NEWSLETTER: Spring 2000

Well, it’s finally arrived . Spice Notes – A Cook’s Compendium of Herbs & Spices by Ian Hemphill (aka Herbie) will be in the bookstores, and of course in the Herbie’s Spices store, from 4th October. Five hundred pages of trustworthy and reliable information, this is a soundly researched, fascinating book, stunningly presented with a paprika and turmeric coloured cover. For anyone interested in the magic of herbs and spices and their application to everyday cooking, Spice Notes will be a handy reference. The insider comments on the spice trade and its secrets make for entertaining reading, too! You can mail order it from us for $49.50 + $5.00 for packing & postage, or find it at your favourite bookstore.

Celebrating spring with a burst of creative energy, Herbie has been busy concocting a Persian spice mix. It’s an exotic and aromatic blend of ground spices, which can be used directly on seafood or meat before cooking, or blended with flour as a base for casseroles and stews. We like to coat pieces of swordfish with the spice mix and pan-fry them with a little olive oil, to serve with vegetables. An alternative (our favourite) use for it is this:

PERSIAN FISH

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Persian Spice Mix
2 fillets firm-fleshed fish
1 tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp each fresh coriander and dill
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup water
2 tomatoes, chopped finely
½ tbsp plain flour
salt to taste
1 tbsp tomato paste
extra water to cover

Directions:
Put the spice mix and flour in a shallow dish and coat the fish fillets. Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole dish and saute the onions and garlic. Add chopped fresh herbs, tomatoes, salt, tomato paste and any flour/spice mix left after coating the fish. Add 1 cup water and cook for 5 minutes, simmering. Gently place the fish fillets into the sauce, adding water if necessary to cover. Allow to return to a simmer, then remove the pot to a pre-heated oven (150 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Alternatively, cook slowly on the stovetop until fish is done.

Also new is a Stir-Fry spice mix, similar to the Chinese Master Stock blend, ground to a powder for convenience. We make a sensational stir-fry using prepared Master stock with the new Stir-Fry spice. It’s all about having authentic flavour without too much work. You may ask, why make a Chinese Stir-Fry Spice when we already have a perfectly good Chinese Five Spice? The reason is this. Chinese Five Spice is predominantly star anise with fennel, black pepper, cassia and cloves, which, like Garam Masala in Indian cooking, is usually used in conjunction with other seasonings. Herbie’s Chinese Stir-Fry Spice also contains star anise, however it is then beautifully balanced with cumin, ginger, cassia, licorice root, allspice, chilli, fennel seed and coriander seed with a little salt and sugar added, so that it can stand alone as a complete seasoning. It can be sprinkled into a stir-fry during cooking or dusted onto chicken, pork or even red meats before cooking.

Some areas of Australia have experienced their coldest winters for many years, so it’s no wonder that we’ve had lots of people asking for a spice mix for making mulled wine. Herbie has created a fabulous blend of allspice berries, cassia, ginger, cinnamon, mandarin peel and cloves in response to the requests, and it is truly an aroma to swoon over! There are many different ways to make mulled wine, but we’ve put a recipe on the label just in case you don’t already have a favourite method.

Lovers of tandoori are faced with a dilemma – use artificial colours, or lack the red colour that we all associate with this popular dish. There is a natural alternative, beetroot powder, which adds colour and a touch of sweetness, which sits comfortably with the tandoori flavour. Beetroot powder is now to be found on the shelves at Herbie’s Spices, costing $4.65 for a 60g pack. It’s great for colouring home-made pasta, or for an interesting risotto, too.

When we started Herbie’s Spices three years ago, we decided that it would be a matter of policy that we would rather be out of a product than have something of inferior quality. The sentiment is a fine one, and we believe in it, but it does become difficult when the product is a vital ingredient in such popular mixes as Balmain and Rozelle Spice and the Thai Spice mix. We encountered the problem when the lime leaf granules dropped in quality . but what to do? They say every problem is an opportunity in disguise, so we are now procuring top quality fresh lime leaves, chopping them and drying them ourselves. The result is a million times better than what we were able to buy in, and you will notice a vast difference. The other happy news is that the price of a pack of lime leaf granules, now identified as Kaffir Lime Leaves Chopped, will remain the same.

The Olympics are almost upon us, and we expect that some of our regular customers will resort to mail order rather than brave unpredictable Olympic traffic, especially as we are situated close to Victoria Road, a major Olympic route. That proximity to major public transport, however, also makes us easily accessible for visitors to Sydney, so please visit us if you’re coming to town. Unlike many Sydney residents and businesses, we will not be taking a holiday, and our mail order service will continue to be as efficient as always.

We are happy to tell you that our very popular Smoked Paprika has just become cheaper! In these times of a weak Aussie dollar and other cost-increasing factors, it’s a rare occasion to find a decrease in a price. As we are now importing the smoked paprika in larger quantities, economy of scale is working in our favour, and we are delighted to be able to pass the saving on to you.

As prices fluctuate, we have to constantly review our Spice Kit range in order to keep the price of them at a constant $24.95 (plus postage) for you. Thus, Queensland ginger has been replaced by wattleseed in the True Blue Aussie kit, and a recipe for Chocolate and Wattleseed Mousse with Lemon Myrtle Cream has been added. Being influenced by current Olympic fever, we’re packing this kit in a green and gold box just for fun, although the normal natural colour is also still available. Check our website for a list of the kits available, or phone us for more information.

It’s always a thrill when customers tell us of a different way of using any of our products – for example, the one who adds dukkah to her fish batter. Another idea also comes from a dukkah devotee – she bakes her own ricotta, drizzles it with honey and sprinkles the spicy, nutty dukkah over the top. Please share your favourites with us, and we’ll pass them on through the newsletter. Meanwhile, we wish you many spicy spring luncheons!

Herbie & Liz