Nutmeg is the ground seed of a tropical fruit from the Myristica fragrans plant. It has a warm, spicy and slightly bitter taste and is well known for its use in sweet dishes, especially festive baked goods and custards. It is equally delicious in savoury dishes and subtly enhances the flavour of various meat and vegetable dishes. To retain the flavor, buy the seeds whole and grate just the amount you need using a microplane. Best to do this towards the end of cooking. Nutmeg seeds will keep for years, but powdered nutmeg quickly loses its potency.
Nutmeg contains antioxidant phytochemicals, called salicylates (also found in aspirin). Studies in humans have been found salicylates reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Also, nutmeg is a source of an anti-inflammatory oil, myristicin. In traditional medicine, nutmeg is used for its calming effect on the nervous system and has been said to improve a range of conditions such as sleeplessness, asthma, abdominal pain and discomfort, low appetite, reduced libido and improves blood circulation. However, more human studies are needed to establish nutmeg’s level of effectiveness. In large quantities (unlikely in the normal culinary context), myristicin can be toxic and may induce hallucinations and result in coma or death.
Fortunately, when cooking with nutmeg a little goes a long way – especially when grating it fresh. Using 1-3 g of nutmeg is enough. Try the following quick ideas with nutmeg:
- Almond & nutmeg smoothie: Blend a frozen banana, 250ml almond milk (or regular cow milk), 2 tsp almond butter, 1 ml nutmeg and a pinch of salt.
- Grate a little nutmeg over a cup of cocoa, café or tea latte.
- Add grated nutmeg (about an eighth of a nutmeg seed) to lightly stir-fried baby spinach and garlic or over roasted pumpkin, carrots and butternut.
Thyme & Nutmeg Roast Chicken - Serves 2-3 people
Use this fragrant rub for lamb steaks or roasted potatoes and carrots.
6 free-range skinless chicken thighs (with bones)
2 tsp dried thyme (optional: replace 1 tsp with 1 tbsp fresh thyme)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 180'C.
- Combine thyme, pepper, grated nutmeg and olive oil in a shallow bowl or resealable plastic bag.
- Add skinless chicken thighs and use your hands to ensure each one is well coated.
- Place chicken thighs in an ovenproof dish and bake for 20-25min or until cooked.