Category Archives: On Herbs

5 Amazing Spice Blends That Will Change the Way You Cook in 2023!

Even Chefs get stuck in a seasoning rut once in a while.

We tend to fall in love with OUR favorite recipes.

The tried-and-true favorites we often call them.

And while our favorite recipes are great…you can’t go back to that well too many times without eventually creating a “stale” menu.

Even without realizing it.

The phrase “variety is the spice of life,” has never rang truer than when it comes to deciding what should be on your future menus, and when to consider “retiring” some “old favorites” to make room for some NEW favorites in 2023.

Yes, there will always be a few customers that will perhaps lament about losing a dish that they love, but consider the fact that they may also be one of the many customers that are desperately trying to get out of their time-share resorts.

First experiences can be magical, and for a while it’s THE “thing.” But sometimes, the magic just wears off.

People, whether they admit it or not, do like some variety.

With that said, we’d like to give you some “spicy” options that you may never have tried, to head you on a new course this year.

Five seasoning blends that just might change the way you cook in 2023.

Not surprisingly, most of these blends are from the ancient HOME of spice blends, namely the Middle East.

Even if your customers aren’t necessarily big into traditional Middle Eastern fare, don’t let that deter you. Most all of the spices that make up these blends are ones that your customers are VERY familiar with, including savory spices like cumin, coriander, paprika, fennel, and marjoram as well as sweet spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.

Adding a bit of these unique spice blends to your current or future recipes can add an enormous range of interesting flavors in your culinary arsenal this year.

Dare to be bold.

Let’s start with…

Ras el Hanout

Most commonly found in the cuisine of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.

Kasbah of the Udayas in Rabat, the capital of Morocco

Ras el Hanout translates from Arabic into English as “head of the house.” Meaning it’s the best and highest quality blend a seller has to offer.

Similar to curry powder, the recipe of herbs and spices that make Ras el Hanout, as well as their ratio to one another, can vary from shop to shop. You can however, expect to see the “usual suspects” such as: cardamom, black pepper, cumin, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, chili peppers, coriander, fenugreek, paprika, turmeric, and coriander seed to be in most all of the blends.

Safe to say, that unless you go to the trouble of making your own blend “in-house,” it’s best to find one to buy that you like and stick with it. Especially when you consider that many traditional recipes use more than 4 dozen herbs and spices in their recipes!

Of course, as you might expect, Red Goose has created a traditional blend what we think you will thoroughly enjoy.

Ras el Hanout is pretty much a 50/50 sweet and savory spice blend with a mild amount of heat, if any at all. Its complex flavor is typically used as a meat or a fish rub in specialty dishes.

Moroccan roasted root vegetables: parsnip and carrot with Ras el Hanout .

It’s also added to pasta or rice as a flavoring, and stews and meat casseroles cooked in a tagine.

Harissa Spice Blend

The main ingredient in Harissa is chiles, so it’s no wonder that this North African spice blend was created by this region after chiles were introduced there in the 14thcentury by spice traders.

Spicy hot, is probably the best way to describe Harissa.

You’ll often find it used as a condiment when it is pureed with olive oil and/or water. Considering its name derives from the Arabic term meaning “to crush, grind, or puree,” it’s quite often how this spice blend is used, as it creates a condiment similar to sriracha and Tabasco sauce.

The dry Harissa blend is also used as a meat rub (especially kabobs), and as a flavoring in stews, soups, vegetables, and rice dishes.

Its flavor is considered to be spicy, peppery and a bit smoky and its typical ingredients include more savory than sweet spices which include: chili peppers, coriander, paprika, red pepper, dehydrated garlic, salt, cinnamon, caraway and ginger.

Biryani Spice Blend

Biryani spice is named after the rice dish called biryani, developed by the Muslims of South Asia. This dish eventually spread throughout India, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Similar to how curry powder came into being, the blend, represented the usual combination of individual herbs and spices used to make Biryani, and if you buy the blend, it makes the final preparation much easier.

While the ingredients and their proportions vary from region to region, the most common ones are: fennel seeds, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, mint, ginger, dried onions, green chiles, star anise, allspice, and garlic.

As is true with curry powder, once again there are many spice blend recipes for Biryani, and they all differ according to their region and all with different pre-fix names as a result.

