Spice support: ajowan, amchoor and Urfa

Lior Lev Sercarz is a chef, expert spice blender and owner of La Boîte, a biscuits and spice shop in New York City. He is also the author of three books, including The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices and the upcoming Mastering Flavor: Spices and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking (co-authored by Genevieve Ko). Sercarz has plenty of advice to offer home cooks, and he has suggestions for new spices to add to their spice cabinets. There are three spices in particarl that he thinks are under appreciated: ajowan, amchoor, and Urfa

Roast potatoes with Urfa

We'll begin with ajowan, which comes from India. Sercarz describes this spice as "beautiful" little seeds that are "a bit bigger than celery seeds, a bit smaller than cumin, with such a rich complexity of slight bitterness, sweetness, savory notes, and even some oregano note to them. All of that in one little seed." The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs describes the flavor as being like thyme with an undertone of cumin. Ajowan pairs well with starchy foods including potatoes, root vegetables, and beans. A little goes a long way so use the spice sparingly. 

Next up is amchoor (also spelled amchur). Although the name may not be familiar to you, you have probably eating the ripened version of its source: the powdered spice is made from dried green mango. According to Sercarz, the "beauty of amchoor is the sourness and acidity that it brings" to dishes. It gives food an acidic hit without adding moisture. In addition to being a souring agent, amchoor is also used as a meat tenderizer. 

Finally we come to Urfa, a pepper named the city in southeastern Turkey were the pepper (sometimes known as lost pepper) is grown. Urfa peppers contain a fruity flavor with undertones of smoke and hints of chocolate, tobacco, and wine. The pepper is usually dried and crushed into flakes. Urfa can be used in any recipe that calls for crushed red pepper. 

Photo of Urfa chilli and garlic roast potatoes from indexed blog Great British Chefs. 

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