Spice up your iso life: the spices you should have in your pantry according to our chefs

Liven up your culinary repertoire with these not so secret herbs and spices our chefs couldn’t live without. 

Executive Chef of Sovereign, Gabriele Taddeucci’s must have spices

According to Gabriele Taddeucci, a kitchen without spices is pretty boring. “Spices are what makes your cuisine unique,” he says, “they are so versatile that you can create many different flavours.” Born and raised in Lucca – a small town in Tuscany, Italy – Gabriele began his love affair with flavour and cooking at a young age. “My career started in 1994 at a very young age in local restaurants and trattorias of my own area where I learned all the basics about the Italian regional cuisine,” he says. He’s since worked with Giorgio Locatelli, in London, and as the Executive Chef at Balla. Since 2018 Gabriele has been the Executive Chef of the Sovereign Room at The Star Sydney.

When it comes time for a little home cooking, there are two spices that Gabriele always has in the pantry at home: “juniper berry and saffron.”

Not only are they the primary botanical ingredient used to make gin, ground juniper berries were used by the Romans as a cheap substitute for black pepper. And, according to Gabriel, they are one of the most versatile spices you could keep in the pantry – “and that’s not just because gin and tonic is my favourite drink,” he says. “You can use juniper berry in meat preparation (it goes very well with duck) and it matches perfectly with seafood – such as wood-grilled fish. You can powder it and add it to a cocktail, or you can simply use it to make dressings or marinades.”

If all of this time for home-cooking is making you want to branch out a little, Gabriele suggests investing in some saffron. “Saffron has so much intensity and unicity in flavour that it’s very hard to renounce.” If the price point makes you a little squeamish, he insists that you only need a tiny amount to create a flavoursome dish.

Chef de Cuisine at Cucina Vivo, Dyan Hartill-Law’s staple herbs and spices

If you took a peek into Dyan Hartill-Law’s home cupboard you’d likely find three staple spices: cumin, coriander and paprika. “These three are the base for flavour for me, you can put them in any cuisine, in any combination. They are my heroes and most frequently replaced in the spice rack.”

Dyan’s cooking career began at 14 years old in the Blue Mountains (just west of Sydney), working in a restaurant named Solitary. He’s since worked in restaurants in Sydney, London, Lizard Island (an island in the Great Barrier Reef), Melbourne and now the Gold Coast – where he is the Chef de Cuisine for Cucina Vivo.

Unsurprisingly he’s picked up a few tricks and developed his own techniques for adding flavour to meals. “I make a salt that everyone should use,” says Dayan, “it’s dried chilli, dried garlic, salt, Kampot pepper, all smoked and then ground. I haven’t found something that it doesn’t elevate. It’s utterly delicious on steak but it’s also versatile to work with fish or lamb.” If you’re all stocked up on staple spices and are looking to branch out a little, Dayan suggests getting your hands on Madagascan vanilla, Spanish smoked paprika and old bay – which he says can be difficult to get in Australia but is worth the effort. “All three are absolute champions for flavour and they are great things to build upon as well.”