Spice Mixes in the European Kitchen

A General Guide

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The use of spice in European cuisine is more widespread than one might first think. Often used as a subtle back note to cakes, sauces, soups, fish and meat dishes rather than as a main flavouring ingredient in its own right as is often the case with Asian food, it has, nonetheless played an important part in European cookery for hundreds of years.

There is an argument that would suggest the sole reason for using spices was to mask the smell and taste of less than fresh meat in the days before refrigeration or cold pantry’s. I would like to think that the introduction of spice into our cooking was for a more refined reason and that our ancestors embraced the newly imported exotic spices with enthusiasm and with it began the evolution of our food culture and heritage.


For me, certain spices smack of certain countries and/or regions; when I crush some juniper berries I am immediately drawn to the food of Northern Europe, freshly grated nutmeg or a blade of mace in a white sauce seems so undeniably English whilst the pot pourri perfume of a herbs de provence mix speaks for itself.

Herbs have longed played an important role in European cookery, both fresh and dried and leaf and seed, mixtures of herbs such as the classic bouquet garni of France have played an integral part in the flavouring of soups, stews and braises whilst salt and herb mixes both seasoned and cured meat and fish from an early age.

Herb Mixes
Spiced Salts
Sauces and Dressings
Pickling Spices

Content and picture © Miles Collins