Spice it up this winter

imagesWake up your taste buds from this season’s doldrums with spices and herbs that not only add a tasty punch to dishes but are bursting with phyto-nutrients, essential oils, antioxidants and minerals and vitamins essential for winter wellness.


Research into why the body craves spicy food in winter has revealed that just the right amount of ‘unconventional heat’ not only warms you up from the inside out but can also keep nasty bugs and viruses at bay.

Popular authentic spicy dishes from steaming curries and spicy seafood paella to rich Glühwein are packed with surprising health superstars – herbs and spices that will fast rid your body of the chill brought on by winter.

“While traditional spices have been used to enhance the natural flavour of foods since before the legend of Māui and the giant fish, there’s far more behind the science of why we crave aromatic, hot and spicy food when the temperatures plummet than taste alone,” says Grace Harding, Company Leader of Ocean Basket. “One theory is that rich warm foods stimulate the formulation of the feel good hormone, serotonin, in the brain. Thick soups are great winter ‘happy’ foods, as are classic seafood and veggie curries, stews, casseroles and paellas.  Another theory behind seasonal culinary desires is that, in winter, the body craves ingredients with medicinal healing properties. Many hearth-centric dishes boast spices known for antibacterial and antiviral properties, which are essential all year round but especially during the cold season.”

Harding explains a firm winter favourite is traditional seafood curry. “And what’s the starring role in seafood curry – aside from the succulent seafood, of course?,” asks Harding. “It’s turmeric – a spice that contains curcumin. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory that is 50 times more potent than vitamin C or E. In fact, an international study shows that curcumin inhibits the growth of certain breast cancer cells, and other research suggests it may also protect against stomach and colon cancer. Curry also contains cayenne pepper, coriander, chili powder, cumin, ginger and garlic, all of which aid in digestion, improve immunity, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis and even the common cold.”

Chilli peppers, commonly used in paella, get their bite from a compound called capsaicin, which helps crank up your body’s thermostat, firing up your metabolism and helping you burn extra calories and fat (so you can have a second helping!). The garlic and paprika also used in this dish contain natural antibacterial compounds, which helps the body fend off winter bugs like the flu and sinus infections.

Glühwein (also a firm winter favourite) is prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus, sugar and vanilla pods. The antioxidant compounds in cinnamon help prevent blood sugar level spikes and dips by improving the way your cells metabolise glucose. The active principles in clove are known to have antioxidant, anti-septic, local aesthetic, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing), carminative and anti-flatulent properties, while the deliciously sweet star aniseed contains some of the important plants derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.

“It’s with the above health benefits in mind that Ocean Basket have spiced up their menu with new belly warming offerings,” says Harding. “The addition of spicy nicey paella,  rich seafood curry and Glühwein, as well as a few extras like rock shrimp tempura, spicy tuna rainbow rolls and fuyu platter (sushi) guaranteed to make you positively glow, no matter how frigid the air outside or frosted the windows. Also new on the menu is Belgium chocolate lava cake, zesty Ravani served with custard and a mug of steamy Gluwhein make for the perfect, sweet ending.”

The new dishes are available right through winter and are guaranteed to coax even the hungriest (and coldest) souls out of hibernation!