NEWSLETTER: Spring 2014

September 01, 2014 posted in Newsletters

Huacatay or Stinking Roger

When Liz was a child in Queensland, she played in an area where the weed, Stinking Roger, grew in wild proliferation. Perhaps some of you know it … a tall, single-stemmed, shallow-rooted, lanky plant with soft frondy leaves that smell strongly of marigold? We have noticed the spread of these plants southwards, and they now grow happily on the roadsides of the Freeway linking the Central Coast to Sydney – probably having fallen from trucks and other vehicles that have driven south from Queensland. When researching the third edition of The Spice and Herb Bible, (that wonderful tome formerly known in Australia as Spice Notes), we discovered that our own Stinking Roger is known as the culinary herb Huacatay in South America. If you have some growing wild near you, pick some, dry it and try it. It’s not coming to the Herbie’s Spices range in the foreseeable future, but it’s interesting to know about it. Use it with beans instead of savory.

Exploring Myanmar

Australians are an adventurous lot, and we are not the only ones to have relished the experience of exploring Myanmar, formerly the colonial outpost known as Burma. We found a nation of friendly faces, acres of stupendous pagodas, the mighty Ayerawaddy River connecting north to south, and regional food based on the several distinct races who make their homes in Myanmar. A Chinese influence from the north, an Indian influence from the west, Thai notes from the east, and an occasional nod to the tastes of the English colonists, whose grand buildings are now falling into ruin. Possibly due to many years of isolation, the food is not richly spiced, although turmeric and mild amounts of chilli are common.

We found many national dishes, such as the fabulous fish soup, Mohinga, require a dash of what the locals call simply “masala.” Our noses helped us to refine that description to garam masala, or sometimes a mild curry powder. Mohinga and many other soups are thickened with chickpea flour (besan flour) or powdered peanuts, which give them a characteristic body that we have not encountered anywhere else in our travels.

We are extremely grateful to our friends Robert and Morrison of Globetrotting Gourmet, (, who went to such effort to make sure that our food experiences were many and varied – from chilli-piquant Rakhine fish dishes to the mild and delicious Shan noodles.

Fleur de Sel

It seems that, in spite of the best efforts of some of our health professionals, you just can’t get enough of salt. So we have sourced a lovely Australian-produced type of Fleur de Sel for you to use as your finishing touch. Sprinkle some over your salted caramel tarts and watch those flakes sparkle. And fleur de sel flakes through a simple green salad will add gorgeous flavour and crunch. A 120g jar sells for $12.00. Why a jar and not a flexible pouch? Because we don’t want those lovely flakes to be crushed and broken before you use them! On the other hand, you’ve let us know that you don’t need us to make Vanilla Sugar for you … after all, if you have the Vanilla Powder and your own sugar, you can make your own. So we’re happy to take Vanilla Sugar out of our range to make more room for all the other fabulous stuff!

What’s New at Herbie’s?

Have you noticed the trend towards Korean cooking? Some food magazines are exploring this cuisine, and our customers have been looking for Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru) to make their kimchi. They are a mild-to-medium heat, the main difference being that there are no seeds mixed with the flakes. A gorgeous red colour, with a divine roasted aroma, we have them in a 40g pack at a cost of $4.00.

Also new this season is Sansho Powder for your Japanese cooking. This green powder is made from the leaves of the prickly ash tree which also gives us the seed pods we know as Sichuan pepper. The flavour is deliciously lemony, with a delayed tingling, numbing kick of an angry mule … taste with caution, and wait about 20 seconds for the full effect to arrive. We call it “fruit tingles for grown-ups”. We (metaphorically) had to mortgage a grandchild to get this special ingredient, so a 10g pack will set you back $21.75, but happily this is still more economical than a trip to Japan.

In need of some Tomato Sauce?

During the more chilly winter days, we were tempted to avail ourselves of some delicious locally-made pies for lunch whilst working in the shop. Sadly, our shop kitchen had no tomato sauce … what to do? Having access to Australia’s largest spice rack (behind the shop counter), we mixed a tablespoon of tomato powder with 2 tablespoons of water, added ½ teaspoon each of Quatre Epices Savoury and ground allspice and a teaspoon of white vinegar. We stirred in a little more water to make it the proper saucy consistency, and voila! a perfect sauce.

Box of Ideas – Spring

Looking for some inspiration for Spring? Our new Box of Ideas for Spring is now available in a little leafbud-green box at the usual budget-capable price of $25.00. This time our inspiration runs to picnics, curry, fish, and salads for spring, and the spices included are Rogan Josh, Dukkah, Salad Herbs and Fish Cake Spice – be aware that Dukkah contains nuts and sesame seeds.

Here’s something for Facebook fans. Follow Herbie’s spice trail (herbiesspices) as we take you around the globe and share some of our spice adventures and discoveries. There’s a new destination each month, just great for armchair travel, and lots to learn as well!

Have a wonderful Spring, and spice happily!

Herbie and Liz

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