Herb and spice blends are combinations of flavors that are commonly found in many dishes. Although they are pre-mixed and sold in stores, most can be mixed by the cook as needed. This is what I recommend, because your homemade blends will obviously improve with the freshness of the herbs and spices you use to make them.

As with many areas of gourmet cooking, this one involving blending herbs and spices is wide open to experimentation. Dig in, mix and match, have fun!

Chinese Five-Star Powder – This is an herb and spice blend of equal parts of finely ground Szechuan pepper, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and fennel seeds. This blend is excellent with pork.

Curry Powder – The typical ingredients are black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, mace, and turmeric.

Masala – A garam masala is made with hot spices. A dry masala usually contains peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, turmeric, bay leaves and fennel seeds. It is added to foods at the end of cooking or sprinkled on before serving. A wet masala is made by adding coconut milk, oil or tamarind water to a dry garam masala. It is usually added at the start of cooking.

Herbes de Provence – This herb and spice blend includes thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, basil, fennel seeds, savory and lavender.

Italian Seasoning Blend – This herb and spice blend includes dried basil, oregano, sage, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, savory and other herbs associated with Italian cooking.

Pickling Spice – Most pickling spice blends are based on black red chiles and black peppercorns with the following added: allspice, cloves, ginger, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaves and dill. These blends are used in stews and useful in making vegetable or cucumber pickles.

Quatre-Epices (kah-tray-pees) – Quatre-epices means 4 spices. It is a mixture of black peppercorns with nutmeg, cloves and dried ginger. Sometimes allspice or cinnamon is included. It is usually used in long-simmered stews.

Ras el Hanout (rass al ha-noot) – Ras el hanout usually contains 20 or more spices. Turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, grains of paradise, coriander, cumin, cardamom, peppercorns, dried chiles, dried flower petals, and supposedly an aphrodisiac or two. It flavors rice, stews, and game dishes.

Seasoned Salts – Seasoned salts contain salt and flavors such as spices, garlic or celery seeds.

I hope you find this brief list of some of the most common herbs and spice blends to be both enlightening and useful. I love experimenting with herbs and spices, blending them as the spirit moves me. You should do the same.