NEWSLETTER: February – March 1999

February 01, 1999 posted in Newsletters

You can tell the new year is firmly established once you can write the date without making a mistake! We trust you had an enjoyable break over Christmas and are ready to face the new year with renewed energy.

Kids in the Kitchen

One of the lovely parts of Christmas is catching up with friends and their families, and we were interested to hear about the children of friends being keen on cooking. Can this be true? Aren’t people always saying that the younger generation isn’t learning to cook, that they are all junk food addicts, that the next generation of new homes will be built without kitchens – or are these ideas being sprouted by doom-and-gloom merchants who can’t see anything positive in anything? We thought about the people we know who run wonderful cooking schools for kids in the school holidays, and we realized that we must not allow an anonymous “they” to take the joy of cooking away from our children by telling them they don’t do that any more.

With thoughts like these fresh in our well-rested minds, we returned from holidays with plans for yet another kit – you guessed it, it’s called “Kids in the Kitchen.” Although our children are grown up now, we well remember that they were somewhat impatient when it came to cooking. More often than not, they would drink the jelly rather than wait for it to set! So for the kit we have chosen recipes that don’t involve too much waiting around, and have included such favourites as things on sticks, potato wedges and pancakes, (with flavourful and not-too-hot spices) which will appeal to adults for their low-fat, nutritious elements as well as to the young cooks. To make it fun and a bit different, the box of this spice kit is a combination of yellow and purple bases and lids, and retails for $24.95 like all the others.

May-hee-coo

While we were on holiday, we found a great book called The Mexican Gourmet. It’s full of good recipes and useful information. Did you know, for example, that the exotic-sounding chayote is none other than our humble choko? And that Mexico is one of the world’s largest users of cinnamon quills? The book also explains the name changes that occur when chillies are dried, for example:

  • fresh jalapeno chillies become chipotle when they are dried and smoked
  • fresh poblano chillies become ancho when they are dried if they are red, and become mulato when they are dried if they are blackish
  • fresh chilaca chillies become pasilla when they are dried

Also of interest is that annatto seeds are also called achiote.

The Habanero chilli is probably the hottest in the world, despite its delicious caramel aroma. Most Mexican chillies, however, have a fairly mild and fruity flavour. Dried chillies can be soaked in a bowl of water for an hour before chopping – it brings them to the consistency of a roasted capsicum, perfect for chopping, and the water can be used as a kind of mild chilli stock or a booster for chicken stock. If you see The Mexican Gourmet book anywhere, it really is worth having, as it shows just how much more than tacos and tortillas is involved in this rather under-valued cuisine.

A Touch of Class

One of our mail-order customers has asked us to publicise the dates of our weekly Spice Appreciation Classes. He pointed out that when he makes one of his occasional trips to Sydney, he would like to be able to book for a class while he’s here, and he suggested that other people might like to know the dates for the same reason. So – in case you’re planning to visit Sydney this year, here’s the entire 1999 calendar of class dates! The five shaded dates indicate the “Stage Two” class, which covers spices and topics not touched on in the original class.

Dates on Wednesdays (W) and Thursdays (T) in 1999:

Thursday February 18
Wednesday April 21
Thursday June 10
Thursday August 12
Wdnesday November 17

COST: $30.00 per person per class

Nothing succeeds like excess

Although we try not to be excessive about anything here at Herbie’s we’ve decided, due to demand, to introduce a few of our mixes in large packets. You can now get Chermoula Spice Mix in a 90g pack for $5.20, Curry Mix with Whole Seeds (90g for $5.85) and our Cajun Spice Mix (80g packet for $5.20). A good idea, either for the sake of convenience as you won’t run out so quickly, or you can simply feed a bigger crowd! Before you run to your calculator, it means approximately twice as much spice for about 60% more cost – not to mention the convenience of not running out of your favourites so often.

Although we try not to be excessive about anything here at Herbie’s we’ve decided, due to demand, to introduce a few of our mixes in large packets. You can now get Chermoula Spice Mix in a 90g pack for $5.20, Curry Mix with Whole Seeds (90g for $5.85) and our Cajun Spice Mix (80g packet for $5.20). A good idea, either for the sake of convenience as you won’t run out so quickly, or you can simply feed a bigger crowd! Before you run to your calculator, it means approximately twice as much spice for about 60% more cost – not to mention the convenience of not running out of your favourites so often.

Have-beans

One of the delights of the spice business is receiving a new shipment of vanilla – the aroma is delicious! Our vanilla beans are organically grown in the traditional way by fourth-generation farmers in the highlands of Papantla, Mexico. Vanilla is the only crop we know of that needs human intervention to come to fruition. By a quirk of nature, there is a little membrane in the orchid flower which prevents natural pollination. A bee native to Mexico (in fact, the smallest bee in the world) does the job, but as there are more flowers than bees these days, each flower is hand-pollinated by means of a toothpick-like stick which moves the membrane aside and allows pollination to take place. The farmers then know that the bean will be ready to pick nine months to the day from the date of pollination. Freshly-picked vanilla beans have no smell or flavour, but a lengthy process of alternate “sweating” and drying brings about the enzyme reaction which creates the wonderful creamy aroma we know and love. Sometimes the vanilla bean is referred to as a pod – it doesn-‘t matter, it’s the same thing. But if someone refers to a vanilla “stick”, stay well away from it, because by the time a luscious, succulent, flexible bean has become a brittle stick, it is a “has-been” rather than a vanilla bean.

A Heart in Summer

Also in our vanilla shipment were more of the hearts and flowers that have become familiar to our regular customers. For those who can’t visit the shop, we should explain. The flexible vanilla beans are twisted and bound into fragrant heart and flower shapes – small enough to fit into the standard-size Herbie’s spice pack. Store with your caster sugar so that you have vanilla-scented sugar. They fit nicely into a greeting card for a little ìsomething extra. (Perhaps a sweet heart for your sweetheart?) Flowers are $5.75 each, and hearts are $7.70.

Happy Spicing!

Herbie and Liz

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