Herbs and Spices – I cannot imagine cooking without them.

Who can imagine cooking without herbs and spices, even in Ancient times fragrant plants, berries and seeds were used to enhance the flavor of food. Different herbs and spices also give a specific flavor to food, therefor a simple ingredient like lamb would taste different in almost every country it is cooked.
Now, not all of us have the luxury of a herb garden or even a potted herb garden, but there is no excuse for not using spices. Most spices are relatively cheap and can be kept in glass jars for months.

As I have said, each country has its own unique use of spices, for instance in Mexico it is cumin, coriander, chili and oregano that gives Mexican food its authentic flavor. In the Mediterranean the use of garlic, rosemary, thyme and other fresh herbs are more predominantly used. Not to speak of India…we have all been to an Indian market where the smell of the different curries are so intoxicating that you just end up buying and buying….. and so I can go on and on, but you get the point I am trying to make. Cooking without herbs and spices is like having an awesome house but no furniture…..just like furniture, it changes a basic ingredient into something special and something fragrant.

In South Africa, we have influences from many countries so I have a whole array of spices that I can use from, but if I have to single out one spice, then it would be dry coriander or coriander seeds as some people would like to call it.. I love the earthy taste it gives to food and our proudly South African Boerewors, would not be the same without it. Wikipedia describes coriander seeds as “warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavored.”
When using coriander seeds, it is essential to dry roast the seeds before crushing them to ensure that all the volatile oils are released.
I had a de-boned pork neck that I wanted to use and I wanted the coriander to be the star of the show, so this is what I came up with.

Pork neck braised with coriander and beer


1,5kg de-boned neck of pork
125ml dry coriander seeds – dry roasted and crushed in mortar and pestle
crushed black pepper
1 tbsp dry oregano
olive oil
500ml beer
250ml cream
fresh thyme

You can ask your butcher to trim and roll the pork for you ar you can simply season the pork with salt and roll it up and tie it with kitchen twine about 5cm apart. Now mix all the dry spices and pour out on a wooden board. Roll the pork in the spices until all the spices are used up and the pork is evenly coated. Now slice the meat in thick slices about 5cm thick, make sure that each piece has a piece if twine in the middle holding the meat together in a nice “round”.

You need an oven-proof skillet with a lid for this dish. On the stove top, heat the olive oil in the skillet and brown the meat on both sides. Add the beer and with the lid on braise in the oven for about 1 hour. Take the skillet out of the oven, remove the pork , add the cream and let the sauce reduce somewhat. Add the fresh thyme and serve the pork with this flavorful sauce on a warm bean and pea salad.