Spices are the superheroes of any kitchen, bringing their special powers of fragrance and flavour to all sorts of dishes and letting us live in a world that not only tastes and smells better, but gives us zest and passion for the best things in life.

This month we’ll concentrate on three of the most incredible spices that are available here on Lanzarote. All three will change your kitchen and perhaps your style of cooking, and we’ve suggested a simple recipe to get you started with all three of them.

Pimentón

While British cooks go for hot chilli powder, the Spanish have chosen pimentón as their favourite spice from the New World’s pepper family – and for good reason.

When it’s fresh, there are few spices more fragrant and appetising than the deep, brick-red dust that’s ground from large, fleshy bell peppers. Sometimes those peppers are smoked before being milled, and there are also sweet and spicy versions. Pimentón also adds that deep reddish choritzo colour to any dish it’s used in.

Recipe: Mushroom stroganoff

This simple vegetarian supper meal isn’t an authentic stroganoff, but it’s quick and tasty. Chop a small onion and fry until transparent. Add 300 gms of chopped mushrooms, and put the lid on the pan so they don’t dry out. Cook for 5-10 minutes, then add 100 gms of single cream and a tspn of fresh pimentón.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with rice.


Cumin

Originally from North Africa, cumin has become an essential spice in Spanish kitchens and is especially popular in the south-east and the Canary Islands, where it’s a basic ingredient of mojo sauces. With a distinctive, evocative flavour that can be detected even in just one tiny seed, cumin is a powerful ally to have in any kitchen.

Recipe: Dukkah

Dukkah is a dry dip that’s served throughout the middle East, and eaten by dipping flatbreads into oil, then the dukkah mix.

To make it, simply toast 90 gms of hazelnuts, 50 gms of sesame seeds, 2 tspns of cumin and coriander seeds and one teaspoon of fennel seeds. Grind in a blender along with 2 tspns of dried thyme and 1 tspn of ground black pepper and of salt. Serve with warm pitta bread and good olive oil.


Saffron

Saffron is the stamens of the crocus plants, which makes it the most expensive spice in the world. It’s Spanish name, azafran, with it’s inital ‘a’ and ‘z’. mark the word as Arabic, and this has long been one of the most treasured kitchen spices in Spain, with a distinct, warm indescribably attractive flavour. Saffron is what gives paella, Spain’s most famous dish, it’s deep yellow colour, and is also used in baking

Recipe: Saffron rice

Always go for real saffron in plastic tubes, rather than the fake stuff that’s a lot cheaper but is merely a colourant.

Take a quarter tspn of saffron strands and grind in a mortar. Add a couple more strands, then add hot water and let the mixture infuse.

Fry a small chopped onion in olive oil a saucepan until transparent. Add 250 gms of long grain rice, fry for three minutes then add almost twice the volume of chicken stock. Add the saffron infusion, bring rice to the boil then simmer with a lid on for 15 minutes.