5 unusual spices and how to use them

You know the saying, ‘variety is the spice of life?’ Well, if you’ve dared to venture beyond the more common bottles in your spice cupboard, then you too will know that spice indeed is the variety in cooking. With Jimmy Public‘s specially sourced spice range now lining our shelves and kitchen cupboards, we decided to chalk up some useful inspiration for our kitchen here at Yuppiechef HQ.


Do you know the difference between a herb and a spice?

Herbs all come from the leaf of a plant, whereas spices are concocted from various other plant elements, like the seeds, berries, bark or even fruit. Here’s a little more info on five unusual spices.

Szechuan pepper

Originally from the Sichuan province in China and used in much of Japanese and Tibetan cooking, this peppery spice has a lemon hint to it and is known to give a numbing effect. It is therefore excellent in super spicy dishes. Also try it infused in oils.

Whole nutmeg

Not a nut at all, but rather a large seed, the nutmeg tree is native to an area in Indonesia, but also grows in the Caribbean and even Zanzibar. The outer red flesh is used to make pepper spray! But the inside, ground fine, tastes super when added to mashed potatoes and is a star player in SA classics like bobotie, bolognese and even butternut soup.

Star anise

These pretty seed pods are most commonly used in Asian, Indonesian and even Chinese cooking. Star Anise tastes a bit like fennel or liquorice and is delicious in desserts like panna cotta or even with spiced pears.

Juniper berries

These little nuggets come from the juniper tree and are often used in European cuisine. Their flavour is a key ingredient in gin and sauerkraut, a German coleslaw. Try adding juniper berries, slightly bruised, to any meat dishes like venison, pork or game.

Nigella seeds

Not related to the British TV chef and foodie personality, nigella seeds come from the plant nigella sativa. The seeds add a slightly bitter nuance and are vaguely reminiscent of strawberries. Try them in veggie dishes with cumin and coriander or in anything with cheese.

Which unusual spices do you enjoy adding to your cooking?