July 7th this year marks 20 years since we opened the doors of Herbie’s Spices in Rozelle. What amazing, fulfilling, exciting years they have been, and we wouldn’t have missed a minute of it! Our decision last year to close the retail store in Rozelle was the right move at the right time, and you all know that we are still here, still meeting your spice requirements, and still accessible by phone, email or website any time you need us. We have enjoyed being able to get out and about to visit our more remote customers.
During autumn we travelled to California to provide some support for our American agent, Williamson’s Wines. During a hectic week, Herbie conducted spice classes (including one for the Culinary Institute of America) and spread the word about the delights of well-flavoured food, managing to fit in a little time for enjoying the fabulous local wine of the Sonoma valley, and the warm hospitality of our hosts. The Williamson’s Wines in-house chef, Tommy Stribling, created some wonderful, innovative dishes to match the wines, naturally using Herbie’s Spices. His idea to combine Curry Mix with our Balmain and Rozelle Spice in a chicken curry was unexpected and totally amazing. (If you want to try it, replace one third of your curry powder quantity with Balmain & Rozelle Spice).
To see Herbie’s Q&A in California click on this link: Herbie’s Q&A
A week in Mexico took us to our producers in the state of Vera Cruz. We last visited them 22 years ago, when Herbie’s Spices was no more than a twinkle in our eyes, and at that time we were unable to see the vanilla orchids in flower. The beautiful pale green blooms require human intervention to achieve pollination, as the little Mexican bee that nature provided to do the job is so rare that there are not enough of them to do the work required in commercial crops. So every vanilla bean that you buy is the result of a delicate operation using a slim pencil-length stick to gently move the membrane separating the male and female parts of the flower. It looked a little like opening the flap of a tiny envelope and gently sealing it shut again.
To see a Vanilla Flower bring hand pollinated click on this link: Vanilla Flower Pollination
There is a false expectation that, when it comes to vanilla beans, bigger is better. Not necessarily so – length of bean is an indication of the weather during the growing season, but it does not affect the flavour or quality of the bean.
In the town of Xico (pronounced Heeco), we met with the manufacturers of the famous Xico mole and a beautiful guajillo chilli paste, which forms the basis of several of the local culinary specialities. We were interested to find that Barbacoa, (the origin of our word barbecue) is not a barbecue style as we know it, but rather a slow cook. In our case, chicken thighs were encased with guajillo paste and a fresh avocado leaf in a foil parcel and steamed – quite delicious.
Whilst we are still on the subject of Mexico, we found some truly beautiful allspice berries (in limited supply) that we look forward to bringing to you in the near future. Watch this space! Also, we visited a local home, where Senora Suarez showed us her Mexican oregano. This was interesting for us, as many customers over the years have searched for it. We are happy to tell you that it is virtually identical to our own Australian oregano, so you can use Australian product safe in the knowledge that your end result will not be compromised.
We had just enough time to re-set our watches on Australian time after our overseas trip before we headed off to Darwin for the Territory Taste Food Festival, where we conducted two spice blending workshops each day of the weekend event. If you’re a Food Festival tragic, keep your eyes open for this annual event – imagine a vibrant, interesting food festival that is not overcrowded and overpriced, with a stunning tropical setting.
What’s New at Herbie’s?
Apple Pie Spice, Pumpkin Pie Spice and Turkey Stuffing Mix
As a service to our American customers, both here in Australia and in other parts of the world, we have listened to their requests and have created Apple Pie Spice, Pumpkin Pie Spice, and Turkey Stuffing Mix, nicely timed to be available before the celebration date of Fourth of July. Pumpkin to any European is known as a stock food, here in Australia we like to roast it or make pumpkin scones, but it’s definitely a dessert food on the American continent. Pureed to a very smooth consistency, (most people use the canned version, available from specialty food stores), it takes on a completely different character … try it and enjoy it! Apple Pie Spice and Pumpkin Pie Spice are both in a 40 g pack for $4.95; Turkey Stuffing Mix, a 15 gram pack is $3.80.
Strata-ing … it’s nothing to do with apartment blocks, it’s what happens when there are ingredients of different weight and texture in a blend. Because we don’t use oils or additives to prevent this, the lighter particles (herbs and chilli flakes, for example) work their way to the top, leaving paprika, pepper, salt etc at the bottom. If you have something like Salt and Pepper Squid, or Cajun Spice Mix, in your pantry, give the packs a good shake before you use them, to mix the ingredients into their proper place.
Thank you to those of you who have shown interest in our forthcoming return visit to India, scheduled for early next year. We’re excited about it already and are delighted to say that the tour is now fully booked. We look forward to having lots of fun with old friends and new.
Winter Box of Ideas
We have enjoyed putting together the Winter Box of Ideas for you. (Remember, the Box of Ideas changes every single season to introduce new ideas for your repertoire.) We have so many wonderful blends that sometimes a product can slip off the regular radar of family cooking. Our fabulous Chinese Master Stock ball is one of these, and it has been a great pleasure to fill the house with the wonderful aromas of this rich and delicious stock whilst developing the recipes for the Box. Now that the beneficial effects of Alleppey Turmeric are so widely known, we frequently have people asking how they can incorporate turmeric into their everyday diet. So we’ve given some easy and tasty recipes to show just how easy it is. Along with Master Stock and Turmeric, the box contains the lovely warm and earthy Cumin seed, and the spice blend Garam Masala, not only for Indian food but an all-purpose seasoning. The Winter box is frosty white, and sells for $25.00 plus postage.