As Chinese New Year looms ever closer, it’s time to bring out the cast iron wok, fire up the stove and bang out classic dishes for your guests, family and friends. However, as you mosey through your selection of herbs and spices to flavour your stews and stir-fry, there are some herbs and spices that tend to get overlooked in favour of their more glamorous peers. However that shouldn’t mean that they aren’t every bit as nutritious and beneficial to a healthy body! Here’s showing some love to a few underrated herbs and spices that give a great boost to your body.
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Horseradish is a powerful and pungent root that is connected with numerous health benefits, including aiding weight loss, lowering blood pressure and boosting your immune system on days when your body is feeling down and out.
The most common way by far to prepare horseradish would be to grate it and mix it with your dressing to create a spicy, tangy wasabi-esque condiment to toss your greens in. By possessing modest amounts of calcium, fibre and vitamin C, Horseradish provides nourishment to your bone health, digestive system and immune system, all while providing a good kick of flavour to your dishes. A word of caution though - horseradish does contain a noticeable amount of sodium in it, so it is best to use it in moderation and with consideration to those who can’t take too much salt in their diet.
Parsley is not just for decorating your dishes. And you would be surprised how many people think otherwise. Parsley – in all its various forms – can offer more to the body than just sitting on top of an omelette trying to look pretty. The cousin of celery can be rubbed into meats, added to soups and even tossed into salads. Should your guests be aversive to the controversial “garnish” you could also blend or puree them into sauces to mix and mellow the flavours.
Parsley contains vitamin C, A and K, along with folate, iron and zinc, to just name a few, making this little guy a real heavyweight amongst other herbs and spices! So if you use your parsley as just a garnish, you might want to reconsider and give the little guy a little more time in the spotlight.
A popular herb in Asian and Indian cuisine, Lemongrass is an adaptable and flavourful ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways. Its most popular iterations come in the form of soups and curries, whereby its base would be cut, bruised and added to impart its’ tangy zesty flavor.
Being a good source of Vitamin C and A, as well as minerals such as zinc, iron and folate, lemongrass has many nutritional as well as medicinal properties, and is being used to this day as a popular Ayurvedic medicinal herb. If you’re considering a try, slice up the white part of lemongrass base after peeling its outer leaves and pair them with chicken or beef!
4. Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds have good amounts of minerals such as selenium and magnesium, which help lower blood pressure and improve your sleeping patterns. They come in two varieties: yellow and brown, with the lighter seeds being less pungent and used more often in Asian and French cuisines and the darker being stronger and spicier. Besides appearing as a popular hot dog sauce, the French have immortalizsed mustard with their ever popular Dijon mustard, while the Chinese use mustard powder to form a dipping paste. The Indians use mustard seeds in their curries and Dhals while some British swear by barbeques with toasted mustard seeds as a dry rub.
Whatever your preference may be, there’s no denying its versatility and utility, so how about giving it a go? To cook with, try adding a small amount to taste when cooking fish, cabbage, or even chicken. Please note the difference between light and dark seeds!
5. Pandan Leaves
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Almost iconic in South-East Asia, pandan leaves can be found in many kinds of dishes – from rice, to curries and even to desserts. For good reason too - because the leaves can help to lower blood pressure, increase appetite and improve energy levels. It has also been said to reduce indigestion and help with fever. These benefits are imparted through the essential oils in the leaves, which are released during cooking. That’s why it’s not uncommon to find a bundle of tied pandan leaves... well, anywhere really! Just add a knot into your rice or curry during the cooking stage or get your hands on some pandan extract for your deserts and you will be surprised by how great it tastes, not to mention how good it is for you!
So the next time you find yourself stocking up on chilies, onions and ginger in the supermarket, consider adding these spices and herbs along with them. You’d be surprised at how much of a nutritional boost you’d be giving your body with these additions and not to mention how great your food will taste after!