SPICE BLEND

England - Pickling


Ingredients: ginger, mustard seed, cloves, coriander seed, allspice, mace, dried chilies

Pickling has been used in northern and eastern Europe for centuries as a way to preserve vegetables. Whole spices, rather than ground, should be used for pickling. They can be added right to the vinegar, or tied in a muslin bag and removed later. You can also try adding black or white peppercorns, or leave out the chilies if you're not a fan of their flavor.

France - Herbes de provence


Ingredients: chervil, tarragon, savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, fennel

This mixture is the signature of southern French cooking. The Mediterranean climate of Provence makes it an ideal garden for growing these herbs, which are usually used fresh. These herbs can be mixed with pepper, garlic, and other spices to make a rub for fish or meat. They can also be added to stews, like the popular vegetable stew called ratatouille.

Mediterrean - Tapenada


Ingredients: capers, garlic, oregano, red chili, black pepper, olives (black or green), olive oil

Spreads for bread, like tapenade, are common all across Italy, Greece, Turkey, and other Mediterranean cultures. They often contain capers, buds of perennial plants that are picked before they're ripe, then cured in brine. Because they can't be dried, capers weren't widely traded along spice routes; their use in a tapenade is indicative of regional flavor. You can also try adding herbs like basil, thyme, dill, and tarragon, as well as dried tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon juice, or bit of fennel.

North Africa – Harissa


Ingredients: chilies, cumin, coriander seed, cloves, olive oil, salt

The spicy Tunisian sauce called harissa is often the base of North African soups and stews that are served with couscous, a small pearl-shaped pasta. Harissa is also commonly used on traditional Italian pasta, an influence from Tunisia's nearby European neighbor. If you're fixing a cold meal, harissa makes for a zingy addition to sandwiches.

Arabian Penninsula – Zhug


Ingredients: black peppercorn, caraway seed, whole cumin, cardamom seed, fresh hot pepper, garlic, chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves

This traditional spice mixture is used as a condiment in Yemen. You can chop the fresh ingredients, then pound the spices in to make a paste. Or add some water and simmer the mixture for about ten minutes. Use it on breads or in soups. Refrigerate it in an airtight jar with a layer of oil spread over the top.

India - Curry


Ingredients: red chilies, coriander seed, cumin seed, black mustard seed, black peppercorn, fenugreek seed, curry or bay leaves, ginger, tumeric

Spice blends, or masalas, are the heart of Indian cooking. There are as many masalas as there are cooks, and Indian families often have their own traditional blends made for them by a spice grinder. The ingredients vary from region to region, north to south. This is a basic mixture, but you could also add or substitute many spices, like cinnamon, mace, nutmeg or cloves.

China – Five Spice


Ingredients: fennel seeds, star anise, cinnamon stick,peppercorns, cloves

This blend is a staple in Chinese cooking, and is often used in a technique called "flavor potting." Meat is steeped in a rich sauce and cooked for long hours. The spices included here are the most commonly used in five-spice powder, and encompass five flavors—sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. Some recipes use them in equal proportions, others use more of one to heighten a specific flavor.

Thailand – Nam Prik


Ingredients: vinegar, sugar, chilies, lime juice, garlic

Nam prik means "chili sauce." Thai cooking uses lots of variations of nam prik, often flavored to go with a specific food, like chicken, fish, or vegetables. Spices that flavor the sauce vary from region to region. Other things to try adding are coriander, tamarind, dried fish or fish sauce, fruits, and nuts.

America South – Cajun


Ingredients:: paprika, black pepper, cumin, mustard seed, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, garlic, onion, salt

Chefs in New Orleans keep their Cajun seasoning recipes under wraps, and have used their secrets to build the city's reputation as the spicy culinary mecca of the American South. These creole-inspired mixtures use ground spices and herbs, rather than whole, fresh ones. Cajun chefs have made these concoctions famous by rubbing them on fish and adding them liberally to gumbos, but you can also sprinkle them on anything from potatoes to salad.

Mexico – Hot Chocolate


Ingredients: cinnamon, vanilla extract or bean, dried chili, unsweetened chocolate, milk, sugar (optional)

In the sixteenth century, Mayans introduced chocolate to the Europeans as a drink with native spices—vanilla, cinnamon, and chili. The Spaniards quickly took advantage of the new flavorings they'd discovered, and added milk and sugar. To emulate their drink, simmer all the ingredients (except the chocolate) together for a few minutes, remove the cinnamon stick and chili, and whisk in the chocolate. Experiment with different chilies, varied amounts of sugar and milk, or a little rose water to add another unique flavor.