Hey everyone, how are we? I’m back from sunny California and boy did I have a fantastic time! Such an amazing place – among the highlights were wandering among the enormous redwoods at Big Sur, seeing the lights and action of Las Vegas and some fantastic meals all along the way.
So I’m back in London just in time for the clocks to go back, and to get the Winter spice cupboard in order. There’s Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ night around the corner, which both call for plenty of mulled wine so our spice of the month is mulled wine spice, featuring our amazing spice bombs!
Our feature looks at the importance of pulses in cooking around the world, sharing some lovely recipes used in various places and showing just how you can keep your finger on the pulse in the kitchen!
And I suppose it must be mentioned, now the clocks are changing… yes, Christmas is not too far away! Our Christmas Pantry, starring all the spices and herbs you’ll need for the festive season, is featured on our website, and both our Borough Market and Westfield Stratford shops will be stocked with solutions to that Christmas gift dilemma – just make sure you give your Christmas the Spice Mountain touch!
Have a great month, and see you next time!

Magali

Spice of the Month

Mulled Wine Spice Bombs

It’s that time of year again – wandering around the market when around the corner you notice the sweet spicy smell of mulled wine, one of Winter’s most familiar and best-loved scents. Spice Mountain now offers you the easy way to have that appetising aroma wafting around your living room too. Our mulled wine spice bombs gather allspice, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cardamom, juniper, mace and ginger wrapped in muslin and tied, so all you need to do is drop one with a bottle of wine into a pan and heat gently (do not boil!) as the spices infuse. For those who do not drink the bombs will work perfectly with apple juice, so even the kids can get in on the fun! We also stock our mulled wine spice loose, and it can be used for other things too, for instance when stewing fruit, or even to give a taste of Winter to a game or beef stew. Use one bomb per bottle of wine – we sell our spice bombs individually but would advise buying several, just to avoid disappointment you understand!

October Recipes

  

Mild Mushroom Stroganoff

This delicious treat takes full advantage of the wild mushrooms in season now, making a luxurious dish which will grace any dinner party.

Read Recipe

Tarka Dhal

Tarka signifies that the dhal has been tempered with a mixture of crisp fried garlic, onion and chilli towards the end of cooking, a process which adds a total flavour bomb to the lentils.

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Venison Meatballs

Venison is a meat which is bang in season at the moment, and these meatballs are a great way to do something a little different with this lean, flavour-packed ingredient.

Read Recipe

This Month’s Feature –
Keep your Finger on the Pulse

Pulses, the food category which includes lentils, peas and beans, are one of the basic staples in kitchens around the world, and there are very good reasons for this. One is that they are a fantastic source of protein, making them essential in vegetarian and vegan diets. They are also high in fibre, meaning they are satisfying and filling to eat. Thirdly of course they taste great, and carry other flavours alongside them with ease. With the nights drawing in and a chill in the evening air, a lovely bean- or lentil-based stew is truly something to look forward to, so here we have a look at how pulses are used in various parts of the world, which will show just how many different ways there are to enjoy them, and which spices are used in the process.

Europe – From our point of view, the king of the castle when it comes to pulses in Europe has to be Cassoulet, the rich and luxurious haricot bean stew from southwest France. The Spanish enjoy a similar but more agrarian and spicy version known as Fabada, and also popular in Spain are garbanzos (chickpeas). In France green lentils are used to make Petit Sale, cooking the lentils with bacon lardons. Here in Britain we use pulses in soup a great deal – lentil soup, pea and ham, to name just two. In the north, split peas are used to make pease pudding. In Italy, a delicious soup is made with cannelini beans and saffron, while in Greece giant butter beans are baked with garlic, tomato and herbs for a delicious starter. The Greeks also make a hearty bean soup with a similar flavour, called Fasoulia.
Spices commonly used with pulses in this area are paprika, cumin, bay leaves and flatleaf parsley. Our patatas bravas blend is ideal, and curry powder is also used, often used to spice up lentil soup.

