I’m back to talk spices again! Well, one spice in particular that is – nutmeg! I’m going to share all you need to know about this delicious spice & get you more creative in the kitchen! So, here we go with this month’s Spice Guide: Nutmeg!
History of Nutmeg
Nutmeg is the seed of the myristica tree which is native to the Banda Islands (also known as the Spice Islands) of Indonesia. It is also grown in parts of Malaysia, the Caribbean and India. Nutmeg has long been a prized spice, being traded into Europe by the Arabs from medieval times onwards, with the Spice Islands then being colonised by the Portuguese followed by the Dutch and English (who traded ownership a few times!). It was the British that transplanted the myristica trees into the other parts of the world where it still grows today.
Nowadays roughly 75% of the 10,000 – 12,000 tonnes of nutmeg that is grown every year comes from Indonesia, with most of the remainder grown on the island of Grenada.
Nutmeg’s Flavour Profile
Nutmeg is sold as both whole nuts and pre-ground. The whole seeds last indefinitely if stored in an air-tight container away from sunlight, and you can just grate what you need from directly from the seeds. The pre-ground nutmeg doesn’t hold its flavour particularly well, so if you do have ground nutmeg be sure to keep it away from sunlight!
You don’t need anything fancy to grate your whole nutmeg, any fine grater (like a microplane) will work a-ok!
Nutmeg has a sweet, nutty scent and a warm, slightly sweet flavour, making it ideal for both sweet and savoury cooking. It can be an overpowering flavour so don’t add more than just a pinch, and other than for baking or roasting I tend to add it at the end of cooking.
Given the history of nutmeg and the many parts of the world the spice is now grown it is not surprising that it is a common ingredient in all kinds of cuisines! This includes Indonesian, Middle Eastern, Italian, Caribbean, Indian, Dutch and Scottish foods.
It can be used in sweet dishes like pies, custards and biscuits, drinks like eggnog, mulled wine and punches and all kinds of savoury dishes. It pairs well with cheese and eggs and vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, carrots, pumpkin, tomatoes, peas, eggplant, cauliflower, beans, onions, black beans and broccoli. It is commonly used in meat dishes like Middle Eastern lamb, Italian sausages, Scottish haggis as well as soups, sauces and rice dishes.
Common Spice Pairings
There are a number of spices that nutmeg pairs particularly well with, including:
- All Spice
Given the broad range of uses for nutmeg it’s hard to narrow down to just one recipe! So instead I’m going to share with you a recipe to make your own Pumpkin Pie Spice blend, which if you follow any American cooking blogs you’ll know is one of their favourite blends to use in Autumn!
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1tbs ground cinnamon
- 2tsp ground ginger
- 1/2tsp allspice
- 1/2tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Stir it all together and store in an air tight container – it would even make an excellent gift!