Ainsley Harriott’s secret ingredient: allspice

·1 min read
<span>Photograph: buccaneer/Alamy</span>
Photograph: buccaneer/Alamy

Allspice has been with me for ever. My mum used it in the kitchen, there was always allspice around. It was normally the whole berries, she would crush them herself. We didn’t have pestles and mortars in those days – it was the bottom of a heavy saucepan; Mum would roll her shoulders around and crush it up. Everything is in there: it gives you a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg, that pepper-y, clove-y taste, all of these different flavours out of this one berry.

Sometimes, late at night or if I’ve had it up to here with tea, I make a minty drink with a squirt of honey and allspice. I put it in my jackfruit and okra, butter bean, and pimento pot – it’s like a vegan Caribbean stew. I cook it down really slowly with coconut milk and ginger and thyme and everything else. Allspice warms it, gives it a little bit of a lift, a bit of movement in your mouth. I do chargrilled chicken and pineapple skewers with a slaw and I use the whole pimento berries to spice up the pickle for the slaw. The rule is, a bit of acidy stuff – a bit of lime or lemon or vinegar – really opens it up. I mix the ground allspice with pomegranate molasses too. There was a lovely dish that I did, lamb slow-cooked with olives and feta. It works great with Greek flavours.

My tip is, if you’re a lover of spices, allspice gives you that combination of spice, imagine that enhancing your food. Go on – have a go.

Ainsley’s Good Mood Food by Ainsley Harriott is out now (Ebury Press, £20). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at Delivery charges may apply.

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