homemade “speculaaskruiden” (dutch spice mix)

November 29th, 2014

And like every year we are getting ready for Christmas. December is a hectic month. The end of the year seems to match the end of so many things … or maybe is just the frenzy given by the 1000 appointments, the desire to be together and celebrate?
Here in the Netherlands the Christmas preparations begin around half November when Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas in Italian) officially arrives together with the much discussed black assistants, the “Zwarte pieten”. A TV program for children documents every evening the journey of our heroes coming from the distant Spain with a large steamboat and the same stories are discussed and repeated at school. The 5th of December is the big day. Santa Claus and the Zwarte pieten bring gifts for children and adults, sometimes accompanied by a rhyming poem that often does not lacks a humorous or sarcastic tone :-). This day can actually be the moment to tell, with a joke, some “uncomfortable” truths. Also because of this celebrating Sinterklaas is fun for kids just as for adults … or maybe not? 🙂
Only a few days are left and I still have to buy gifts, I wrote no poems yet, but … of course I already started the preparations by making some typically Christmas Dutch desserts. In order to do this, it is necessary to buy the typical Dutch spice mix: the “speculaaskruiden”. Their history dates back to 1600, when the Netherlands was traveling to the East with an own fleet of ships (East India Company) in order to conquer the asian spices.

01_kruiden_EN-NL

But why should you buy something when you can do it at home (and thus modify it at will!), eh? So, I did not have to think more than 30 seconds that I had already typed in the search engine “speculaas-Kruiden-zelf-maken”. Consulting several sources I came to the conclusion that there is no single version. The basic spices are cinnamon, white pepper, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom but more recipe mention 2 or 3 other ingredients. I decided to take this one as reference because it looks to me the most complete. In this recipe are 9 components: the 5 ingredients I already mentioned, quite common as christmas spices also in other countries, and some others less common, such as coriander, anise and, last but not least, nutmeg flower. This last one is definitely the spice that intrigued the most. After buying it and sniff it like a hound I thought already that its aroma recalled the one of nutmeg. I read then only here today that the nutmeg flower, or myristica fragrans in scientific terms, is actually the membrane that surrounds the nutmeg. Obviously they have a similar aroma, but the nutmeg flower is more delicate.

01_speculaaskruiden_schema_EN-NL

Starting from my reference receipt (nr 1 above), I decided to add (nr 2 above) a spice that might result a little trivial, because I always add it when I can, especially when there are other ingredients that disguise the taste because, I have to confess that, taken alone, its taste doesn’t drive me crazy. But I know it has such a good effect on our health so I couldn’t resist the temptation of increasing the anti-inflammatory effect of this spice mix: I added the turmeric, I increased the amount of ginger, and I replaced the white pepper with black pepper (in minor quantity) because it helps our body to absorb the curcumin.
I want to point out that the original recipe refers to anise, but I preferred to use the star anise (whose aroma I adore). I propose two other variants. Nr 3 is a bit more delicate, nr 4 is simplified according to availability of the spices. In any case, now you know what are the spices involved and you can feel free to “play” with them. The possible combinations are endless. Just keep in mind that:
.cinnamon is the main spice
.i cloves and cardamom have a very strong aroma, so you should be careful in using them
.if you want a more delicate flavor replace nutmeg with nutmeg flower, eventually avoid white pepper

03_speculaaskruiden
What you absolutely need to make this very simple assembly operation is: a coffee grinder to pulverize the spices and a set of measuring spoons set (the reciprocal relationship of the spices in the table above is expressed according to the teaspoons dosage: 1 teaspoon = 5 ml = 8/8, etc etc). Of course you can buy the spices already grounded, but if you have the time and feel like it, I definitely recommend you to pulverize them yourself because the aroma is ‘much more’ intense. The use of measuring spoons is definitely compulsory because, unless you want to prepare a large amount of spice mix, also an electric precision scale can give problems in measuring small amounts as 1 or 2 grams. I tell you this out of personal experience :-).

04_speculaaskruiden

Once all the spices are grounded, just assemble them using the graduated measuring cups, mixing everything together and get ready to use them! 🙂 To be continued …

Time 30 minutes ca.

Difficulty very low

Prevention and DIANA diet  If you want to know more about the diet recommended by Cascina Rosa (National Cancer Institute of Milan) for women who have had breast cancer, click here (only italian). This diet is anyway suitable for all the people who want to adopt a more healthy lifestyle that will help prevent cancer and other degenerative diseases.

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