Tag Archives: spices

Cajun Spice Mix

Cajun Spice

I had to mix up some ‘Cajun spices’ when cooking up a shrimp recipe a while back, when I realized I no longer had my Cajun Sweetness spice mix. I quickly found a few recipes online, and took what I wanted from them.

After that debacle (yeah, I’m being dramatic), I figured I should make up a recipe that I can use when I need some Cajun spices. I did a little bit of “research” online, and came up with a mix that I thought would be a good mix of herbs and spices and add just enough heat.

This is a mild-medium blend, as it is meant more for flavour than heat. I generally like my spice blends to be mild, and I add in the right amount of heat to each dish.


  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme


  1. If you only have dried garlic and onion pieces/granules, you should grind them to a powder first.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together.
  3. Put in an airtight container, like a spice jar.



Aviyal is a South Indian dish that is made up of thin strips of any crisp vegetables you can get your hands on. I found this in a cookbook, and it looked interesting, so I thought I would Google it to see if the recipe was anywhere near authentic. It’s safe to say that this recipe is a North Americanized version of the dish, as many of the ‘acceptable veggies’ that are often used in this dish are probably not easy to find. We go to Little India, here in Toronto, every once in a while, so I may just try to make Aviyal the ‘real’ way sometime this summer.

The one thing that is intact in this recipe is the inclusion of coconut. Coconut seems to be a primary ingredient in the sauce. I am a little bit skepical, however, as many comments about Aviyal is that it also has a lovely sour taste to it (sometimes introduced by tamarind). There was nothing sour about this dinner. I did take one ingredient out of the dish. After reading up on the dish, and the “rules” for making it, I really couldn’t bring myself to put in any tomato. The #1 rule is to use only vegetables that would remain crisp when cooked. That means you shouldn’t use tomato, eggplant, okra, or even regular onions (which the recipe also called for). Luckily, I had some green leek on hand, which gave a nice onion flavour without the mushy fried onion texture.

The dish was a hit! The veggies were still crisp and fresh tasting, and the sauce was light and coconutty. The sauce is actually a little hard to describe — the coconut meat, which makes up the bulk of the ‘sauce’ was really not saucey at all. Some coconut milk did come out of the coconut, however, and nicely mixed with the spices to make a yummy sauce.

This recipe is from the book “Simple Vegetarian Recipes” by Rosemary Wadey et al. (p.45)

About Aviyal:

My Very Own Thali

Indian Thali

I love Indian food. I love the spices, I love the mix of textures and flavours, and I absolutely love the variety you get in an Indian Thali. Indian thalis are platters that feature a number of dishes, alongside some kind of bread (such as naan or chapati) or sometimes rice. Most of the Indian food that people are familiar with are from North India, but it is important to note that there are many regional differences in Indian food. This is something I’d like to learn a little bit about, but I haven’t started researching it yet.

Indian Thali

My first Thali (clockwise from the top): Baingan Bharta, Saag Paneer and Chole.

I love to make Indian-inspired dishes at home, but haven’t had much success at making restaurant style dishes until recently. A few weeks ago, I tried a Palak Daal recipe that was fantasic but very lonely. We’re used to having multiple dishes in an Indian meal, so my loney daal didn’t go over as well as it should have. This inspired me to try making a group of dishes at once.

There are two challenges for me here: successfully making restaurant-style Indian dishes AND making multiple dishes at the same time and timing it all out properly. It was a great experience, and left me with the confidence to try more in the future!!


A mix of the spices I used in one of the dishes.
Recipes after the jump!

Ethiopian Feast!

I first tried Ethiopian food about 10 years ago, on the recommendation of a colleague. A vegetarian at the time, I was looking for new restaurants, and new flavours that didn’t involve eating Babe (or his little friends). When I go for Ethiopian food, I always get the vegetarian platter. All of the restaurants make these, and they often contain many of the same dishes (or variations of them). Comprised of a number of stews, the dishes may be spiced legumes (lentils, split peas), vegetables, collard greens, all placed in colourful mounds around a fresh salad, atop what can best be described as a sourdough pancake.

Injera, the aforementioned ‘pancake’, is an important part of the meal. It lines the platter, it provides the grain portion of the meal… and acts as your utensil. The flavourful stews are grabbed up, and masterfully rolled into a piece of injera, dipped in Awaze, and quickly popped into your mouth. Injera can be made at home, or bought from a number of stores that carry the handmade bread. It is traditionally made from Teff, the world’s smallest grain, which can be hard to find and expensive in Canada. We opted to buy Injera this time around, but my husband “the bread guy” thinks he could pull off a good batch next time (having found Teff flour at Rube’s in St. Lawrence Market).

A close-up of the platter. Clockwise from 12: Gomen, Mesir Allecha, Mesir Wat. Centre: Awaze. MMmmmmmm.

