Happy New Year everyone!! So now sunshine and those antipodean beaches are merely lovely memories, and I’m back in Bermondsey shivering away as I get back to work. I had such an amazing time over the holidays in Australia with family and friends, it was great just to relax and soak up the rays! But nothing lasts forever, and now I’m just concentrating on making sure some spice central heating for the soul is available for everyone.

This month’s recipes are a selection of Winter Warmers, any of which will keep out the cold in what is at the minute perishing weather. There is a lovely mutton curry, a French bistro favourite and an old-fashioned, back to basics rice pudding for you to try at home. Spice of the month is Italian Arrabbiata, which is packed full of spicy flavours. And our feature focuses on our range of vegetable powders, which are healthy, tasty and a great way to get your five a day.

Now I’m not so manically busy as I was in the lead up to Christmas, I promise I’m going to try and get some new and exotic blends together for you – one of the best things about this business is that there always seems to be something new and interesting to explore in the world of spice, and when I discover something you, as always, will be the first to find out!

Until next time, take care and stay warm!

Spice of the Month

Arrabbiata

One of our favourite chillies is peperoncino, which is from southern Italy, its flavour redolent of the heat of Puglia, Calabria and the Abruzzo (although it used throughout the country). The chilli is said to have been brought back to Italy from the Far East by Marco Polo, and is particularly important in the cuisine of Calabria, being a base ingredient of the popular N’duja sausage. Our everyday mild chilli flakes is the basis of one of our favourite pasta dishes, Arrabbiata. The blend’s name comes from the Italian for ‘angry’, due to that wonderful chilli kick, and it is a simple mix of peperoncino combined with three other ingredients; dehydrated garlic, parsley and basil. It is so delicious and a truly authentic flavour of Italy when combined with tomatoes or passata and olive oil, or still more simply, just the olive oil, and used to dress penne pasta.

But this mix is actually incredibly versatile, and can be used as a base for many dishes, Italian or otherwise, due to it being so well balanced between the four ingredients involved. It is particularly good when sprinkled on chicken or fish that you will simply grill, or roast, and similarly is a great barbecue seasoning. You can use it to give a chilli kick to cacciatore or parmigiana style dishes, and added to minestrone, it will give the soup a delicious lift. It can also be used in red pesto for extra chilli heat. And for a perfect example of simplicity, just add a couple of teaspoons together with olive oil to cooked pasta – bella!

Recipes

 

Peshwari Red Mutton Curry

This really is one from the memory banks! This gorgeous mutton curry is one which has stuck in the mind.
Read Recipe

Petit Sale (French-style stewed green lentils)

This is an old-school French classic, country food which is found on many Bistro and Brasserie menus.

Read Recipe

Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding

There are as many ways to make rice pudding as there are grains in a bag – it is a popular dessert in one form or another all over the world.

Read Recipe

Feature – Five a Day the Easy Way!

In these cold, dark Winter days one of the best ways to keep yourself feeling better and more physically and mentally robust is a good blast of vitamins! While the easiest way to do this is just to eat lots of fresh vegetables, there is a way whereby you can slip the veg into your diet in more concentrated form, and into dishes where the actual veg may not work so well. Spice Mountain offers a selection of vegetable powders, which are perfect for when you need to add some goodness to any dish, and they are all perfect if you are making a healthy smoothie or juice. They will add colour and flavour to your cooking, and are so handy to have around the kitchen for those occasions where you have no fresh veg available and can’t get to the shops to buy more. All that, and the perfect way to make sure you get your five a day! Oh, and don’t tell them, but these are a great way to make sure your kids get some veg into their diet.

 

Tomato powder – Packed with goodness, use tomato powder wherever you would normally use tomato puree. It is also great for juices, and can be used to make a Bloody Mary even more ‘tomatoey’. Top tip – use combined with some curry powder and yoghurt to make a quick tikka  marinade.

Beetroot powder – The poor beetroot never seems to be the most popular vegetable, although nowadays it is often used in ‘health’ drinks and the morning pick-me-up smoothie. Also it is a messy little devil, when using fresh beetroot you may well end up with a purple worktop!  But in this form its flavour really shines through, sweet and deep and also a bright blast of colour. Top tip – combine with soured cream to make a vibrant topping for blinis or pancakes.

Carrot powder – The humble carrot is the basis of so many delicious dishes from around the world, and this powder will do the job whatever you are cooking. Use to beef up soups and stews, and again this is perfect for juices and smoothies. Top tip – add a couple of spoonfuls to the kids’ mashed potatoes to give them a sunshine colour and a boost of vitamins.

Spinach powder – Spinach is increasingly recognised as something of a superfood, packed as it is with vitamins and iron. This powder retains all those benefits, and is also a great thickening agent when used in curries or smooth soups. If you are a fan of making your own pasta, this is what you use for pasta verde, when it gives what is a fairly neutral food nutrition wise some extra goodness! Top tip – add to pesto sauce for a bit of extra depth and flavour.

Red bell pepper powder – Sweet and rich, this powder will put all the flavour and colour of bell peppers into your cooking. It is more easily digested than the real thing, and is also great to use instead of paprika if you are not fond of strong spice. It will give new and delicious notes to any tomato soup or sauce, and works very well in Mexican and Cajun food. Top tip – sprinkle over fried eggs to give your breakfast a Mediterranean lift.

Champignon crumbs – Made from dehydrated button mushrooms, these little crumbs still contain all that earthy, musky flavour and work particularly well when used in dishes where fresh mushrooms are also involved. For vegetarians they can be used instead of meat stock, and they give any dish a lovely hit of umami. One of our favourite way to use them is in a Bolognese sauce, where they really do shine through. Top tip – add a couple of spoonfuls to the Bechamel sauce for a lasagne.

Red Onion powder – This is perfect for those times when you may have just run out of onions – you may not get the texture, but you get onion flavour plus! It works really well in curries, and is great if you like making your own pickles and chutneys, especially of course if that is a red onion marmalade. It matches really well with lentils and other pulses, giving them a touch of sweetness and depth. Top tip – blend with good quality salt and our balsamic vinegar powder to use for sprinkling over hot, crispy chips.

Garlic granules – Possibly the most useful of all, these granules are great for getting that garlic flavour without the astringency and aroma that some people find unpleasant. Use wherever you would use fresh garlic, and you save yourself all that peeling and chopping while getting a flavour that is somehow even more garlicky. We offer both regular and smoked varieties. Top tip – combine with champignon crumbs, tomato powder and basil to make the best garlic bread ever!

SPICE MOUNTAIN A-Z

X

 Xacuti – a ‘green’ curry from Goa in India, featuring the generous use of green chilli, fresh coriander and a touch of vinegar. Not dissimilar to Jalfrezi, although with more green.

Xiaoxing – A Chinese rice wine, which is used extensively in cooking all over the country, but especially in Shanghai cuisine.

Y

Yellow Curry – Undeservedly probably the least well known of the three staple Thai curries, yellow (also known as Mussuman) is where Southeast Asia and India meet – when chicken or meat is stewed in this turmeric-based gravy, the perfect balance is achieved.

Yin/Yang – Speaking of balance, yin/yang in life as well as food IS balance. A secret which while well known is one of the most difficult things to achieve, again both in life and food.

Yuzu  – An Oriental citrus fruit, the dried peel of which is often used in Japanese cookery. Interestingly, it is also used in the UK to flavour beer.

 

Z

 

Za’tar – The most popular spice blend throughout the Middle East, a combination of herbs with sesame seed and sumac with a deliciously nutty flavour.