Friday, February 17, 2017

9 versatile spice blends

Spices and herbs are the backbones of any flavorful cuisine across the globe. The fragrant aroma of roasted whole spices in the kitchen is just out of this world. Having a few of these spice blends at hand always inspires me to cook and create new dishes. Freshly roasted and ground spices are way more potent than their ready made counterparts. And storing them in airtight containers keeps their freshness locked in for long. I always make the spice blends without salt. This way I can control the amount of salt in a dish without compromising the amount of spice I want.

Here are some of my favorite spice mixes that I always have at hand. Each more versatile than the other. The spice rubs stay fresh for 4-6 weeks but the spice pastes have a shorter shelf life, about a week to 10 days. Store the dry spice rubs in airtight containers and the pastes in the refrigerator. With all these in your pantry, you have most of your dishes covered from bbq meats to curries to stir fries to salads.

Tandoori masala
This characteristic red colored spice mix is spicy and very aromatic, used mainly in North Indian BBQ dishes which are cooked in the tandoor or clay oven. Use it to marinate chicken, fish, paneer, veggies such as peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, onions and potato.
The characteristic red color comes from the Kashmiri chilies which have a distinctive flavor, though not very spicy.
Find the detailed recipe here.

Peri-peri spice mix
Piri piri is an African bird's eye chili that has been growing wild in Africa for centuries and is now cultivated commercially in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Way back in the 15th century, the Portuguese explorers were introduced to the Bird’s Eye Chili growing under the warm sun in the rich soils of Africa. This was a spice so nice, it had to be named twice. Piri piri is the Swahili word for 'pepper pepper'. These hot and sweet peppers are the inspiration for this spice mix.
Add a handful of herbs, spices, a squeeze of sun-ripened lemons and a dash of garlic to these peppers to get a spice rub that tantalizes your taste buds and adds a tonne of flavor to a meal.
Find the detailed recipe here.

Cajun (Creole) seasoning
The word “Cajun” originates from the term “les Acadians,” which was used to describe French colonists who settled in the Acadia region of Canada which consisted of present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
Cajun cooking is a combination of French and Southern cuisines, and is a robust, country-style rustic cooking.
Composed of many different spices, Cajun seasoning is a complex blend of spicy, earthy, pungent, and grassy. Cajun seasoning is used heavily in gumbo, jambalaya and blackened fish dishes, as well as for spicing up boiled shrimp and crawfish, French fries and sauces. You will find most of these in your pantry. I strongly recommend making this during the BBQ season. You can use it as a spice rub for chicken and fish.
Find the detailed recipe here.

Chana masala
A blend of spices, roasted to perfection and then ground coarsely. Use this spice concoction to make choley (curried chickpes), black chana, dry peas. This spice blend is quite potent so a little goes a long way. I even use it to flavor some stir fried veggies like beans, eggplant.
Find the detailed recipe here.
Tava fry masala
Blend of several herbs and spices for stuffing whole veggies to cook on tava (griddle). Use it for baigan (small eggplants), bhindi (okra), tindora (Ivy Gourd), long green and red chilies, karela (bitter gourd), sweet peppers, small potatoes, arbi (eddos), etc. You can also use it to flavor your everyday stir fried veggies.
Find the detailed recipe here.
Greek Seasoning
A versatile herb mix to have at hand during the BBQ season. I prefer not to add salt in any spice mix, this way you can control the amount of salt you want in the dish. Find the detailed recipe here. Here are some ways you can use this spice.
  1. Souvlaki and gyros- Use it as a dry rub marinade for grilled chicken, fish or pork. 
  2. Use it in burger meat specially lamb burgers.
  3. Stir fry spice - Use it in stir fried potatoes as a spice. Use it also as a spice for any grilled vegetable.
  4. Salad dressing - Blend with red wine vinegar and salt, whisk in olive oil to get the perfect Greek dressing for your salad. Top with olives and feta. 

Vindaloo Masala
Vindaloo curry is a staple on the menu of British Pubs and most Indian restaurants in England. Vindaloo is a hot and spicy curried dish available in various incarnations—pork, beef, chicken, lamb, (pork being the standard). This potent concoction is fiery and tangy containing some combination of garlic, chilies, coriander, cumin, onion, tomatoes, ginger, peppercorns and tamarind. Following recipe is my take on this delectable masala. You will need about 4-5 tablespoons for any dish you make for 4 people. If you prefer less spicy, reduce the amount to 3-4 tbsp in the dish.
Use it to make chicken, fish or pork curry. I have used it with tofu and eggplant as well and they taste awesome.
Find the detailed recipe here.

Malvani Masala 
Malvani cuisine belongs to the Konkan coastal regions of Maharashtra, Goa and West Karnataka. The flavors are highly influenced by Maharashtrian and Goan cuisine. Being a coastal area, seafood dominates the food choices and there is liberal use of coconut. A number of spices and herbs are used in varied combinations and here is a standard hot and spicy Malvani masala to be used in a variety of both veg and seafood curries and stir fries.
Find the detailed recipe here.

Vangi bhaat masala
This spice blend has a very specific use - spice for flavoring eggplant rice (vangi bhaat). There are two main variations of this dish based on the geographis regins - Maharashtrian and Karnatak. The main difference is in the spices. The following recipe is the Karnataka variation which uses coconut  and curry leaves.
Find the detailed recipe here.

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