Herbs and spices are complementary components of ancient and modern cooking: both give dishes delectable flavors, particularly when used in the right combinations. Herbs generally refer to the leafy, green portion of the plant -- think basil leaves -- while spices are made from the roots, stems, flowers, and often the seeds. A well-known example of the difference can be found with cilantro and coriander; although they come from the same plant, one is a much-loved herb and the other a potent spice made from the plant's seeds. In the recipe for Persian spice blend, one of the star ingredients is familiar in garden settings but less so in American cuisine: rose petals.
Persian spice, or advieh (literally 'spice' in Farsi), is a blend I fell in love with years ago and started incorporating into food that we cooked at home. It's fragrant, warm and complex but also comforting. The flavor added by the ground rose petals (roses in the form of petals or rose water are a favorite addition to sweets in the Middle East) is faint but lovely, not at all overpowering or overly 'floral.' There's only one catch - advieh is not the easiest spice to find in my experience, even at specialty shops. Luckily, it isn't hard to make this spice blend if you can source a few of the important ingredients.
Persian spice is often made with a combination of the below spices:
- cinnamon (be sure it's authentic, like Sri Lankan cinnamon, and not cassia)
- nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
- cardamom (I personally prefer green cardamon pods, store them whole and grind them as you need as they will lose flavor quickly)
- rose petals (ground with a spice grinder)
- saffron (sometimes omitted or substituted with tumeric because of cost)
Blends differ based on who you talk to, but these are the basics of Persian spice. Some recipes also add black pepper (ground), cloves or even loomi, which is a specialty ingredient made from dried limes.
So what do you use Persian spice blend for?
This is exciting part -- its versatile and can play a role in both savory and sweet recipes:
- mix with basmati rice for a common but delicious Persian side dish
- add to braised chicken or beef stew for a distinct, warming flavor
- blend with sugar and sprinkle on baked goods
- add a pinch for a more delicate, unique hot chocolate or coffee
- ...and, my personal favorite, add it to your smoothie or protein shake!
The portions that I recommend are based on the recipe given in one of my favorite cookbooks, Soframiz by Ana Sortun.
- 1/4 cup dried organic rose petals (you can buy these online; never use rose petals you're not sure are organic, as they may have pesticides)
- 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
Blend the spices together after straining the rose petals through a sieve to help catch any dried bits of stem, etc. and then store somewhere cool and dry in a sealed container.
Bonnie Rubrecht is a writer and illustrator living on the Central Coast of California who loves roses, and is an avid fan of Persian food. She is also Content Editor for Tea Leaves Blog.