This meal is great for those who love complex flavours, varied textures, a little spicy kick and breaking ripping bread with friends.

This was my second attempt at making Ethiopian dishes. The first try did not go so well, and I gave up. This time, I figured I had a better feel for the food, hopefully a better eye for the recipes, and a new favourite condiment to devour.

In my earlier post, I mentioned Berbere, a very important spice blend in many Ethiopian dishes. I also mentioned Awaze, the bold and spicy condiment that is made from Berbere. This is my inspiration for trying again, and having successfully made a batch of Awaze, I was determined to make food worthy of being dipped in it.

Want some injera or spices? Toronto has quite a few places that carry these items, but the ones that we shopped at this time around are Piassa Ingera (260 Dundas Street East) and, oddly enough, the Hasty Market at King & Dufferin.

Looking for someone else to make it for you? Try Ethiopian House Restaurant (4 Irwin Avenue, Toronto)

Want to try making it for yourself? Here are recipes I followed (slightly modified from recipes I found online). Don’t forget to refer to the Berbere and Awaze post!!!

Niter Kebbeh (spiced, clarified butter)

This is the start of many great Ethiopian dishes. This butter is full of flavour, and really can’t be omitted from the dish (although I generally use less than recommended in the original recipes). I made this well in advance, let it cool in a rectangular dish, then chopped into cubes and frozen. I should have enough Niter Kebbeh for the next 3-4 meals, maybe more!

Modified from this Recipe


  • 1 pound butter
  • 4 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, scraped and finely grated or minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. Slowly melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add the other ingredients and simmer uncovered on the lowest heat for about 20-30 minutes. Do not let it brown.
  3. Strain the mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth or a fine strainer, discarding the spices.
  4. Refrigerate until set.

Gomen (Stewed Collard Greens)

The collard greens have always been one of my favourite parts of the meal. Their slightly bitter, buttery deliciousness is a great contrast to the lentil dishes and is a must for any platter. I actually doubled this recipe when I made it, and found that this was the perfect amount.

modified from this recipe

  • 1 large bunch collard greens, about 1½ pounds
  • 1 tbsp niter kebbeh, ghee or olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 fresh hot peppers, seeded and minced (or to taste)
  • 1 cup broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon
  • black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  1. Tear stems from collard greens, and wash greens well.
  2. In a large skillet or stir fry pan, melt the niter kebbeh (or oil). Add onion, garlic, ginger and hot peppers and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add collard greens, broth, salt, pepper and cardamom. Bring to a simmer and cook until most of water has evaporated from pan and the greens are very tender (this took me about 1/2 hour… leave some time!).

Mesir Wat (spicy red lentils)

This is my absolute favourite dish in the platter. The lentils are soft and spicy and creamy. The berbere spice is really hard to describe in this dish, as it adds not only spice but a really well-rounded warmth and flavour. This recipe makes a LOT of food, and could be halved (especially if made alongside the other two recipes here). I made the full recipe, and have quite a lot left over… but I’m fine with that. Did I mention this is my favourite? I may try freezing some to see how it holds up.

Serves 4 to 6 – modified from this recipe


  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, peeled and minced or grated
  • 2-3 tbsp Niter Kibbeh (or oil or butter)
  • 3 tablespoons berbere
  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups, water or broth
  • salt & pepper, to taste


  1. Place the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender and puree. Add a little water if necessary.
  2. Heat the oil, butter or niter kibbeh in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium flame. Add berbere and stir rapidly to color the oil and cook spices through, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the onion puree and sauté until the excess moisture evaporates and the onion loses its raw aroma, about 5-10 minutes. Do not burn.
  4. Add lentils and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are cooked through and fall apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep the lentils from drying out.
  5. Stir in salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Mesir Allecha (mild lentils)

These lentils are mild and buttery. Although not the most stand out dish of the bunch, for me it offers a mild balance with the other dishes. I chose this dish to round out my platter. This recipe makes a conservative amount – which was fine with me, because I eat less of this one than the other two. Notice that the recipe calls for half the amount of lentils required in the Mesir Wat above.

modified from this recipe


  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon niter kebbeh
  • 1 cup red lentils (masoor dal), picked over, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons seeded and finely chopped jalapeño peppers
  • 4 cups water (adjusted as necessary)
  1. In a medium saucepan, soak red lentils for one hour in three cups of the water.
  2. Bring the lentils and water to boil and cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft, adding more water if necessary. Drain off any extra water and mash.
  3. Heat the niter kebbeh in another pan over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the mashed lentils, turmeric, salt and hot pepper. Stir well.
  4. Add the remaining cup of water (or less, pour slowly) and cook for 3-4 more minutes more to reduce the mixture to a thick, well spiced puree.