Last night I gained new culinary ground: for the first time, I ground my own spices. Having recently decided to learn more about spices, I’ve been reading The Spice Bible by Jane Lawson and one of the first lessons I gleaned was a chastisement about buying jars of ground spice and keeping them for years on end.
Apparently they lose their spunk.
I bought a mortar and pestle (feeling slightly medieval) and last night broke them in on a Saveur recipe for Iraqi-style Beef and Vegetable Stew. This stew was the tastiest thing I’ve made in ages and I think it has to do with the spice mixture. I had the whole cloves, peppercorns, and allspice already, and didn’t have any trouble getting my hands on whole cardamom, coriander, and cumin (at a spice/baking shop, not at the grocery store). I toasted them in the pan–instantly the most wonderful smell permeated the house–cooled them, and put them into the mortar. At this point I half-expected failure, but grinding them with the pestle was surprisingly easy (no strength required), and I proceeded with the recipe.
I think I’m a good cook, but a lot of times I wish my food had more distinct flavors. This stew had excellent flavor. I will be on the lookout for more grind-your-own spice recipes to continue testing this theory.