Behind the Scenes

Tag Archive: Behind the Scenes

  1. Black Pepper Beef Recipe at Spice Village, Kumily, Kerala, India

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    Herbie visits the enchanting Spice Village Hotel set among pepper vines in south India.

    Here, Chef Manoj shows Herbie how he makes his signature Black Pepper Beef, using the special Super Grade Black Pepper that Herbie sources from a local plantation.


    Braised Black Pepper Beef, with Chef Manoj at Spice Village, Kumily, Kerala, India.
    Serves 4-6


    1kg beef tenderloin, trimmed

    Masala Marinade
    1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
    ½ cup grated fresh coconut
    2 shallots, peeled and sliced
    2 teaspoons coriander seeds
    5 small dried red chillies, seeds removed and chopped
    3 sprigs curry leaves
    1 tablespoon crushed black pepper

    Braising Curry Sauce
    1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
    1 cinnamon stick, broken up
    2 teaspoons cardamom pods
    1 teaspoon whole cloves
    1 red onion, finely sliced
    4 cloves garlic, chopped
    3cm piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
    1-2 small green chillies, chopped
    2 sprigs curry leaves
    pinch salt
    ½ teaspoon chilli powder
    ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
    ½ teaspoon garam masala
    2 teaspoons ground coriander
    2 teaspoons crushed black pepper
    1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
    1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
    100ml coconut cream

    finely sliced curry leaves to serve


    For the Masala Marinade;
    Heat half the oil in a pan over medium heat and add coconut and shallots and cook, stirring frequently until onion has softened and browned.
    Stir in coriander seeds, dried chilli and curry leaves and cook a further 2-3 minutes or until mixture is dark and very dry.
    Add crushed pepper and mix well.
    Remove and cool slightly.
    Spoon masala into the bowl of a food processor with remaining coconut oil and process until smooth.
    Rub evenly over beef and refrigerate overnight.
    Heat a barbecue or char-grill plate over medium high heat and cook beef for 8-10 minutes or until medium rare.
    Remove and set aside.

    For the Braising Sauce;
    Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat and add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
    Allow to crackle before adding the onion, garlic, ginger and green chilli.
    Cook stirring for 2-3 minutes to allow the onion and garlic to soften.
    Reduce heat to low and add spices to pan over the onions and stir in enough water to form a thick sauce consistency.
    Add tomatoes and cook a further 2 minutes.
    Meanwhile, slice beef thinly and lay over the braising curry sauce; cover and simmer 10-15 minutes before drizzling over coconut milk.
    Serve topped with extra finely sliced curry leaves.

  2. Herbie makes Avial (South Indian Vegetable Curry) in South India

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    Herbie loves being in South India, the food and the people.

    In this video he makes Avial (a South Indian Vegetable Curry).

    Making lightly spiced meals is one of life’s great pleasures, made all the simpler with our Herbie’s Spices all-natural spice blends.

    Watch the video, and here is the recipe:

    Avial (mixed vegetable curry)


    500g mixed vegetables (brinjal, pumpkin, cucumber, string beans, eggplant, yam, potato, drumstick, snake gourd etc as available) cut into long thick slices
    ¼ cup onions sliced into big pieces
    4 green chillies, split lengthwise
    3 sprigs curry leaves
    *½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
    3 eschalots, sliced
    *½ teaspoon turmeric
    *salt to taste
    2 cups fresh coconut grated (or 2 cup desiccated coconut soaked in water for 5 minutes then squeezed to remove water)
    ½ cup plain yoghurt
    1 tablespoon coconut oil
    *These ingredients may be substituted with Herbie’s Aloo Gobi Masala


    • Place the vegetables, onions, chillies and half the curry leaves in a saucepan with ½ cup water, turmeric and salt. Steam gently over low heat until vegetables are almost cooked.
    • Puree the cumin, eschalots and coconut in a blender or pestle and mortar until it turns into a rough paste. Stir in yoghurt. Add the coconut paste to the vegetables and continue to cook until vegetables are tender.

    Heat coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add remaining curry leaves; allow leaves to crackle and pour over the curry.

