Hello everyone, I hope you had a lovely Easter! It always seems like the true start to Spring to me, and a first sign that Summer’s not too far away. I’ve been pretty busy (nothing new there, then), and for one reason and another have been spending more time in the shop at Borough Market. I still really enjoy working in the shop, and of course it’s always good to meet and talk you in person! It was a great day on Sunday 23rd, when we were open as part of the market’s St Georges Day celebrations, and a fine time was had by all. I’ve also as promised been coming up with some new blend ideas, and you have some treats to look forward to – including a Japanese katsu curry blend, which I’ve had lots of requests for.
This month our feature looks at how spice blends can be incredibly versatile, rather than just used for one dish or style. It’s a great way to find out how to get the most out of your spice cupboard, and also to get more creative in the kitchen. Our spice of the month is Baharat from the Middle East, a great example of a versatile blend. Recipes include a simple roast chicken featuring a wonderful new addition to our range of specialty salts, lemon pyramid salt from Cyprus – we also have rosemary and chilli varieties in stock, and they all come highly recommended!
Keep an eye on our website for new products, blends and recipes, and see you next month!

Spice of the Month

Baharat

Baharat is a very common spice blend in Arabia, Turkey and much of the Middle East, and indeed its name translates as ‘spices’. It is a delicious mixture of east and west, and one of the most versatile of blends. In the kitchens of the Middle East it is used as an all-purpose seasoning, and it works particularly well in slow-cooked meat stews.
Sweet notes come from cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, there is the warm earthiness of cumin and coriander, and the fruity heat of black pepper and allspice. A Turkish baharat meanwhile will always include mint. A teaspoon added to a classic English beef stew will give it depth and warmth, and it is great used as a rub or marinade. A simple sauce can be made by adding olive oil and lime juice; try a sprinkle on top of hummus, or over scrambled eggs. All in all, baharat is a great way to introduce the flavour of Arabian nights into your cooking!

Recipes

Chicken roasted with Lemon Pyramid Salt

This wonderfully simple recipe stars a new arrival at Spice Mountain, Lemon Pyramid Salt from Cyprus.

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Beef Kway Teow

This satisfying noodle dish is a national institution in Singapore, and a great example of the melting-pot cuisine there.

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Aubergine Ragu for Pasta

This recipe is a simple pasta dish, quick and easy to prepare while being packed full of satisfying flavour.

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This Month’s Feature –
Thinking outside the box

While it is true that most spice blends are conceived to make a particular dish, or more loosely maybe a style of cuisine, many are also incredibly versatile. This can be really handy, on those occasions when a recce through the fridge and cupboards doesn’t turn up much – having a few blends which can work on a few different foods can be a Godsend. If you’re on a tight budget and it’s pasta with tomato sauce for supper again, you can make it a different way every time. It’s also a good way to start experimenting more, to come up with your own ideas and recipes, which after all is half the fun of cooking. One staple which seems to work with almost any flavour is the humble potato, so start experimenting with your roasties, mash or chips. The following are the blends we like to have handy, with a few ideas on how to take them out of the box…

Smoky Ragu – designed to beef up a pasta ragu, this blend can be used almost indiscriminately! Smoky with paprika, zingy with oregano and including tomato and bell peppers, it will balance and give a buzz to so many dishes. One of our favourites is to stir a teaspoon into baked beans, and it is lovely added to a simple tomato soup, indeed to most tomato-centric dishes. The tomato and bell pepper add sweetness, so kids tend to like this one.

Portuguese Chicken – blended with making piri piri chicken in mind, this blend can be used anywhere a zingy lemon garlic kick is needed, for example on garlic bread or in a minestrone soup. When used in moderation its Mediterranean flavours enrich but do not overpower, so it is great for seasoning seafood pasta sauces, or for making spiced butter to melt over steak. Bear in mind that although far from silly hot, this blend does have a chilli kick.

