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Easy to Make Homemade Spice Blends

Welcome to this month’s recipe post, where I’m sharing my favourite easy-to-make homemade spice blends. As a plant-based nutritionist and sailor, I know firsthand the importance of having versatile nutrient-rich ingredients to hand, and these spice blends aren't just about adding flavour—they're about infusing every meal with warmth, depth, and great nutrition even on the most challenging passages or days at sea. These delicious, easy-to-make homemade spice blends also offer numerous health benefits which you can read all about here, in my Superfoods for Sailors article.


Whether you’re navigating the open sea or cooking at home, these spice mixes are a game changer for delicious, nutritious meals. In this article, I share with you essential spice blends that are and guaranteed to elevate your cooking game. I am sure will become staples in your galley or kitchen.


The recipes are intended to give you enough spice mix for a few meals so that you can try it out and get creative. Please feel free to adjust quantities to suit your crew size and recipe ideas.


You will find recipes for the following spice blends:



To make the spice blend it couldn´t be easier, combine the ingredients in a small bowl, and thoroughly mix everything until well blended. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container or a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. or ziplock bag. I suggest labelling the container with the name and date. There is nothing worse than playing "Sniff out the spice blend" whilst healing over on passage!


Let’s get started!



GYROS SPICE BLEND

 

This is one of my favourite spice blends. By creating a homemade spice blend for gyros, we get to return to Greece and capture this classic's authentic flavours. This blend is perfect for marinating vegetables, chickpeas, lentils, beans, tofu, seitan, pea protein, and soy curls *or whatever else you may have onboard, giving a distinctive and delicious taste.

 

Ingredients:

 

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 tablespoon dried marjoram

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

How to Use Gyro Spice Blend

 

Marinate Vegetables or Tofu: Rub the seasoning onto lamb, chicken, or beef. For the best results, mix the spice blend with olive oil and lemon juice, then marinate the meat for at least 1-2 hours, or overnight if possible, before grilling or roasting.


Vegetable Seasoning: Sprinkle the blend on vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes before grilling or roasting.


Homemade Gyro Kefab: If making traditional gyro-style meat, mix the spice blend into tofu that you have crumbled with a fork or using a potato peeler make strips of ultra-thin tofu that you can marinate and fry up in a pan with a splash of olive oil.


Tzatziki Sauce: Add a pinch to tzatziki sauce or an extra layer of flavour. For a plant-based alternative, I use coconut yoghurt, it may not be authentic, but it does taste exquisite!



MOROCCAN SPICE BLEND

 


Moroccan cuisine is known for its rich, aromatic, and complex flavours. This spice blend, often referred to as "Ras el Hanout," is perfect for stews, and vegetables, bringing a taste of Morocco to your galley. It is the mix I learnt from the locals when I used to live and work in Morocco may years ago and is as authentic as it gets!

 

Ingredients:

 

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground allspice

2 teaspoons ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or other chilli (optional for heat)

 


How to Use Moroccan Spice Blend


 

Tagines and Stews: Add to Moroccan tagines or stews for a deeply flavorful dish.


Marinade: Rub onto vegetables or marinate tofu, seitan, soy curls or pea protein before frying in a pan. Combine the spice blend with olive oil and lemon juice for a marinade, and let sit for at least 1-2 hours or even overnight for a more intense flavour.


Vegetable Dishes: Sprinkle on root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash before cooking.


legumes: Stir into lentils, chickpeas, and beans and add a tin of tomatoes, and a handful of dates or apricots and serve with cous cous.


Rice and Couscous: Stir into rice or couscous for an aromatic side dish.


Soup: Add to soups for a warming, spicy flavour.



ITALIAN SPICE BLEND

 

The Italian spice blend is a classic mix that captures the essence of Italian cuisine, perfect for seasoning pasta, pizza, vegetables, salads and breads. Making your own blend ensures a fresh, flavorful mix ready to enjoy in easy-to-make delicious meals.