    Serve immediately

    Serves 4

  3. Herbie Makes Vegetarian Sambar in Cochin

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    One of Herbie’s favourite places in India is Brunton’s Boatyard in Cochin

    In this video, he makes a Vegetarian Sambar

    (From Spice Notes & Recipes by Ian Hemphill published by Macmillan)



    • 2 cups vegetables, such as eggplant, potato, okra and carrot, chopped into 1cm pieces*
    • 2 cups water
    • ½ tsp salt
    • steamed rice and coriander leaves, to serve
    • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and stir in the sambar powder.  Stir for one minute and then add the vegetables and stir-fry for a further two minutes.  Pour in the water and salt, cover and simmer until vegetables are cooked.  Add the mushy lentils or peas and simmer for another five minutes.
    • Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves and serve hot over rice.  Serves 4 as a meal.
    • When two or three vegetables are used there is a subtle blending of flavours.  For a more distinctive flavour, make the sambar with only one type of vegetable.
  4. Herbie Makes a Curry in Kumily

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    Spice Village hotel in Kumily, Kerala, South India is an amazing eco-hotel set among pepper vines and Indian spices.

    In this video, following a short elephant ride, I have the audacity to show my Indian friends at Spice Village how I make my Saturday Curry!


    Herbie’s Saturday Curry
    (From Spice Notes & Recipes by Ian Hemphill published by Macmillan)
    2 tbsp curry powder:
    (The following curry powder can be made anytime and the remainder kept in an airtight
    jar for later use)
    5 tbsp coriander seed
    2 tbsp cumin seed
    3 tsp turmeric
    2 tsp ginger
    1 tsp yellow mustard seed
    1 tsp fenugreek seed
    1 tsp cinnamon quills
    ½ tsp cloves
    ½ tsp cardamom seed
    ½ tsp chilli (more or less to taste)
    1 ½ tsp black pepper
    2 tbsp oil
    1 tbsp panch phora
    1 onion, chopped
    500 g beef, lamb or chicken cut into 2 cm cubes (mutton or goat)
    2 tsp lemon juice
    1 can (400 g) whole peeled tomatoes
    1–2 cups of water (depending on desired consistency)
    2 tsp garam masala
    2 tsp chaat masala
    3 dried long chillies
    2 tbsp large garlic flakes
    2 tbsp tomato paste
    8 curry leaves
    1 tsp methi (fenugreek leaves)

    Heat a heavy-based pan on the stove, add curry powder and dry-roast, stirring
    continuously with a wooden spoon for around 2 minutes, being careful not to burn.
    Add oil and make into a paste, then add panch phora and stir until seeds start
    popping. Add onion and stir for 2 minutes; do not overcook. Add meat, about 6 pieces
    at a time, making sure each piece is browned and coated with spices. Add lemon
    juice, tomatoes and water, roughly chopping tomatoes while stirring. Sprinkle garam
    masala and chaat masala over surface and drop in whole chillies and garlic flakes.
    Add tomato paste, curry leaves and methi, stir, then turn off heat. Place in ovenproof
    pot with lid on and cook in an oven at 125°C for 2 hours. Remove from oven, allow it
    to cool and store in the refrigerator ready to heat and serve the next day.

  5. Herbie’s Newsletter Spring 2020

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    Spring is a time always associated with flowers.  Cauliflowers, broccoli and broccolini, even cabbage and kale, are all flowers, and it occurred to us that one could make a culinary bouquet by adding rose harissa to these flowers.  We started the experiment with rose harissa sprinkled on cauliflower cheese, then progressed to rose harissa stir-fried with broccolini, and broccoli florets tossed with rose harissa in butter.  We think we’re on to something good here, and can’t wait to do something with zucchini flowers … maybe we’ll stuff them with a creamy minced lamb and rose harissa filling.







    Our Spring Box of Ideas marks seven years since we initiated the idea in 2013.  It has been our aim to bring you different taste and flavour experiences through a variety of herbs and spices, to gradually expand your knowledge and flavour repertoire.  We’re still working our way through our product list, with only the very occasional re-appearance of an old favourite.  This spring we’re giving you lots of our lovely blends: Thai spice mix, Lemon and Herb Pepper, Golden Grill, especially for your white meats, and Fragrant Sweet Spice, to work its magic on all your sweet cooking. It’s in our pretty baby-leaf green box.









