The great tag team of mortar and pestle is one of the most important ones in the kitchen. Why? Because it helps you grind, mash, and blend all sort of ingredients, adding extra flavor to them.
Both mortar and pestle have been used since ancient times to prepare ingredients by crushing and grinding them into a fine paste or powder. Our ancestors used rocks with the purpose of grinding wheat into flour, for example.
Crushing the fibers of herbs, as opposed to chopping them, or bashing spice seeds releases the full range of essential oils and flavors they contain. You can use them to mix spices, dressings, to flavor oils, or make sauces or dips. As for the ingredients you can grind, crush, or bash in the mortar, think about peppercorns, seeds, whole spices, aromatic roots, herb seeds, fresh herbs, leaves, legumes, nuts, and sea salt.
7 Reasons to Use Mortar and Pestle more Often
The name pesto actually derives from the pestle pounding. Jamie Oliver is a fan of using the mortar and pestle when making pesto. ‘When it comes to making pesto, you can’t go wrong with a pestle and mortar’, he says. You need garlic, fresh basil, grated Parmesan, pine nuts, sea salt, black pepper, olive oil, and a small squeeze of lemon juice. It’ll taste better than the blended one. Toast the pine nuts separately, chop the basil, and grind the black pepper. Then, combine everything in the mortar.
Give up on making guacamole using the blender. If your mortar is large enough, use that instead. The coarse paste is always better than the smooth one! That way, you’ll feel the real tastes and textures.
Combine cilantro, diced onion, jalapeño, salt and pepper into your mortar. Mash with the pestle until a coarse paste forms. Then, add pieces of avocado and continue mashing. In the end, add diced tomato, lime juice, and zest. You can treat it like a traditional molcajete, a Mexican mortar, and mash together an authentic guacamole.
We usually make hummus using the blender, but mortar is just as good for that. Or even better, if you like a coarse texture. Mash up the canned chickpeas and garlic using a mortar and pestle, then transfer to a bowl and add tahini, lemon juice, salt, olive oil, and some chickpea liquid, if needed, until you reach the desired texture. That’s it!
A classic marinade is made of olive oil, fresh basil leaves, and lemon juice. Plus garlic cloves. You can also crush white peppercorns, garlic, and rosemary leaves, then mix them with olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. This marinade is perfect for poultry, pork, and lamb.
You can make any marinade using a mortar. All you have to do is to bash the spice seeds, fresh herbs, dried herbs, ginger root, or veggies like spring onion and garlic in it.
Dressings are like marinades, only they should be smoother and have a different purpose. Add the harder ingredients at first (like peppercorns, mustard seeds, cumin seeds) to the mortar, then the softer ones (like garlic, ginger, fresh mint or basil), and the liquid (olive oil, lemon or lime juice, vinegar) at the end. Grind, crush and bash after each addition. Season with salt at the end, and you're ready to finish your best salad!
6. Spice Blends
You can find affordable ground spice blends at your local supermarket, but grinding them at home is a different experience. Besides getting the freshest mixture, you’ll have the most powerful aroma and flavor you can get from spices.
Choose from peppercorns (all colors), sesame seeds, coarse salt, star anise, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom, dried oregano, dried thyme, turmeric, and cloves. You can make your own combos or make classic blends. For example, for seafood, you can blend sea salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dried marjoram, dried thyme, and mustard seeds.
7. Flavored Salts
Store-bought flavored salts can cost a lot. Why spend extra money on them, if you already have coarse salt in the kitchen? They are very easy to make at home if you have a mortar and pestle. Grind together sea salt and anything you choose from dried herbs, spices, citrus zest, chili peppers, and dehydrated vegetables.
Here you can learn from Jamie Oliver how to use the mortar and pestle.