Yes, the sun is out and it seems Summer has finally arrived! And not a second too soon, considering how grim the weather was only recently. The world of spice is heating up too – we are really busy at the moment, and without giving too much away, there is a very exciting development around the corner; more on that next month. I’m finding a nice balance at the minute between blending the spices at HQ and spending time in the shop at Borough, getting the best of both worlds. So what do I have for you this month? Our feature focusses on salt, and the lovely artisan varieties which we stock, which will change the way you think about and use this basic condiment. Spice of the month is the tonka bean, an ingredient from South America which is becoming very popular nowadays. One of our recipes is a lovely sponge cake, infused with this delicious bean, and another features our new Katsu curry blend which is proving very popular. And that’s about it for now; enjoy this month’s read, but don’t forget to take advantage of this lovely weather as well. See you next month! Spice of the Month Tonka Bean We like to call this the dessert spice, as it works so well in sweet dishes. The tonka bean comes from South America, and its hypnotic aroma (described as a combination of vanilla, cloves, almond, pear and even fresh hay) means it has been used by perfumiers for years. Those same aromas make it a popular ingredient for the kitchen, and it is often used in sweet dishes to add a more interesting and complex vanilla flavour. It works particularly well in panacottas and crème brulee, and also in baking. It can be used in savoury dishes where vanilla (or even nutmeg) would normally be used. Tonka beans are very strong in flavour, and a little goes a long way. To use, grate the beans with a microplane – be careful not to use more than the recommended amount, as the beans contain coumarin which is considered toxic in high doses. It is the coumarin (which occurs because of fermentation) which produces the characteristic flavour and aroma of the beans. Tonka beans are also being used nowadays by mixologists in cocktail bars as an aromatic, especially in rum-based drinks. All in all, a tremendously versatile ingredient which though its flavour has many different aspects remains beautifully unique. Purchase Tonka Bean Recipes Chicken Katsu Curry Any fan of Japanese food will be aware that a katsu curry is a heavenly experience. Read Recipe Lahore Lamb Chops This recipe is from Pakistan, and involves marinating lamb chops in a fiery blend of spices before grilling or, ideally, barbecueing the chops to juicy perfection. Read Recipe Tonka Bean Sponge Cake This cake highlights the wonderful flavour of the tonka bean, out Spice of the Month, and is given a little punch by the addition of rum. Read Recipe This Month’s Feature Taken with a Pinch of Salt. Nowadays people are much more aware of the health benefits or otherwise of what they eat, andone food which receives a very mixed press is salt. Salt does present something of a dilemma – while it is proven and well known that too much salt is not good for you, it is also essential in our diet. Another factor is that salt is perhaps the most powerful flavour enhancer we have, possessing the ability of making bland food taste delicious – think of the effect a sprinkle of salt has on a bowl of chips! The more natural the salt, the better of course – most of the salt consumed is heavily processed on an industrial scale, which apart from anything else does the flavour of the product no good at all. But there are many natural salts on the market nowadays, artisan products with a small scale production process, which retain all their flavour and benefits. The difference in quality is remarkable, as is the range of flavour and colour. Here we look at our favourite salts from around the world, and there are some real gems which will change the way you look at this most basic of foods. A main advantage of using top quality salt is that because it has so much flavour a little goes a long way, making it easy to avoid consuming too much.Murray River Salt – Naturally produced in the salt ponds of the Murray River in Australia, this peach coloured salt has a mild flavour with a lovely fragrance. It is perfect for cooking with and also as a table condiment with real character. Celery Salt – Sea salt blended with celery seeds, this variety is well known as a vital ingredient in a Bloody Mary, but it is also great for cooking – the earthiness of the celery boosts the salt’s flavour enhancing character to give a real lift to whatever it is used in. Cuban Seasoned Salt – this Spice Mountain original was created to give a splash of Latin flavour and colour to cooking; the salt is blended with tomato powder, smoked paprika, Mexican oregano and bayleaf and it works particularly well with pork. Egyptian Frost Salt – A rare treasure among salts, this one is produced in Egypt from a single source. Its appearance is like freshly fallen snowflakes, and it also has a very distinctive texture, being very soft and dry. Best used as a finishing salt, it has a vibrant, powerful flavour. Hawaiian Bamboo Salt – Not only is this jade green salt very attractive, it is also good for you! The salt is blended with organic bamboo leaf extract, which is rich in amino acids and antioxidants, to give a subtle, exotic flavour which is perfect for using in Asian cooking. Hawaiian Black Lava Salt – This naturally evaporated salt is blended with purified volcanic charcoal to create a delicious finishing salt with a distinctive appearance. It has a bold and intense flavour which is superb on grilled meats and fish, and particularly with sushi and tofu. Lemon Pyramid Salt – One of our favourites of all, this salt comes from Cyprus and has a unique production process which can take up to two years. The flakes have a pyramid shape which holds even after cooking and the lemon gives the salt a dazzling sunflower yellow colour along with bold citrus flavour. Great for roasting chicken or fish in particular. Hibiscus Salt – This aromatic, floral salt really lends the flavour of Summer to your cooking. It is perfect for fish, works very well with steak, and is great for using to dress vegetables such as new potatoes. It is also perfect for baking, especially breads such as focaccia, and its attractive colour makes it a winner for the barbecue. Smoked Salt – Pure sea salt smoked over oak for 120 hours, this has a sweet smoky aroma and flavour and a lovely colour. It is great for using on the barbecue, and also to give that same character to foods cooked in the kitchen. Amazing used to season a steak, and also goes very well with eggs. Persian Blue Salt – One of the rarest and most precious salts, this is produced from a single seam in an ancient Iranian lake bed. The dazzling blue colour comes from an optical illusion resulting from the presence of sylvin (another mineral) in the salt. It has a strong initial burst of saltiness with a subtle, lingering aftertaste. An excellent use for this salt is to coat the glass rim when making a Margarita. Spice Mountain A-Z G Grenada – a Caribbean island which is known for being one of the biggest producers of nutmeg. Goa – India’s most popular state for travelers is not far away from paradise! It is also the home of delicious food, with a distinct Portuguese influence. Our Goan curry and Vindaloo spices are typically from this region and are well worth a try! Greece – Another popular holiday destination, this sun-kissed Mediterranean country’s food uses strong herbs and spices such as oregano and allspice. SpiceMountain’s blend of wild herbs is of Cypriot origin which will add a burst of herby flavors to many varieties of dishes including your homemade garlic bread. H Ho Chi Minh City – formerly known as Saigon, this vibrant city in Vietnam is a cultural melting pot and its food reflects this with strong French influences on top of Vietnamese style. A common dish is Pho, a delicious noodle soup. Our own blend of Vietnamese Pho is available online. Hawaii – tropical islands in the Pacific, and a blend of East and West with strong American and Japanese traditions. Its rich volcanic soil is ideal for growing tropical fruit, which has a strong influence in the food eaten. Hongkong – one of the most exciting cities on Earth, it is also truly international. It is known for having a dazzling range of food, with a list of tasty treats which is far too long to go into in detail here!