    We’ve been giving a bit of attention to the underdogs of the spice cabinet lately.  It seems unfair that some spice gets bad press a century or more ago and the stigma never leaves it.  Take brown cardamom, for example.  Back in the 19th century, someone rudely referred to it as “bastard cardamom”, hardly fair to give it a label like that just because it is different to the more familiar green cardamom pod used so frequently in both sweet and savoury cooking.  Brown cardamom pods are harvested from just under the ground, and are dried by smoking in a sieve over coals, resulting in a sultry sweetly-smoky flavour.






    Brown cardamom has pride of place in our Herbie’s Spices Butter Chicken and Tandoori spice blends, as it can impart the smokiness that evokes the tandoor oven that we probably don’t have in our kitchens!  Recently we have added brown cardamom pods to stewed fruit, and now we wonder why it’s not done more frequently.








    Life is never dull in the spice world.  With the world’s trading systems in disarray, we are experiencing a severe shortage of coriander seed, partly due to crop failures in Australia this year. Now, you may think that there’s not all that much call for coriander seed in everyday cooking, (unless you cook a lot of Indian food), but it is a vital ingredient in many of our delicious spice mixes.  Ground coriander seeds have a wonderful ability to cushion brighter and stronger elements to make a spice blend rounded and balanced. We have managed to find some high-quality ground coriander seeds from Ukraine and Canada that match the Australian grown flavour profile, Naturally, we are looking forward to a resumption of Australian coriander as soon as it becomes available in 2021.






    A Discussion on Gluten: Sometimes we find the best quality seed or spice we can find has a small amount of gluten detected. This could be caused by something as simple as having a field of wheat being harvested on an adjoining farm.  Imagine one million grains of rice with eight of those grains containing gluten – that is enough to require a gluten declaration on the pack.  Now imagine that this product with 8 parts per million of gluten is being used in a blend, so that, say, 15% of the total blend comprises this product with 8 parts per million of gluten.  Is the gluten still measurable?  Stay with me now: to make a meal for four people, you may use one tablespoon of spice mix – for each person, that’s one quarter of a tablespoon of a spice mix that has 8 parts per million of gluten in just 15% of it.  It would probably not matter to someone with an intolerance to gluten, however, intolerance is different to allergy, and the safety of coeliac consumers is important to us.  All of the spice blends that we make, using any spice where gluten is measurable, have been tested for the presence of gluten, and the labels will tell you whether or not it has been detected. More details here: Dietary Information.






    Providing a good news swing to balance the coriander roundabout, we are finally able to supply Australian native bush tomatoes and akudjura again.  These have been unavailable for a long time, illustrating the inevitable conundrum posed by Australian native herbs and spices: when they are unavailable here, there is no alternative country from which to source them!  Once again, we can make a tomato chutney sing by adding a few whole bush tomatoes while it cooks, and our original Native Barbecue spice and Ockkah blends containing akudjura, will spring to life again. At this time of COVID, when there is discussion about national self-reliance and the importance of Australian-made, it seems providential that our native spices have made a re-appearance right now.  On the other hand, there’s a shortage of Desert Oak … the swings and roundabouts are always moving!












    Not all of our spice blends are powders.  The texture and crunch of blends like Berbere and Bushman’s Pepperpot are all part of their special character.  As we are a non-automated food business, these blends are created by a person rather than a computer-programmed machine, and this is why sometimes there may be variation in the particle size of these blends.  We try to keep it consistent, but we all love the fact that humans are not machines, and there may be small variations from one batch to the next.









    As winter recedes, Christmas is looming ahead. And just in time, our beautiful new wooden storage boxes have arrived.  Made from farmed pine softwood, they are beautifully made – the square box which holds twelve glass jars has a clear sliding lid, with labels for you to stick on the lids to identify your spices at a glance; and our popular lidded wooden spice storage box returns, to hold 30-35 of your Herbie’s Spices packs.  As always, we’re here to help with your pantry requirements and gifts.  Remember, early planning means no stress when December arrives!








