As an essential addition to your meal, spices give your food colour, flavour and aroma due to the powerful phytochemicals they contain. They are also rich in phytonutrients, such as minerals and antioxidants, that offer health benefits.
If you are bored with your usual meals and want to give your plate something new, making a spice blend will undoubtedly excite your taste buds. In this article, we’ll give you a valuable nugget of information to help you craft the perfect spice mix. Additionally, we have provided some time-tested spice blends that deliver a rich culinary experience.
The Science of Spices
|Five Basic Tastes of Spices||Sweet, salty, sour, umami and bitter|
|Spice Notes||The top or head notes, especially fresh spices, have fast and volatile aromas. Spices such as smoked paprika and turmeric are high in middle tones, often detectable shortly after the top notes. Warm spices like ginger, clove cardamom and allspice are high in the bottom notes, meaning they have the longest-lasting pungent aromas considered the aftertaste.|
|Treating Spices||Toasting spices make them more fragrant and flavourful. Blooming involves heating spices in fat to draw out the oil-soluble aroma compounds and extend the flavour, spreading it throughout your dish.|
|Ground vs Whole Spices||Whole spices are a favourite among cooks because they have a much stronger aroma than pre-ground spices and remain fresh longer.|
|Most Common Ingredients in Spice Blends||Cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg are sweet spices that make your dish taste sweeter. Pungent spices, including coriander and cumin, give your meals subtle bitterness. Garam masala, chilli powder and pepper are hot spices that add a touch of heat.|
We had to start our list with this African cuisine delicacy. This spice blend is a tradition originating from Ethiopia, and it’s prevalent in Eritrea and other nations in the Horn of Africa.
There are different versions of this fiery hot spice mixture bursting with flavour. But the common spices in all the variations are:
- Long pepper
- Black pepper
- Red pepper
You can use the smoky, spicy blend to marinate lamb, chicken or meat, and the result will be heavenly. Alternatively, you can make your Mac and Cheese sauce scrumptious by sprinkling this spice mix on it. The choice is yours!
Baharat means spices in Arabic, and it’s the all-purpose spice blend commonly used in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines. What makes this spice mix a must-have in your pantry is that you can whip it up within two minutes.
Although the ingredients vary slightly depending on the region where it’s blended, the traditional spice mixture comprises up to 11 ingredients. These include:
- Paprika or dried chilli flakes
While you can use it to season meat dishes, Baharat as a rub provides a mild spiciness to chicken, lamb, and fish. Baharat is also tasty in soups and on top of roasted veggies.
Widely used in Indian cuisine, the name garam masala translates to hot spices. And the ingredients may vary from one region and chef to another.
Crafting this aromatic blend of Indian spices is a breeze; you will need several ground spices, including black pepper, mace, bay leaf, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and coriander. Before you ground these spices, toast them separately to bring out more aroma and flavour.
As you would expect, garam masala can add warmth, floral notes, sweetness and a touch of heat to curries, soups and chicken. You can also use this aromatic spice in vegetable stir-fries like lentils and cauliflower.
While Gomashio comprises 2-3 ingredients, it’s one of Japan’s famous flavourful, low-sodium and umami-rich spice blends. When making this unique Japanese blend, toasted sesame seeds are ground before being tossed with sea salt. The toasted sesame seeds add a nutty flavour and texture to your food.
Gomashio is the perfect garnish for an array of your favourite dishes. If you are a spice head and want to give this all-purpose seasoning a go, why not sprinkle it on a bowl of rice, stir-fries, eggs, pasta, stews and soups?
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
As the name suggests, Jamaican Jerk will bring authentic island sizzle straight to your table. And it’s not your average seasoning blend, as it is chock full of aromatics, sweet yet smoky nuances, earthy notes and a lingering heat sensation that will excite your senses.
The main ingredients that give this seasoning blend the authentic flavour and taste are the warm spice mix of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. But you can also include scotch bonnet peppers, parsley, garlic and thyme to add a personal touch.
Historically, people have been using jerk seasoning marinade as a rub for pork and chicken, but you can use it on roasted, grilled or other tender meats. You can also amp up your pot of chicken soup with Jamaican Jerk seasoning.
The earthy, nutty aroma of Colombo powder invites you on a captivating journey, with roots going back to the Sri Lanka capital. Toasted rice is the most prominent ingredient in this spic blend, and it acts as a natural thickener while giving your dish a nutty taste.
To make Colombo powder, toasted rice is ground with cloves, garlic, cumin, turmeric, chiles, fenugreek, and coriander. If you want to explore more and pamper your taste buds, you can include tamarind, star anise, saffron and cinnamon.
Colombo’s delicately sweet and aniseed aroma complements and enhances vegetarian dishes, seafood and meats.
Quatre Épices (Four Spices)
While quatre épices is mainly used in French cuisine, you can also find it in the kitchens of some regions in the Middle East.
The spice mix is a fusion of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper. Let your imagination run wild, as there is no specific recipe. While the blend of spices often uses a larger ratio of white pepper than the other spices, you can use equal portions of each spice.
Some variations of this spice mix use cinnamon instead of ginger or can replace pepper with cinnamon or allspices. This spice blend is added to terrines, sausages, pâté and meat stews in French cooking. For a savoury puree, you can top hot mashed potatoes with quatre épices.
If you are bored of insipid food and want to add excitement to your culinary adventure, give your palate something new and exciting by crafting any of the above spice blends. They will enhance the flavour, colour and palatability of your food.
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