Spice mix!

I love the idea of spice mixes. Berbere, zatar, Ras el hanout, garam masala, jerk seasoning. Even the names are wonderful! In the past I’ve tried to recreate some of these using the spices most available around here – but it’s sort of exciting that, when they’re at home, these mixes contain spices that are extremely hard to find where I live. Everything about spices appeals to me – the textures, the fragrances, the colors, and, of course, the taste. It’s no wonder that they were once considered precious.

I realized the other day, as I was typing up a recipe for this very blog, that I tend to use the same spices over and over. I’ve got different combinations I like to use, but there are a few that I use a lot. I decided to embrace that fact, and to try to distill the different spices into one perfect (for me) mix. So I did! And I’m very enamored of it, because I think it’s very pretty and smells very good, too. It’s smokey, a little bit hot…it combines some sweet herbs with some more piquant spices. I test-cooked it first with some roasted cauliflower, and that turned out well, so I decided to use it in these little pies. They’re stuffed with roasted mushrooms, white beans and hazelnuts, and seasoned with my spice mix. Very nice!

white bean hazelnut pies

Over the summer, my son Malcolm invented a spice mix of his own. So I decided to accompany the pies with sweet potato fries cooked with Malcolm’s supreme spicy spice mix. They went very well with the pies! And we had a fun time putting it all together.

Here’s Mix it Up by the Kingstonians. That’s the way I like it.


Smoked Paprika
white pepper
green peppercorns
dash cinnamon


Smoked paprika
fennel seeds
lots of black pepper


Cut the potatoes into batons of the size you like best. Put them in a bowl and pour over olive oil and the spice mix. Stir them well. Spread them evenly on a baking sheet, and bake at 450 for about 1/2 an hour till they’re crispy. You can put them under the broiler at the end. These will never get quite as crispy as regular potatoes, and you could make regular oven-roasted fries using the same method.


1 batch paté brisée, with tons of black pepper added to the flour.

1 batch roasted mushrooms

1 can white beans, rinsed and drained.
olive oil
1 small shallot minced
1 clove garlic – minced
1 t paprika
1 t rosemary
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t sage
1/4 t. fennel seeds, crushed
pinch nutmeg,
pinch allspice
pinch cayenne
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup grated or finely cubed mozzarella

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the shallot, then the garlic, then the beans. Add all of the herbs and spices. Cook till the pan is quite dry.

Put the beans, mushrooms, cheese and hazelnuts in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper.

Roll out squares or circles of dough – about golf ball-sized. Put a heaping spoonful of filling in the middle. Fold the dough over and seal with a fork. Poke with a fork a few times.

Bake at 425 for about 1/2 an hour, till the pies are crispy and brown.


6 thoughts on “Spice mix!

  1. Pingback: Collards with tiny spicy crispy potatoes | Out of the Ordinary

  2. Pingback: Cousous, sweet potato, goat cheese croquettes | Out of the Ordinary

  3. Pingback: Beezza | Out of the Ordinary

    • Well, I’m obviously no expert, but it’s my understanding that there are different blends (and colors) used to make za’atar. So I vary it a bit, from time to time! But I generally used toasted sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, and sumac as a base. Then I’ll add cumin or coriander, sometimes. I’m sure it’s not authentic, but it’s tasty!

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