How to use herbs and spices (and why)

June 19, 2015

Ah, the wonderful, tasty world of herbs and spices… I am a HUGE fan.

My first discovery of such natural yumminess was when mum asked me to “please pick some parsley from the garden for dinner”.

What IS this weird looking green plant and why is mum adding it to my food?’ I remember thinking…

Popping a tiny bit of the parsley into my mouth, I was instantly hooked. The little green leaves tasted delicious, fresh – like nothing I had ever tasted before.

I wanted more!

Mint, coriander, basil and rosemary were next… I tasted the fresh version of the herbs before the dried kind to understand the difference between the two – essentially, dried herbs are MUCH stronger in flavor.

I also began experimenting (with mum’s guidance) spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin. I became the original Spice Girl!

Fresh herbs became my healthy obsession. I would carry little dried pots of them with me to add to my foods when eating out. Instead of choosing sugary-filled drinks, I preferred (and still do!) cinnamon added to plain homemade nut milk.

My curiosity of herbs and spices is what sparked my love of food.

Wherever I am in the world, I LOVE to shop for herbs and spices – as much as a fashionista enjoys shopping for the latest handbags and shoes! So you’ll understand my excitement upon walking into my Natural Gourmet Institute classroom to find a WHOLE WALL of the stuff.


This is just a snapshot of one section of my beloved herbs and spice wall at school – how lucky am I?!

For a second, I thought I had died and gone to herbs and spices heaven!

And what’s even more exciting is we just had a whole lecture on the delicious topic and now I know even more than I did before – too much amazingness NOT to share with you!

So here goes… I’m going to list 3 great-tasting, healthy spices I consume on a weekly basis. Let’s start with spices and in a few days I’ll post the same thing to showcase three of my favourite herbs (along with info about why they are so fantastic).

Most of the time, I throw these spices into my lunch and dinners, but to be more specific, I’ve provided 3 recipes below featuring each one as the star ingredient.

I hope this gets you excited about creating new, guilt-free, health-supportive meals to enjoy and share with others.

Try, taste and celebrate the spice of life!

 Chef Shine’s special spices…



  • Taste: peppery, warm, bitter flavour – a little goes a long way!
  • Looks like: bright yellow, very fine soft powder.
  • Best used: in curries, rice dishes, milk-based teas, cookies and medicinal tonics.
  • Traditionally used: in curries to give them a yellow, vibrant colour. For thousands of years, Turmeric has been (and still is) used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Indian medicine. Traditionally named “Indian saffron” because of its deep yellow-orange colour, tumeric can also be used as a dye fabrics and textiles.
  • Medicinal properties: Tumeric contains a powerful active ingredient called curcumin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Because of this, tumeric is used in cooking AND as a medicinal supplement to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual pain, toothaches and bruising.
  • More information here
  • Recipe: Tantilising Tasty Tumeric Tea



  • Taste: Sweet, licorice/aniseed-like flavour. When toasted, it becomes less sweet and more spicy.
  • Looks like: small, thin oval and ridged. Colour varies from pale or bright green to brownish yellow.
  • Best used: ground and mixed into sauces, stews, herbal teas and is also great when paired with other spices and added to slow cooker recipes. Known as ‘the fish herb’ in the Mediterranean, fennel is also popular in savoury things like breads, soups and scones.
  • Traditionally used: as a spice but also viewed as a healing herb.
  • Best used: in soups, meat/vegetarian sausages, seeded and sproudted breads and paired with other herbs in savoury dishes.
  • Medical properties: a natural antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant, fennel is helpful in balancing stomach acid, as well as relieving constipation, stomach cramps and bloating. Drinking fennel tea can minimise excessive flatulence, fevers and gastric troubles. Fennel water is known to be cooling and can be used as a natural eye wash (steep seeds in boiling water, leave to cool then remove before flooding the eye).
  • More information here
  • Recipe: Feelin’ Fennel & Pumpkin Hummus


Mustard Seeds

  • Taste: can vary, as there are approximately forty different varieties of mustard plants! The three principal types used to make mustard seeds are: black, white and brown. Black mustard seeds have the most pungent taste, white mustard seeds, (yellow in colour) are the most mild – they’re the ones used to make ‘American mustard’. Brown mustard seeds (dark yellow in colour) have a pungent acrid taste – the type used to make Dijon mustard.
  • Looks like: tiny little balls that can also be sold ground into powder form).
  • Best used: to make healthy mustard! You’ll save a heap and also be able to nix the crappy weird chemicals added to the store-bought kind. Recipe below..
  • Traditionally used: Mustard seeds and its oil has traditionally been used to relieve muscle pain, rheumatism and arthritic pain. In India, mustard seed oil was (and still is) applied over the scalp, believed to stimulate hair growth!
  • Medical properties: Mustard seeds are an excellent source of selenium – a nutrient shown to help reduce the severity of asthma, decrease some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and help prevent gastrointestinal cancer. They are also high in Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • More information here 
  • Recipe: Must Make Mustard













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