New Ways To Make The Most Of Your Spice Cupboard
New Ways To Make The Most Of Your Spice Cupboard

New Ways To Make The Most Of Your Spice Cupboard

Everyone has a few spices lurking somewhere in their kitchen – often underused, stored badly and kept years beyond their best-before date. With their new cookbook The Modern Spice Rack, spice entrepreneur Rachel Walker and food editor Esther Clark want to encourage liberal, creative and everyday use of these neglected spices. They gave us a quick intro to the book and – from breakfast through to pudding – four great recipes to try…
By Heather Steele

These days, shop shelves heave under the weight of sumac and shichimi togarashi, amchur and za’atar. Never before have we had the luxury of so many ingredients and the privilege of enjoying so many global flavours – yet without the context and broader understanding of an ingredient it’s hard to get the most from it. A recipe might require a half teaspoon of sumac, but what of the rest of the jar? Without a grandparent from whom we can inherit an easy way of working with spices, there’s wavering confidence when it comes to using them outside of a prescriptive recipe.

It’s this underlying lack of confidence that The Modern Spice Rack hopes to address. Spice company owner Rachel has provided a deep dive into the spices selected. By outlining the basic flavours and broader background of each spice, she sets out to establish a deeper understanding of their uses and potential. The recipes, developed and written by Esther, position the spices in a creative, modern context – with plenty of tips and suggested flavour pairings throughout, to encourage their everyday use.

A regular audit is good for keeping the contents of your spice tins fresh and by becoming better acquainted with a more concise spice rack, it will hopefully become a source of inspiration – something you turn to ahead of shop-bought jars of sauces or the standard ‘salt and pepper’ seasoning. Out of anything else in the store cupboard, spices surely have the most untapped potential – start using them more, and you’re only going to reap the rewards.

The aim is not to undermine the integrity of any cuisine but simply to continue the grand tradition of spices being used generously, creatively and playfully with the single aim: to enhance. In doing so, the lack of embedded culinary traditions might be seen as freeing. There is no attempt to capture or conserve recipes, but purely a desire to find inspiration from a snapshot in time and the delicious melting pot of a modern, global city. How liberating to sprinkle a little Japanese shichimi togarashi over grilled cheese on toast, or top fried eggs with Turkish pul biber chilli – for no reason other than the pure pursuit of deliciousness.


Warm Cinnamon Granola Scones With Whipped Honey Butter

Scones are such an easy thing to throw together when you have people popping over or are in need of a sweet treat. They require little skill and inexpensive ingredients. There’s something welcoming about these cinnamon-flavoured scones first thing in the morning, eating them while still warm and slathered in honey butter, although they can be enjoyed any time of day.

Total Time
50 Minutes
250g of self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp of sea salt
1 heaped tbsp of ground cinnamon
70g of cold unsalted butter, cubed
30g of caster sugar
50g of granola, plus a handful for sprinkling (use a nuttier rather than fruitier version)
150ml of full-fat milk
1 egg, beaten
For The Whipped Honey Butter:
100g of unsalted butter, softened
50g of runny honey
1 good pinch of sea salt
Step 1

Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

Step 2

Sift the flour, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until it’s a fine, breadcrumb-like mixture. Stir through the sugar and granola, then quickly stir in the milk, combining it with a cutlery knife. Turn the mixture out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead until it just comes together (don’t be tempted to over knead, or you’ll be left with a tough dough). Shape into a 17cm round disc and cut into 6 triangles.

Step 3

Arrange the scones on the prepared baking sheet, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with some extra granola. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Step 4

For the honey butter, using electric hand-held beaters or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter, honey and sea salt together at a high speed for 5 minutes, or until lightly whipped. Cut open the warm scones and spread with the honey butter. Store any leftover scones in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Crab & Togarashi Mac and Cheese

A mix of cheeses for your mac and cheese is essential. If you just use cheddar, it may split due to its high fat content, leaving you with oily pockets and a grainy sauce, so try to use at least three cheeses. The addition of a hard cheese like comté or gruyère gives you a nutty flavour, and the red leicester is there for its mellowness and colour. Crab makes this dish extra indulgent, and its salty sea flavour is perfect with the rich, cheesy sauce. To cut through this richness is shichimi togarashi, with its punchy chilli and slightly citrusy aroma. This is a Friday-night kind of dinner; enjoy with a bottle of cold white wine or some chilled beers. Serve it with a green salad, if you like.