Indian Chicken Biryani served in a terracotta bowl with yogurt over white background. selective focus

For example:

Sindhi biryani, which is popular in Pakistan.

Hyderabadi biryani: This biryani is one of India’s most popular types of biryani.

Malabar biriyani: From the Indian state of Kerala.

Calcutta/Kolkata biryani, likewise from Calcutta

Ambur biryani: From the leather-tanning city in Tamil Nadu

Lucknowi biryani: Based on the Persian cooking style.

Mughlai biryani: With cheese curd, chicken, almond paste, ghee, dry fruits, and green chilies.

Zahtar Seasoning

More savory spiced than sweet spiced, Zahtar or Za’atar Seasoning (not to be confused with the herb za’atar, a wild, mint-related herb similar to oregano and marjoram), is a mainstay seasoning blend popular all over the Middle East.

Once again, and forgive me if you’ve heard this story before, its recipe varies from region to region adding or subtracting various herbs as spices to satisfy the tastes and traditions of the locals.

While the original recipe does call for the use of the za’atar herb, its not easy to find. So more often than not, the recipes use thyme, oregano, or marjoram as a substitute.

The other key components in Zahtar are sesame seeds and sumac while still others add: dill, savory, cumin, fennel, coriander, orange peel, caraway seed, cinnamon, allspice, hyssop, and even rose buds!

Being a more “savory” flavored seasoning, Zahtar can be used in so many ways, such as: a meat rub, in hummus, as a topping on crusted breads, and even in salads and salad dressings.

It is however, recommended that if using Zahtar seasoning in a cold dish recipe, that it first be “bloomed” by adding it to a heated oil to help release its full flavor potential before then adding it to the recipe.

Berbere Spice Blend

Translated to “pepper” or “hot,” you’ll love this 5th century Ethiopian spice blend used in its national dish Doro Wat, which is a spicy chicken stew, or, perhaps mixed with oil, mead, or red wine to make a condiment called awaze.

Made from key ingredients such as: red chili peppers, fenugreek, ginger, coriander, cardamom, allspice, cumin, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and some lesser-known spices grown in that region such as korarima, ajwain, and long pepper, its complex flavor is known as slightly spicy with warm notes of citrus.

The Ethiopian traditional, delicious Derek tibs meat dish

Berbere is also used as a meat rub, in braised casserole dishes, and when used as awaze, as a dipping condiment for breads.

Other honorable spice blends to try this year are: Tandoori Seasoning Blend, Herbs de Provence, Garam Masala, and Rosemary Rotisserie Marinade Seasoning

Of course, ALL of these seasoning blends are readily available at the Red Good Spice Company and we hope that you’ll take the opportunity to try one or all of these amazing seasoning blends as you create some of your NEW favorite dishes of 2023!

Tarragon, Bearnaise and Beyond…

If there was a Mount Rushmore of herbs, tarragon would certainly be a strong contender.

Its glossy, slender leaves and highly aromatic, licorice/anise-like flavor, (with a bit of peppery, mint finish), is unmistakable in any dish it’s used in.

And for good reason.

Tarragon is one of the key components of the French herbs mixture known as “Fines Herbes”, which “classically”, consists of: tarragon, chervil, parsley and chives.

Some say that tarragon provides an elegant addition to so many recipes, from salads, almost ANY protein, and numerous soups and sauces as well.

Others say that it’s licorice flavor makes it a “love it, or hate it” herb. Much in the same way that some people feel about cilantro.

But make no mistake, this herb is a star among the many who know that tarragon is an essential herb in any kitchen.

The most common tarragon used in cooking is the French variety, which pairs brilliantly with chicken, fish, and in egg dishes.

With the addition of garlic and shallots, it’s also remarkable in compound butter used as a garnish over char-grilled beef steaks.

Additional varieties of tarragon include Spanish/Mexican and Russian.

But perhaps the MOST widely known use for tarragon is in the classic sauce, Bearnaise, which is a derivative of Hollandaise sauce. It’s often used not just once, but 3 times within the recipe. First as tarragon vinegar, the second, as part of the tarragon reduction, and lastly as a chopped garnish.

Each form of tarragon, introduces its own unique contribution of flavors which meld together so completely in the final sauce.

The French love this classic herb, but it’s also popular in other countries around the world, and used in salads, stews, soups, pickles, pastries and even soft drinks!

