Top Winter Spices

By Laura Venuto

Spice purveyor Ali Ahmad of Valleyview Continental Groceries and Spices in Bankstown shares with us his favourite winter spice mixes to give meals an exotic twist during the chilly weeks ahead.

Earlier this month I reported on the wonderful and enlightening Bankstown food tour I joined recently. One of the providores I met was Ali Ahmad of Valleyview Continental Groceries and Spices. He was such a fountain of knowledge when it came to spices that I decided to ask him for some advice on his favourite spices to use for meals in winter. Some of them may not be meals you’ve prepared before, but as we bunker down for the last few weeks (hopefully) of cold weather ahead, why not experiment with some simmering stews from exotic lands such as Jordan and Lebanon?


The national dish of Jordan is Mansaf, which means ‘explosion’. The dish includes lamb seasoned with aromatic herbs, cooked in yoghurt, and served with huge quantities of rice. Feasting on Mansaf is taken seriously, and hours are spent in its preparations. The spice most often used in Mansaf is baharat, a mix of cumin, paprika, ground black pepper, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom. It is sometimes referred to as Lebanese 7 Spice.


Falafels grew to become a common form of street food or fast food in the Middle East. The croquettes are regularly eaten as part of a meze (sharing platter). During Ramadan (the fasting period), falafel balls are sometimes eaten as part of the Iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast after sunset. The spices used in falafel recipes vary but most consist of: ground black pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom.

Try MiNDFOOD’s recipe for Falafels with Roasted Carrot Dip.


Kabsa is a family of rice dishes that are served mostly in Saudi Arabia, and the other Arab states of the Arabian Gulf. Chicken kabsa is one of the most popular dishes in Saudi Arabia. This chicken and rice dish with raisins and sliced almonds is considered a staple. Ask for the kabsa spice mix. The exact mix can vary but generally includes black pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg. The spices are used to cook the chicken first, and then the rice.



Five-spice powder is a great all-rounder and can be added whenever you want to lend flavour to stir-fries, soups and red-cooked dishes. It works well with meats, especially chicken and duck, and makes an excellent marinade. Just remember to use it sparingly – a little goes a long way.

Try MiNDFOOD’s recipe for Mandarin Duck and Thin Egg Noodles with Asian Greens.

Valleyview Continental Groceries and Spices

40 The Appian Way

Bankstown NSW 2200

(02) 9790 0465

So tell me fellow foodies, what’s your favourite winter spice and how do you like to use it?


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