If you think about it, spices are essential to creating spectacular home-cooked meals. That said, keeping a few blends on hand never hurts. Customized combinations of multiple blends are a great way to use spices before they go stale. Here are some of the best spice blends, each with its distinct profile and culinary significance.
#1. Five-Spice Powder
Cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, Sichuan peppercorns, and star anise comprise the Chinese spice blend known as the Five-spice powder. It’s also known as wu xian fen. The five also refers to the five flavors included in the mixture: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. Together, they provide a particular flavor that is characteristic of many traditional dishes, such as Pekin duck and Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
Buy it pre-mixed or create it yourself. In addition to being a vital component of traditional Taiwanese and Chinese cuisine, this mix provides flavor to dishes like Purple Sweet Potato Pie with Five-Spice and coconut, five-spice short ribs with Cilantro and ginger, and spiced brown-butter apples.
#2. Berbere Spice Blend
Garlic, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, chili, fenugreek, nigella, and ajwain form the base of the classic Ethiopian spice blend Berbere. This condiment is spicy and contributes its own characteristics to Ethiopian food. Berbere can be used as a paste, as in the recipe for Berber-spiced chicken breasts, where the flavor is combined with oil, or to add spice to an Ethiopian staple like Awaze Tibs, which is an Ethiopian-spiced lamb stew.
It can also be used with vegetables such as roasted butternut squash with spiced pecans. The Berber-spiced chicken breasts recipe contains a DIY Berbere blend using spices such as paprika, cloves, pepper, coriander, cinnamon, and cardamom to season flavorful grilled chicken breasts.
#3. Chili Powder Spice
Chili powder is a famous spice combination that is used in several recipes to enhance flavor and heat. It’s also especially popular in Tex-Mex meals. Chili peppers, which have been cultivated in the Americas for ages, were used by the Mayans in their food. In the sixteenth century, Spanish adventurers introduced chili peppers to Europe, where they immediately gained popularity.
William Gebhardt, a Texan entrepreneur, was the first to commercially produce chili powder in the United States in the 19th century. His combination of chili powder comprised crushed cayenne, oregano, and cumin. Currently, the blend is usually composed of garlic powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, cayenne, dried chiles, and onion powder, all of which contribute to the blend’s signature flavor. Chili powder is an essential component of the classic beef chili recipe. It can also be used to spice up other dishes, such as air fryer fish tacos, slow-cooker burnt honey barbecue chicken, and more.
History Time: Strange Message Embroidered on 300-Year-Old Bedsheet
Living in the modern world, it could be easy to imagine there has hardly been a historical discovery humanity hasn’t made so far. And yet, when a group of scientists found a strange love message made with human hair and embroidered on a centuries-old bedsheet, new history was made.
A Bizarre Discovery
The 300-year-old bedsheet was most likely taken from a severed head and is set to be displayed at a London museum. The old linen was embellished by Anna Maria Radclyffe in loving memory of her husband James, who was beheaded at age 26 in 1716 for his involvement in the first Jacobite rebellion. A moment in history that was later immortalized by Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Rob Roy.
Intricately decorated with leaves, flowers, and a large heart-shaped wreath, the bedsheet also has an inscription made with human hair. It reads: ‘The sheet OFF MY dear Lord’s Bed in the wretched Tower of London February 1716.’ It is signed by ‘Ann C of Darwent=Waters+.’
Experts believe the hair Anna used could be hers or a combination of her hair and her husband’s, which she may have intertwined.
When Tragic History Meets Love
The third Earl of Derwentwater and grandson of Charles II, Anna’s husband James, was beheaded on February 24, 1716, and she was allowed to take charge of his body. It’s then that scientists believe Anna was able to cut locks of his hair as a precious keepsake.
Beverley Cook, a curator at the Museum of London, says that the embroidered bedsheet is an extraordinary item, and it would’ve taken months if not years to create. The care and devotion that went into making the linen speak volumes of Anna’s heartbreak and remarkable character — a woman determined to preserve the memory of her husband throughout time.
The bedsheet will be part of a special exhibition that shows the impact of public executions on the everyday lives of Londoners over the centuries, which is a part of history that’s rarely talked about. Although the museum acquired the bedsheet in 1934, this will be the first time visitors will be able to see it on display.