spices

Most people have a few spice mixes in their pantry, and for good reason: they’re an easy way to add flavor to food without having to add several ingredients. Spice mixes are often blended specifically with certain dishes in mind, like curry or steak seasoning, making them a no-brainer for cooking. But once you’ve explored and discovered the dishes that you truly love, it’s up to you to start making your own spice mixes… giving you even more control over the flavors that come out of your kitchen. These three simple recipes will easily show you how to blend spices and add more spice to your life.

1. Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice gets its name, not surprisingly, from pumpkin pie. It can be made up of a combination of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice and nutmeg, in various quantities, though it’s almost always at least one part cinnamon to one part other spices.

Consider adding other spices, like a pinch of cayenne, white or black pepper to your pumpkin pie spice. It can give it a little unfamiliar kick that will be welcome. Grate the spices whole right before adding them to a dish, like our favorite homemade pumpkin spice latte recipe or, of course, the eponymous pumpkin pie, for even more flavor.

2. Garam Masala

Garam masala is one of many familiar spice blends thanks to Indian cuisine. Garam masala’s name comes from the Hindi word for hot mixture. It can be made up of many spices, including black pepper, white pepper, cloves, cinnamon, black cumin, cumin and cardamom. All of the spices should be ground at the last minute for optimum flavor. Vary the spices as you see fit: the black and white pepper will add more heat, while the cloves, cinnamon and black cumin add a bit of sharp spice. The last two spices add more of a floral aroma. Experiment with your favorite combination for a riff on our masala chai recipe.

3. Ras el Hanout

Ras el hanout is a North African spice mix whose name means “head of the shop.” Originally, ordering this blend was a request for the best spices the shopkeeper had to offer. Today, ras el hanout is still a delicious, exotic blend, though it’s become a more uniform combination, usually involving several of the following: peppercorn, cubeb pepper, ground chili pepper, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, cardamom, coriander or dried rosebud. As with garam masala, the combination of heat from the peppers, spice with the clove, cinnamon and nutmeg, and a floral aspect, thanks to the cumin, cardamom, coriander and rosebud, creates harmony. It also permits you to favor the elements of the spice mix you like best, to create something that you love: the perfect seasoning for Moroccan lamb and chickpea stew.

Image: Clyde Robinson