Total Time
1 Hour
950ml of full-fat milk
50g of unsalted butter
50g of plain flour
350g of cheese – a mix of gruyère, comté, red leicester and cheddar, grated
½-1 tbsp of hot sauce, to taste (sriracha works well)
350g of dried macaroni
200g of fresh white and brown crab meat
½-1 tbsp of shichimi togarashi
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Step 1

Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan.

Step 2

Warm the milk in a small saucepan over a low heat until steaming, then remove from the hob. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat until foaming, then stir through the flour to make a thick paste and fry for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the warmed milk in several additions until you have a thin, smooth consistency. Return to a medium heat and whisk constantly for 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add 300g of the cheese, along with the hot sauce to taste and a pinch of salt. Whisk again until smooth (the sauce will look very thin, but thickens significantly in the oven).

Step 3

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of well-salted boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and tip it into the cheese sauce. Stir to combine, then pour everything into a large ovenproof dish. Top with the remaining cheese and push in spoonfuls of the crab. Sprinkle with the shichimi togarashi and bake for 15 minutes. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Easy Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Urfa Pasta

This creamy, indulgent pasta recipe is a great one to have up your sleeve on long, dark, cold days. It’s utter comfort in a bowl, and is quick to make; using a jar of roasted peppers, mascarpone and a pinch of chilli gives the rich sauce a nice balanced kick at the end. Urfa is lovely because of its smokiness, but this would work well with any chilli you have on your spice rack. Rigatoni is my pasta of choice on this one; it’s good for catching the sauce and extremely satisfying to eat.

Total Time
40 Minutes
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove, chopped
2 tsp of Urfa chilli (hot pepper) flakes or ½ tsp of ordinary chilli flakes
400g of dried pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
450g of jar roasted red peppers, drained
130g of mascarpone
1 tsp of white wine vinegar
40g of parmesan or vegetarian hard cheese, grated, plus extra to serve
Sea salt
Step 1

Heat the olive oil in a large shallow casserole dish or frying pan over a low-medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and fry for 10 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and fry for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Step 2

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 100-150ml of the cooking water.

Step 3

Tip the peppers, cooled onion mixture, mascarpone and vinegar into a food processor and blitz until super smooth.

Step 4

Tip the pepper sauce into a large frying pan with the pasta, parmesan and 100ml of the reserved cooking water, adding more if the sauce needs loosening further. Bring to a bubble over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes and toss everything together. Season to taste with salt, then remove from the heat and divide between serving bowls. Top with extra parmesan to serve. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for 3 months.

White Chocolate, Espresso & Cardamom Cookies

These cookies are inspired by the centuries-old method of making Turkish coffee – which is distinctively strong, dark and often flavoured with cardamom pods. The inclusion of sweet white chocolate offers a wonderful contrasting flavour to the coffee. Add chopped pistachios or walnuts to the cookie batter if you like, but the simplicity of these aromatic flavours together is lovely as it is.

Total Time
35 Minutes
10 green cardamom pods
120g of unsalted butter, softened
80g of soft light brown sugar
60g of golden caster sugar
1 tbsp of instant espresso powder
3 egg yolks
1 tsp of vanilla bean paste
100g of plain flour
80g of wholemeal rye flour
½ tsp of sea salt flakes, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)
½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp of baking powder
150g of white chocolate, chopped into rough chunks
Step 1

Bash open the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar to release the black seeds, then grind them to a coarse powder.

Step 2

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or with an electric hand-held whisk in a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars at a medium speed for 5 minutes, or until well combined but not too aerated. Add the coffee, egg yolks and vanilla and mix again. Add the cardamom, flours, salt, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and chocolate, and mix briefly to combine.

Step 3

Line 2 large baking sheets with baking parchment. Scoop the cookie dough into 12 nuggets, weighing for accuracy if you like (they should be about 50g/2oz each). Roll each one into a neat ball. Space them well apart on the lined baking sheets and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C Fan.

Step 4

Bake for 10-12 minutes, then leave to cool completely on the baking sheets. Sprinkle with a little extra salt, if you like. These will store well in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

The Modern Spice Rack by Rachel Walker and Esther Clark (£22, Hardie Grant) is available to buy now.


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