Herbie’s Spices Newsletter Autumn 2024

February 28, 2024 posted in Autumn

Isn’t it wonderful that our Australian eateries, even in country towns, offer a wide and diverse range of cuisines?  It’s taken for granted that we have a choice of Italian, Turkish, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, and so many more, thanks to the migrants who have chosen to live here and share their fabulous food with us. Mexican is becoming popular, but seems to be confined to tacos, perhaps owing to the fact that we have fewer migrants from Latin-American countries.  But finally, things are changing and real Mexican food, as opposed to Tex-Mex, is emerging here in Australia.

Mexican Summer Salad

Chicken Mole Poblano

You could say that Herbie’s was ahead of its time when we created our fabulous Mole Poblano mix many years ago after a visit to Mexico.  Our ever-popular Guacamole mix, of course, is of Mexican origin, mole being any sort of paste, so a part of the name of many dishes.  We’re back on the Mexican riff now, with our Chilli Lime Salt being an integral part of our occasional Margarita treat, as well as being a great seasoning for avocado and salads.  (Check out the sweet potato crisps with Chilli Lime Salt on our website!)

A new addition to the Herbie’s range is an Achiote Paste spice mix, increasing our commitment to the cuisine of Latin America. Never heard of achiote?  It’s made by grinding annatto seeds to give a distinctive flavour and that reddish-gold colour so beloved in Latin America in all sorts of foods.  Annatto seeds are quite often called achiote, which is not actually correct, as they are simply an ingredient – it can be a bit confusing.  If you’re in any of the Latin American countries, you may find ground annatto seeds pre-packed, called bijol, but beware, it is often adulterated with artificial dyes and additives.  It’s safer to grind your own, but be prepared for fingers stained red for days from the seeds.  Easier to let Herbie’s grind the seeds, mix them with ground cumin, oregano, sea salt, black pepper, allspice, garlic and amchur, so you just have to mix it to a paste with water, lime juice and oil, and coat your chicken for a delicious, family-friendly meal. (We like to add a couple of freshly crushed garlic cloves to the paste, but that’s optional.)

Annatto Seed Pod

Tuscan Chicken

Perhaps it’s just a form of small talk, but people often say to us: “So, got any new spices lately?”  Spices are older than the bible, older than written history, and a “new” spice is only one that has recently been discovered by our own culture.  Maybe we could say Australian native spices are new, as it’s only in the past 50 years or so that they have been available for us to use in our kitchens.  New spice blends, of course, are a different matter, and we’re happy to come up with new combinations of ancient herbs and spices to please our 21st century palates.

Italian food is something nearly everyone loves.  Right now, with the cost of groceries on everyone’s mind, think about the fabulous soups that come from Italy.  It’s a great way to use up stale bread and old vegetables, plus an economical protein boost with beans (faggioli) of all kinds.  Throw in some Italian Seasoning for a flavour boost, and enjoy the cosiness of la zuppa as autumn draws in.

New Year already seems far behind us, and many of us are back to the routine of work and school.  Packing a lunch box is a better and more cost effective option than buying lunch every day, and there are countless labour-saving lunchbox fillers in the way of bars and balls available at the supermarket.  The labels will declare their innate goodness, and assure you of the boundless health-giving properties of these various manufactured foods, and it’s up to you to use your judgement when it comes to how often these convenience products take a place in your, or your child’s, lunchbox.  Consider the humble sandwich and its role in providing nourishment and satisfaction.  A couple of tips:  freeze a sliced multigrain loaf, and spread butter on the frozen bread to prevent dragging and tearing of the fresh bread; hard boil a batch of eggs once a week, mash them with Medium Curry Powder, salt and mayonnaise and keep, covered, in the fridge for making tasty and nourishing sandwiches using your frozen buttered slices.  By lunchtime the bread will have defrosted and will taste deliciously fresh.  Another sandwich filling that is so good as to be almost decadent is finely chopped smoked salmon mixed with cream cheese, capers, Lemon and Herb Pepper, and chopped dill.  Take it to the next level with some Chilli Lime Salt.

Embrace Flavour Recipes

In our recent recipe book, Embrace Flavour, we have a page of Energy Ball recipes in the Sweet section.  These are perfect for a lunch box treat, as you know exactly what’s in them – the lack of refined sugar and the delicious flavours are exactly what you want for your loved ones.  Just to get you inspired, here’s our favourite energy ball recipe:

Chocolate Spice Bliss Balls

Makes 25-30 balls approx 2cm diameter

  • 250g pitted dates                      
  • 250g cashews
  • 60g buckwheat kernels              
  • 30g cacao or cocoa
  • 30g cacao nibs or choc bits       
  • 10g dessiccated coconut
  • 25ml date or maple syrup         
  • 1 tsp Herbie’s Spice Dust

Roughly chop dates and cashews, and place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  You can vary the mix by using a combination of dates and raisins instead of 250g dates.  Blitz about 60 seconds until you have a dry-ish paste.  It will compact as you take spoonfuls and roll them into balls.  Roll the balls in extra Spice Dust and store in an airtight container.

Stay well, and spice well

Herbie and Liz

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