Every season has its own signature style of food and drink - whether it’s the light fruity dishes of summer, or Autumn’s characteristic root veg, each season has something distinctive and special to offer our palettes.
When it comes to winter, however, this seasonally-inspired cuisine goes into a whole new league. Fragrant, sweet spices have become synonymous with the festive period, and they make the winter indulgences that we have eagerly anticipated all year round something extra special. After all, ‘tis the season to be treating ourselves.
In this blog post, we’ll be taking you through a tour of our favourite spices. We’ll be exploring the origin stories of the most popular Christmas spices that feature in food, drinks, cakes and bakes at this time of year. The four festive spices that we’ll be spotlighting are cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.
In the minds of foodies, these ingredients are an absolute Christmas staple, in both savoury and sweet alike. Their decadent aromas and bold flavour punches are what makes Christmas food and drink so magnificent.
But how did they come to occupy the centre-stage of our winter dinner tables? All will be revealed below. Then, in order to bring together two of our favourite things, we’ll be pairing these Christmas spices with a quality cup of coffee, in our exquisite Christmas spiced coffee recipe. We may be biased, but we think it’s the perfect addition to a Smart Xmas.
The point in time where spices first became a sought-after addition to our food and drink was all the way back in the medieval period. English soldiers and traders began to bring these delicacies back home after their journeys across the world. On their travels, these individuals found these spices (which, of course, no one in England had come across before), and so returned them home to sell.
The difficulty in attaining them and the rarity of these wonderful spices meant that they rapidly became a highly sought after luxury, which could normally only be afforded by royals or society’s richest families. As it is today, Christmas in this period was an occasion that was marked by opulent, decadent dishes where no expense was spared. As such, these new spices quickly became a popular addition to these seasonal dishes.
And so, this tradition of adding these ingredients to our Christmas dishes continued over the centuries, which is what has made these beautifully fragrant spices so intrinsically linked with the food that we enjoy over the winter.
This is how winter spices across the board made their way into our Christmas dishes, but the question that remains is, where do these spices actually come from? Well, we’re here to answer that curiosity, too.
Throughout history, sailors, traders and explorers from all over the world have been on the lookout for this spice that, in some ancient cultures, may have actually been worth more than its weight in gold. This particular spice actually comes from Cinnamomum trees, specifically this tree’s inner bark, which is grown in Sri Lanka and India.
Although they may not look like it, cloves are actually flower buds. These buds are grown on trees that can be found in Indonesia. This wonderfully aromatic spice has been used for over 3,000 years (they can even be traced back to 1721 BC, after an ancient ceramic vessel was uncovered in Syria, which was used to contain the spice).
This hugely popular spice actually has its roots in Southeast Asia, where it was historically used as a herbal cure for a wide range of illnesses. As far back as the 1st century, this spice has been grown across Southern Asia, and traded with Europe for a decadent addition to dishes.
Nutmeg comes from the seeds of the nutmeg tree. These are then ground into a very fine powder. Like cloves, this spice also comes from Indonesia. Interestingly, traders first discovered this spice on an island called Pulau Ay (this was over 3,000 years ago). But those who found it decided to keep this location a secret, in order to give them full control over the nutmeg trade.
Now that you know a bit more about the origin of our favourite Christmas spices, it’s time to put this knowledge to good use. We’re going to be giving our daily staple (freshly made coffee) a festive makeover, with the help of these aromatic spices. This recipe is the perfect way to bring a little seasonal treat to your daily routine.
Nutmeg and orange Christmas spice coffee
Freshly made coffee, 400ml
Small cinnamon stick, 1
Pitted dates, 2
Ground nutmeg, a pinch
Pared orange zest, 1 large strip
Add the cinnamon, dates, ground nutmeg, cloves and orange zest to a large jug.
Using your Smarter coffee machine, brew 400ml of strong, piping-hot coffee.
Pour the coffee into the jug with the rest of the ingredients. Stir gently and then leave everything to steep for about 4 mins. Serve your festive coffee in four espresso cups.
Since this brew takes just 10 minutes to prep, it’s the ideal quick and easy addition to a day where you’re feeling that little bit festive. With these beautiful ingredients paired with a quality cup of coffee, Christmas drinks are a match made in heaven.
Our Smarter coffee machine features in this recipe, and it’s a fantastic little helper that makes these fun recipe ideas even easier to try out at home. At Smarter, we provide ourselves on helping home cooks secure themselves a smart home with affordable, easy-to-use devices.
We’ve wrapped up our innovative range of kitchen gadgets in a wide variety of gift sets, which make the perfect gift for a loved one who’s as enthused about festive drinks as we are. So, if you’re looking for a smart gift to pop under the Xmas tree this year, visit our website where you can see our full range of Christmas gift sets.
Written by Josephine Walbank