Middle East/North Africa – Lentils and chickpeas are the most commonly used pulses in this area. Chickpeas are the base of hummus, the dip enjoyed around the Mediterranean, and they turn up in many other dishes too – often they will be combined with couscous to accompany a tagine. The thin lentil soup shorba is ubiquitous also, differing slightly from country to country. In the Lebanon one of the national dishes in Feteh, made with black-eyed beans, while the Egyptians love Foul Mesdames, their answer to baked beans.
In north Africa ras el hanout would be used to spice up pulses, also Tunisian Tabil blend, while further east sumac and za’tar take over as the main players.

The Subcontinent – from the batter on your onion bhaji to the lentils in your dahl, pulses are an absolute staple in India where many people are vegetarian. Chickpeas, peas, beans and lentils are all commonly used, and chickpeas are used to make gram flour. There are dozens of different dahls, and two favourites are channa masala (chickpeas) and tarka dahl (lentils). Lentil flour is often used to make up the ‘pancake’ bit of a masala dosa, and also to make the snack vada (a sort of fried lentil dumpling enjoyed in India with a glass of chai. And we musn’t forget the peppery, sour sambar, a thin lentil and vegetable soup served as part of the South Indian thali.
The range of spices used with pulses is immense in this region. Asafoetida is essential in dhal, and Spice Mountain stocks a wide range of curry blends, most of which will work perfectly well with pulses (in particular our Channa Masala blend).

The Far East – the most commonly used pulse in the Far East is the soya bean, which of course is omnipresent in Chinese cooking in one form or another, from soy sauce to beancurd. The soy bean, once preserved/fermented, is one of the best sources of umami, the fifth element of flavour. Soy however is also used to make sweet dishes, and in a country where little dairy produce is consumed, milk is usually soya milk. Red beans are used, primarily in sweet dishes which make up part of a dim sum lunch.
Beancurd matches really well with garlic and chilli, so our Szechuan blend is perfect, and Japanese Shichimi Togarashi is just as good.

The Americas – Beans rather than lentils rule the roost in the Americas. From Boston baked beans in the northeast of the US (where navy beans are baked with pork and molasses), to refried beans in the southwest of the country (spiced pinto beans mashed up after cooking and refried). Beans are an integral part of chilli con carne, a worldwide favourite, and form a major part of Mexican cuisine. There is even a herb particular to Mexico, epazote (available at Spice Mountain), which matches with beans better than anything. In South America, black beans are essential to Brazil’s national dish Feijoada. In the Caribbean pigeon peas are boiled with herbs and spices and eaten as a side dish.
Cumin is king when it comes to the spices used with pulses in this region, along with the range of dried chillies such as amarillo, penca or ancho. Spice Mountain’s Mexican Holy Trinity is perfect, especially for chilli con carne, and our Peruvian spice rub brings gentler, more subtle Latino notes.

A Match Made In Heaven

In which we take a monthly look at which spices, herbs and blends match best with the fruit and vegetables in season.

Aubergine – the lovely aubergine is stacked high in the shops at the minute, and cheap as chips to boot. Its fairly neutral flavour means that it matches well with many spices – cumincoriander and fennel seed all work with their earthy notes, and with blends Smoky RaguMoroccan Chermoula and Mauritius Masala all bring out the best in the aubergine.

Beetroot – Beetroot’s natural sweetness means it works best with strong flavours such as caraway seedcoriander seed and cloves, or herbs such as dill and chervil. The warm flavours of Middle Eastern cookery match particularly well, for instance, dukkah or zatar.

Broccoli – As broccoli takes little cooking, concentrate on how to dress or finish the vegetable. Garlic, black pepper, chilli and salt (try our Cyprus lemon pyramid salt for an awesome dish!) all work, as do Asian flavours such as Chinese 5 Spice and Shichimi Togarashi.

Brussels Sprouts – the strong flavour of sprouts needs something to calm it, and powerful herbs can all achieve this – rosemary, oregano and marjoram all provide the necessary balance. Smoked garlic works wonderfully too, and a simple dressing of quality black pepper (such as Kampot) is divine.

Figs – Fresh figs are a real treat, and due to their high sugar levels they cook really well with warm aromatic spices such as cinnamoncloves and nutmeg. Ginger works very well too, along with cardamom, and for something different try matching with lemon peel or orange peel.