French Spice Mix: Quatre Epices

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Whether or not you cook French food, the classic quatre épices ("four spices") is an excellent blend to have in your repertoire. As we head into colder weather, try using this rich, savory seasoning with gingerbread, stews, charcuterie, and more.

Despite its name, quatre épices may contain four or five (or more!) spices, most often white and/or black peppercorns, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Allspice or cinnamon may be included. The combination is reminiscent of gingerbread spices, but with a tingly kick from the pepper, making it perfect for savory dishes and quite interesting in desserts.

Along with herbes de Provence and fines herbes, quatre épices is one of the staple blends in France, where it's traditionally used to season dishes like terrines, pâtés, ragoûts, and pain d'épices (spice bread). It goes well with roasted or braised meats, hearty stews, and vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. For sweets, it can add a warm peppery note to gingerbread cakes and cookies, gingersnaps, and more.

Look for quatre épices blends at spice shops or make your own. Recipes vary widely, so try this recipe from Gourmet and experiment with the proportions to your liking.

(Image credits: Emily Han)

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Main, French, Ingredient, Seasonings

Emily Han (formerly Emily Ho) is a writer, recipe developer and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food and herbalism. She is author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails (Fall 2015), co-founder of Food Swap Network and creator of Miss Chiffonade