NEWSLETTER: Spring 2003

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” We’ve all heard it and said it since childhood, but most people probably never wonder about the origins of this alliterative tongue-twister. It is actually based on fact. The administrator of Ile de France (now known as Mauritius) in 1770 was a gentleman named Pierre Poivre. His first name when Anglicised is Peter, and Poivre is French for pepper, the Latin of which is Piper. So Peter Piper was actually Pierre Poivre. He bravely broke the monopoly of the Dutch over the nutmeg, mace and clove markets by smuggling plants from the Indonesian Spice Islands (a capital offence) to Ile de France. So he was a hero of the spice industry, and deservedly linked to pepper in the tongue-twister. Why did her “pick a peck”? A peck is a quarter of a bushel, so it’s just the quantity of pepper he picked. Why are they “pickled peppers”? The only way to prevent green pepper turning black before the days of freeze-drying was to preserve it in brine … hence the reference to pickling.

Chipotle Chilli Powder

We are devastated to inform you that our wonderful Chipotle Chilli Powder is no longer available in Australia. For a similar flavour, mix Smoked Paprika with a little hot chilli powder. We find it very frustrating when we introduce new ingredients that we know you will love, only to have a supply problem later on. However, we are sure you’ll agree it’s better to have supped and lost than never to have supped at all!

Spend more time in our shop in Rozelle
The relocation of our production and wholesale facilities to a factory on the Central Coast has been very successful, reducing our stress levels considerably. Please rest assured that the shop has not been moved or changed and is still in its corner position in Rozelle. In fact, the shop staff has reaped the benefit of not having to fulfill large orders from those premises, and now has more time to look after your every need. More good news is that we have been able to convert our original factory space into a classroom, so we will soon be able to accommodate a slightly larger class – in comfort! Because we will finally be able to conduct Spice Appreciation Classes during shop hours, we hope to include some daytime classes (handy for mothers of school-age children) and some more Saturday classes next year. Watch this space!

Introducing our Festive Flavours gift kit
As the weather warms up, there are already uneasy suggestions that Christmas is not too far away. We’ve been busy during the season of “Christmas in July” dreaming up a Festive Flavours gift kit, suitable not only for a traditional Christmas dinner, but also Thanksgiving and any special occasion at all. With such stunning recipes as Star Anise-studded Ham, Spatchcock with Ras el Hanout, and Mini Christmas Puds, we know it’s going to be very popular. Good news is that we have managed to keep the prices of all our normal gift kits at the same low price of $27.50 until at least the end of this year. Available for sale in a few weeks time.

Salt and Pepper Squid recipe
We’re also been having discussions about fish and seafood. We decided that when one says “seafood” our minds turn to such scale-less water-dwellers as crustaceans, oysters and squid, whereas “fish” is very definitely fish! As a result of this cogitation, our Sea-Foodie kit has been changed to encompass the delights of seafood, offering such yummies as Salt and Pepper Squid and Scallops with Lemon Myrtle. The new Fish in the Dish kit addresses the various aspects of fish, with recipes for our famous Kuwaiti Fish Stew, plus Pan-Seared Ocean Trout with Australian spices, and the beautifully subtle Aromatic Fish Curry. This will be particularly good news to all those customers who are constantly looking for new and exciting ways to deal with this cholesterol-lowering food source. Here’s a recipe from the Sea-Foodie kit to get your mouth watering.

Salt and Pepper Squid

  • 2 Tabs cornflour
  • 3 teaspoons Salt & Pepper Squid mix
  • 250g fresh baby squid, cleaned
  • vegetable oil for deep frying

Cut the tentacles from the hoods of the squids, opening out the hoods and scoring in a diamond pattern on the inside. Cut the tentacles into groups of 4, and pat all the pieces (including hoods) dry between sheets of paper towel. Mix the spice mix with the cornflour in a shallow bowl. Heat the oil in a deep pan until very hot. To test the oil, press the end of a wooden spoon onto the base of the pan – if the oil sizzles, it’s hot enough. Dip each piece of squid into the flour and shake gently to remove excess, then deep-fry until crisp and golden-brown – about 60 seconds. Drain on kitchen towel then serve while hot and crisp.

Vanilla Beans and Vanilla Coke
The subject of the cost of Vanilla Beans is never far from our minds, and we have explained in previous newsletters how bad seasons pushed the prices up a year ago. Since then, we’ve been looking forward to seeing a more reasonable price establish itself, particularly with the strengthening of the Australian dollar against the greenback. Sadly, the rules of supply and demand are keeping prices up, since Coca Cola uses natural vanilla in Vanilla Coke, and we hear that other soft drinks and spirits are being produced using natural vanilla. While it’s great to see big companies steering away from artificial ingredients, it does make it difficult to access this wonderful product at a realistic price.

Spice Tour of India – a few spaces still available
There are still a few spots available for our Spice Tour to India, from 17th January 2004 to 2nd February 2004. Although our primary purpose is to see the world of spices, we can’t help but be part of the amazing phenomenon that is India with all its contrasts – prosperity and poverty, luxury and simplicity, beauty and ugliness. India is always fascinating at every turn, and everyone who goes there is richer for the experience. Being somewhat older than your average back-packer, we seek the comforts … air conditioned coaches, very comfortable hotels and delicious safe meals … as well as fascinating visits to places not usually on the tourist circuit. Contact us if you would like to see an itinerary or have more information.

And plans for next year include an Advanced level for our Spice Appreciation Classes, and another new kit of Just Desserts. Meanwhile, happy spicing!