Peruvian Spice Rub – this blend uses South American chillies, which tend to have a marked fruity nature without too much heat. It has a lovely warm balance, and goes particularly well with anything including potatoes, even a Spanish tortilla. A couple of teaspoons will lift a mince casserole, and the blend makes great kofte (meatballs). Another good pairing is with corn, be it on the cob or from a can, and a pinch works miracles in any ‘cream of’ soup.

Cajun Seasoning – the flavour of Louisiana, this blend has a gentle chilli kick alongside fruity, smoky notes. It is perfect for seasoning fries, works in any tomato-based sauce, and is great used to season roast chicken or pork. A great combination is with mayonnaise, and it is good with eggs generally. It is brilliant used to give a little bite and warmth to any tomato sauce, particularly to add a distinctive and delicious edge to a classic tomato-based curry.

Lebanese Kofta Blend – if you fancy giving your vegetable stew or soup that Ottolenghi touch, then this is the blend you need. Designed to make the perfect meatballs, it is also great for so many other things. It marries perfectly with pulses, so can be used in any bean or lentil dish. As mentioned it is great in a veggie stew, and if all you have in the cupboard is a tin of chickpeas, an onion and some of this, you have a meal.

Patatas Bravas – designed for the dish of the same name, this blend can be used to give a Spanish sunshine boost to pretty much anything. From a ratatouille to a beef goulash to a pasta sauce, the blend will add its colour and flavour. On a more basic level, it can be sprinkled on cheese on toast, used as a seasoning for an omelette. Mix with ketchup and, lo and behold – a basic barbecue sauce. We always seem to be reaching for this one!

Chimichurri – the national spice blend of Argentina, where it used to make a sauce for steak. It also goes very well with lamb, be it chops, a roast or even a casserole. Combined with a slurp of olive oil it works as a seasoning for roast vegetables, and as a dressing for a tomato salad. Another idea is to use to finish a focaccia bread, combined with some good salt, a combination which also works really well on boiled new potatoes.

Cape Malay Curry – this mild, aromatic and slightly sweet curry powder is great for when you just fancy a hint of curry flavour in a dish, and not the whole hit. It is a blend which gives a lovely twist to lentil soup It’s reat in baked beans, and perfect for making a curried mayonnaise for Coronation Chicken. Also, it makes an ideal ‘gateway’ for introducing those who are sceptical about curry to its delights.

Mixed Spice – the most versatile spice in the baking world, perhaps, this blend of sweet aromatics brings warmth to anything it touches from pastries and cakes to custards to stewed fruits. It is also used in Caribbean curries and English beef stews, where it brings balance and depth. An essential presence in the spice cupboard, which covers both sides of the sweet/savoury divide!

Gormeh Sabzi Blend – this herb blend from Iran does have a strong and distinctive flavour, as it contains lots of fenugreek (methi) leaf. This doesn’t stop it being great for experimenting with, though, just use in moderation. It works brilliantly with pulses and lentils, matches really well with tomatoes and even works in a warm potato salad. And if you enjoy making your own naan bread, gormeh sabzi makes a great addition.

SPICE MOUNTAIN A-Z

E

Ethiopia – a country in Africa with a distinctive cuisine, features of which are a sour bread, injera, and the national spice blend, berbere, used to make a fiery stew, wat. This intensely flavoured blend is available from our shop at Borough Maket or via our website.

East Indies – in the past, the collective name for the islands of Southeast Asia, home to many of the most valuable and important spices.

Epernay – a town in France, and the capital of the Champagne growing region, so the source of much celebration!

F

Fez – an ancient city in Morocco, home to a vast, labyrinthine souk (market) where many spices can be found, including the famous ras el hanout.

Florence – Italian city, capital of Tuscany, an area known for its great food. A Florentine speciality is a large, chargrilled steak.

Frankfurt – city in Germany which is home to some of the world’s finest sausages, one of which became the all-American hot dog.