    Happy Spicing,                                



    Herbie and Liz


  6. CANCELLED “Spice Appreciation with Herbie & Liz”

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    Spice Appreciation with Herbie & Liz


    Introducing a unique spice appreciation and spice blending workshop with Ian & Liz Hemphill of Herbie’s Spices on Sunday 23rd August 2020 from 10:00am to 1:00pm.

    Spices are quite literally On Trend as never before. We see spices in the majority of restaurant and café menus, the amazing colours and textures of spices feature in food magazines, and even restaurants and boutique food outlets call themselves by spice names to reinforce their foodie credentials.
    Nonetheless, mystery has surrounded spices, their origins and uses for thousands of years. However, how much do you really know about these wonders of nature, and the best ways to buy, store and use them in everyday meals?


    In this workshop, Ian “Herbie” Hemphill, author of the award winning

    Spice & Herb Bible

    will take you on a magical mystery tour of the world of spices.

    Workshop participants will learn just what spices and herbs really are, the different roles for using fresh or dried, and why most spices are dried to get their flavours.
    Importantly, spice blending will be explained, showing how a selection of spices can be used to make completely different spice blends. These blends will then be used hands-on when you collaborate to make three different recipes, featuring contemporary flavours from around the world.

  7. Why Herbie is Obsessed with Spices

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    Why Herbie is Obsessed with Spices

    During this time when many of us are isolated, either voluntarily or forced, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things I cover at the beginning of a Spice Appreciation Class. As classes are off now, here goes a virtual communication!
    People often ask why I am so obsessed with spices. This video explains where it all started, and why I do what I do.
    I hope you find this interesting, and if you would like to see more videos on any spice subjects, please let me know.

  8. Herbie’s Newsletter Summer 2019 – 2020

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    NEWSLETTER                                                                   SUMMER 2019-20

    Single Use Plastics

    We’re all in accord about single-use plastics. Having seen huge drifts of plastic in the pristine seas off the Indonesian islands, we know just how important it is to get rid of those shopping bags, plastic wraps and sandwich bags.  When one gets emotional about bad plastics, it’s easy to begin to demonize all plastics, and perhaps it’s timely to repeat this message from our Newsletter of some years ago:

    We are proud of the exceptional storage qualities of our high-barrier laminate plastic bags, however from time to time we agonize over the eco-friendliness (or not) of our plastic packaging. We found it interesting that another food company has thoroughly researched the glass-versus-laminate question.  Put briefly, the Life Cycle Assessment conducted at RMIT University found that their non-recyclable pouch uses less non-renewable energy and less water to produce, and emits less CO2 equivalents over its entire life cycle than a glass jar.  They also pointed out that nearly half of Australia’s recyclable glass is not recycled in Australia, so the environmental effects of shipping the glass out of the country need to be taken into account as well.

    We are doing our best to bring you the best quality product and not overburden our environment. Naturally, we cannot compromise on keeping your spices as fresh as possible. We are constantly watching for developments in packaging, and are hopeful that a recyclable or bio-degradable bag with equivalent barrier properties of our current packaging is not too far away.

    Shortage of Cardamom Seeds

    Further to our comments in the latest Newsletter about star anise being used in the making of Tamiflu, a contact in the know has let us know that Tamiflu’s effect is in doubt, so maybe our star anise supplies are safe! But it’s a case of “one door opens, another closes”, as we face drastic shortages of cardamom seeds.  The importation of seeds of any kind has become more difficult due to new Australian bio-security regulations introduced recently. That combined with low harvests in India (our source) and Guatemala (another major producer) you may have to stock up on whole green cardamom pods, and peel the husk away to avail yourself of the seeds as you need them.  That’s what we’ll be doing in order to continue to include ground cardamom in retail packs.



    What’s New at Herbie’s?

    Lots of new kit ideas, that’s what! Our Summer Box of Ideas for this season contains Jamaican Jerk seasoning and Brazilian spice mix for your summer barbecues, plus our lovely Native Lemon Pepper for your seafood (pictured is the Salmon Salad Recipe that is enclosed in the kit), Mixed Herbs for your stuffings and hamburgers, and Sugar and Spice for your sweet treats.  In our bright summer sky blue box, it’s $25.00 plus postage.







