Originally used in baroque cooking, this blend of “four spices”—usually cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper—was used largely for making sausage and salami. There is also a sweet version used in gingerbread or cake.
In French cooking, Quatre épices is typically used in soup, ragout and pot-cooked dishes that need long simmering like stews, vegetable preparations and charcuterie , such as pâté, sausages and terrines. Along with herbes de Provence and fines herbes, quatre épices is one of the staple blends in France and considered an excellent cold-weather spice. Used in dishes traditionally made in colder months of the year.
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.
Along with its use in French kitchens, quatre epices is also used in Middle Eastern cookery. In Egypt it is a mix of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. Four spices in Tunisia usually means cinnamon, pepper, rosebuds and paprika while the Moroccan version includes cloves, nutmeg, ginger and pepper.