In my humble opinion, no kitchen is quite complete without an over-filled spice cupboard. We have a ludicrous amount of spices jammed into our little spice rack and overflowing into the cupboard above it. Our food is all the better for it if I do say so myself. Do you use any spice blends? This should help if not.

selection of spices in small dishes

Through practice and muscle memory, I’ve started to pick up spice blends for different dishes. For example, we eat a lot of pasta and Italian food in our house: so I’ve got a couple of go-to spice mixes that I’ll throw into the dish.

In this article, I’m going to take you through a few different spice blends, and how best to use them in food.

Slimming World veggie lasagne

Italian Spice Blend

Italian food is well-known for being very simple and straightforward. I staunchly believe that doesn’t mean the food has to be boring!

My favourite sauces for a pasta dish are ones that have been slow-cooked, allowing for the tomatoes to simmer slightly and become more intense. This allows your spices to fully bloom and spread their flavour throughout the dish.

Let’s say I was making a very simple, tomato-based, pasta sauce, like for the above Mediterranean vegetable lasagne. This is the spice blend:

Keep it simple, and those flavours will sing from the rooftops! If I were doing a meaty sauce, like a bolognese, I might add in some soy sauce to add a little umami flavour. If I wanted a very herby, salty pasta (there’s nothing more restorative after a long day’s work), then I might throw in a stockpot and let that dissolve as the sauce simmers.

I’d throw in all those spices at the same time as I threw in the tomatoes. Mix it all up, and let it simmer: the flavours will slowly develop and you’ll be left with a rich, delicious sauce.

Tex Mex vegetable quinoa in a red dish with a chunk of lime as a garnish

Mexican Spice Blend

First things first: I love Mexican food. On a really hot day, nothing is better than an incredibly cold beer and a couple of tacos.

Mexican food can offer some slightly more complex flavours than Italian food. The challenge is maintaining consistent flavour in spite of high heat. Of course, you don’t have to make it spicy, but it’s certainly delicious. My blend is this:

Yes, that’s right: dark chocolate. I’d only throw it in if I were making something a little more like a stew, for example, a chilli, but it really serves to accentuate the aromas that cumin and coriander bring. If I were making a drier meal, I’d forego the tomatoes in a recipe, and allow the spices to bloom in oil and cook at the same time as the meat. Obviously, if you are calorie counting or following Slimming World remember to count and weigh the chocolate you use.

I’d add the spices shortly before adding the tomatoes. Giving them a chance to bloom will make a world of difference.

bowl of curry and rice

Indian Spice Blend

Indian food is amazing: it’s a huge punch of aroma made of a million different spices. Here’s my go-to blend:

These all come together to make a wonderful aroma. The ginger pairs with the garlic to lift a spicy note onto your tongue, while the turmeric, coriander, and cumin give it a delicious, earthy note. Add these spices early in the cooking process to allow them to fully bloom and develop.

fresh garlic

Why use spice blends

I hope that during the course of this article I’ve been able to give you a helping hand with your spice blends. They can liven up any meal, so it’s worth picking a couple of simple ones up. Happy cooking! Check out these other spice blends for more ideas.

By adding some spices to vegetables you are more likely to eat them as they are less bland and all you need is teaspoons, a chopping board and to be brave. No rushing to buy new small appliances or faffing with a blender (especially not this one!)!

garlic infographic

Other ingredients tips you may like

If you like to cook with different ingredients and find different ways of using them then here are a few other articles I think you might like.

All you need to know about celeriac and how to use it

Oats an original superfood with lots of uses

Is couscous healthy, how you can use couscous well

How to grow your own vegetables from scraps

Jackfruit – what is it and how to use it

Cranberry juice – what are the benefits of it and how can you enjoy it

Seaweed – an unusual ingredient you should consider

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