    Risotto Blend and Black Garlic Powder

    Also new for summer is our beautiful Risotto spice mix.  It’s never been easier to have a deliciously tasty risotto with the simplest of ingredients.  Just add a couple of teaspoons of Risotto spice mix to your stock, add some lovely seasonal vegetables, and stand by for the adulation from your diners!  After the sad demise of our black garlic bulbs (see latest newsletter), we have now found some amazing black garlic powder, which is pure umami, and we’ve used it as an important ingredient in the new spice blend, along with porcini powder, thyme, parsley, pepper, coriander seed and paprika. A 20g pack, priced at $6.75, will make two batches of risotto.






    Ginspiration Plus

    During winter, we visited Tasmania to do some classes for Hill Street Grocer, in Hobart and Devonport.  It’s impossible to fail to notice the plethora of boutique gin producers in Tasmania, most of them featuring the pepperberry which is native to that state.  We encourage you to seek out some of these boutique gins, which are really excellent.  Inspired, we played around with some Australian native spices in conjunction with our Ginspiration Kit, and were very pleased with the results.  That put us in a tricky situation … do we change what is already in our Ginspiration Kit, or make another one?  The solution, as we saw it, was to keep our excellent popular gin-making kit as it is, and have a little add-on box of spices for those who want to have more fun and experiment further with more than the traditional flavours.  So, we are happy to introduce Ginspiration Plus, an enhanced two-box bundle for $85.00 … making your own gin has never been so much fun!




    Japanese Spice Kit


    Brand new in time for Christmas is the Japanese Spice Kit, packed with Furikake Seasoning, Sansho powder, Katsu curry, ground ginger and Shichimi Togarashi, with some excellent recipes to get you started on your Japanese adventure. Due to the sky-high cost of Sancho powder, this kit is a little more expensive than most, but still reasonable at $45.00.  It’s in our purple box, in line with all the other cuisine-specific kits.








    Watch this space – our consistently superior Kashmiri saffron is about to have a downward price adjustment. Now there’s an early Christmas gift for everyone!






    We’re thoroughly Indian-infused, back from a wonderful trip to northern parts of India, with 19 of the best travelling companions, and we’re off again in January to the south.  Just love those spices, the wonderful food, the amazing history and the delightful people that we meet along the way.






    Peugeot Salt & Pepper Mills

    There’s great pleasure to be had in really good salt and pepper grinders that are easily adjustable and truly functional.  We have sourced a beautiful pack of Peugeot salt and pepper grinders, which we are offering in time for Christmas with complimentary Herbie’s Peppermill Blend and Spiced Salt, to get you started.  You’ll find all the details on the website.


    Happy Holidays and Happy Spicing,

    Herbie and Liz




    Add a little spice to your spring picnic with a flavour infused spread of Herbie’s spiced recipes… including a Herbie’s Spiced Gin!

    Join Liz & Ian “Herbie” Hemphill (author of the award winning Spice & Herb Bible) on a magical mystery tour of the world of spices. Watch & learn about fresh vs dried herbs & spices, how best to extract flavour and create 4 different spice blends from 9 identical spices before putting your new know-how to use… hands-on spice blending & menu making!

    Plus, if that’s not enough spice for one picnic… just add Gin!
    Take in tips as Herbie demonstrates how to make your own spiced Gin using Herbie’s Ginspiration Spice Mix.

    Class menu includes

    • Moroccan Chermoula Chicken Kebabs
    • Moroccan Quinoa Salad
    • Chinese Spiced Ham
    • Middle Eastern Muhamarra Dip
    • Middle Eastern Quick Flatbread
    • Indian Sweet & Spicy Beer Nuts
    • Sample Herbie’s Spiced Gin & Tonic

    At the end of this flavour infused class guests will come together to enjoy a picnic spread they have collectively prepared… complete with a refreshing glass of Herbies Spiced Gin & Tonic.

