The Spice of Life: Recipes
Mixing your own spice blends can be fun and bring new flavor to favorite dishes. All of these traditional blends are made from common spices that are easy to obtain from your local market. Because roasting and grinding your own spices is more aromatic and gives a more authentic taste, some of the recipes here list both whole and ground spices for making the blends. Click on the links below to open a photo-quality PDF of the recipe. If you want to learn the whole-spice recipe for a blend, click the “Whole” link beside the title.
Advieh is a traditional Persian spice mixture used when cooking a combination of meat and fruit. It is used in khoreshes (meat and fruit stews), in meat-stuffed fruit (like apples and quinces), and in traditional Persian herb omelets.
Baharat, which means spice in Arabic, is a round, full-bodied, aromatic mix popular in the Gulf States. It adds a nuance of exotic Middle Eastern flavor to slow-cooked soups and stews, tomato sauces, and is used in traditional kibbeh and in meat-stuffed pastries. It can be used as a dry marinade on fish and meat 20 minutes before grilling. Add a squeeze of lemon juice before grilling to keep the spices from burning.
This mix is great as a dry marinade for grilling red meat or rotisserie chicken. Sprinkle on the meat 20 minutes before grilling. Add a squeeze of lemon juice before grilling to prevent the spices from burning.
Cajun spice mix means a little something extra in French Creole. It is used in the soups and stews called gumbos, and jambalayas, which are rice dishes, but it is mostly used as a dry marinade for blackened meat, fish, and shrimp. Marinate the meat for 20 minutes before grilling or pan frying. Frying in butter creates the “blackened” look. This mix is also good sprinkled on salads and vegetables.
Mixing your own chili powder gives a dish a more aromatic and authentic taste. This simple mix gives you the ability to control how hot the flavor is. Use in chili con carne, Mexican bean dishes, taco meat, and any Tex-Mex recipes.
Chinese Five Spice is a strong, aromatic mix used in China especially in the Sichuan province. One Tbs. mixed with soy sauce and sugar is used to flavor slow-cooking broth. Mixed with a small amount of salt, it can be added during cooking of vegetable stir fries. The five spice mix makes a good marinade or dry rub for grilling chicken, duck, pork, or seafood. Marinate the meat for 20 minutes. Before grilling, add a squeeze of lemon juice to keep the spices from burning if using as a dry marinade. Use sparingly!
Curry is a mixture of spices that originated in southern India. Each blend is mixed to suit a particular dish and an individual’s taste. It is best if whole spices are dry-roasted before being ground, as that brings out a more aromatic flavor. Curry spice blend was originally used by the Brahmins in rice and other vegetarian dishes. Now it is added to both meat and vegetable dishes and used as a dry marinade on meat 20 minutes before grilling. Add a squeeze of lemon juice before grilling to keep the spices from burning. Small amounts can be added to soups at the end of cooking. Mixed with mayonnaise, it makes a good salad dressing.
Garam means spice, and massala means blend or mixture. This blend from northern India is sweeter than curry. When added at the end of cooking to a dish, it draws out the flavors of the other ingredients and preserves the aromas. It is used in meat pastries, bean or lentil soup, and with anything cooked in tomato sauce or onion gravy. It can be used as a dry marinade for kebobs or seafood. Marinade the meat 20 minutes before grilling. Add a squeeze of lemon juice before grilling to keep the spices from burning. Dry-roasting the whole spices before grinding is more authentic. Cooking rice with a mixture of the whole spices is very traditional.
Powder douce is a sweet Medieval dessert spice mix. Try using it in traditional puddings and in fruit pastry mixes like apple pie.
Powder forte means fierce powder. Each region has its own recipe for this peppery Medieval mix. Some are hotter than others. It is used in meat and vegetable dishes. Use sparingly!
Quarte épices, which means four spices in French, has been in use since the 15th century. It is one of the ingredients in paté, sausages, and tureens. Quarte épices is used in long, slow-cooked stews that use rich, red meats, like the traditional beef casserole or seasoned pork. Use 1 tsp. of the mix per 1 pound of meat.
Ras el Hanout means “head of the shop,” as the blending of this mixture was trusted to no one else. Each blend is mixed to suit a particular dish and an individual’s taste. It is best if whole spices are dry-roasted before being ground, as that brings out a more-aromatic flavor. Ras el Hanout spice blend can contain up to 50 ingredients, and originally many blends included aphrodisiacs and drugs like hashish. This blend is used in traditional Moroccan Tagines, especially those containing lamb or chicken. Add 1 tsp. to 1 cup of rice or couscous while the grain is cooking, or sprinkle some on fish or chicken before grilling, pan frying, or baking.
This mix, with its distinctive Spanish flavors of paprika, saffron, and cayenne pepper, forms the basis for the traditional rice dish called paella. It is also good used as a dry marinade for grilling pork, chicken, and shrimp. Marinate the meat 20 minutes before grilling. Add a squeeze of lemon juice before grilling to keep the spices from burning.