Hello everyone – or should I say Heeey Dudes! For as you read this, I shall be enjoying a road trip through California! Yes, we’re motoring down the freeways and byways from LA to San Diego, stopping off along the way to tuck into some lovely meals (I’m particularly looking forward to the Mexican food). Also of course I’ll be seeking out spices, as this is chilli country after all! Tell you all about it next month! Our spice of the month is Allspice, which gets especially useful now the cold evenings are coming in, and our recipes include a Greek classic, Stifado, and two classic comfort foods in Ragu Bolognese and a delicious Apple and Blackberry Crumble with custard. In fact comfort foods are the subject of our feature where we list some of our favourites, along with how to give them the Spice Mountain touch. I hope you find some of your favourites in there too! Just one more thing about California (sorry!!) – while we’re away our online shop will not be sending out orders. You can still order however, and we will get your spices out to you asap on our return. Have a good month, and see you next time! Spice of the Month Allspice This pungent berry, also known as pimento and Jamaican pepper (Jamaica being where the majority of allspice is grown), is used in cooking in many countries and cuisines, although it is particularly prevalent in Caribbean food. Its flavour is warm and aromatic, not a million miles from black pepper but with a more complex character, including notes of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. It has long been used in Western cooking, especially in pickles and slow-cooked meaty stews, and it is essential in Caribbean curry powders and of course Jerk chicken. Allspice also turns up in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. Allspice is available whole and ground, the flavour of the ground being concentrated and more pungent – a little goes a long way, and a teaspoonful is generally sufficient. The whole berries will lend a more subtle flavour, and are usually used in combination with other similar spices. Buy on Spice Mountain September Recipes Stifado Every Greek holiday will feature at least one helping of one of the country’s national dishes, the aromatic, gently spiced beef stew known as Stifado. Read Recipe Bolognese Before we start, a disclaimer – someone somewhere (probably an Italian) will dispute that this ragu is actually a true Bolognese, and I dare say they’d be correct, technically. Read Recipe Apple & Blackberry Crumble/Custard An Autumn Sunday, a walk in the woods (or the park) and a lovely crumble waiting to be enjoyed when you get home, smothered in creamy custard to take the chill out of your bones. Read Recipe This Month’s Feature – Comfortably Tum We’ve all got one or two, those foods which just take us back to childhood or happier times, which bring back fond memories. Foods which satisfy even in imagination. Comfort foods are of course a highly personal affair, but certain meals and foods seem to make everyone’s list. Equally obviously these foods come with a certain degree of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but there are few foods which don’t benefit and improve from the judicious use of the Spice Mountain touch! Here we list some of our favourite comfort foods, and what you can include in them to give even more comfort. Beans on Toast/Cheese on Toast – You get in late from work, and there’s nothing in the fridge for tea. You could grab a takeaway, or you could dig out that tin of beans from the cupboard! Or rescue the one inhabitant of the fridge, that lump of cheese. All you need then is toast, butter and some spice. For beans, a teaspoonful of curry powder (either Karachi blend for hot, or mild Madras) works wonders, and for your cheese on toast just sprinkle on some Cajun seasoning. And of course you can just slap the cheese on top of the beans, and then you don’t have to choose. Bangers and Mash – Definitely one from childhood this, and when I was small beans were the accompaniment of choice. But for grown-ups, we’d suggest a good onion gravy boosted with red onion powder, tomato powder or champignon crumbs for those who love mushrooms. As for the mash, liven it up with a grate of nutmeg, or for genuine luxury a few saffron strands added with the milk and the butter. Noodle Soup – the comfort food of choice across the Far East, few things are as satisfying as a steaming bowl of noodle soup. What you spice it with depends on where you wish you were of course, but you can’t go wrong making a laksa type dish using Tom Yum blend, adding Shichimi Togarashi for Japanese flavours or Pho blend for an authentic Vietnamese soup. Spag Bol – One of Italy’s gifts to the world of comfort food is pasta, and the most commonly loved pasta dish worldwide must be Spaghetti Bolognese. Our recipe for Bolognese is shared in this month’s recipes, and the sauce can be used to put together other Premier League comfort foods such as lasagne and moussaka. A guilty pleasure from student days also stands out, viz the leftover Bolognese and cheese toastie – oh yes! Chips – or French fries for our non-Brit readers (although thinking about it crisps would make our comfort food list any time!). As basic as food gets, your chips can be jazzed up with all sorts of things. A mixture of salt and balsamic vinegar powder keeps your chips simple, and from our blends, try any of these three – Patatas Bravas, Cajun seasoning or Caribbean blend. Are there any more, Mum?? Mac & Cheese – Another pasta contender for greatest comfort food ever, this one can be spiced up nicely with a few different ideas. Cajun seasoning works wonderfully, as does anything involving plenty of garlic and paprika, and an alternative is our Peruvian spice blend – the combination of Amarillo and Penca chillies coming together beautifully with all that cheesiness! Also don’t forget to add a grate of nutmeg to the cheese sauce. Fied Rice– Every cuisine that features rice will have a version of fried rice somewhere in the repertoire, and of course rice is receptive to pretty much anything so feel free to do as you please when it comes to spicing it up. We would however strongly advise involving some of our lovely Nasi Goreng blend, specifically designed for fried rice with a mix of vegetables and spices. Dumplings – While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Euro style suet dumpling, especially on top of a paprika-laden goulash, we are more concerned here with Asian dumplings – potstickers, wonton, that sort of chap. And in this case it’s the dipping sauce which is important – it should always contain a healthy blast of chilli, and our Korean gochugaru flakes are ideal, with a fruity sweet heat. Custard – A good custard is a thing of genuine beauty, and if it is made with Vanilla sugar you will find it as difficult as us to find words to describe it! Also don’t forget the real McCoy, vanilla pods. And when it comes to comfort, let us relax and imagine diving into a bowl of banana custard fortified with our 100% freeze-dried banana powder. We stock many other fruit powders too, and most will work with custard. 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. Apples – The fresh, crisp flavour of apples complements the warmer, aromatic spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, especially if you are making something sweet. In the savoury department, sage is a surprisingly good match. Leeks – Being a member of the onion family, leeks are not lacking in their own strong flavour, so robust spices are needed here. Mustard seeds work very well, and for roasting leeks try Tunisian Tabil, which is more than strong enough to hold its own Fennel – The distinct aniseed of fennel means that powerful flavours are needed to complement it. Orange peel works well, as does lemon (our lemon pyramid salt for instance), and the milder, more toasty chillies such as Ancho or New Mexico work really well. Kale – The earthy, iron notes of kale work especially well with garlic (our smoked garlic flakes for example) and also chilli, particularly flakes such as Aleppo or Chipotle. A slightly more leftfield idea is to season kale with our Himalayan salt with roasted spices. Pumpkin – Pumpkin goes really well with so many spices, but nutmeg has to be the pick. Otherwise try matching with top quality pepper such as Kampot, or roasting pumpkin with Chinese 5 spice. Additionally if you are making a pumpkin soup boost it with a mild curry powder such as our Korma blend.