Are spices good for us?
As autumn kicks in, few things appeal as much as some perfectly spiced food. Perhaps it’s the depth of the warmth it delivers on a cold day. Perhaps it’s the all enveloping aromas. Or perhaps it’s the comfort it provides – after a chilly, wet day, a spicy dish is like a big-hearted hug, or cwtch, from the kitchen. And the great news is that while spiced food is something we want, it can be good for us too. Here’s why.
Although many of us feel they are good for us (and anecdotal evidence suggests that’s true), the precise health benefits of individual spices are notoriously hard to pin down. A wealth of medical studies carried out by academics from Harvard to Qatar have looked at everything from turmeric to capsaicin peppers.
They’ve often found it hard to say “this group of people was healthier because they ate spice X”. Because, of course, those people also made a range of lifestyle choices and were eating and drinking (or not) a whole host of other things. But there are some spice-meets-health conclusions we can be sure of.
Reaching for the spice jar often helps us cook healthier meals. Why? Because some dishes taste great but are full of fat and salt. Some food is better for us but has less flavour. So adding spices can mean we opt for healthier main ingredients and jazz them up with healthier flavourings – a win-win.
The NHS suggests we add herbs and spices such as garlic, chilli and ginger to our cooking because it can help us cook with less salt. Other spices also act as substitutes – cinnamon is sweet-tasting, so adding it to dishes means we tend to use less sugar.
In Tandoori cuisine – a type of food showcased by Bokhara Brasserie – main ingredients are often grilled, rather than fried, cutting down on calories and saturated fat.
BBC Good Food argues we can also make healthy choices when we eat out. Spice-wise it highlights:
- Plumping for flavourful, tomato-based sauces – try Bokhara Brasserie’s Baingan Ka Bharta; a spicy, smokey roasted aubergine main course
- Opting for a dry curry, rather than a creamy one – Bokhara Brasserie’s spice-laden Chicken Shashlik starter fits the bill
- Picking plain rice – it’s lower in salt and oil than pilau rice
These tips will often see you eating fewer calories and – if the food is prepared expertly – the spices will mean it still tastes sensational, so you won’t feel you’re losing out.
And that’s the key – skill. Sadly for some of us enthusiastic but inexpert home cooks, throwing some possibly stale spices in a pan isn’t going to produce a memorable meal. Which is where experience that’s been handed down for generations comes in. Although it’s a long way from north west India to South Wales, the authentic skills of the chefs at Court Colman Manor's Bokhara Brasserie shine through. They transform a wealth of prime Welsh ingredients into top-notch Indian food.
Which is why the restaurant is a favourite with foodies. Consistently voted one of South Wales’ favourite Indian restaurants, the Independent's food critic, Roopa Gulati, put Bokhara Brasserie in the Top 10 Indian restaurants in Britain. And you can actually see how good it is. The open kitchen means you can watch the spices being added, hear the sizzle and drink in the sensational aromas.
Some dishes in particular see spices take the centre stage. Check out Bokhara Brasserie’s menu for these treats and more:
- Spicy Chicken Tikka Juicy chunks of chicken marinated with a blend of coriander, cumin, red pepper, Kashmiri red chilli, ginger, garlic and yoghurt
- Seekh Kebab Tender rolls of lamb, minced. Mixed with ginger-garlic paste, green chillies and coriander, spiced with cumin and saffron, skewered and grilled over a charcoal oven
- Rara Gosht Punjabi Chunks of lamb with lamb mince mixed with ginger, garlic, green chillies, cinnamon, cumin and coriander and braised in a marinade
- Tarka Dal A split pigeon pea dal cooked with onions, tomato, ginger, cumin seeds and mustard seeds