NEWSLETTER: Spring 2002

September 01, 2002 posted in Newsletters

Information on Dal

Although we are not specifically an Indian spice shop, we sometimes find ourselves in conversation with our customers about the identities of the various dals. It can be confusing when your recipe calls for toor dal or channa dal … what exactly does it mean?

So here’s a quick reference for identifying the most common ones:

  • Channa dal gram lentils – matte yellow, plump, split into 2 semi-spheres
  • Toor dal yellow lentils – similar to channa, but a little smaller, split
  • Moong dal mung beans
  • Urid dal black lentils – small and oblong, with a rich, heavy taste. Usually sold skinned, creamy white and fairly bland.

This information is from a wonderful little book called The Indian Kitchen by Monisha Bharadwaj, which is full of really useful information. We find that with so many people choosing to be vegetarian, dal is being explored as a protein option. It’s a little bland on its own, so spice it up with Sambar powder, or a mixture of Panch Phora and chilli. Then again, there’s no need to feel that because it’s dal you have to use Indian flavours. Being reasonably neutral in flavour itself, it’s like a blank canvas upon which you can impose anything you like, so try spicing it with Chermoula, Greek seasoning, or even the gorgeous Paella mix.

Don’t Throw Out Your Vanilla Beans!

We noticed in a popular food magazine recently a section on cooking with vanilla beans, with some wonderful-looking recipes. There is no doubt that, even though the beans are expensive at the moment, they are really worth it for the results that they give. However, these particular recipes tell you to scrape out the seeds and discard the rest of the bean. PLEASE DON’T! It’s an awful waste to throw away the skin of the bean. After the seeds have been scraped out, store the remaining bean in your caster sugar canister, where it will gently flavour the sugar while waiting until you need it for something else. Add it to the milk for custard, or to the syrup when you’re stewing fruit. And after that, rinse it off and get one more moment of delight from it by putting it in with the coffee in your plunger.

What’s New at Herbie’s?

Chipotle Chilli Powder

There’s a fantastic new chilli on our shelves, chipotle chilli powder, a deep red, hot and smokey sensation. You could use it as a hotter version of smoked paprika to enjoy that wonderful rich and distinctive flavour that we’ve all come to love. But use it with caution – it has a heat rating of 7 out of 10.

Pepper Black Pericarp

If you compare the flavour and aroma of white and black peppercorns, you’ll notice the white has a totally different profile, with none of the characteristic heady aroma of the black. As a white peppercorn is a black one with its coat off, it stands to reason that it’s the skin of the peppercorn (known as the pericarp), containing the element piperine, which turns us on. Recently we had an overseas chef in the shop – a regular visitor when he’s in Sydney – who asked whether it was possible to obtain just this pericarp without the heat-bearing inside part of the peppercorn. Rising to the challenge, we made some investigations and eventually found what he was looking for. So now it’s available for chefs, and on our shelves as well. It’s listed as Pepper Black Pericarp on your mail order list and in our internet catalogue.

Yellow Curry

Well, in spite of the protestation that we are not just an Indian or Asian spice shop, there’s no doubting that the best and most varied spicy food in the world comes from these regions. Also in spite of the fact that we have already run out of room in our tiny shop for any more new products, we felt we just had to make a Yellow Curry! Sometimes known as the Captain’s Curry, or Captain’s Chicken, this dish is rich in flavoursome turmeric and mild spices, and we’ve put a recipe on the back of the pack for you. Remember with all our curry mixes – even Vindaloo – that we have concentrated on the flavour profile rather than excessive heat. You can always add more hot chilli powder to suit your own taste.

New South Australian Supplier of Rosemary Leaf

Having a policy of stocking the best available herbs and spices means that at all times we’re on the lookout for anything better than what we presently have. Recently we made contact with a South Australian grower who showed us samples of a really beautiful whole rosemary leaf, and we have very gladly changed over to this new product. The leaves are whole, instead of the cut leaves we’ve had before, and the quality is excellent. People sometimes ask us whether we buy from Australian growers, and the answer is yes, but only if the product is better than anything else we can find. We’re very pleased to say that Australian harvesting and processing of herbs has improved so much in the last five years that we now buy several varieties, including coriander seed, oregano, thyme, rosemary, lemon thyme, pepper and parsley, from Australian growers – and the unique native spices too, of course.

Herbie’s New Book – Spice Travels

Herbie’s authoritative tome, Spice Notes, has almost sold out of the original 12,000 hard-cover copies. Luckily, just in time, the soft-cover version has just arrived, with a new retail price of $39.50. Also coming out in November is the new book, Spice Travels, in which he shares tales and pictures of some of our voyages of discovery to various parts of the world. It’s an entertaining, easy read, with each bite-sized chapter telling a separate story – ideal bedside or fireside material!

Spring Herbs

Spring is the time we’re all inspired to get out into the garden … even if it’s only a few pots on the balcony. Sometimes we get so carried away with spicy flavours that we tend to forget how wonderful herbs are. So for the gardeners, here are a couple of tips for your fresh herbs. Throw a handful of young borage leaves into a potato-based soup, cook then puree – the result is a delicious, pale green and creamy soup. Top each serving with a borage flower. Add chopped chervil to any egg dishes, and remember, chervil is a much prettier garnish than the old parsley sprig. Make your own fines herbes mix using equal quantities of chervil, chives, parsley and French tarragon. Lastly, a word on tarragon. True French tarragon does not have yellow, daisy-like flowers. Most bunches of tarragon in greengrocers’ shops are Mexican or Russian, and not like the real thing at all. We usually stock French tarragon plants from late spring and through summer – if you can’t get one, it’s better to use the excellent dried French tarragon leaves we import from Europe.

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