Quatre Epices: French Four Spice Powder

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Quatre Epices was developed in St Malo during the baroque era. This is the era from the 17th century wherein Europe adopted ostentation when it came to architecture as well as art and music. This period coincided with Europe’s experience of other cultures around the world via colonialism, which is where spice mixes like quatre epices come in.

Quatre epices is French and literally means four spices. Those spices can vary, but center around pepper. Usually, the pepper in question is black or white pepper, but can sometimes be cubeb pepper. Other common ingredients are nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Spices that may be swapped in or added on include cinnamon and allspice. Quatre epices is just one of the spice mixes that were brought into French cuisine from Asia and elsewhere at this time; another similar example is poudre de Colombo (Colombo powder). The adoption of these spices could be considered a reflection of a willingness to experiment and to adopt new styles and aesthetics that was characteristic of this era.

Along with its use in French kitchens, quatre epices is also used in Middle Eastern cookery.

Quatre epices flavor profile

While ingredients and proportions can vary from cook to cook, the most common versions of quatre epices focus on the pepper. The primary flavor is the heat from black, white, or cubeb pepper. The peppery notes are backed up by the sweetness and pungency of nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.

Quatre epices health benefits

Quatre epices is made up of spices that bring a lot to the table in terms of nutritional benefits. The nutrients found in them include:

  • Minerals: All of the typical spices in quatre epices are rich in manganese, with ground ginger being the richest of all. They all also contain trace amounts of important minerals like calcium and iron.
  • Vitamins: Black pepper and cloves are the only good sources of vitamin K among the spices, but ground ginger has a modest amount of vitamin E and they all contain trace amounts of different B vitamins including riboflavin and niacin.
  • Fiber: All of the spices in quatre epices are good sources of dietary fiber with cloves, black pepper, and nutmeg being excellent sources of it.

Because of the above ingredients, quatre epices is good for treating or preventing health issues like:

  • Digestive problems: Nutmeg, ginger, and cloves are each used individually to help improve digestion. In particular, nutmeg has long been known to enhance the body’s release of gastric juices that improve digestion. In addition, all of the spices provide fiber; fiber is important for relieving constipation.
  • Foodborne illness: Both cloves and black pepper are known to have antibacterial properties. Those properties make them effective for eliminating the bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses.
  • Dementia: Research has shown that compounds contained in nutmeg essential oil can protect the brain from the cognitive decline associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Common uses

Quatre epices is considered an excellent cold-weather spice and is used in dishes traditionally made in or around the winter season. It is an excellent addition to stews and other braised dishes like ragout and it can be used to season lamb shanks, which require a long cooking time. Other classic uses include in terrines, gratins, and even in mashed potatoes. It is added to sausages like boudin blanc as well.