    Proceeds raised from this class will be donated to the
    Your Angel NAO for Kids robotics program 
    Providing interactive learning & development opportunities for local children living with Autism, developmental, social, emotional or behavioural challenges

    Available for purchase on the day:
    Herbie’s award winning The Spice & Herb Bible (Third Edition), $40
    Herbie’s Spices Ginspiration Spice Kit, $65

  10. Spices & More in South India Jan-Feb 2020

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    Watch this space in case we do one in 2021.

    Spices and More … in South India With Herbie and Liz

    January 27th – February 15th 2020 (20 nights)

    We invite you to join us, Herbie and Liz, as we return to our beloved India to take you to some places where many tourists don’t go! And some amazing places that you just can’t miss.
    This is designed as a holiday, not an endurance test, and we have made the itinerary a little more leisurely than some earlier tours, so that you arrive home refreshed and well. Be a part of our small group and join the fun!

    With places filling rapidly for our January 2020 Spices & More Tour to India, we would like to remind interested travellers that the cut off date for confirming bookings is 14th October 2019. We will only take a small group of no more than 18, so travellers are assured of the best attention.

    Why a Spices & More Tour?

    Explore India and enter the exciting and historic world of exotic spices that drew the early explorers from Portugal, Holland, France and England to this cradle of the spice trade, guided by Australia’s own spice specialists, Herbie and Liz.



    Visits to India’s famous chilli market in Guntur, the largest chilli market in the world, before heading down the east coast to French influenced Pondicherry, the historic Hindu ruins of Hampi and the majestic Hindu temple in Madurai. From farms in Tamil Nadu we head up the hills to Kumily, the home of cardamom and pepper, then to historic Cochin to experience the steamy spice-rich regions and markets of the South.





    See fresh green peppercorns being hand picked  from this tropical climbing vine native to the south of India.






    In this land of great contrasts and unforgettable images, India’s unpredictability is part of its charm.  Will we see splendidly-attired temple elephants in Cochin, or a colourful wedding procession as we arrive at our hotel?  These were some of the unexpected delights encountered on previous tours.







    Jane:”a fantastic trip with wonderful, lasting memories and amazing experiences.”

    Anne: What can I say but  wow! and thank you , it was a great trip

    Peter: you never know I could certainly do it again.

    Doug: I had a GREAT TIME and would travel with you anywhere any time

    Hazel: The trip was splendid and surpassed all my expectations.

    To receive the complete itinerary, and booking information please email:




    Julie’s Place is very excited to announce a wonderful long lunch with herb and spice guru, Ian “Herbie” Hemphill.

    Ian, author of “Spice & Herb Bible 3rd Edition”, among other respected books, will take you on a journey through the Middle East to learn about and experience their use of spices. And while he does, Julie Goodwin will cook for you the dishes that bring the stories to life. The lunch will consist of multiple delectable courses with wines.
    Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to experience a journey through the world of spice with a peerless expert. And a beautiful lunch as well!


  12. Spice Appreciation, Hill St Grocer, Devonport, TAS

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    Spice Appreciation Class

    Introducing an informative spice appreciation class with Ian “Herbie” & Liz Hemphill of Herbie’s Spices.
    Spices are quite literally on trend as never before. We see spices in the majority of restaurant and café menus, the amazing colours and textures of spices feature in food magazines, and even restaurants and boutique food outlets call themselves by spice names to reinforce their foodie credentials.Nonetheless, mystery has surrounded spices, their origins and uses for thousands of years. However, how much do you really know about these wonders of nature, and the best ways to buy, store and use them in everyday meals?In this Spice Appreciation class, Ian “Herbie” Hemphill, author of the award winning Spice & Herb Bible, will take you on a magical mystery tour of the world of spices, while Liz prepares delectable tastings. Herbie will navigate through the exotic waters of the history of the spice trade. You will learn about many different spices, their origins, and how they are processed and traded. Most importantly, Herbie will de-mystify their flavours so you will feel comfortable using them in everyday cooking.Your ticket includes entry into our lucky door prizes giveaways at the event.Date: Friday 2 August 2019

    Time: 5.30m to 7.30pm

    Cost: $35 per person