Make Ahead

Escoffier’s “Spices” (Recipe 181), adapted for Today’s Home Cook

April 13, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Makes about one cup
Author Notes

Several months ago I discovered an interesting collection of recipes compiled by a 19th century French Baron and gourmand extraordinaire, Léon Brisse. It was translated by Edith Matthew Clark and published in London in 1892. By today’s standards, the recipes are somewhat cryptic. I was fascinated to see that the recipe for duxelles calls for “a pinch of mixed spice.” This interests me because some time ago, I read (in Russ Parson’s “How to Pick a Peach”) that the French chef, Michel Richard, uses curry powder to season mushrooms in cooking. Since then, I’ve been using my own “white curry” powder in a variety of dishes I make with mushrooms, so I was curious to find out what comprised the “spice mix” in the Baron’s duxelles. I did a bit of research, going “directly to the source”(my standard procedure, learned at a young age as the child of an historian), to find this gorgeous combination of spices and herbs in Auguste Escoffier’s classic, “The Escoffier Cook Book.” I have the 1941 Crown Publishing edition (21st reprint, 1960); this is recipe number 181. I cannot know for sure if this is exactly what the Baron’s cooks used, but I have no reason to believe that it’s not close. It takes all of ten minutes, at most, to put it together, and is well worth the effort. The original recipe calls for 5 ounces of bay leaves (about enough to fill a pint jar, tightly packed), 10 ounces of peppercorns, etc. for a total of three pounds of spices used. Not needing quite that much of this spice blend in my kitchen (especially because one needs only a tiny pinch of it at a time), I adapted the recipe by maintaining the ratios, but reducing the amounts considerably. This makes about one cup of ground spice. It’s amazing. Enjoy!! ;o)

What You'll Need
  • 10 grams broken dry bay leaves
  • 6 grams dry thyme leaves
  • 6 grams coriander seeds
  • 8 grams ground cinnamon
  • 12 grams whole nutmeg, broken
  • 8 grams whole cloves
  • 6 grams dried ginger root (I used “cracked ginger” from Penzeys.)
  • 6 grams whole mace
  • 10 grams white peppercorns
  • 10 grams black peppercorns
  • (2 grams cayenne . . . . it’s in the original recipe, but I don’t use it)
  1. Grind all the ingredients together to a fine powder. Pass the spice through a fine sieve before using. Store in an air-tight container.
  2. Enjoy!! ;o)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • koechin
  • Elizabeth Quinn
    Elizabeth Quinn
  • Sadassa_Ulna
  • susan g
    susan g
  • hardlikearmour

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

15 Reviews

koechin December 31, 2015
i forgot to mention that the lamb shanks i was making were those of jamie oliver except that i used this spice mix as a rub before browning and braising. i was glad to see that you combined it with marjoram as well as that is what oliver is using in his braise. yummy indeed.
AntoniaJames January 5, 2016
Thank you, koechin, for letting me know - especially these details! I'm curious; in what other ways have you used this spice blend? Your post inspired me to make another batch, so I'm looking for new ways to use it. Thank you so much. ;o)
koechin January 5, 2016
i've used it in a parsnip soup finished with roasted hazelnut oil. that was a flavor combination i especially liked. it also starred in a wild boar goulash after i scored that prized meat at the german butcher shop. as others have mentioned it is a natural with most roasted vegetables but i've also used it in more delicate dishes like omelets, very judiciously.
koechin December 31, 2015
this is truly an amazing spice blend. i've been using it for about a year, since i found it on this site. but today it has come into its real glory with slow braised lamb shanks. the flavor is nothing short of splendid. thanks so much for sharing this great secret.
Elizabeth Q. May 16, 2013
This recipe caught my eye since I belong to Les Dames d'Escoffier and I have a soft spot for the dear man. I did not regard it as a curry but maybe "white curry " is an apt term. I find myself using it more and more and rather more than a pinch. It is great on salmon, enhances roasted potatoes and all sorts of roasted vegetables. Thanks so much for unearthing this gem.
Sadassa_Ulna May 23, 2011
I received some of this as a gift from a friend ;) and I finally tried it yesterday. It is very good and I look forward to experimenting with it more. I wanted to try it with something really mild for my first foray in order to really taste it: I sauteed some onions in oil until golden, added some chickpeas, milk, cream, butter and this blend. The nutmeg/mace really come forward in a pleasant way (which makes it different from a more typical curry perhaps?) Yum, and thank you to the sender who might be reading this, you know who you are!
AntoniaJames May 24, 2011
Thanks so much for letting me know. I'd like to hear about your other experiments, too, please! ;o)
susan G. April 24, 2011
Yes, it lives up to your description... Just the aroma would be enough, and the taste is engaging. Next adventure, with the King Oyster mushrooms I'm trying for the first time.
susan G. April 13, 2011
I was thinking it would be pate spice. Looks like a more complex version. Add to my 'to do' list.
AntoniaJames April 13, 2011
If you look at the recipes in Escoffier's book, as well as in Brisse's, you'll see that what's referred to as "all-spice" by Escoffier (i.e., this) and "mixed spice" by Brisse, appears in a variety of recipes in which forcemeat is used, as well as in stews and terrines made with all manner of game and fowl. I'm using it in sausage this weekend, with a touch of fresh marjoram. It smells so good, it's also going in some crackers, with buckwheat honey. Stay tuned . . . . . ;o)
AntoniaJames May 24, 2011
I'm using this regularly in scrapple now with huge handfuls (one each) of fresh marjoram and parsley . . . . . using (sort of) the ratio in the Rodale Press book called "Stocking Up," which I've had for about thirty years. ;o)
hardlikearmour April 13, 2011
Wow, AJ! Love the history you give us, and this spice blend sounds heavenly.
AntoniaJames April 13, 2011
Thanks, HLA. Yes, it is amazing. My new favorite ingredient, no doubt about it. ;o)
Sadassa_Ulna April 13, 2011
Very cool, I love this!
AntoniaJames April 13, 2011
Thanks so much! ;o)