One of the things I love most about being lucky enough to source, blend and sell spices for a living is the thrill and the adventure of finding new things; of travelling to a country for the first time and discovering what spices are used there, even of finding something I’d never come across in a country visited many times. Especially in a new country, the first thing I do is to seek out the local market and find the spice trader, and I will always leave excited by a new idea (although often wondering why I hadn’t thought of it myself!).

Of course, when I get back to base I always try to share these new blends and ideas with you – not for nothing is one of our tags ‘Bring the World to Dinner’. I could easily sit back and sell half a dozen different curry powders and some ras el hanout, but when I first started Spice Mountain one of my aims was to offer as wide and interesting a range as possible – to offer the raw material which will let people paint whichever picture they choose on their culinary canvas!

Having said all that, I realise that when I add a new product to our range, not everyone will know about it unless they visit our Borough Market shop, follow us on Twitter if you don’t follow us already!!) or trawl through the entire website. So this month’s newsletter features those things we’ve added this year which you may have missed, and the recipes and spice of the month reflect this too.

My mission remains to provide you with the tools to make every day in your kitchen a school day, but the sort of school where it is fun and the entire household is smiling when it comes round to dinner time – there is a world of spice adventures out there, and you can travel that whole world from the comfort of your own home! How good is that?? Enjoy the trip…

Magali

Spice of the Month

Vadouvan (French Masala)

Of course, it is well known that the Indian Subcontinent was ruled by the British, but not so recognised is the fact that a few small areas of India were under French control. The most prominent of these little outposts was the city of Pondicherry, on the coast of Tamil Nadu south of Chennai (Madras), where even today the French influence remains strong.

Vadouvan, or French Masala, is one of the culinary legacies of French rule. It is basically a French take on an Indian masala, and it is bursting with the aromatic and vibrant flavours of both cuisines. Shallots, onion and garlic combine with fenugreek, fennel, curry leaves and other spices to bring a warm, full and rounded flavour, balanced by the nutty notes of sesame and coconut oil. Due perhaps to the French influence there are no chillies in Vadouvan, rather uniquely for an Indian spice blend, but fresh chillies would be added to your dish at some point.

Vadouvan can be used as a base for a curry, in which case it should be utilized together with a bit of curry powder (our Hot Madras or Mauritius Masala are both ideal). But it also works really well as a ‘tempering’ spice, added towards the end of cooking to bring balance and warmth. It is particularly good used in biryanis and dahls. This unusual and delicious masala is one of our favourites at the moment, and really is a unique item of ammunition in your kitchen armoury!

Recipes

brown stew chicken

Brown Stew Chicken

This is another recipe from our friends at Curry Shack on London’s South Bank.This is their Caribbean style curry, which again we have adapted slightly for home cooking.
Read Recipe

cambodian yellow fish curry

Cambodian Yellow Fish Curry

This is a fragrant, citrussy and light curry cooked in coconut milk, full of contrasting flavours.

Read Recipe

latino beef curry

Latino Beef ‘Curry’

This dish is a Spice Mountain original which came about through thinking about those curries which aren’t really curries, if that makes any sense!

Read Recipe

Feature – Traveling Without Moving

spxq3

A round-the-word journey, without leaving your home? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? We’ve all read those ads in the travel section of the Sunday papers, pictured ourselves stepping off the luxury liner onto some sun-kissed beach or exotic city, ending up thinking ‘Oh well, better just keep on doing the lottery.’ But there is a way! From our point of view, most countries we’ve visited can be defined by their national dish or spice, and the good thing about food tourism is that you can do it, if not from the comfort of your armchair, then at least in front of your stove and spice cupboard. So, in the spirit of those ads, we invite you to join Spice Mountain on a trip around the world…

Our first stop is the Caribbean, where we encounter one of the hottest chillies around, the Scotch Bonnet. A favourite among all chilli-heads due to the intense and fruity flavour which accompanies the heat, it is used with abandon in the area, and you will notice it in dishes such as Jerk Chicken. Hibiscus flowers abound, bursting with colour and fragrance, and they are used in cooking too, for example in Hibiscus salt.

Next port of call is Argentina, home of the gaucho and the pampas, a fascinating blend of old and new, mixing modern cities with breathtakingly beautiful wilderness. The national spice blend Chimichurri mixes chilli heat, spicy warmth and herby fragrance to make a sauce that is especially good on steak, and can be used to give any tomato sauce a lovely zing.

Crossing the Pacific we arrive in Cambodia, home to ancient temples and a wonderfully relaxed way of life despite the country’s troubled history. Cambodia is home to the outstanding Kampot peppercorn, with a unique flavour and aroma. This is a part of the blend Lok Lak, used to season stir-fried beef in a delicious local dish. Also very popular is Amok, a citrusy yellow curry which unusually contains no chilli.

We stop briefly in Szechuan, China, where we encounter Green Szechuan Peppercorn, younger than its red form, and with a fresher, fruitier flavour. The area is also home to fiery and nutty Szechuan seasoning, especially good when used to give your noodles some oomph.

We cross the Himalayas to Nepal, and here at the top of the earth discover the national spice Timur pepper, a cousin to the Szechuan with its unique notes on top of that mouth-numbing tingle. It is a vital part of the local curries we enjoy. Another interesting find is a Himalayan salt with roasted spices, great as a table condiment.

Further, west we come to Persia, home to ancient civilisations and food which uses lots of fresh herbs and even flowers to give it character. The most popular blend is Advieh, a combination of rose petals and warm aromatic spices, and also common is Gourmet Sabzi, a vibrant and grassy blend of green herbs. And we find a true treasure here – Blue Salt, luxurious and rare, produced nowhere else.

Our final stop is Greece, where we can relax and enjoy the warm air filled with the aroma of Wild Herbs, which give their flavour to many local dishes. They are particularly good used to season delicious roast lamb or chicken, or scattered over the top of a Greek Salad, a real taste of this sun-kissed country to bring home with you.

SPICE MOUNTAIN A-Z

Q

Quinoa – A South American grain which has become increasingly popular in European cuisine, especially among vegetarians and those who choose a gluten-free diet.

Quatre Epices – A classic French blend of four spices; pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. Used to give depth and warmth to stews and casseroles.

Quail – The smallest of the game birds, and one which is very popular in nothern Indian cooking where it is often marinated in Tikka spice and grilled over charcoal.

R

Rogan Josh – One of the most popular curries, usually cooked with lamb, featuring lots of tomatoes which give a bright red colour, and a medium hot, fragrant flavour.

Ras el Hanout – the Daddy of the North African spice cupboard, this complex blend is ubiquitous in the cooking of the area as an all purpose seasoning.

Ratatouille – a classic vegetable dish from the south of France, featuring aubergine, courgette, peppers and tomatoes and seasoned with Herbes de Provence.