We’ve been in search of Hungary’s best paprika, and recently spent five rainy days in the Hungarian countryside visiting farms and factories. We were treated to generous Hungarian hospitality and were privileged to attend the Kolosca Paprika Festival, where groups of locals cooked up wonderful paprika-spiced specialties. Our favourite was this simple but fabulous catfish soup. It’s a good fish, firm fleshed and not too bony. You might find it in Australia called Silver Cobbler, or just Cobbler, or you could use ling. You might find the special pasta at Bavarian Smallgoods in Sydney, or substitute something like soba noodles broken into match-length pieces.
1 Kg good fish (see above for options)
Place fish, onion and salted cold water in a pot, bring to boil, add paprika and pepper. Cook for approximately 30 minutes at a simmer, until fish is tender. We sometimes add a bay leaf. Meanwhile, cook match pasta in a separate saucepan until tender. Whole small fresh paprika are an option, if you have them. Serve the fish in a large bowl, with the pasta in a separate bowl to add to soup. Serves 4. You’ll be amazed by the flavour!
A paprika fruit is, in essence, a type of chilli or capsicum, and much research is put into developing the best varieties. In bygone years, freshly harvested paprikas were strung into ristras and hung from eaves and beams to air-dry for two or three weeks. These days they are tightly packed into mesh bags (like large onion bags) which, although very efficient, are not as picturesque! During these few weeks, the active ingredient capsanthin continues to develop in the flesh of the paprikas, improving colour and flavour. After this time, the fruits are washed, sliced and dried in a large continuous-belt drying oven. The stems are removed and the pods ground. Once it was believed that a better product was achieved if the seeds were removed before grinding, however the experts now know that the seeds assist in the best colour retention and they are left in. For a really beautiful, silky paprika powder, the product can go through as many as six consecutive grinders, and we have to tell you, the smell is pretty wonderful when you’re standing right beside them!
Whilst in Europe, we also went to Italy and visited the tiny village of Navelli, wrapped in misty mountain rain, to meet with members of a saffron-growing co-operative. We have heard about the beautiful saffron from this region and were keen to see it for ourselves. Greeted once again with overwhelming hospitality, we were shown the little government-funded packing room within a centuries-old cloistered building that once was a convent. Although the saffron is good, (though not the standard of our Kashmiri saffron ), we are not sure that you, our customers, want to pay the price currently being asked for it, so no decision has been made at this time.
We have been delighted to have so many Spice Tour veterans interested in our Repeat Offenders’ Tour in 2012. We’re planning to visit new and different destinations, and we will have the tough job of doing a recce in 2011 to make sure it all works beautifully. Don’t forget to let us know if you are keen to participate, so that we can keep you informed as plans develop, and with a maximum team of 16, it will be first in, best travelled!
Once again, Christmas is almost upon us. When you’re looking for gifts, perhaps you’ll bypass the dust-collectors and clothes that don’t fit properly, and choose something really useful and delicious … like a box of spices! Our collection of themed spice kits , as you know, has expanded during the year and you’ll certainly find something for everyone. The ever-popular wooden Spice Boxes are back in stock, and are available empty or filled with our Pantry Start-Up spices. For a really lovely gift, Herbie’s latest book Just Add Spice can be teamed with the Just Add Spice Kit. You’ll see all the kits on the website, or phone us and we can post you a printed list with order form.
This is the first Christmas season that our shop in Rozelle has been open on Sundays from 10am to 3pm, and we’re sure you’ll find it a benefit in your busy schedule to be able to pop in on either day of the weekend for your requirements. It also means that internet and phone orders can be placed every day of the week.
On December 10-11-12, Herbie will be at the Masterchef Live event at Fox Studios in Sydney. He’ll be doing spice-blending classes, (no bookings, so it’s a first-come, first-served basis) in the World Foods Feature area and there will be a limited range of our wonderful Spice Kits and books for people who need to do some Christmas shopping while they’re there.
Shichimi Togarashi is a lovely blend of chilli, salt, poppy, mustard and sesame seeds, orange peel, Sichuan pepper and lemon myrtle. A few months ago we started grinding our own chilli granules for this blend, and, not really to anyone’s surprise, they are brighter and hotter than what we had been buying in! Thanks to those customers who pointed out the change in heat level. We’ve re-visited the proportions of chilli to other ingredients and the balance is now back to the original balance and won’t blow your head off any more!
Have a wonderful, safe and spicy Christmas! Herbie and Liz