NEWSLETTER: Autumn 2003

As this summer of extremes draws to a close, we look forward to kinder weather and hopefully some much-needed rain. As the herb and spice business is firmly based in the world of agriculture, we have a vested interest in seeing production flourish in all parts of the globe.

Fourth Spice Tour of India

We recently did our fourth Spice Tour to India with a delightful bunch of fellow travellers. Although Delhi and Agra were freezing and cloaked in heavy fog, we warmed ourselves with wonderful food. The breathtakingly beautiful Moghul architecture of centuries ago was so deeply cocooned in fog that the modern world ceased to exist for us, however as we drove from Agra to Jaipur the fog lifted to reveal acre upon acre of mustard fields in flower. In the south, we busied ourselves with spicy experiences, happened upon bathtime for temple elephants in Cochin, and collected recipes from the chefs of our hotels – including the charmingly-named “First Class Railway Lamb Curry!” We finished the trip in Sri Lanka, falling in love with the babies at the elephant orphanage outside Kandy, and spending a morning on a farm, seeing cinnamon peeling and oil distillation, before lunching by the sea.

Imagine our surprise and delight to find that just as we arrived back, at a function presided over by the Consul-General of India, an Award of Excellence was made to Herbie’s Spice Discovery Tour! We are now the proud owners of a beautiful embossed glass plaque gracing the shop.

“JK” Saffron

While browsing the market area of Cochin, in southern India, we were interested to buy a generous-looking 5g pack of saffron bearing a “JK” brand. The label stated: “SAFFRON GUARANTEED 100% Pure. Selected – Srinigar. Jammu – Kashmir.” There was further proclamation on the reverse side to the effect that “JK Brand Saffron is warranteed to be 100% Pure and is free from any foreign matter.” In spite of these words, the scam-detecting antennae were madly twitching, and at lunchtime, we put some of this “saffron” on a plate and covered it with water. A genuine-looking reddish stain appeared, then, to the surprise of our tour members, the strands lengthened, became paler, and began to dissolve completely! The saffron was made of jelly, cut into thin, saffron-sized strips, and carefully tipped with a convincing yellow bit at each end!

Plans for the next Tour
There has been an enormous amount if interest in the next tour, and plans are already under way to put the itinerary in place. We propose to leave Australia on about 17th January 2004, returning on about 3rd February – by arriving just that little bit later, we hope to avoid the winter fogs of Delhi. Naturally it is far too early to have firm prices, but we would expect that the cost would be around $8750. This works out at roughly $600 per day, and includes all transport, all accommodation, all meals, all entry fees and all tips, so that you only need to carry money for drinks and any personal shopping. We expect to have a firm price by April or May, and in the meantime anyone who is interested in securing a place can contact our travel agent, Ossie Pitts, at Traveller’s World, phone (02) 9438 3033, or fax (02) 9438 2674.

Opening a new premises
Back at home, there are changes afoot, to help us do our best for you. You may have noticed that our spices are available at many good speciality food stores around Australia, (plus one in New York and one in Vancouver), and it is increasingly difficult for us to efficiently service our wholesale customers from our present location. The solution is to move all our manufacturing to larger premises, and this will happen in the first half of this year. To you, our shop and mail-order customers, nothing will change, except that our friendly shop staff will have more time to look after your every need.

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
We’re off to Melbourne at the end of March for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, for a couple of sessions on “Demystifying Herbs and Spices.” We’ll be at Zinc at Federation Square on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th, and hope to see you there. For more information, check out

What can I put with fish?
One of the most frequently asked questions in our shop is: “What can I put with fish?” In reply we often go straight to our personal favourite, Native Seasoning Mix, although naturally you could just as soon select Balmain and Rozelle Spice, Lemon and Herb Pepper, Cajun Mix, Native Lemon Pepper, Chermoula, or several others. After some thought, we have decided to give a little “tweak” to the Native Seasoning to lean the profile even more in the fish direction. This blend of all-Australian-grown ingredients is subtly delicious, and we have lifted the flavour profile with a little lime powder, lemon myrtle and native pepperberry to make it the perfect seasoning for a good white or pink fish such as ocean trout, salmon or orange roughy. To avoid confusion with the old Native Seasoning Mix, we’ve given it a new name, Aussie Fish Seasoning. Just sprinkle a generous amount onto each side of the fillet, pat it on, and pan fry. (It’s still delicious with chicken and veal, too!) For red meats, or another chicken alternative, there is still the ever-popular Native Barbecue Mix.

New Book, Herbaceous
In April, our new book, Herbaceous, will see the light of day. No, it’s not Spice Notes with a different cover, but an accessible and user-friendly guide to growing, drying and cooking with all sorts of culinary herbs. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, Ian’s mother Rosemary Hemphill pioneered growing and writing about herbs in Australia, and most of her books are now out of print. It seemed a tragedy to deprive a new generation of all that valuable knowledge, so we’ve dusted it off, injected some turn-of-the-century freshness, and supplied up to the minute recipes from many of today’s food luminaries. Charmaine Solomon, Loukie Werle, Anneka Manning, Carol Selvarajah and many more generous friends whose skill in recipe writing far outshines ours, helped us out. Published by Hardie Grant, Herbaceous is a beautifully presented book with mouth-watering photographs and a retail price of $39.95. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed collaborating with Philippa Sandall in putting it together.

Many, many people contact us to ask where they can find Alleppo pepper, and what exactly is it anyway? It’s a Syrian spice blend, which is practically the same as Baharat. How easy is that?? Happy Spicing,