NEWSLETTER: Spring 2009

September 01, 2009 posted in Newsletters

Mastic, as seen on Masterchef

It seems that most of Australia has avidly watched the TV prime-time show, Masterchef. We are proud to be the herb and spice suppliers for the show, and find it interesting to see the immediate consumer response when something unusual is featured on the show. The little-known Greek spice, mastic , for instance. Mastic, or mastiha to the Greeks, is a sap that oozes from the mastic tree in small, translucent drops known as “tears”, as though the tree has been weeping. These tears of resin are the original chewing gum, and the word masticate (to chew) comes from the name of the spice mastic. The flavour and aroma are sweetish and slightly piney, and it brings a velvety texture to sweet dishes such as ice creams and Turkish delight. Modern chefs are using mastic in tomato-based sauces, with fish, poultry, and red meats, in wine sauces, or paired with chocolate, citrus, or berries.

If you bought mastic to make the lamb shank recipe featured on Masterchef, you may also like to try the silky-smooth ice-cream recipe on the back of the pack, or this lovely salad recipe given to us by our mastic suppliers in Greece – I like to add a teaspoon of toasted cumin seed to the beetroot mixture too. It makes a great entrée, summer lunch, or part of a mezze selection.

Beetroot, Yoghurt, and Apple Salad with Mastic
Serves 6

  • 3 whole green apples, washed and cored, unpeeled
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 900 g beetroots, boiled, peeled and diced
  • 250 g sheep’s milk yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2-3 teaspoons mastic-infused olive oil*
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cut the apples on a mandolin into very thin strips and toss with lemon juice and olive oil.
  2. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate, until ready to use.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the beetroots, yoghurt, honey, garlic, chives, Mastic oil*, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To serve the salad: Place a few strips of marinated green apple in a concentric circle in the center of each plate. Place a dollop of the tossed beet salad on top. Drizzle with a little more olive oil if desired and serve immediately.

*To make mastic-infused oil, heat 80 ml (about 3/4 cup) of olive oil and 1 teaspoon mastic tears in a nonstick skillet over low heat. Pour into a bottle and let cool. Use immediately or store in a cool, dark place. Shake before using.

Kashmiri Saffron

We’ve had a rather nasty shock over the price of our beautiful Kashmiri saffron . Independent sources have confirmed the tales our supplier told us about adverse weather conditions and crop shortages, and to our horror, the cost to us doubled during the year. (They promise that prices should stabilize in time, so that’s something to look forward to!) We have purchased the minimum possible to keep us going and the price hike that you’ve seen in the blends containing saffron (Ras el Hanout, Super Ras el Hanout and Paella) should adjust downwards again before too long. We discussed the possibility of allowing Kashmiri saffron to be out of stock, and using the less-perfect Iranian saffron in our blends, however we both agreed that the quality should not be compromised to keep the price down. We have never compromised before and we don’t intend to start now.

New Look Website

Our new-look website is finally up and running, and we’re sure you will appreciate the clean new lines and easily navigable site. It has a leaner, clearer appearance and easy tabs for you to find whatever it is that takes your interest, and an express order form to make your ordering easier when you’re too busy for browsing.

Next Spice Discovery Tour of India

People have been asking us for details about our next Spice Discovery Tour to India. As we have other commitments this coming January, the next Spice Tour will be in January 2011. You will find all the details and a preliminary itinerary on the gorgeous new website, and if you want to be kept informed of developments as the time draws nearer, just call us or send us an email, and we’ll keep you in the loop. And speaking of India and all the fantastic food to be had there, the medical profession is becoming excited about the properties of turmeric in relation to prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, so we’re keeping our curry intake high to make sure we’re getting plenty of turmeric!

Negative Claims

Are we the only people getting rather peeved by the negative claims made on food products these days? Foods that have never contained, say, gluten, are suddenly spruiked as “gluten-free” … well of course they are! The ingredient listing is on the pack to tell you exactly what is in the product, not what is not in it. It’s like buying a bottle of spring water that announces that it is GM free, cholesterol free or alcohol free. Imagine how silly it would be if we told you that all of our products are vegetarian as they contain no meat …. of course you know that! We notice there is a new spice company featured in one of the glossy food magazines that has a special selling point that it is “preservative free”. You know and we know that herbs and spices, being dried, do not need preservative, so all spices, from the poorest quality to the top quality, are preservative free. Wet curry pastes and spice pastes in jars, on the other hand, need preservatives to keep them stable on the shelf until you open them.

What’s New? – Brazilian Spice Mix

We’ve been having fun doing a little project for the Australian Mushroom Growers’ Association. They wanted a Brazilian Spice Mix that would enhance their product, so Herbie got to work, taking in to account the Portuguese, Cajun and European colonial influences. The Brazilian chef working on the mushroom promotion was thrilled with the product, and we know you will be too. It’s not only for mushrooms – try it on steak, or on grilled vegetables. We added about a tablespoon to a chicken casserole recently with very tasty results, so there are no boundaries to its use. It’s not on the price list (it’s that new!) but it is on the website, the cost is $3.95 for a 40 gram pack.

Spring

As Spring bursts upon us, it will soon be time to dust off the barbecue again for some lovely alfresco dining, especially once daylight saving begins again. Don’t forget the old favourite recipes on the backs of our packs – Cajun Chicken Salad, Crispy Prawns with Lemon Myrtle , Seared Ocean Trout with Aussie Fish Seasoning, and Dukkah -crusted Fish, for example. It’s so easy to flavour mayonnaise for your salads by adding a little of any spice mix that takes your fancy – curry powder, lemon and herb pepper, sumac … the list is endless.

Enjoy the longer, warmer, days and remember, everything is better with a touch of spice!

Herbie and Liz

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