Star anise tip: If you're cooking something strong-smelling (like fish), boil water in a large pan, add some star anise and the gorgeous smell will infuse your kitchen, overtaking the smellier dish!
Star aniseWhat does it taste like? It tastes like anise (aniseed), a herb from the parsley family, but star anise is actually a dried, reddy-brown star-shaped fruit with a stronger flavour.
What dishes can it be used in? Popular in Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian cooking, star anise is found in Chinese five-spice and Indian garam masala powder and is a key ingredient in Vietnamese noodle soup, pho. Ground star anise is great for baking, used to flavour Chinese duckling or use the whole spice in a slow-cooking casserole or stew.
Health benefits: Chinese often suck on the point of the star as a breath freshener. Star anise also helps with digestion, colic and and headaches, while some people use it externally for skin problems.
Star anise tips: Star anise keeps better when it's whole which you grind at home. You can buy powdered star anise but it's more delicate so remember to check the flavour before you buy.
Try these recipes:
Spiced roast figs (pictured)
Duck with redcurrant relish
CuminWhat does it taste like? An ancient spice, cumin has a slightly bitter, spicy yet warm flavour. It comes from the seed of a small herb in the parsley family.
What dishes can it be used in? Cumin is a must-add in curries and chilli con carne, but also great in meat dishes, marinades, vegetable dishes and soups. It's used in lots of cuisines, from Mexican to Mediterranean and Indian to Chinese, and you also might see it in some Dutch cheese and traditional French breads.
Health benefits: Cumin is rich in iron, so good for healthy blood, and its antioxidant properties strengthen the immune system. It can also improve digestive problems and helps the body to absorb nutrients.
Cumin tips: Add cumin seeds to bread or muffin dough or batters, sprinkle it into a cheese omelette mixture or fry it with onions to flavour lentils. You can buy it as a powder but it's tastier and longer-lasting if you buy it whole and roast and ground it yourself.
Why not try:
Carrots in cumin and coriander butter
What does it taste like? Made from the ground flesh of capsicum peppers (chili or bell peppers), this orange-reddish powder ranges from mild to pungent - it's less spicy than chilli powder and fruiter than cayenne pepper. If you like strong paprika, buy it from a speciality shop.
What dishes can it be used in? A staple spice in Hungarian cuisine like goulash, paprika is also used in stews, casseroles, and chicken and fish dishes. It's also great for seasoning and colouring rice and soups. Smoked paprika refers to Spanish paprika, or pimentón, found in sausages and other Spanish cuisine.
Health benefits: Paprika is very rich in vitamin C, and as an antibacterial agent and stimulant, it can help to regulate blood pressure, improve circulation and help digestion.
Paprika tip: Paprika's great for perking up even the simplest dishes - sprinkle it on cheese toast, creamy casseroles or omelettes. Heat can affect its flavour and colour so store in a cool, dark place, ideally the fridge, in an airtight (non-glass) container and use within six months.
Try these recipes:
Pork and pepper goulash
Paprika sausage and bean stew
Roast sweet potato soup