Spice is Nice

Tonight I had a pound of local, grass fed, Three Sister’s ground beef thawed and ready for dinner…and that is just about as far as I'd managed with the preps. I had absolutely ZERO idea what I was going to do with it and mulled ingredients and thought about recipes and considered applications for a while and finally decided to make stroganoff. Then...I realized I was out of mushrooms.  My thinker shifted slowly to goulash – but not the Johhny Marzetti type macaroni and tomato stuff I grew up calling goulash - real goulash with bay leaves and tons of smoked Hungarian paprika and real sour cream (not that low fat or - heaven forbid - fat free junk). Technically what I ended up making would probably insult my old Hungarian grandmother – if I had one - but it was delicious, everyone loved it, and it is definitely on my Make It Again list. (recipe below)

The problem was, in cooking it, I used the last of my paprika and my last two bay leaves (one of which played a fierce game of hide-and-go-seek when I tried to pull it out of the sauce at the conclusion of cooking). Fortunately, my friend The Spice House was running a free shipping special for orders over $40 (code: FreeShip40). Not that I needed forty dollars of spices, but…well, anyone who knows me will know I surely didn’t mind finding something to add to my collection. I decided to stock up on a couple staples and take advantage of the free shipping special by treating myself to a couple items from my wish list.


Hungarian Sweet AND Spanish Smoked Sweet paprika – They don’t carry the Hungarian smoked I’m used to, so I decided to try a couple new ones. I hope they will do in my recipes - but I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve ordered from The Spice House (mostly I use paprika for chicken and pork rib rub and my newly invented “goulash” recipe).

Turkish Bay leaves – Instead of the domestic leaves that I usually buy, I'm going to give these with a “milder and more complex” flavor a whirl.  Bay leaves are an essential ingredient in beef and barley soup, the goulash, spaghetti sauce and more.

Tellicherry peppercorns – I bought a half-pound. I seem to be using the stuff at an amazing rate.  I use it in EVERYTING.

Za'atar – Ok, maybe this isn’t a staple to some, but I use it when I have it and I’m out right now. This Middle Eastern/Mediterranean blend of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, hyssop, and oregano is DELICIOUS packed onto flatbread brushed with olive oil and then grilled or lightly broiled.


Madagascar Bourbon Island Vanilla Bean Paste – I needed vanilla ANYWAY, but I’ve never tried the paste. I’ve heard it makes fabulous vanilla ice cream and Crème brûlée. Yummm!

Ras El Hanout – My cousin spent some time with the Peace Corps in Morocco and raved about the food. This regional multi-spice, spice blend directly translated to mean “top of the shop” is – in theory – the best of the best of the best of the best, sir! My cousin assured me I would find endless uses for it (NOTE: The Spice House website not only sells fabulous spices, they also list tons of recipe ideas using each type). I read that some blends of Ras El Hanout contain 20 or more spices – the one from The Spice House has 10 (Tellicherry black pepper, cardamom, salt, ginger, cinnamon, mace, turmeric, allspice, nutmeg, and saffron)

Aged Korean Black Garlic – I am a garlic nut, so I’m curious beyond words to try this aged and fermented specialty with the “sweet, salty, earthy taste…”

Vulcan’s Fire Salt – I’m also a spicy HOT food freak. This new item named after the Roman god of fire popped up in my twitter feed (yes, agoodcooker is on twitter – take a peek at the way bottom of the blog), so I had to try it. This sure-to-be-amazing salt blend contains the following: Salt, Louisiana Chile Mash, Garlic, Habanero Chile, Shallots, Tellicherry Pepper, Lime Peel, Pimenton de La Vera, Picane, Cumin, Allspice, and Vinegar.

Now that my spices are on their way, I'm sure I can think up more uses or make my newly invented version of goulash again soon. I know the family won’t mind.

Sorta Hungarian Goulash
1 lb hamburger
1 large onion, diced
1T paprika (preferably Hungarian smoked)
4 ounces red wine
8 ounces beef stock (preferably homemade)
2 large bay leaves
1t garlic powder
1t fresh ground black pepper
1t sugar
1T kosher salt (more or less to taste)
28oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 to 3/4c sour cream
1 lb fusilli (or similar) pasta

1. Over medium/high heat, brown hamburger. Drain most of the fat. Add onion and sauté until clear.
2. Add paprika and cook until fragrant. Add wine to deglaze pan.
3. Add beef stock (homemade), bay leaves, garlic powder, black pepper, sugar, salt and tomatoes. Simmer sauce on low until thickened (30 minutes or more to release flavors).
4. Cook pasta. Drain.
5. Toss pasta with sauce and add sour cream. Mix well.  Serve immediately and enjoy.


  1. Mmmmm, that sounds yummy! One of these days I'm coming over for dinner :D

  2. this turned out great. even isaac said it was good tho he didnt end up eating it, but that's usually how it goes with him.
    I even used ground turkey and chicken stock and it turned out great.

  3. I'm glad to hear it. How much sour cream did you end up using? I started with about 1/2 cup and then decided it needed a little more - that's why I put 1/2-3/4 cup.

  4. Good stuff! I hope you like it. My hubby had the leftovers for lunch today...he said it was even better.