Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Three Spice Mixes

Ready-made spice mixtures can save time, money, and are pretty useful in the kitchen. The problem is, there are more commercial spice mixes available than Brigham Young has wives. Or children. To compound everything, the quality and composition can vary considerably from one brand to another. What's a foodie to do?

Within the plethora of choices, there are three common blends that are used in a large number or recipes. With these three in your pantry, you're pretty safe when it comes to quick cooking.

Finding quality mixes is important, and expensive isn't always best. For example, I love the relatively inexpensive Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder (such pure and peppery flavor!), but can't stand the more expensive McCormick “gourmet” Madras (Yuck. Did I actually pay money for this? No link for you!).

Sorry. I haven't tried enough brands of the other two mixes to give you a recommendation. Maybe you'd like to leave your own recommendations in the comments.

Which brings us to:

Curry Powder

There are several curry blends, from Indian to Thai. Some are mild, others are quite hot. Curry powder gives curried dishes an authentic flavor that can sometimes be hard to match if you're mixing it yourself. My current preference most everyday cooking is the Madras curry powder from Sun. (It comes in a lovely silver and white tin, not a bottle.) Perhaps you have a favorite curry blend you'd like to share.

Garam Masala

Usually, garam masala is a mixture of cumin, coriander, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, pepper, mace and ground bay leaves. It's quite common in curries from northern India, giving the dish a mild, almost perfumed, quality rather than the more fiery and hot mixtures.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

A traditional mixture of sweet spices, usually allspice, cinnamon, clove, coriander, mace and nutmeg. As it's name implies, it's a common mixture for pumpkin pies, but it can also be used in sweet potato pie, cookies and cakes, to impart a mild kick to the otherwise sweet dish.

Photo by Piotr Bizior


Joseph said...

You and I have different ideas about which spices need to be in the pantry. I agree that no pantry would be complete without curry powder, but it ends there. I have a jar of pumpkin pie spice and a jar of garam masala sitting neglected in my pantry, behind the much more commonly-used chile powder and Italian herb blend. My wife would probably replace the Italian blend with McCormick taco seasoning.

John Newman said...

I agree with you on the Italian herb blend, Joseph. I've got several of my own custom blends I'll have to blog about someday, as well. If you're curious about my thoughts on chili powder and other single spices, you can check out these two posts: