Seasonings that cooks use most often with fresh figs are those that fall into the category of dessert spices. These include cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Although cinnamon and cloves are the most popular flavours in such recipes, you may use any combination of these ingredients, depending on how spicy you like your dishes. The most common use of fresh figs is in preserve making, but dessert lovers frequently feature them in cakes, cookies and ice cream sauces as well. In addition to desserts, creative cooks sometimes use figs in sauces to accompany meat or as an ingredient in salads.
Cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka, and cultures down through the ages have prized it for culinary as well as other uses. It is available in the form of quills, otherwise known as sticks, or as a ground powder. Buy it in small amounts, as the flavour tends to diminish rapidly. Store it in a dark area in an airtight container. Different ethnic cuisines use it not only for desserts, but also for lamb or curry dishes.
Cloves originated in Indonesia but are grown in different places around the world such as India, Brazil and the West Indies. Cooks the world over value this spice for its warm aroma and sweetly pungent flavour. You should use it judiciously when adding it to a recipe, as it can overpower less pungent seasonings. In addition to desserts, cooks add it in pork and game recipes, as well as to soups and stocks.
Cardamom is native to India but is also cultivated in Guatemala, China and Tanzania. It exudes a strong flavour and is intensely fragrant. Scandinavians feature it in their baking, while the Dutch use it to make windmill biscuits. The Arabs and Turks prize it as a flavouring in coffee, while cooks in the Near and Far East enjoy it in curries and rise dishes. It is excellent in mulled wines, as well as punches and ciders.
Ginger originated in China and India, and is prized in traditional Chinese medicine for its health properties. You may purchase it as a fresh, raw root or as a ground powder. It is also available in preserved form in sugar syrup or pickled in vinegar. Additionally, you may buy it in crystallised form. Asian cultures use ginger in many dishes including curries and Western countries use it mainly in desserts and beverages.
Nutmeg is native to Indonesia, but today is grown in the Caribbean as well. Cooks may purchase it as a dried powder or in the form of seed, which they can freshly grind when preparing a recipe. It imparts a warm, sweet flavour into desserts, as well as vegetable, pasta and meat dishes. The Scots use it in a dish called haggis, a kind of sausage or savoury pudding, and Middle Easterners add it to lamb recipes. Additionally, it is an important flavouring in beverages, such as eggnog and punch.
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