The Refuge larder: spices
As you can’t come to us right now, we want to help you cook like The Refuge chefs at home. For this session of The Refuge larder, Executive Chef Paul Beckley lets us rifle through his spice cupboard and pick out his top 10: the ones that are always on hand to add a bit of magic to the menu.
His top tip: buy spices in small quantities so that they stay super fresh. That jar of supermarket spices from 2008 is just not going to cut it.
You bought a bag of star anise for that festive mulled wine and then it sits unloved at the back of the cupboard till the next Christmas. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Star anise is brilliantly versatile and we think it shines brightest when paired with beef – and that’s everything from braised short ribs and beef stew to a comforting cottage pie.
Some like it hot, and some don’t – with paprika you’ve got plenty of choice. We’re big fans of the smoky kind (sweet or hot – it’s your call). Mix this powder—made from dried, smoked peppers—with salt, and then use as seasoning for roasties or chips.
Whether you’re using European coriander (intensely citrussy) or Indian coriander (more savoury, and nutty when toasted), these little seeds pack a punch. Gently toast them in a pan, then crush with a pestle and mortar, and use as part of a dry rub for lamb or fish.
Nigella might be the queen of home cooking (no, we won’t be taking other suggestions at this time), but the jet black seeds that also bear her name are a secret spice weapon. Sprinkle over grilled white fish or roasted chicken (particularly if they’re going into a curry), or add to flatbread dough for a nutty, earthy flavour.
A classic spice blend from the North of India, garam masala is a naturally great base for curries. But we also use it in shellfish dishes and sprinkled over carrots for Sunday lunch. For an extra spark of aroma, add near the end of cooking.