an uplift on the palate.

Saffron, luxurious and aromatic, imparts a rich complexity to risottos and stews. Earthy-sweet and a biting element, this floral spice yields to subtle honey tones. Each meal becomes a celebration of the harvest yields.

Creating a year-round spice pantry that emulates the changes of the seasons is an easy way to up your culinary game. Take your tastebuds on a seasonal adventure and unlock the full potential of seasonal cooking through spices.

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