When I wrote my previous post on Spice Blends I wasn’t expecting the overwhelming response that I received, so I would like to thank my readers and those who shared it on social media! In this post I will bring to you three more of my favorite spice blends which I use often for cooking and some sample recipes used in this blog.
- Old Bay Seasoning
During my very first trip to a grocery store in the U.S I came across an interesting looking tin of spice blend labeled as “Old Bay”. Without much of an idea about what it was I bought it for the attractive old school packaging especially the fact it was in a tin and not a plastic bottle , something you rarely get to see these days. Little did I know it is an American and especially Baltimore cultural icon! The ingredients list on the packaging say celery salt and spices (including red pepper and black pepper) and paprika. Truth is you won’t be replicating the flavors with that combo, there is definitely much more to that in Old Bay! There is definitely mustard, bay leaf, ginger ,cardamom ,cloves and mace in addition to the above spices. It’s a moderately hot seasoning, though old timers in Baltimore and Maryland would tell you it was hotter before Mc Cormick bought it from the Baltimore Spice Company in 1990. The spice blend was found by a German immigrant by the name of Gustav Brunn who escaped Nazi Germany but refused to part with his spice grinder! He initially had named it “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning” which was later changed to “Old Bay” seasoning after a famed steamship route called “Old Bay Line” in the Chesapeake Bay area in Maryland. Mc Cormick however has retained the iconic yellow tin packaging! Replicating Old Bay at home is certainly possible, I would recommend however to stick to the store bought stuff if you can. Alternatively, this recipe is a good substitute however not an exact replacement.
Old Bay is best used with seafood, nothing beats the classic Maryland steamed blue crabs with Old Bay as shown in the picture! However , old Bay goes well with almost any seafood as well as chicken. Hard core fanatics of this spice use it in almost everything and I have come across fries, chips, peanuts, cashews and even liquors flavored with Old Bay! You could try making delicious fish tacos with Old Bay, perfect for a healthy meal on a hot summer day.
2. Ras El Hanout
While Old Bay is a hot and hardy spice blend, Ras el Hanout is quite the opposite. It is subtle , aromatic, fragrant and sophisticated in taste which livens up your dish like no other. It is a North African spice blend which literally translates to “Head of the Shop” in Arabic indicating it’s a top shelf spice and it lives up-to its reputation. There are variations in the blending depending upon who you buy the spice from. My spice blend consisted of mustard, pepper,cardamom,coriander, cumin, cinnamon,allspice, chili flakes, star anise, hibiscus, cloves and lavender. I have seen this spice blend both in the ground crushed ready to use form as well as pre crushed seed mix which is often dry roasted to release the aromatic oils then crushed with a mortar and pestle. I personally prefer the second option, though I always keep a pre mixed and grounded one as well to save time. If you would like to try it at home , this recipe from Kitchn is simple and is perfect for home cooks. Please note that no two recipes for Ras El Hanout will be identical as it is a bit like an artist’s canvas, the painting in this case being the mixing of the spices is left to the individual . Ras el Hanout can be used for making tagine, curries, stews and braised dishes. A good way to use it would be to braise meat such as this braised Lamb Shank dish.
3. Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
The last blend on the list is Jamaican Jerk Spice , often known as “Caribbean Jerk” , “Island Blend” or simply “Jerk” seasoning. The origins of this blend is attributed to African slaves who were brought by Spanish colonists to the New world . The combined some spices they had brought with themselves from Africa to locally available spices to come up with this interesting hardy and moderately hot blend. The most important ingredients of this blend are allspice and bonnet peppers native to Carribean. Though most blends have cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme,garlic, brown sugar, ginger and salt. The uses of this blend are endless, from a rub for grilling to wet dishes such as heavy sauces , gravies as well as in preserved meats such as sausages. My personal preference for jerk is in poultry as it is my favorite flavor for wings! I have tried it in seafood with great results , grilled prawns are an example. Jerk is a spice blend you can make at home rather than depending on store bought varieties. Jerk is also commonly sold as a pre made marinade for meats. You can check out a simple recipe for the blend here and marinade here.
So which of these fun spice blends would you like to try to liven up your kitchen? Please let me know in the comments and share the love on social media! I would love to hear what other spice blends do you use in your kitchen in the comments section!