My two previous recipes have both used combinations of herbs and spices to bring the best out of simple dishes, either by creating variations on recipes that can be a bit boring (Brownies), or by spicing up ingredients that lack flavor on their own (Thai Green Turkey). Including dried herbs and spices in your cooking can seem daunting to many. What to use with what or how much of something to use is usually off-putting enough to make most people stick to their same ol’ routine, deterring them from experimenting with those dusty old spice jars in the back of the cupboard. However, experimentation is the best way to really invigorate your cooking and find out what works and what doesn’t.

In order to get you started on the right foot (and moving towards feeling adventurous enough to begin adding some of your own flavor and zing to your food), the following recipes are a great introduction to complimentary flavor combinations and to using a few dried herbs and spices. (The herbs and spices you see here, in my opinion, should be staples in everyone’s pantry). So, open up that cupboard and dust off your spice jars. Food is about to get interesting again.


We all know chicken is a great source of lean protein, but it can be pretty boring. The following herb and spice mixes are combinations I use all the time and it never gets boring:

Lemon and Thyme Chicken

This is as simple as it sounds.

  1. Before adding your chicken to the pan, coat each breast with a teaspoon of dried thyme.
  2. About a minute before serving, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon per chicken breast.

It doesn’t get any easier than this!

Cajun Chicken

  1. Cube up your chicken and cook it in a pan with a little olive oil.
  2. A few minutes before you’re ready to serve, add in the spices below and cook the chicken until it is no longer pink.
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Drier Oregano
  • 1 tsp Chilli Flakes
  • 1 tsp dried onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

*Both these mixes are great for white fish as well.


A good lamb cutlet or leg steak is packed with enough flavor that it rarely needs more than a bit of salt and pepper. However, ground lamb, while being a great source of protein and fat, can need a little more encouragement to get the best out of it. Work the spice mix below into the lamb and use it for meatballs, burgers, and kebabs. It’s my take on a combination of Middle Eastern, North African, and eastern Mediterranean spices, and it’s the one I go to time and time again.

Moroccan Minced Lamb

To 500g of ground lamb, add the following:

  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • Half a large chopped onion


As with lamb, you don’t need to mess with a good steak. You can, on the other hand, spice up cheap cuts of beef by coating them in the following rub before throwing them onto a griddle or skillet:

Smokey Barbecue Beef

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

For ground beef, try adding the Cajun Chicken mix above to 500g of beef, along with a tin of kidney beans and a can of chopped tomatoes for a simple chilli-style dish.

For burgers and meatballs again, add the mix below to another 500g of beef:

Ultimate Beef Burgers

  • 2 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper

This should make enough for two huge burgers!

I’m going to throw in this simple beef stew as well even though it’s a bit of a cheat... but cheating is good when it tastes this good and is this simple.

Beef Stew

  • Throw 500g of diced beef shin (or any other cheap cut) into a slow cooker
  • Pour in a bottle of brown beer or Guinness
  • Crumble in a beef stock cube
  • Cook on high for 6 hours



Yes, we know how good vegetables are for us, but that doesn’t always make us want to eat it. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s a simple alternative to promote your vegetables to the big thyme (pun intended)!

Tray Baked Veg

Into an oven tray, throw in whatever vegetable you like. I usually go for:

  • Chestnut Mushrooms
  • Red Onion (quartered)
  • Green Peppers cut (quartered)
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli

Add a little olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook at 350F for 15 minutes. Then, take them out and add the following:

  • 2stp thyme
  • 2tsp dried garlic powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Place them in the oven and cook for an additional 15 minutes.


Everyone knows the benefits of eating dark green veggies—cabbage, kale, broccoli, and the like, but it's often a chore getting them down as they can be so bland. Try tossing them in half a teaspoon of nutmeg before serving, and they will suddenly taste fresh and flavorful. If that still doesn’t do it for you, go all-out and once they are cooked, add them to a pan of sautéing bacon. Toss them in the bacon (and most importantly, in the grease), and I swear that you’ll want to eat this every night!


There’s no getting away with it. Whether it’s brown or white, rice is boring. But there is hope! Here are a couple of super simple options to put a little kick back in the dish.

Lime and Coriander Rice

Okay, so the names says it all. To each portion of cooked rice add the following, and then just give it a stir.

  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Juice of 1 lime

Simple Pilau Rice

To put it mildly, proper Pilau rice is a nightmare to prepare and cook. So do yourself a favor, and try this pared-down version instead. Add the following ingredients to the water you are going to cook the rice in:

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods

Cook the rice in the bright yellow broth until it's tender. These quantities are enough for two portions of rice. Oh, and don’t forget to fish the cardamom out before serving!

The Wrap Up

So that’s it! No more excuses for serving up the same boring meals week after week. Use these mixes and rubs to keep your diet varied and interesting, especially if you need to make sure that you’re not tempted to stray from your meal plan, whatever your goal. And if I haven’t made it simple enough for you already, here is a shopping list to make sure your cupboard is stocked with all of the right ingredients. What's more, believe it or not, this shouldn't even set you back by more than about $20!

  • Dried Thyme
  • Dried Rosemary
  • Paprika
  • Chill Flakes
  • Dried Onion Powder (sometimes called onion salt)
  • Dried Garlic Powder (sometimes called garlic salt)
  • Ground Coriander
  • Ground Cumin
  • Ground Turmeric
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Cardamom Pods