Mix and match your spices

By Naomi Biltcliffe | 03/08/2015 | Posted in Recipes

If you don’t know your cardamom pod from your vanilla pod, or you’re confused between your garlic and your garam masala, then turn to this handy little guide before you next reach for the spice rack and we’ll see you right.


First off, don’t feel the need to use all the spices at your disposal; it can be easy to slip into the trap of thinking that the more flavours you add to a dish, the better it will taste, but this isn’t the case.
Choose a few select spices which complement the food and use them relatively sparingly. If in doubt, garlic is usually a good option for a taste sensation, without being too overpowering. You also can’t go wrong if you fling a bit of salt and black pepper into your dish.

Different cuisines have different recognisable flavours – lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves provide an iconic Thai flavour, whereas cardamom and cumin are often used in Indian curries. Rosemary is popular in Mediterranean cooking, along with thyme and oregano.

Make sure all of your seasoning is stored in dry, sealed containers in order to maintain the flavour and keep them fresher for longer – otherwise you could find yourself throwing spoonfuls into your cooking without noticing a difference.

Don’t know where to start? How about with this easy to make Italian Matriciana pasta sauce, using your Total Control Hand Blender Workcentre? See how the addition of garlic, chilli and black pepper create a fusion of flavour to a simple recipe. 


  • 1 onion (130g) finely chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed 
  • ½ green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 
  • 1½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • 100g bacon, rind removed and chopped 
  • 400g can plum tomatoes
  • 100ml (120g) passata 
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh boiled pasta to serve
  • Parmesan cheese to serve

  1. Place the oil in a large saucepan (do not use non-stick), and heat for a few minutes. 
  2. Gently fry the onion, garlic and chilli for 2- 3 minutes without browning, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. 
  3. Add the chopped bacon to the pan and fry for a further minute. Place the lid on the pan and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. 
  4. Add the plum tomatoes, passata and wine, season with a little salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Place the lid on the pan and simmer gently for 25 minutes, or until the onions are tender. 
  6. Ten minutes before the sauce is ready, cook the pasta according to the pack instructions. 
  7. Use the Blending Leg at speed 4 on the Variable Speed Control to make a smooth sauce. This can be done in the pan as long as the pan does not have a non-stick coating. Start the hand blender using the Precise Control Trigger, gently moving it across the pan until the desired consistency is achieved. For a smooth sauce, this should take about a minute. 
  8. Drain the pasta then stir the sauce through it. Heat through if necessary then serve immediately with Parmesan cheese.

Once you have got the knack of spice mixtures, share your tips and tricks with other inexperienced cooks on our Facebook and Twitter channels – you may even pick up a few more tips yourself!

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