Toasting whole spices in a dry pan over a low heat helps bring out the essential oils and flavour in the spice. However, be careful to taste as you add the spice to your dish as the flavour will have changed and you may need less. Toasting pre-ground spices is a little trickier and it can ruin the flavour of the spice altogether.
How to store spices
Spices will generally be at their best for up to a month, if stored correctly. Store spices in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor more quickly.
Preparing a new tagine
To prepare a new tagine before cooking, soak it overnight in water (the bathtub is a good place). Then fill with water, add salt, a few bay leaves and a few cardamom pods. Heat over a low gas flame, until boiling to infuse the herbs into the porous terracotta. If your tagine is used regularly this won't need to be redone. Tagines can be used on the barbecue, charcoal or low gas flame but are not recommended for electric cooktops or in the oven.