White people invaded over 90% of the world looking for spices and now they don’t even use them on their food.

We make my own spice mixes at the chateau. The spices are stale at the grocery store supermarket, so we avoid those, and many contain additional filler products such as wheat flour that even producers are not required to list on the label.  There are good spice merchants which now sell online and ethnic grocers often offer better alternatives with high turnover purchases of whole spices.  Buy whatever possible quantities you can reasonably use within a year.

Middle Eastern families are close to the spice trade and have home-made favorites blends which are made the same year after year and become the signatures of their home’s cooking.  Further, they turn over the stock more often than the stale supermarket spice aisle.

When preparing these blends, measuring is only a suggestion, because the spices themselves can vary in intensity and flavor depending on how old they are or where they came from.

You can either make these with whole spices which you grind in a coffee mill (we have one just for this purpose, so as to not affect the coffee), or you can use ground spices. Whole spices give a more powerful flavor. Lightly roasting the whole spices in a dry hot frying pan before grinding gives the very best flavor. Heat the whole spices 3 to 5 minutes, until the scent releases, then cool on a plate.  You can either do this before bottling, of after in a pan before using, which is the easier way.  Many times we omit this roasting step, but if you have time it is worth the trouble.

These mixes are staples in our kitchen, always kept handy next to the stove along with fluer de sel (French sea salt) and fresh ground pepper. You can nearly throw away your other seasons, as these few mixes will replace most of what you were using previously.  Carefully source and store your spices to enjoy their maximum potential, as their potency and aromas fade over time.

Creole Seasoning  (Emeril’s Bayou Blast)spices

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 2/3 cup.

Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence is a blend of dried herbs used frequently in the cooking of France, particularly Provence.

  • 1. c. dried thyme
  • 1. c. dried savory
  • 1 c. dried marjoram
  • 1. c. dried oregano
  • 1/2 c. dried sage
  • 1/2 c. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 c. dried lavendar buds/flowers (English or another culinary variety)
  • 1/2 c. dried fennel seeds

Southwest Seasoning (or you can buy Emeri’s Southwest Seasoning)

  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • 2 T. paprika
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1 T. ground coriander
  • 1 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 1 t. crushed red pepper
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 T. dried oregano

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 1/2 cup.

Middle East Meets West Spice Mix

Middle East meets West mix which is heavy enough for red meat and yet light enough for sea food.

  • 1 T. green chili powderspices
  • 1 T. red chili powder
  • 2 t. oregano
  • 2 t. basil
  • 2 T. ground thyme
  • 1 t. whole thyme
  • 2 t. savory
  • 2 t. ground marjoram
  • 1/2 t. whole dry marjoram
  • 1 T. sumac berries, crushed
  • 1/4 c. unhulled, toasted sesame seeds, ground coarsely
  • 1 1/2 t. French sea salt
  • 1  T. Sumac
  • 1 T. Chipotle
  • 1 T. Turmeric
  • 1 T. ancho chili
  • 1 T. red chili caribe

Thai Curry powder

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. turmeric
  • 3 bay leaves (remove lower stem)
  • 3 T. whole or ground coriander
  • 2 T. cumin seed or ground cumin
  • 2 t. ground ginger
  • 1 t. ground white pepper (or whole white peppercorns if you can find them)
  • 3 t. chili flakes OR cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you want it
  • • pinch ground cloves or 1 whole clove

Preparation:

If using whole spices:

1. Place all ingredients in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir continuously for 1 minute, or until pan is very hot. Then reduce heat to medium and continue stirring 6 to 10 minutes. This will lightly toast the spices, leaving them even more fragrant and tasty.

2. Remove pan from heat and tip spices into a bowl to cool. Meanwhile, prepare your grinder. If using a coffee grinder (like I do), you will need to wipe it out very well with a damp cloth or paper towel to remove all traces of coffee.

3. Place toasted spices in the grinder and grind well to make your curry powder. (See below for using this powder to make a delicious Thai curry.)

Quick & Easy Version:

Use all ground spices in this version, omitting the bay leaf until you cook your curry. Stir together the spices and then ‘dry fry’ them all together as instructed above. When you use the powder for curry, be sure to add 1-2 bay leaves to your curry pot.

Classic Madras Indian Curry Powder

For a basic curry powder, all you have to do is toast equal parts cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, coriander seeds, lightly crushed cinnamon stick, and whole cloves in a small skillet until fragrant, then transfer to a coffee grinder and pulse until you have a powder. Done and done.

You can vary the proportions (some people prefer more coriander) or add ingredients such as turmeric, peppercorns, cayenne, fennelgreek, nutmeg, dried ginger, and/or cari leaves. But even the most basic version is still going to be better than most store-bought stuff.

Zatar

ground mix of oregano, roasted sesame seed, sumac and thyme, used for thousands of years in the middle east for daily cooking, rubs, especially for vegetarian dishes, with olive oil, breads and cheeses.

  • 1/4 c. sumac
  • 2 T. thyme
  • 1 T. roasted sesame seeds
  • 2 T. marjoram
  • 2 T. oregano
  • 1 t. French sea salt

Kibbeh Spice Mix

  • 1 t. allspice
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • 1 t. nutmeg
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 1/2 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. dried sage

Seven Spice Mix

  • 4 t. sweet paprika
  • 1⁄2 t. hot paprika
  • 4 t. ground cumin
  • 4 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 t. ground ginger
  • 1⁄2 t. turmeric
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon

Chimayo Red Chili

from the fertile soil of Chimayo village, New Mexico, hot or mild.

Hatch Green Chili Powder

the famous ingredient of New Mexico cuisine, hot or mild.

Smoked Chipotle

a beautiful smokey flavor with the zip of New Mexico chili, from Las Cruces.

Tumeric

healthy ingredient for all dishes.

Sumac

A zingy, tart flavor which we use at the end of cooking to season fish, chicken, sheesh kebab, salad dressings, rice pilaf, and more.

Saffron

The divine ingredient from the crocus flower.  The Spanish saffron under the brand name, “La Mancha” compares very nicely to the more expensive Italian varieties.  ”La Mancha” Spanish saffron is hand harvested from the crocus sativus flower and is some of the best “value priced” saffron on the planet (1 gram will cost you around $8.50.

Truffle Oil

We like the white truffle infused olive oil sold by Santa Fe Olive Oil Company 116 Don Gaspar Ave, Santa Fe, NM 505-992-1601.

Zatarain’s

Spices include file powder, crab and shrimp boil mixes, available at supermarket’s nationwide.  www.zatarain.com

Ras el Hanout, Basic Curry Powder, Thai Green Curry Paste, Five Spice Powder, Berbere, and Harissa Paste Recipes

Recipe from The Magic of Spice Blends: A Guide to the Art, Science, and Lore of Combining Flavors, Aliza Green October 26, 2015 (Quarry Books).

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