NEWSLETTER: July – August 1997

July 01, 1997 posted in Newsletters


We are delighted to include you in our very first issue of Herbie’s News. Many of our customers have been surprised to find that there actually IS a Herbie – he’s also known as Ian Hemphill, one of Australia’s foremost culinary herb and spice experts. Because his parents John and Rosemary pioneered the herb and spice industry before and during Ian’s schooldays, the ‘Herbie’ nickname was coined and stayed with him. Thirty years of working in all areas of the industry have equipped Herbie with extensive knowledge and experience that he now brings to Herbie’s Spices.

Top o’ the Shop to You

We’ve been asked several times, why does Australia need a specialty spice shop? The idea probably began after we had lived in Singapore, and developed a taste for Asian and Indian spicy foods. Like lots of other keen cooks, we suffered the frustrations of not being able to find the ingredients we needed. We thought things like, if we substitute a green cardamom pod because we can’t find a brown one, it will change the flavour of the dish. And, what would this meal taste like if we had been able to find cassia bark instead of using ground cinnamon?

The solution seemed to be to open a spice shop where cooks of any cuisine could find the spices and herbs they were looking for, all in one place. Not only that, but it would have to be a shop where people from all over the country could phone or fax us and have their order sent by Express Post the next day – a shop where the integrity of its proprietor would be the guarantee of the best possible quality at the fairest possible price, with Herbie’s experience and advice thrown in free.

After five weeks of trading, we have found consumer interest very encouraging, and as well as being happy to fulfil the needs of lots of customers, we’ve been interested to note the particular requests being voiced.

For instance, everyone is talking about Ras el Hanout, which is a Middle Eastern phrase meaning “top of the shop”. It’s a blend of spices which can be made with as few as a dozen spices, or as many as a hundred, if our sources can be believed! The mixtures are as individual as the people who make them and, as the name suggests, they are the very best of what any spice dealer has to offer. Because there are so many different versions of Ras el Hanout, we at Herbie’s felt that we should create our own special “top of the shop” blend, using our experience and the high quality spices Herbie has on hand. Just as spice dealers in ancient times did, Herbie has given special thought to how the blend would best complement the ingredients available to his customers.

Herbie’s Ras el Hanout contains a blend of twenty-three spices (we consulted several recipes, but decided not to include the hashish or Spanish fly!) which come together in a non-combative blend with a touch of sweetness. The flavour is gentle enough for children, and sophisticated enough to excite the palate of the discerning cook and diner, with the temperaments of the spices finely balanced. Herbie decided to leave out the fragrant elements of rose buds and lavender, but you can add these yourself (in extreme moderation) if you wish to.

Out of North Africa

As North African and Moroccan flavours are particularly in demand right now, Herbie has created an authentic Chermoula spice mix, a tasty textured blend of cumin, paprika, onion, turmeric, cayenne, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and cilantro. It’s fabulous rubbed over meat before barbecuing, grilling, frying or roasting. We even created an original savoury sensation by adding a tablespoon of Chermoula mix to a basic scone mixture, cutting the scones into small squares or circles, and topping with hummus or cumin-flavoured cream cheese.

Start Me Up

In response to customer interest, we have put together a Moroccan ‘starter kit’, featuring the most important spices of that cuisine, along with some typical Moroccan recipes. Containing eight different packs of spices, the starter kit sells for $18.70 and is available by mail order with a postage and packing charge of $5.00. What a great engagement or shower gift, on its own or teamed with Paula Wolfert’s classic, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, valued at $39.95.

Daddy Spice

Speaking of gifts, we’re also doing some special packages for the Dads who love to cook! Packs with special themes like ‘Hot Spices’, “Indian Summer” and “Sugar Daddy” will be available for different and fun Father’s Day ideas.

A Class Act

Herbie’s Spice Appreciation Classes have begun, and will occur on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Each class is limited to 12 people, so that no-one feels shy or threatened. Herbie takes the class through the spice areas of the world and speaks with first-hand knowledge on the ways they are harvested and turned into what we find on our shelves. Towards the end of the two-hour session, Liz serves some samples of food to illustrate what can be achieved when spices are added to everyday ingredients. A booking slip is enclosed for your interest.

Grow Yer Own

Spring is in the air – although the winter’s not over, the first new shoots of spring growth have responded to a few warm days, and the Herbie’s nursery is gearing up for a busy time in September. The range of plants, already extensive, will be plumped out soon by the arrival of the annuals such as the ever-popular basil, so you’ll be able to rejuvenate your herb garden (or start one)… or buy a ready-planted herb garden in a pot.

Do write to us if you have any special requirements or enquiries. In the meanwhile, happy spicing!

Herbie and Liz

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