To get the most flavour when cooking with spices, it’s best to sauté them in oil in your pan first. This will toast the spices and give you a bit more flavour oomph. Keep an eye on them though, as spices burn easily and will ruin the taste of your dish. If this happens before you add anything else, it’s best to get rid of the spices, clean the pan and start again.
Peel ginger with a teaspoon; just scrape off the skin with the inside of the spoon and you’ll keep more of the ginger compared to peeling with a knife.
If your ginger is organic you don’t have to peel it; just give it a good scrub before adding to your dishes.
Store whole unpeeled ginger in a container (preferably non-bpa plastic) in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Using a kitchen towel, blot any areas you’ve cut before storing.
If you don’t use all your ginger in one go, you can pop it in the freezer. Put it in a freezer bag, and squeeze out any air and seal it (or you could use an airtight container). When you need to use it, just grate the ginger from frozen. Ginger will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.
To keep mint fresh, put the sprigs (stems down) in a glass with about an inch of water. Put this in your fridge and cover with a loose fitting plastic bag over the top.
Make your own fresh mint tea by covering a small bunch of mint with boiling water. It tastes great, is completely natural – and it can help with digestion!
For a refreshing addition to summer drinks, wash mint and pick leaves. Let them dry thoroughly, then freeze in ice cube trays with a small amount of water. Drop the mint cubes into a glass of water when you fancy a little extra flavour.
Store vanilla pods in a cool, dry place – but not the fridge or freezer as this will dry the pods out. Unless they’ve been vacuum packed, you should open the storage container every few weeks to give your vanilla some fresh air (and stop it getting mouldy). You can also massage pods gently to distribute the seeds inside.
Cut open vanilla pods on parchment paper and scrape out the beans; this will mean you don’t lose any seeds through them sticking to your chopping board.
Don’t throw away vanilla pods after you’ve scraped out the seeds. Pop a pod in a small jar with sugar to make your own vanilla sugar, which you can then add to baking or porridge. You can do the same thing with sea salt to create vanilla scented salt.
You can also drop a leftover pod shell into poaching fruit to get a lovely vanilla flavour through the fruit (pears and apples work particularly well for this).