It’s also an herb which can be used in the same dish both dry and fresh as BOTH uses take on their own unique flavor properties and truly complement each other in the recipe. Such as is the case with sauce Bearnaise.

Dry VS Fresh

Tarragon’s oils intensify during the drying process.

When using dry tarragon versus fresh chopped tarragon in a recipe, the usual substitution ratio is 1 tsp dry to equal 1 tablespoon of fresh.

When you mention the word, “tarragon” nearly anyone would immediately associate it with “Sauce Bearnaise” and for that reason, it’s a good recipe to share with you here.

Bearnaise is one of 5 “Grand Sauces” that all chefs and devoted cooks learn to make early on. It’s also one, that non-professionals are told is just too difficult to even attempt.

Hollandaise sauce is made from only 4 basic ingredients, but it’s the 2 main ingredients (egg yolks and butter) that can give you real headaches if you don’t to pay attention to what you’re doing.

Here’s how you avoid the headaches, and to show you, we’ll make an average-sized recipe of Bearnaise sauce.

Start by making the tarragon Bearnaise reduction which you will add to the Hollandaise sauce once it is finished.

Set this reduction aside, THEN begin your Hollandaise sauce.

Bearnaise Reduction for Hollandaise Sauce

2 TBSP                      Dried Tarragon Leaves

1 TBSP                      Chopped Fresh Shallots

¼ Cup                        Cider or Tarragon Vinegar

¼ Cup                        White Wine (nothing too sweet)

¼ tsp                          Cracked Black Pepper

  1. Simmer these ingredients together in a small saucepan until reduced to a wet paste. Be careful not to burn it!
  2. Set it aside and NOW begin your Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce

Makes about 1 Cup

  1. Before you begin to cook your egg yolks, in a microwave on the defrost setting, melt 1 ½ sticks of butter until the fat separates, and then skim off that clarified butter and reserve.
  2. Squeeze the juice from a half lemon and reserve.
  3. Choosing the right bowl and saucepan to make your hollandaise is super important. You want about a small-to-medium-sized saucepan and a mixing bowl that nests within the saucepan, leaving at least an inch of space from the bottom and an inch or so lip at the top. This way, you can easily lift the bowl in and out of the pan as you cook your yolks.
  4. Put only a half inch of water in your saucepan and bring it to a simmer. You should have a space between the bottom of your mixing bowl and the water, and that will mean your egg mixture will be cooking gently over the steam and not directly on the water.
  5. Place 2 egg yolks in your mixing bowl, and for each yolk, a half egg shell of water–in this case 2 half egg shells worth.
  6. This step will help you to cook your egg yolks into a “pudding.” Place the bowl over the simmering water, and using a whisk, beat the egg yolk mixture on and off the steam heat (about 15 seconds each round). This method will take a bit longer to turn this raw mixture into a thickened egg pudding, but it will also prevent your mixture from cooking too fast and turning into scrambled eggs.
  7. When the egg mixture is sufficiently cooked, the whisk will create tracks in the mixture. This will let you know it’s time for the next step.
  8. Remove the water from the saucepan and lay a damp kitchen towel or paper towel over its mouth. Replace your bowl and nest it in snugly. This neat trick will allow you to do the next step more easily.
  9. This step gets everyone in trouble now, but if you just take your time, there’s NO reason you should ever have a problem. You’re going to make an emulsion here by SLOWLY–and the key word is SLOWLY–adding the clarified butter to the cooked egg “pudding.” That means whisking somewhat briskly while adding the clarified butter in very small amounts, especially at first.
  10. Start by drizzling in less than a tablespoon; don’t dump it in all at once. Drizzle it in a thin stream. Once that is incorporated, add another, the same way.
  11. After the 3rd tablespoon, you’ll notice the mixture is getting thicker. Now is when you begin to whisk in a bit of your squeezed lemon juice–about a teaspoon. Continue alternating butter and lemon juice until they’re both used up.
  12. The hard part is over, now all you have to do is add the tarragon mixture you made earlier. Whisk it in briskly and season with a pinch of salt if you like.

Of course, tarragon is one of THE most popular herbs sold at the Red Goose Spice Company. We stock the French variety and is available in any size container or bulk box you prefer.