 

Ingredients:

 

- 2 tablespoons dried basil

- 2 tablespoons dried oregano

- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary

- 1 tablespoon dried thyme

- 1 tablespoon dried marjoram

- 1 tablespoon dried parsley

- 1 teaspoon garlic powder

- 1 teaspoon onion powder

- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional for heat)

 

 

How to Use Italian Spice Blend

 

Pasta Sauces: Add to tomato-based pasta sauces for an extra burst of flavor.


Pizza: Sprinkle on homemade pizza for an authentic Italian taste.


Legumes: Add to Chickpeas, lentils and beans for delicious soups and stews.


Vegetables: Season sautéed vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes.


Bread: Mix into bread dough or sprinkle on top of focaccia before baking.


Dressings: Add to olive oil and vinegar for a quick and easy salad dressing.




TACO SEASONING SPICE BLEND

 

A homemade taco seasoning blend is a must-have for adding that perfect Tex-Mex flavor to your dishes. It's versatile, easy to make, and can be used for tacos, burritos, fajitas, and more. Here’s how to create your own taco seasoning mix.

 



Ingredients:

 

- 1 tablespoon chili powder

- 1 teaspoon ground cumin

- 1 teaspoon paprika

- 1 teaspoon garlic powder

- 1 teaspoon onion powder

- 1 teaspoon dried oregano

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional for heat)

 

How to Use Taco Seasoning

 

- Ground Tofu or Soy Curls: Add the seasoning to crumbled tofu or soy curls and fry in a pan with a splash of olive oil.


- Vegetables and Legumes: Sprinkle on beans, lentils, or tofu for a flavorful protein-rich taco filling.


- Fajitas: Use the seasoning to marinate sliced bell peppers and onions with your favourite protein source before cooking.


- Rice and Quinoa: Stir into cooked rice or quinoa for a Tex-Mex side dish.


- Taco Salads: Season beans and sweetcorn and add lime juice for a tasty and refreshing taco salad.


- Nachos: Sprinkle on nachos before baking for an extra kick of flavour.



GARAM MASALA SPICE BLEND





Garam masala is a fragrant and versatile Indian spice blend that adds warmth and depth to a variety of dishes. Making it at home ensures the freshest and most vibrant flavours. Here’s a simple recipe to create your own garam masala:


Ingredients


2 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cardamom seeds (from about 15-20 cardamom pods)

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 cinnamon sticks (2-3 inches each)

4-6 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Instructions


1. Toast the Spices

In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Stir frequently until the spices are fragrant and slightly darker, about 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn them.


2. Cool

Remove the skillet from heat and let the spices cool completely.


3. Grind the Spices

Once cooled, transfer the spices to a spice grinder or a powerful blender. Add the ground nutmeg. Grind the mixture to a fine powder.


4. Store

Transfer the garam masala to an airtight container. Store it in a cool, dark place. For the best flavor, use within 3-6 months.


Tips for Use


Curries and Stews

Add garam masala towards the end of cooking to preserve its aromatic properties.


Marinades

Mix with coconut yoghurt, lemon juice, and salt for a flavorful marinade for tofu, vegetables, or plant-based proteins.


Rice Dishes

Stir a teaspoon of garam masala into rice for an extra layer of flavour.


Soups

Enhance lentil or vegetable soups with a sprinkle of garam masala.





Storage Tips For the Spice Blends


Spices can lose their flavour over time if not stored properly. Factors such as exposure to air, light, heat, and moisture can degrade the flavour and potency of spices. Living on a boat amongst the elements means special care needs to be taken for your spices to retain their flavour over time.


Store in airtight containers

Keep spices in tightly sealed containers to protect them from air and moisture.


Store in a cool, dark place

Avoid storing spices near heat sources or in direct sunlight, as light and heat can accelerate flavour loss. So whilst my wall mounted spice rack is great, I make sure I store only my quick turn around spices to keep them as fresh as possible.


Use opaque containers

If possible, store spices in opaque containers to further protect them from light, especially if you wont be using them often or would like them to retain their flavour over time.


Buy in small quantities

Purchase spices in amounts that you can use within a reasonable timeframe to ensure freshness.


Grind whole spices

Whole spices retain their flavour longer than pre-ground spices. Grind them as needed.


Label and date

Label spice containers with the purchase date and use-by date to keep track of freshness.



 


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