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Best herbs and spices for fish and seafood dishes

Understanding Spices

Cooking with fish and seafood is great. There’s so much choice, whether it’s fish, prawns, squid, scallops, mussels, oysters, langoustines – the list goes on. The best thing about them is that they’re often cooked in the simplest of ways. Additionally, fish and seafood have a really quick cooking time, making them the perfect weeknight meal. If you’re looking for new ways to flavour your favourite seafood, there are plenty of herbs and spices to give an exciting punch of flavour to all kinds of fish and shellfish. Here are the best herbs and spices to use with seafood, and how to create your own spice blends.

Tarragon

There are three main types of tarragon: French, Russian and Mexican, although the former two are most widely used. French tarragon has a mild, delicate and sweet taste, whereas the Russian variety has a stronger and more pungent flavour. The herb tastes similar to licorice, and has a cooling yet warming taste. Add it to sauces to pour over fish (particularly fatty fish like salmon), dressings for seafood salads, or in a fish pie. The flavour is quite intense, so use sparingly.

Parsley

This herb has a clean, earthy and slightly peppery taste that helps add balance to fish dishes. Parsley makes a fantastic garnish and can be sprinkled over any kind of seafood. It works particularly well with lemon, and is often used as a butter sauce. You can also add fresh parsley leaves into a seafood pasta, or add to seafood stews and casseroles.

Chives

Another great herb that goes with seafood are chives. They taste slightly similar to onions, and have a hint of garlic. Chives work particularly well in a lemon and butter sauce, as well as marinades, butters and as a garnish over grilled fish. They pair nicely with other herbs like tarragon, parsley and chervil. Chives are also a good option if you’re looking to add a little colour to your dish!

Dill

Dill is one of the best herbs to pair with seafood. Often used as a garnish, this feathery herb has a delicate flavour that works well to enhance the taste of fish and seafood. Sprinkle fresh dill over grilled salmon, knead into a butter to melt over a fish fillet, or use dried dill to flavour a lemon sauce. You can also use dill seed which has a clean, pungent flavour. Sprinkle over casseroles or broiled seafood.

Smoked paprika

Wondering what the difference between smoked paprika and paprika is? It’s very simple – yet makes a whole difference when it comes to flavour. Rather than regular dried peppers, smoked paprika uses peppers that have been smoke-dried, giving the spice a lovely woody, earthy flavour. It’s one of the main spices in Spanish seafood paella. If you’re sautéing shellfish, sprinkle some smoked paprika in for a rich, smokey sauce. It’s also great in seafood stew, seafood pasta, and in a sauce over pan-fried fish.

Ginger

This aromatic, pungent and slightly spicy spice is an excellent addition to so many different seafood dishes. It adds zest and works well with both sweet and savoury flavours. Steam fish alongside ginger, scallions (spring onion) and soy sauce for an Asian inspired meal. Toss ginger, garlic and chilli into a pan of shrimp and you have an easy but delicious side dish. For a simple but hearty dish, try adding ginger and tomatoes to a fish stew for a winter warmer.

Turmeric

A close cousin to ginger, turmeric has a rich, warm, aromatic flavour. It also gives dishes a lovely yellowish/orangey colour. Although ground turmeric is more commonly used in cooking, it is possible to use fresh turmeric root. Use it the same way as you would with fresh ginger – grated or smashed with a pestle and mortar. Add the spice to curries, seafood stews and sauces.

Cumin

This warm, earthy spice has both a sweetness and a bitterness. It’s often used in Indian, Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes. For a simple, fuss-free dish, add cumin to thyme, paprika and lemon pepper as a spice rub before pan-frying fish fillets. Add cumin to marinades and to seafood stews and curries. You can also combine cumin with other flavours like garlic, coriander and chilli powder.

Cinnamon

We know what you’re thinking. Cinnamon in seafood? Yes! Whether it’s ground or whole, this spice works really well in savoury dishes and perhaps surprisingly, in seafood. Cinnamon sticks are an essential ingredient when making Moroccan fish tagine. Use ground cinnamon to warm a braised fish dish. For a side dish that the whole family will love, try adding cinnamon to your ingredients for fish cutlets.

Make your own spice blends

The best way to get delicious tasting dishes is to experiment with herbs and spices. Fish and seafood are great ‘canvases’ for trying out different flavours. Making your own spice blends are great because you can customise them to your own taste. Use spice blends as a seafood rub before grilling on pan-frying, or in curries and stews.

Savoury, sweet and spicy

You’ll get all the flavours in this mix. This is a fantastic mix to add to pan-seared fish or in breadcrumb mixture.

Mix together:
2 tablespoons ground caraway
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon

Earthy, woodsy and savoury

It’s hearty warming and goes really well with all kinds of seafood curries, stews and soups.

Mix together:
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Herby, peppery and summery

This is a great spice and herb mix for seafood dishes that only require simple, light seasoning. Although fresh dill is amazing, dried dill lasts much longer and packs more punch.

Mix together:
2 tablespoons dried dill
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon lemon pepper

Don’t feel up to the challenge quite yet? Start simple with our Fish Curry Spice Blend or browse our other spice blends for further inspiration. Also browse our other recipes by clicking here.

Looking for more kitchen inspiration? Have a read of our blog post for the best herbs and spices to use with chicken dishes.

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