NEWSLETTER: June – July 1999

Baby Boomers Fight Cholesterol

All the baby-boomers are turning fifty and finding themselves in cholesterol territory. Suddenly everyone’s trying to find a way to make fish interesting for at least four meals a week, which is a bit of a shock for the steak and meatloaf brigade! Here are a few suggestions to make fish taste great. Sprinkle both sides of a ling fillet with the limey-chilli-zesty Balmain and Rozelle Spice, stand for five minutes, and pan fry. Generously coat both sides of a chunky piece of economical shark with Sambar mix. Because of the besan flour in it, when the moisture from the fish seeps into the coating, it will make a crunchy, spicy batter-like crust when shallow-fried in cholesterol-free olive oil. Coat a piece of salmon with Native Barbecue spice and pan-fry simply, as Peter Howard did on his Today Show segment. Mix Chermoula with plain yoghurt and coat tuna steaks before cooking in the oven or pan. You can make a simple and delicious fish curry using Vegetable Curry, or add cubes of ling to Laksa.

Discover Spices At Their Source

After some fine-tuning, the itinerary of the next Spice Discovery Tour to India has been finalised, and you’ll find a copy enclosed with your Newsletter. We’ll be looking more closely this time at culinary pursuits, and of course keeping the most successful features of the previous tour. There were some places of such beauty that our group was sorry to move on so quickly, so the tour is one day longer this time, with more time of leisure so that the magic of such areas as Periyar and Madurai can be more fully enjoyed.

Herbie’s Appearances Coming Up

There’s a busy time coming up for Herbie during the next couple of months. First, on 19th June, Herbie will be a guest of Carol Selvarajah in “Taste of Asia” in Sydney’s Haymarket, marking the beginning of The Feast of Sydney. Also as part of The Feast of Sydney, on the following Saturday and Sunday (26-27 June), he’ll be at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, where the Food Media Club Australia is presenting “The Nature of Food.” This two-day interactive event is an introduction for children to the wonders of food, featuring fascinating topics such as what and how astronauts eat, sushi-making, and of course, spices. The following month, Herbie will be in Brisbane on 10th and 11th July, talking about spices with Cheong Liew at the Brisbane Hilton’s Masterclass. And he gets to go to Canberra for a cooking class at Cooking Co-ordinates (in Belconnen Markets) on 19th August.

What’s new at Herbie’s?

To accommodate the burgeoning interest in saffron in Australia, we have imported an Iranian saffron which will not replace our existing Kashmiri saffron, but stand alongside it to give you a choice. The new saffron from Iran has excellent colour, with a sweet aroma reminiscent of leatherwood honey, and has the advantage of being half the price of the premium Kashmiri saffron. (That means you get one gram of Iranian for $5.95, and half a gram of Kashmiri for the same price.)

Some Rare Treats

That traditional, old-fashioned staple of cake-decorators, candied angelica stem, has joined the array of herbs and spices on our shelves. And alongside this import from France is an offering from Italian cuisine, porcini mushrooms. Yes, we know they are not exactly spices, but their unique flavour is so wonderful, and so written-about, that we think our mail order customers in remote country areas will appreciate their availability.

Romesco Sauce

We’ve also imported from Spain an excellent smoked sweet paprika, and whole Nyora paprikas at the request of one of Sydney’s food writers who was unable to find any to make his favourite Romesco sauce. The whole paprika is a little larger than a Scotch Bonnet chilli, and smaller than a small capsicum. Its special flavour is an important part of this sauce, which originated in the Catalan region of Spain. It’s a wonderfully tasty addition to grilled chicken or fish, with salads, or even (when nobody’s looking) by the spoonful! In case you haven’t been in when we’ve sampled it in the shop, here’s the recipe:

Romesco Sauce

5 vine-ripened tomatoes
2 Nyora paprikas
½ cup roasted almonds
½ teaspoon Spanish paprika
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
½ cup roasted hazelnuts
1 slice white bread, fried
½ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil

Simmer the Nyora paprikas in a cup of water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile peel, core, seed and chop the tomatoes. Seed and chop the paprikas, then in a blender, mix the tomatoes, garlic, paprikas, almonds, hazelnuts, bread, and bay leaf. With the motor running, gradually add the vinegar, salt and pepper, then the olive oil until you have a thick liquid. Serve with grilled meats, fish or vegetables such as char-grilled baby leeks or funnel bulbs. It will keep in a screw-top jar in the fridge for up to two weeks … if it lasts that long.

Remember These Storage Tips

People often ask us whether spices should be stored in the freezer. The answer, generally, is no. The ideal storage conditions for whole and ground spices can be summed up with three basic rules: away from direct sunlight or flourescent light;

  • away from direct heat (so not beside the stove);
  • away from humidity (so not on the wall near simmering pots or steaming kettles, and never shake into a steaming pot directly from the pack.)

The freezer is not a bad idea for proteins such as shrimp powder and coconut powder, if you know it will take some months for you to use them up. As a general rule, though, taking packs out of the freezer leads to condensation on the pack, which can cause wetness around the opening … and before you know it, you’ve got damp spices. Storing your herbs and spices in the pantry is ideal, as it’s dark and dry.

Herbie’s Little Helpers

Herbie’s Spices has grown to the extent where we can’t be a two-man band any longer. Some of you who have phoned or visited the shop will have met Anna, who helps us three days a week. With many years’ experience in the food business, Anna is well qualified to help you with your enquiries in the friendly and co-operative way that is the Herbie’s policy. We’re also delighted to have the assistance of Jacqui and Sophie, who help us pack our spices with intelligence, care and integrity.

Nature Creates Some Challenges

Do you remember seeing on television the severe hurricanes and floods in Central and South America last year? Unfortunately, besides causing other terrible damage, those storms almost wiped out the cardamom plantations in Guatemala, reputedly the best in the world. Prices, naturally, have risen as good cardamom has become scarcer, so we have regretfully had to pass those increases on.

Winter Warming Ideas

As the cooler weather sets in, spare a thought for the warming spice blends with recipes on the back … sambar, tagine, Curry Mix or Medium Curry, laksa, chermoula, Malay curry and tandoori mix. We tossed an ox-tail in a tablespoon of Baharat before cooking it recently, and the result was superb! (We added a few chopped carrots and parsnips, a slurp of red wine, and cooked it very slowly in the oven until the bones slipped away from the meat.) Don’t just drool over the thought of it – cook your own! Happy spicing!