Spice blends: What’s inside your favourites?

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For me spices conjure the exotic, and in this hectic world a little exoticness is just what I need. I love the whole concept of spices – they smell amazing, they provide so much flavour, and they come from nature and will often help heal me (which I wrote a little about in this post on spices).

Isn’t it amazing how something so small can add so much flavour to your meals? I wrote about it twice before, both in my back to basics series and in making food go from ok to good. So today I wanted to focus not on how awesome spices can be, but which spices you could actually add to your meals.

How to Use Spices

It’s easiest to add spices to some oil and make them into a paste that you then massage into the meat you’re cooking. However, this is not the only way to use spice blends:

  • You can rub them on dry to meat/veg.
  • You can sprinkle them over food while its cooking.
  • You can sprinkle it over food once it’s cooked.
  • You can add spices to the beginning of meals before you add wet ingredients, such as with curries, casseroles, stews, soups and tagines.

So now you know what you can do with them, here’s a list of some spice blends you might like to try. I’ve included what each mix is made of because you can always make the mix yourself if you can’t find it in stock at a store.

Spice Blends to Try on Your Meals

(Most spice blends used ground spices, so assume I am talking about ground unless otherwise stated).

Mexican – cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, lemon zest. Recipe.
Raj el hanout – cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, chilli, clove, cardamom and many others. Some mixes of Raj el hanout can have up to 30 different spices in them. Recipe.
Zaatar – thyme/oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, salt. Recipe.
Garam marsala – cardamom, fennel, cumin, mustard seeds, peppercorns, turmeric. Recipe.
Curry powder – coriander, cumin, turmeric, curry. Recipe.
Chermoula – garlic, paprika, chilli, cumin, saffron, lemon zest. Recipe.
Caribbean – ginger, nutmeg, thyme, salt, pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne pepper, allspice. Recipe.
Chinese 5 spice – star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon, fennel, clove. Recipe.
Dukkah – nuts (could be almonds, macadamias, pistachios, etc), turmeric, cumin, coriander, sesame seeds. See this recipe for other variations.
Harissa – cumin, coriander, chilli, paprika, caraway, salt, garlic powder. Recipe.
Baharat – coriander, cumin, allspice, pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg. Recipe.
Moroccan – ginger, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric. Recipe.
Spanish – smoked paprika, sweet paprika, dried coriander (not coriander powder), salt, pepper, lemon zest. Recipe.
Tandoori – cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, mace, cloves, garlic powder,  cinnamon, cayenne pepper. Recipe.

You can see from the above list that a lot of these spice blends actually have similar ingredients – that’s why I always have cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and nutmeg at home in my spice drawer! They are easy spices to add to dishes on their own, but they are common across a lot of different spice blends and different cuisines.

You might just like to buy your spice blends, and if so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting now. But if you want to try making a few spice blends, then follow the recipes at the end of each of the spice blends listed above. And don’t worry – if a recipe says to use whole spices and to grind them down, you can do this, or just substitute everything with the powdered versions.

The best part about a spice blend is that it can take your food from zero to hero. So which foods have you made heroic with which spice blend? I’ll go first: yesterday I made a yummy vegetable soup using zaatar. What about you?

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