NEWSLETTER: Summer 2004/2005

Spices from Bhutan

About a year ago, we met a group of representatives from the small kingdom of Bhutan and agreed to assist them with the marketing of their spice crops. It is a landlocked country, bordered on the northern side by Mongolia and on the other three sides by India. To help you place this tiny kingdom on your mental map, picture Nepal to the west, Myanmar (Burma) south-east, Bangladesh due south and China beyond the Himalayas to the north and north-east. The farmers of Bhutan, being Buddhist, do not believe in destroying any forms of life and therefore use no pesticides at all. This means that the products, while not certified organic, are entirely chemical-free.

So September saw us tramping around plantations of brown cardamom on steep and steamy mountain slopes, taking photographs of the harvest. Szechuan pepper (prickly ash) trees grow wild, and are harvested only when a convenient crop presents itself. We slipped and slid down a steep grassy slope to get some photographs, and made the mistake of tasting a fresh seed-pod. (It took an anesthetizing Strepsil to ease the burn!) Star anise trees also grow wild, however they bear a 10-pointed star which has no flavour and is mildly toxic. We discussed caraway prices on a farm within view of snow-covered peaks, and met with government officials to explore the best ways that we can help the farmers make the most of low volume, high value crops. We hope that the wheels, now in slow motion, will eventually bring Bhutan spices to our store.
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Spice Appreciation Classes on DVD

Every year our Spice Appreciation, Spice Advice and Spice Workshop classes book out long before the end of the year. As a solution, we have made a DVD of the Spice Class, which includes in its three-hour duration a huge amount of information as well as several recipes. At $39.95, it’s cheaper than a class, and you can refresh your memory on matters spicy as often as you wish! Full of information, recipes, and hints, the DVD is easy to navigate. View the DVD online

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Spice Kits for Christmas
Why is it that the approach of Christmas is greeted every year with gasps of horrified surprise by everyone? Surely after all these years, we’d know it was coming! And you’d think we’d learn to start shopping early, rather than year after year leaving it to the last minute. Our ever-popular spice kits are there to make it easy for you, and we can even post them for you as well. We have a couple of new kits which are excellent value: the Spice Travels Kit contains spices that are featured in the chapters of the book, and is bundled along with the book itself for just $40.00; and a kit to accompany our new DVD, with the spices to make 10 of the recipes contained in the lovely little full-colour booklet included within the DVD cover. This DVD Kit is priced at $85.00.

We have introduced a super-sized kit (it won’t make you fat!) that we identify as the “Pantry Start-Up” Kit. Chock-a-block with all the necessities for everyday cooking, there are twenty herbs, spices and blends, which make this kit an excellent house-warming, engagement or moving-in-together gift, priced at $65.00.
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New Book – Spicery
November saw the birth of our new book, Spicery. The dictionary describes “spicery” as: “a place for storing spices,” but we rather fancy that a spicer creates spicery just as a sorcerer creates sorcery! Just as its predecessor Herbaceous covers all things leafy, this new book does the same for all things spicy, making a perfect partnership, with identical format of information and recipes. While many of the recipes are original, friends and colleagues have also generously shared recipes, so we have the ideal recipes to best showcase all of the spices – we’re particularly fond of the Little Onion Tarts with Nigella. As well as really useful information, Spicery has lovely full-colour photographs and a stunning cover, and retails for $39.95. As Herbaceous and Spicery are the perfect yin-and-yang, we have them available as a pair for just $70.00 between now and the end of the year.

You might be interested in the menu that we created for our launch of Spicery at Shearer’s Bookshop in Leichhardt. Mostly taken from the new book, it went like this:

  • Little Onion Tarts with Nigella
  • Chicken Skewers flavoured with Balmain-Rozelle Spice
  • Artichoke Puree with Chilli and Cumin, in little pastry cases
  • Cheeses served with Pear and Saffron Relish
  • Chocolate Wattleseed Biscuits

Our good friends at Tucker Seabrook were kind enough to supply delicious wines for the event.

We can’t resist a little pat on our own backs, if you’ll pardon the crowing. At the recent Vittoria Food Media Awards, Herbaceous was highly commended in the Simon Johnson “Literary Excellence in a Food-Related Book” category. We will have the top award in our sights for Spicery when the next awards come around!
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Spice Discovery Tour – 2005
Once Christmas is over, we’ll be thinking of packing for India, as our band of merry adventurers takes off for the Spice Discovery Tour on January 15th. We know there are people out there who have made serious enquiries about the tour but have not yet made a final decision. Well, the elections are over, the world’s no less safe that it always has been, so now’s the time to take the plunge and decide to join us for an insider’s look at the spice world in the spiciest country on earth. (And see the Taj Mahal before the marble cancer makes it fall down!) Don’t put it off until next year, because other commitments make it impossible for us to take a tour in 2006.

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Chocolate Wattleseed Biscuit Recipe
So many people have told us how they love recipe labels on the backs of the spice packs that we are continually working on providing more of them. Not only that, but some old ones are being updated to keep it interesting for “repeat offenders” who find the same pack in their hands time after time. Watch out for the marvelous Chocolate Wattleseed Biscuit recipe soon to grace the Wattleseed Pack – it’s a winner!

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We wish you all a wonderful festive season, with loads of tasty, flavourful food!
Happy spicing,
Herbie and Liz.