NEWSLETTER: August – September 1998

August 01, 1998 posted in Newsletters

We’re proud to say that our mailing list has grown to almost unmanageable proportions! Naturally we’re delighted that so many people have asked for our Newsletter, but now that we’ve been established for a whole year (Happy Birthday to Us!), we feel the time has come to review the list and make sure that we are not wasting paper on people who don’t need or read the Newsletter. In a society where a sea of unwanted paper is thrown out every day, we want to be sure we’re not adding to the problem! The newsletter is accessible on the web, as is the product list and current price list, which may suit some of you better than receiving it all in the mail. You’ll find a tear-off section on the bottom of the printed Newsletter so you can tell us if you want to keep receiving the six Newsletters a year. We realise this is going to cause you a little inconvenience and cost a few minutes of your time… but if we don’t hear from you, how do we know if the envelope went straight to the bin unopened, or if it is languishing in some unattended mail box at the place where you used to live? If we don’t receive your reply to the Freepost address, we’ll oblige by removing your name from the list. Alternatively, you can email us to keep receiving the printed version by clicking here. Put “I want my newsletter” in the Subject field, and remember to include your name and a current address!

Kickstart Your Day With Spice

We were recently talking to some Bed & Breakfast proprietors, and the conversation came around to spices for breakfast. This is of some topical interest to people whose business is excellent breakfasts! Once we started thinking about it, there are lots of ways to spice up the start of the day, for instance…

  • Toast – mix about 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon quills or cassia with 1 tablespoon sugar and sprinkle over hot buttered toast, or top fingers of hot buttered toast with dukkah
  • Porridge – mix 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom very well with 4 tablespoons soft brown sugar (an indication only – use more or less to taste). Store and use to top smooth, creamy porridge.
  • Scrambled Eggs – use any of the soft-textured herbs, such as chives, parsley, chervil or tarragon to add a touch of elegance. For dried herbs, add about 1/2 teaspoon per egg.
  • Pears or stone fruits – poach with a star anise or cinnamon quill in the syrup.
  • Pancakes – blend mixed spice with caster sugar (same quantity proportions as for toast) and sprinkle over hot pancakes with a squeeze of lemon. Or whip mixed spice or cassia with butter to serve with flapjacks.
  • Coffee – for the straight-up-and-black brigade, add 1 teaspoon of Tea and Coffee Masala per tablespoon of coffee in the plunger. For a more gentle approach, try coffee with half a vanilla bean added to the plunger for each two cups.
  • Tea – for a tea with an almost-minty morning freshness, add 2 cardamom pods and 6 strands of saffron to a 4-6 cup pot, and serve quite weak and black.

An Anna by any other name

An Anna by any other name would smell as sweet… Do they still make aniseed balls – those round, hard, black sweets with the licorice flavour? We know they are pronounced “anna-seed”, as are the little dull-brown seeds from the anise plant (pimpinella anisum) which blooms and goes to seed annually. (Anise seeds, in fact, commonly abbreviated to aniseed.) Anise is native to the Middle East, and on the other side of the globe there is an evergreen tree of the magnolia family, known as Illicium verum, or Illicum anisatum. The Chinese call the woody fruit of this tree ba chio (or other names depending on the dialect of the region), but because its taste and aroma is so like aniseed, Westerners called the fruits “star anise”. Somewhere in the transfer from one spice to another, anise(anna)seed became star anise(anees). Strange … perhaps it’s been the influence of French-inspired chefs!An Anna by any other name
An Anna by any other name would smell as sweet… Do they still make aniseed balls – those round, hard, black sweets with the licorice flavour? We know they are pronounced “anna-seed”, as are the little dull-brown seeds from the anise plant (pimpinella anisum) which blooms and goes to seed annually. (Anise seeds, in fact, commonly abbreviated to aniseed.) Anise is native to the Middle East, and on the other side of the globe there is an evergreen tree of the magnolia family, known as Illicium verum, or Illicum anisatum. The Chinese call the woody fruit of this tree ba chio (or other names depending on the dialect of the region), but because its taste and aroma is so like aniseed, Westerners called the fruits “star anise”. Somewhere in the transfer from one spice to another, anise(anna)seed became star anise(anees). Strange … perhaps it’s been the influence of French-inspired chefs!

Star of the Orient

Because of its origins in China, star anise is a mainstay of the Chinese spice shelf, and its distinctive flavour is evident in Chinese Five Spice. Traditionally it has been used in savoury meat dishes, and in the marinade for marbled Chinese tea eggs, but cooks everywhere have now discovered the wonderful effect of adding the very picturesque stars to syrups for poached fruits and other desserts.

Good Things in Fives

Speaking of Chinese Five Spice, it’s interesting how every cuisine seems to have its own indispensable blend … five spice in Asia, garam masala in India and Asia, ras el hanout in North Africa, and bouquet garni in Europe. If Australia was to lay claim to its own spice blend, what would it be? Perhaps Herbie’s Native Barbecue Spice, or the runaway-success Balmain-Rozelle Spice blend?

Asafoetida – what a sap!

When you next order asafoetida from us, you may notice that it’s not the fine yellow powder that it was. The new stock has a slightly grainier texture and a neutral colour, because we prefer not to have any products with added colour if possible. Supply of asafoetida is sometimes erratic, and we hope to be able to continue to maintain continuity of this new, uncoloured grade well into the future.

Many of our customers want to know exactly what asafoetida is, and what makes it so important to cooks such as Kurma Dasa, who uses it frequently in his SBS cooking show, Cooking With Kurma. It is a resin that seeps from slashes made in the root of a plant which is a member of the fennel family, rather like a giant parsley. The resin dries into very hard, dark lumps about the size of a cherry, and these lumps are ground to make use easier. The smell is not very pleasant – ask yourself why “foetid” is part of its name – but when it’s added in very small quantities to food, it acts like a natural MSG in lifting the flavours of everything with it, while adding a tasty, earthy flavour reminiscent of onion and garlic.

Keep those comments coming!

You have probably noticed that there is a space on our order form for you to write any comments or suggestions you may have. We have been pleased to see people using this to tell us some of the interesting spice uses they have come up with, or to simply ask us that question you never quite knew who to ask before. We like to hear from you so keep enjoying your food, and happy spicing!

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