Without them, your food would be about as exciting as the half-time snacks during the Tyne and Wear Over-80s Lawn Bowls championships. We asked John Gregory-Smith, author of Mighty Spice Express, to give us the lowdown on his meal-enhancing faves.

 

Smoked paprika

This is a weapon worth having in any kitchen cupboard. Fabulously bright red, ground smoked peppers add an instant BBQ hit to anything.

Insider info: Pimp up a chicken and chorizo stew with this wonderful spice for even more of a smoky flavour.
 

Chilli flakes

Hot and smoky, these ground-up dried red chillies pack a real punch.

Insider info: Chuck them into a stir-fry to add an extra kick and a lovely fruity flavour.
 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a tree bark that is used from Morocco to Mexico, in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Insider info: Spice up your morning porridge with a drizzle of honey and a fat pinch of ground cinnamon.
 

Cardamom

Don’t be put off by these rather odd shaped little pods; they are wicked. From Arabic coffee to delicate almond and orange cakes, they add masses of flavour.

Insider info: Bash a few open with a wooden spoon and chuck them into a pan of boiling rice to add a brilliant fragrant note.
 

Cumin seeds

Whether you want to tart up a humous or make a classic Indian curry, this spice adds bucket-loads of flavour.

Insider info: Pack extra flavour into your curry by chucking a couple of teaspoons of cumin seeds into hot oil with some finely chopped onions. Add your spice paste, tomatoes and off you go.
 

Turmeric

Sunshine-yellow and amazingly good for you, what’s not to like? This ground root, which is similar to ginger, is used in abundance in Indian and Middle Eastern cookery.

Insider info: Try adding some turmeric to a classic clear chicken soup for an earthy flavour and deep-set colour.

Discover more about spices and recipes on John's website.