8 Ways to Use Nutmeg in Cooking and Benefits
Popularly regarded as an autumn spice, nutmeg has been used for centuries in cooking. But there is more you can do with nutmeg in food. Find out how.
Nutmeg also called ‘Jaiphal’ in Hindi is a fantasy type spice that can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes in multiple ways.
You may have tasted hints of this warm spice in the popular pumpkin spice.
It has been used for centuries for culinary and medicinal purposes primarily in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries.
However recent years have seen a growing interest in the spice given how versatile it is when is comes to cooking with nutmeg!
In this post we will touch upon jaiphal uses, flavour and benefits.
Where Does Nutmeg Come From
So, is nutmeg from a nut?
Nutmeg is a seed, which is effectively a nut. It is a seed inside the fruit of a nutmeg tree. Each part of the fruit from the flesh, to the red membrane and the nut inside has culinary purposes.
The fruit is used to make jams and pickles, the red lattice membrane wrapped outside the seed is yet another fragrant spice called mace and finally it is the nutmeg seed spice.
The membrane (mace) and the seeds (nutmeg) are both sun-dried for few weeks until completely dry before being commercially sold as a spice.
You can buy nutmeg in both the whole dry seed form or in ground form.
Watch The Video
Nutmeg in Hindi Jaiphal
Nutmeg in German Muskatnuss
Nutmeg in French Noix de muscade
Nutmeg in Spanish Nuez Moscada
What Does Nutmeg Taste Like
Once you bite into a whole nutmeg is has properties like that of a citrus fruit, fresh and minty. It is later that the earthy woody flavour of the spice comes through.
The taste is similar to a mix of all spice, cloves and Szechuan pepper. Nutmeg flavour is warm, sweet, and nutty with a slight spicy bitter undertone.
Uses Of Nutmeg In Food
Associated with woody fall or Autumn flavours, like cinnamon, cloves, all spice, nutmeg is largely classified as a spice for the Autumn season.
But the versatility of jaiphal usage in cooking is past any seasonal application. The use goes beyond cakes, pies and biscuits made during festivities. Below are some ideas on how to use nutmeg for cooking.
1. Use in baked goods
The next time you make a cake, pie or biscuit where there is the use of cinnamon, try adding few pinches of nutmeg. It will help enhance the flavours.
2. Add to desserts
Nutmeg is a fun and aromatic spice to add to desserts especially dairy based deserts like milk pudding, custard, lemon tarts etc.
3. Add it to savoury pies and sauces
Nutmeg goes very well with dairy based dishes such as white sauce, cream sauce or even with pies made with root and red orange vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes etc. This creamy gluten free spaghetti recipe hits at all the right spots.
4. Make spice rubs and marinates
Nutmeg pairs well with other woody sweet sharp spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, coriander, mace, peppercorn. You can blend it with other spices and make a spice rub for BBQ’s or marinades.
5. Add it to smoothies and drinks
Add a pinch of nutmeg to lattes, teas and smoothies. Apart from additional health benefits, it enhances the taste.
6. Add to casseroles, stews and curries
A pinch of nutmeg to hot and slow cooked stews and curries makes it taste warmer and delicious. Try making this creamy turkey korma curry by adding 1/2 tsp of nutmeg to it.
7. Add to legumes, cereal, pasta and rice
Add ground nutmeg to pasta or rice dishes to make it more aromatic and flavourful.
8. Make spice blends
Make your own homemade spice blends by combining nutmeg with other spices and herbs.
Benefits Of Nutmeg
Like most spices, nutmeg too has many therapeutic and medicinal properties that has made it a popular natural alternative remedy to health disorders especially during the middle ages.
Some scientifically backed jaiphal benefits are listed below:
1. Helps to relief stress and depression
In Ayurveda, jaiphal has been used as an anti-depressant. It helps in de-stress and fight against depression by increasing the production of serotonin hormones.
2. Have an abundance of Anti-oxidant properties
Few research trials have indicated the nutmeg extracts and the spice are rich in powerful compounds like alkaloids, flavonoids and myristic that help protect our bodies from harmful free radicals. This may help to reduce oxidative stress in your body preventing us from chronic diseases.
3. May help insomnia
The essential oils present in nutmeg has sleep inducing, soothing and de-stressing effects. Adding a pinch of nutmeg to a cup of warm milk may help in inducing better sleep.
4. May boost libido
A research suggests that consumption of nutmeg in a specific amounts can lead to enhance sexual desire and performance.
5. May improve brain function
The myristicin compound in nutmeg may help in promoting brain alertness and memory capacity. It can also prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s.
6. Improve skin and hair health.
Nutmeg has been used in herbal and traditional skin and hair care products to improve appearance and boost the skin and hair health. The essential oils in the spice have been known to help reduce acne, prevent pre-mature aging and also promote hair growth.
7. May help with aches and pains
The anti-inflammatory properties may help in reducing inflammation in muscles and joints, thereby reducing pain in the affected areas.
8. Use as rub for babies and toddlers
A common Indian folk medicine has been to use a paste made with nutmeg powder and water as a chest rub for babies to help them provide some relief from chest congestion.
How Much Nutmeg To Use
Smelling the spice may not give you the right impression of the strength of jaiphal. You will be able to feel the flavour impact of the spice once it is added to a dish.
The preferred way of using nutmeg is in ground form. A small pinch goes a long way. It is advisable to use 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of nutmeg powder for a serving of 4-5 people.
Although the above suggested amount of nutmeg in cooking is considered safe, you must err caution with nutmeg usage for medicinal purposes.
Research shows that even 5 gm of nutmeg with 1-2 gms of myristicin can be enough to interfere with brain activities and cause hallucination, nausea and vomiting.
Pregnant and breastfeeding mums should only take nutmeg in small quantities like that added in food.
How To Grind Whole Nutmeg
It is very easy to grind a whole nutmeg seed. You only need a grater ideally that has small grating holes.
Rubbing the whole nut on the grater will get you smooth velvety powder.
Watch the video below that shows how to grate a nutmeg.
Finding a nutmeg substitute is relatively easy. Although the best one may be difficult to find. Here are a list of alternatives to nutmeg spice:
Option 1 – Mace
Option 2 – All spice
Option 3 – Cinnamon
Best Food Pairings
Foods that combine best with nutmeg are:
Best food pairing: pumpkin, root vegetables, orange and red vegetables, peach, banana, apple, melons, milk products, chicken, lamb, meat, seafood, rice, curries
Best spice pairing: cinnamon, mace, star anise, cardamom, ground ginger, cloves, cumin seeds, dry chilies, coriander seeds
Where To Buy
It is advisable to buy whole nutmeg as opposed to ground nutmeg powder. However larger superstores tend to store nutmeg powder more.
May sure that the powder is pale vibrant brown in colour while the whole nuts are a darker shade of cream in colour.
You can buy both types of nutmeg from your local Indian store or online from the recommended online store below:
There is a shelf life to how long does nutmeg last. This is especially true for the powdered version. Once ground nutmeg will start loosing its potency.
Powdered nutmeg should be stored in an air- tight container away from direct sunlight for upto 6 months.
Whole nutmeg have a much longer shelf life of upto 6 years. However to ensure it retains the freshness, they also need to be stored in an airtight container away from any moisture or light.
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