Mace, Nutmeg, and Allspice – Everything Nice

Yeah, OK – I got a lot of herbs and spices on hand here at the Urban kitchen – maybe too much, even considering all the developing work I do. Since the Lunar New Year is fast approaching, I started pulling stuff down, making keep or trash decisions, and performing a thorough cleaning before Zao Jin, the Kitchen God, heads back up to heaven with his kitchen report to the Jade Emperor – Never screw with the Kitchen God, folks.

I got to the top shelf left, which is, mas o menos, sweeter stuff. Everything from several different varieties of vanilla bean and cinnamons, to clove, powdered citrus, honey, molasses, agave nectar, and finally, allspice, whole nutmegs, and mace – and those last ones got me wormholin’ a bit.

Why these three spices? ‘Cause I think they’re under appreciated for their savory powers and maybe not as well understood as they might be – so let’s have a gander.

Mace and nutmeg both come from Myristica fragrans, a tree native to Indonesia. The two spices literally grow intertwined – Mace is the bright red aril, the ropy outer layer that surrounds each nutmeg seed. The fleshy peach-colored fruit is made into jam and candy, and the rind gets used for local dishes and nutmeg juice.

Mace, good mace, has that bright red color when it’s fresh. Peeled off the nutmeg, it dries to a yellowish, rather brittle leather which then makes for a very nice powdered spice. You can buy mace wrapped around a nutmeg, or whole dried – the latter is a great way to keep it, as it’ll last a lot longer and provide a cleaner, more distinct taste profile. Mace has the same nutty, peppery notes as nutmeg, but is subtler.

Whole nutmegs are gorgeous – They’re hard, and grate wonderfully into the pungent powder we know and love. Buy fresh whole nutmeg when you need to reload – while the powdered spice will degrade quite quickly, whole nutmegs are good for 2-3 years, and will give you much richer flavor. Nutmeg has a warm, nutty, peppery profile with a lot of potency.

Whole Nutmeg & Mace
Whole Nutmeg & Mace

Allspice is a berry from the Pimenta dioica tree, a shrubby evergreen native to the West Indies – they’re grown across many warm climes these days. The berries are picked green and sun dried, finished, they look like large peppercorns. Biy allspice as whole berries and grind what you need fresh – that’ll give you much bolder flavor and longer storage life.

Dried whole allspice berries
Dried whole allspice berries

Allspice, especially good, fresh stuff, has an amazing depth and breadth to it – it smells and tastes like a blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and pepper, and is simply fantastic – like Mace and nutmeg, it is great for so much more than sweet stuff, too.

Jamaican Jerk Rub
Jamaican Jerk Rub

Allspice is the heartbeat of Jamaican jerk seasoning, the scotch bonnet chile fueled spice rub that lights up poultry, fish, and veggies.

Garam masala
Garam masala

Mace is used widely in regional Indian cooking, especially in Mughai cuisine. Quite a few masalas (spice blends) feature it.

Nutmeg makes its way into savory dishes as a je ne sais quoi – a subtle hint of something more – from Mac and cheese to soups and stews, it’s fantastic.

All three of these spices will shine in spice rubs for proteins and veggies. They’re best as warm, minor notes that add a subtle bass note to the stronger headliners like salt, sugar, and pepper. Like Chinese Five Spice blend? Any of these could be one of the five, or added to, and would absolutely shine.
You really can’t go wrong deploying them that way. So dive in and have some fun.

I’ve got to admit, it’s getting better

A little better, all the time. Damn – might be a song there somewhere, huh? Am learning, slowly but surely, how to manipulate stuff like block editors and all that folderol – bottom line is this place is going to be simple, but it’s gonna be clean, functional, and common sense – at least that’s the aim.

I came up with the snazzy new logo too – purty sleek, huh?

For now, all the hundred of posts that make up my work here are all in light below this one. That’ll do for a bit, but it won’t stay that way – makes for a too cluttered home page, methinks.

You’ll find a sidebar now, with boxes for searching, subscribing, most recent posts, contact, and page links. All of that will get gussied up soon. If you’re reading this, welcome. If you’re not subscribed, maybe do that, and we’ll keep in touch. If you’ve got site or post or whatever feedback, let me know – it’s all good.

Now, it’s rainy, cold, and grey outside, so it’s time to think about counteracting that. Clearly comfort food is called for, don’t you think?


Garlic, Chile, Lemon & Herb Shrimp.

Sunday night, responding to the ’what’s for dinner’ query, M said ’use those damn shrimp!’

So I did – we always have citrus, baby onions, garlic, and herbs out of our garden, and some very bice chiles from our CSA. so shrimp in a spicy, tangy, garlicy sauce over Carolina Gold rice sounded perfect. By request, here’s what I made.

Urban’s Garlic, Chile, Lemon & Herb Shrimp
1 Pound peeled & deveined Shrimp
1 Serrano chile, fine diced
1 Jalapeño chile, fine diced
1/2 Cup Sweet Onion, fine diced
5 fat cloves Garlic, minced
1 large lemon, zested, cut in half
Fresh Herbs – I did lemon thyme, chives, Greek oregano.
2 Cups House Chicken Stock
2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon AP Flour
Sea Salt & Ground Pepper

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, add oil and heat through.
Add onion and chiles, sauté until onion starts to go translucent.
Add garlic, sauté until raw smell dissipates.
Deglaze pan with stock, bring up to a robust simmer.
Add shrimp, and let sauce return to a simmer.
Combine butter and flour, then add enough sauce to make a slurry – add to sauce and whisk with a fork to incorporate.
Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
Add herbs, lemon zest and juice, two finger pinch of salt, 8-10 twist pepper – test for balance.
Serve over rice, and you’ll likely want a hunk of bread so you don’t miss any sauce.

We’re Back, but…

We’re still under construction, as you can see. i experienced a rather debilitating attack, which required changing hosts, recovering content, and basically rebuilding from scratch. I’m getting there, slowly but surely, so your patience is greatly appreciated! in the meantime, all my old content is here, so feel free to poke around.

along with a whole new look and layout, there’ll be lots of new posts coming soon.

Cheers, Urb