NEWSLETTER: Summer 2005/2006

 

Our Spice Kits

As Christmas approaches for the ninth time since the opening of the doors at Herbie’s, we have been doing some soul-searching. Are our little gift kits becoming old hat? Should we be looking for new and interesting, albeit more expensive, packaging? Apparently we’re alone with these thoughts, as our customers continue to love them and come back for more. Herbie’s gift kits still have the freshness and charm that they started with, and our additions to the range have enhanced the image of accessible, easy-to-prepare dishes that are full of flavour and interest.

This year, to help those whose petrol bills have eaten into the Christmas shopping budget, we have introduced three “compact kits” which sell for $20.00 plus postage and packing. These kits are Butter Chicken and Herbie’s Saturday Curry – both self-explanatory, with a recipe for the dish and the 5 packs of spices required to make it – and Sweet and Scrumptious, five delicious cake and biscuit recipes with five packs of sweet spices, and we know they’ll be a hit.

We have recently attended the Food Summit – The Future of Food, as part of Tasting Australia in Adelaide. Much of the attention was focused on returning to traditional values and food that is as fresh and natural as can be. The word “organic” was heard at frequent intervals, as was the term “provenance”. It’s obvious that people want to know and trust their suppliers. The other major concern that cropped up during these discussions was the need for children to feel comfortable with a good knowledge of food and cooking. Perhaps childhood obesity would not be such a problem if children were encouraged to enjoy spending time in the kitchen. This might sound contradictory, but eating food prepared at home is in most cases going to be more nutritious and satisfying than eating bought-in snacks. Relating food to virtues such as “healthy” and “low-fat” puts it into the mental box with other should things like homework and cleaning your shoes, but if playing around with food is seen as easy, tasty, and rewarding, then it’s a good experience. (And probably healthy and low-fat, co-incidentally!) These thoughts aired at the conference simply reiterate the thinking behind our Kids in the Kitchen Kit, suitable for 7-12 year olds.

Australian cooks are some of the most adventurous in the world. Where else would a family possibly have Thai on Monday, Mexican on Tuesday, Moroccan on Wednesday, Japanese on Thursday, French on Friday, a good old-fashioned roast on Saturday, and Lebanese on Sunday? Certainly not in Thailand, Mexico, Morocco, Japan, France or Lebanon! In the words of Serge Dansereau, “Australia’s multi-culturalism is based on the adoption of other countries’ mono-culturalism.” We are lucky to have all these influences and the adventurous nature to take advantage of them. And we can help you get the flavours right, with kits such as the French Provincial, Persian, Moroccan, Indian and Asian Spice Kits in our range. And if you live in Sydney and want to learn more about Middle Eastern Cuisine, new to Drummoyne is Infusions Cooking School at www.infusionscooking.com where you can have a learning, hands-on cooking experience.
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What’s New at Herbie’s

We have found superb wasabi powder from New Zealand that will knock your socks off. Wasabi is a Japanese member of the cruciferae family which includes cabbages, and it develops a thick stem at its base, which is the part that is harvested. The pungent smell and flavour is similar to its cousin, horseradish, and it is a favourite in Japan as an accompaniment to sushi, sashimi and other fish dishes. The powder can easily be made into a paste by simply stirring equal amounts of powder and water together in a small dish. This simply cannot be compared to the tubes of green paste (often made from horseradish with green colouring) available from your supermarket, so if you’re a wasabi fan, prepared to be delighted!

Also new is freeze-dried lemongrass , which has replaced the less-than-exciting original air-dried one. Freeze-drying is a highly technical process which removes moisture from plant material without damaging delicate cell structures. In a vacuum chamber, moisture as ice is taken to the gaseous state in the form of vapour, without turning into water in the process. Because no heat is produced during dehydration, the finished product has all the colour, shape and flavour of the fresh. You will notice that Green Curry Mix and Thai Spice look paler and fluffier than before, and this is because of the new lemongrass in them. Although the bulk is greater in these packs, the weight is the same, so you will need more volume (same weight) in your cooking.

As always, we listen and respond when our customers want something, and you’ll be pleased to know that Rogan Josh has joined our Indian stable. In researching this, we found several methods for cooking, and after trying them all, we have given you the recipe which we find most satisfying. The name Rogan Josh relates to the deep, rich, reddish colour of this dish, and you’ll find it a delicious and tasty medium-heat curry. Don’t restrict yourself to only making curries in cold weather … they’re fantastic all year round!

Also new this season is Ground Long Pepper. Long Pepper is a pepper often used in Indonesia and Bali. It has an interesting shape, like a long narrow pine cone, up to two centimeters long. Because of its shape, it’s not suitable for a pepper mill, but its hot, fresh minty flavour is such an absolute bonus to Indonesian food that we have ground the pepper to make it easier to use. Try it with our Rendang!

Stevia is a herb that contains an amazing amount of natural sweetness, with a slight aftertaste similar to that of an artificial sweetener. It is 30 times sweeter than sugar by volume, and is safe for diabetics. To overcome some of its drawbacks (a grassy aroma and particles that float in your cooking), you can infuse 1 teaspoon of ground stevia leaves in a cup of warm water. Let it stand overnight, strain through a fine strainer (a coffee filter paper is good), then keep your sweet syrup in the fridge for use when needed.

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Vanilla Beans
Hooray!! Vanilla bean prices, as we predicted, are beginning to come down. Two PNG beans are now $4.75, while a Mexican bean has reduced from $7.90 to $6.50. The Tahitian bean, a different strain with a sweeter flavour and a moist, plump bean, has reduced from $8.50 for one bean to $7.95. And hooray again, our lovely organically-grown Buhtan caraway seeds are now in stock.
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Have a safe, joyous and fabulously delicious festive season, and keep on spicing!

Herbie and Liz.