Spice pastes are made from spices blended with stock, fat, and aromatics. Many cuisines — from Mexican to Indian to Thai — use pastes to develop flavors and create complex spiced dishes. The pastes are usually made ahead of time and stored, then bloomed as needed at the start of stew and sauce bases or to season individual dishes.
Make a spice paste by heating spices and aromatics (fresh onions, garlic, ginger, etc.) together in fat or stock. When the flavor is well infused into the liquid, grind the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle or electric grinder until it has the texture of a paste. You can store the paste in a jar or other airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks or longer, as the flavors will continue to meld and deepen over time.
TRY IT OUT
Mix natural peanut butter with a little salt, cinnamon, and chili flakes. Spread on toast or stir-fry with string beans.
For a Thai-style curry paste, mince shallots, garlic, fresh cilantro stalks or roots, and fresh red chili peppers (or silk or Cobanero chili flakes). Bloom very gently in coconut oil or neutral oil until the aromatics are soft and fragrant, about 20 minutes. In another pan, briefly toast (until fragrant) equal parts coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black or white peppercorns, and any other spices you like including star anise, cinnamon pieces, and cinnamon tree leaves. In a small food processor, grind the aromatics, oil and spices together until smooth, with fish sauce to taste. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator or freeze in an ice cube tray, then bloom in coconut cream to make the base of an aromatic, complex Thai-style curry.