Making your own spice blends isn't particularly challenging, but buying a single bottle of a blend is both more convenient and fiscally responsible than buying five bottles of five different spices. Plus, if you're just getting into the world of seasonings and spices, blends can be a bit less intimidating.
I'm not saying you need all of these, but there are worse ways to spend your money and, if nothing else, they all make fantastic popcorn toppers. Here are some of my favourite blends in mixes, in no particular order:
- Lawry's Seasoned Salt: This savoury and slightly sweet American blend was created for prime rib, but I think it's particularly perfect on potatoes, especially fried potatoes.
- Supermarket blends: Chilli Lime blends, garlic salt and all-purpose seasonings are definitely worth having in your cupboard. They're also pretty cheap, with most brands coming in at under $4 per spice shaker.
- Creole seasoning: I come from a gumbo-making family which makes creole seasoning a must. If you can't find creole, look for Cajun spice instead. Beyond gumbo, it's pretty great on roasted vegetables and popcorn.
- Goya Adobo: It's particularly helpful to this all-purpose Latin seasoning on hand during grilling season. It allows you to quickly add a hit of oregano and garlic to chicken, seafood, and vegetables.
- Tajin: This spicy, citrusy seasoning is good on almost anything edible or potable, but it is outstanding when sprinkled on mango or on the rim of a margarita.
- Cavender's Greek Seasoning: This super-savoury cult favourite is billed as a "tantalising taste treat," made form "an Ancient Greek formula," though I don't think the Ancient Greeks had access to MSG. The blend covers a lot of flavour bases with garlic, oregano, parsley and "five other spices." I can't say for sure, but I suspect two of them are marjoram and thyme.
- Old Bay: This blend of celery salt, crushed red pepper, paprika, and a whole bunch of other stuff is known as a seafood superstar, but it's also delicious on corn on the cob, all potatoes, and and a variety of picnic salads. (Oh, and Bloody Marys.)
- Frontier poultry seasoning: Black pepper, sage, thyme and cayenne are just a few of the flavours that make this poultry seasoning worth adding to most of your chicken dishes. It also uses all-organic ingredients.
- Za'tar: I don't have a particular brand recommendation, but most Arabic grocery stores (and health food or boutique grocery stores) sell this blend of thyme, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds. (You can also get it at Woolworths.) It's wonderful on all meats - especially lamb - but my favourite way to consume it is mixed in to labneh with warm pita.
- Chinese five spice: Made with roughly equal portions of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns, this warm, slightly pungent blend is right at home on roasted and stewed meats - hello, roasted duck - but don't sleep on its sweet applications; it makes an excellent pear and apple pie. Find it an any Asian grocery store (and most Aussie ones, too).
- Furikake: Seaweed, dried bonito, and sometimes MSG are just three of the things that make this umami-rich shaker worth having in your home. Eggs, vegetables, and a big bowl of plain rice are my favourite things to put it on. You can purchase it at any Japanese grocery store, or order it online.
- Montreal steak seasoning: Though this mixture of garlic, coriander, cayenne, black pepper, and dill was created to spice up steaks, it's real power lies in sprucing up vegetarian dishes like lentils and mushrooms.
Adding just a few of those to your cabinet will open up new worlds of flavour, and - as previously mentioned - they will really up your popcorn game. If I missed your favourite, let us know in the comments below. Together we can build better spice cabinets.