Spices of life

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By Jan Bilton

‘Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves’ has a musical ring — it could have been an alternative name for the Spice Girls. But no, the combination is one of baking’s most popular flavourings — mixed spice.

Depending on the manufacturer, the combo may also include ground ginger, cardamom, coriander seeds, caraway and cassia.

Cinnamon is obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree. It’s one of the oldest spices known and is the predominant scent used in incense. It’s equally popular in savoury or sweet dishes. Cassia — prepared from the bark of the cassia tree — is similar in taste to cinnamon but it has a more delicate aroma.

Allspice is often confused with mixed spice but it is the pungent and sharply aromatic unripe berry of the pimento tree.

Party Nuts

3 cups blanched mixed nuts e.g. almonds, cashew nuts, macadamias

50g butter

Mixed Spice Party Nuts

3 teaspoons ground mixed spice

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Combine the nuts in a large roasting dish. Melt the butter and stir in the spices and salt. Pour over the nuts. Stir to coat evenly.

Bake for about 35 minutes, stirring often, until golden and crunchy. Stir well and cool.

Store in airtight containers in a cool place or in the freezer. Serve as nibbles. Makes 3 cups.

  • Jan Bilton is a Cambridge-based, professional food writer. For more of her recipes check out her website here.

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