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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Combining Lots of Herbs and Spices in a Dish Part 3

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The skill of combining herbs and spices are indeed an essential part in the art of cooking. Usually only one or two strongly flavoured herbs and spices is applied in a dish,  but what if you make a dish with  4 or 5 and more herbs and spices into cooking. Well this is an interesting exception for us to try.

~ Combinations of Herbs & Spices ~

Bouquets  garnis are little bundles of aromatic herbs and spices.  Simply tie parsley, thyme, and bay in a bunched bouquet garni, to add flavour to stocks, soups, sauces and stews. The idea is to contain the herbs so that only their flavour (no flecks or fragments) will permeate the food. The bouquet garni can be made in various ways:  fresh springs of several herbs tied up in a string; fresh or dried herbs tied in a cheesecloth bag, or stuffed in a stainless‐steel tea ball; or fresh or dried herbs clamped by a string between two stalks of celery. Always make the string long enough so that the loose end can be tied to the pot handle — this facilitates easy retrieval and removal.

The classic contents of bouquets garnis are parsley, thyme, and bay. Peppercorns, whole allspice, whole cloves, celery leaf, tarragon, or marjoram are occasionally added. You may want to come up with your own bouquet ideas. For instance, a combination of lemon peel, whole peppercorns, and garlic can impart interesting flavours to simmering vegetables. Or, a bundle of cinnamon stick, orange and/or lemon peel, and nutmeg can be used to flavour warm apple cider. You can make bouquet garnis in advance in cheesecloth bags and freeze them. Add the bundle to simmering food directly from the freezer.

 Fines herbes consists of chervil, chives, parsley, and tarragon. The combination is often stirred into salads, sauces, and vegetables.  Fines herbes maybe freshly minced and added to omelets, sautés and other recipes at the very last minute of cooking. Fines herbes are especially alluring because of the freshness of the herbs and the harmonious combination that creates a satisfying flavour.

Quatre epices simply means “four spices” and is used in French haute cuisine to flavour roast meats, poultry, hardy vegetables, or desserts. The four spices are a groun combination of any of the following: cloves, mace, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, or white pepper. Quatre epices without peppers are used to spice pumpkin pies.

Did you know that there is no curry plant used to produce curry powder. Actually, curry powder is a combination of many aromatic spices including coriander seed, cumin seed, nutmeg, mace, cardamom seed, white mustard seed, black mustard seed, turmeric, fenugreek seed, chilli, ginger, peppercorns (white or black), garlic, allspice, cinnamon, cayenne, and fennel seed. These are all ground into powder.

Curry powder is a necessity in East Indian cuisine and has been imported to Southeast Asian recipes. Thai curries (except for Thai Muslim curry) do not include sweet spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and mace and include lots of fresh basil. Thai curry powders are commonly combined with a liquid and used as pastes. To enliven its exceptional aroma, curry powder should always be heated before eating.

Chilli powder is a combination of ground spices and herbs that always contain dried chilli plus a selection of garlic powder, oregano, allspice, cloves, cumin seed, coriander seed, cayenne, black pepper, turmeric, mustard seed, and paprika. As with all dried spice and herb combinations, chilli powder is best when ground as needed and heated before eating. If you must make chilli powder ahead, store it in a tightly covered glass jar kept in a cool, dark place.


Chinese five spice powder is a dried, ground combination of Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and star anise. The combination is used for seasoning and as a condiment. Five‐spice powder provides its best flavours when ground as needed and heated before serving. If you’re using five‐spice powder as a condiment, toast it first in a dry sauté pan. If you must store fivespice powder, keep it untoasted in a tightly covered glass jar in a cool, dark place.

Pickling spice typically contains dill weed and/or dill seed along with any of the following: dried chilli, mustard seed, bay, allspice, white or black peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seed, turmeric, cardamom, ginger, celery seed, garlic, mace, and nutmeg. The basic idea is to choose spices according to the item you want to pickle. Cucumber pickles, for instance, may be enhanced by dill, mustard seed, celery seed, garlic, and black peppercorns. While you could combine cinnamon, nutmeg, bay, and peppercorns to pickle carrots.

Garam Masala is a northern Indian spice usually added to meat dishes as a final seasoning. Garam Masala combines cardamon pods, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves together and ground to a fine powder. Garam Masala is best stored in a small airtight container until needed.

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