NEWSLETTER: December 1998 – January 1999

All the very best of the Christmas season to you! We hope it’s a good one, and that 1999 sees out the millennium in style.

Grind it out
A little story for you: last time we were in India, we searched high and low for a domestic spice grinder. Most Indian households now use electric grinders, however we finally found a cast iron one similar to a miniature industrial grinder. It screws on to the edge of a table or bench, like the old-fashioned meat mincers used to, and it takes the strength of Goliath to work the thing! Realizing that it was not terribly practical, we invested in an electric commercial grinder, which fills the bill nicely. However, the inspiration for a new all-Australian blend of spices, called Bushman’s Pepperpot, required a rough grind of Australian-grown black and white pepper, yellow mustard seeds, akudjura, salt and coriander seeds to give a cracked-pepper, kibbled effect (it’s used to crust meat in the ‘pepper steak’ tradition, with a crunchy, medium-pepper spicy flavour). The “domestic grinder” from India was called into service to grind the spices to the right consistency. We are thrilled to bits with the new product, however because of the work involved in producing it, we are almost hoping it doesn’t take off!

Dinki di spices
We’re so pleased with the Bushman’s Pepperpot blend, in fact, that we have reviewed the True Blue Aussie gift kit to include it. The kit now contains the new Bushman’s Pepperpot, Lemon Myrtle, Australian ground ginger, Native Barbecue Spice mix, and Native Seasoning mix.

Quatre Epices
Quatre Epices (or four spices) is a blend that tends to only be sought out if it is listed as an ingredient in a recipe. The mixture is a blend of white pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, traditionally used in recipes for European pates, sausages and terrines. Not many people make their own smallgoods any more, but the blend is just as good in the everyday family meat loaf. Add about 2 teaspoons to 500 grams of minced meat. It’s a good addition to chicken stuffings, as well, and this year it will feature in the filling of our Christmas Day galantine of turkey – a labour of love, fortunately only performed once a year!

Don’t let your meat loaf
Speaking of meat loaf, add a good tablespoon of Panch Phora to 500 grams of meat for a truly sensational change! While we’re on the subject of cooking ideas, here are a couple that have come back to us from our mail order correspondents: sumach and lemon myrtle are wonderful sprinkled on barbecue sausages, chops and fish; and here is an easy recipe for tandoori pumpkin. Mix diced pumpkin with a tablespoon of Herbie’s tandoori mix, a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice, a little salt and half a cup of yoghurt. Marinate for a few hours, then place in a shallow baking dish and roast at 200 degrees C until golden. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it, and quite a marvellous accompaniment to barbecued meats. We’ve been told the leftovers (if there are any!) make a great base for chicken cakes.

Cool summer cooking
Summer is a time when no-one wants to be stuck in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove. Here are a few ideas to help you dazzle family and friends with different, tasty meals and snacks that are as easy-as-pie.

  • Crust one pork fillet for every two people with za’atar and stand, covered, in the fridge for a few hours. Barbecue and serve diagonally sliced on a bed of mashed potato which has an extra spoonful of za’atar beaten into it.
  • Don’t forget the good old sumach tomato recipe – Roma tomatoes slow roasted at 100 degrees C for 4 hours, with salt and pepper, a little sprinkle of caster sugar and plenty of sumach. Do a big batch, then keep them in the fridge for salads and snacks.
  • Barbecues are a great way of staying out of the kitchen, and it’s good to bear in mind just how easy dry-marinating is and what tasty, succulent results can be achieved. Forget the litres of vinegar, wine or soy sauce in huge, space-hungry dishes in your fridge all day or overnight. All you need to do is sprinkle any spice blend of your choice over both sides of the meat when you light the barbecue, and let it stand while the coals heat up. The moisture on the surface of the meat is sufficient to enable the spices to stick and add flavour. Contrary to common belief, many wet marinades actually leech the succulence from meats rather than enhancing it, so in many cases dry marinating will give a better result. Suitable Herbie’s blends for barbecues are Balmain & Rozelle Spice, Cajun, Chermoula, Native Barbecue, Tasty Meat Sprinkle, Crusting Mix or Tagine Blend. If you feel the meat is in danger of drying as it cooks, add a drizzle of olive oil or a squeeze of lemon while it’s cooking. Sometimes a marinade will add a sugary element so that the outside of the meat caramelises and browns a little as it cooks – if you particularly enjoy that effect, you will get it with Herbie’s Tasty Meat Sprinkle, which contains a small amount of sugar.
  • Spinach or silverbeet is a useful vegetable for the summer, as it can be quickly wilted in the microwave. Toss it with a little oil or butter and a shake of nutmeg.
  • For a different and delicious potato salad, toss cooked kipfler potatoes in a blend of mayonnaise made up as follows: to one cup of mayonnaise add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons akudjura, 1 tablespoon well-chopped fresh parsley, and a good grind of pepper. Add a little prepared mustard if you want to, but make sure it doesn’t drown out the flavour of the akudjura.


Get your kit… on!
We couldn’t help ourselves … we just had to create another gift kit! The new one has an Asian theme, and we can’t help wondering why we didn’t think of it sooner. With a little help from the books of our expert friends, Carol Selvarajah and Charmaine Solomon, we have dishes representing China, Thailand and Malaysia in four tasty, easy recipes, incorporating Chinese Five Spice, Laksa Mix, Thai Spice Mix, Malay Curry Powder, Shrimp Powder and Ground Galangal. In a red box (a good luck colour), it retails at $24.95 like all the other kits.

Merry Spicemas!
Herbie’s Spices will have been open for 18 months in the New Year, and we figure we’ve earned a short holiday. Herbie’s will close at 5.00pm on Christmas Eve, and we’ll be at the beach with our buckets and spades until we re-open at 10.00am on Monday the 11th of January. We wish you all a safe, spicy and happy Christmas season …