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Tag Archive: Spice and Herb Bible

  1. Herbie’s Newsletter Summer 2020-2021

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    NEWSLETTER                                                                                              Summer 2020-21

    A world-wide annus horribilis is drawing to a close, and all we want for Christmas is a better year ahead.  For many, time spent in confinement has been a time for reflection, communicating with loved ones, and cooking up a storm.

     

     

     

    For over twenty years, we’ve been unable to find a decent dried Epazote (pronounced eep-a-sot-tay) for our Mexican food-loving customers.  So you can imagine our delight to have finally found Epazote leaves that are of good enough for inclusion in the Herbie’s range!  This mint-like leafy herb has a strong, slightly disagreeable aroma, but after drying the aroma is appetising, with a mixed-herb pungency.  Favoured in the cooking of the Yucatan peninsula, you’ll find it listed in your Mexican cookbooks, and now – hurrah! – you’ll find it at Herbie’s Spices.

     

     

     

     

     

    Umami … you may have heard of it, you may not know what it means.  Umami is a Japanese word which applies to a certain delicious tastiness, a moreishness, that cannot fit with any of the other flavour descriptors: sweet, sour, salty, or bitter.  Think if a fresh ripe tomato, warm from the sun, or Vegemite, or a mouth-wateringly delicious barbecued field mushroom.  Umami is naturally present in garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and capsicums, so it seemed a good idea for us to create a Umami blend, using, among other ingredients, black garlic powder, porcini powder, tomato powder and paprika.  This is not a complete spice blend like a curry or a barbecue rub, where no other input is needed, but, just as you would add a squeeze of lemon, or a pinch of salt, so you would add a little Umami blend to whatever you are cooking.  For instance, in an Italian-style chicken fry-up (onion, garlic, bacon, chicken, capsicum, olives, tomatoes), we added a tablespoon of Italian Seasoning (of course), then to go that extra bit further, we tossed in a teaspoon of Umami blend.  Yum! And another way to introduce it:

     

     

     

     

    BARLEY RISOTTO WITH TOMATO AND MUSHROOMS

    • 100g barley
    • ½ red onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 Tablespoon each butter and oil
    • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 field mushrooms, chopped
    • ½ teaspoon Umami Seasoning
    • 500ml chicken stock
    • 2-3 pieces lemon skin
    • 1 Tablespoon chopped dill
    1. In a deep pan, heat butter and oil, and sauté onion and garlic gently for two minutes.
    2. Add tomatoes and mushrooms and stir to combine.
    3. Add barley, stock, Umami seasoning and dill, salt and pepper to taste. Stir, and bring to boiling point.
    4. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 45 minutes, until barley grains are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

    Serves 2.

     

    It’s not unusual for us to receive phone calls or emails with special requests.  Someone with a garlic intolerance might ask us to create, say, our Cajun blend without the garlic.  Or someone on a salt-free diet might ask if we can make their favourite barbecue blend without the salt.  We’d love to oblige, but it’s just not a feasible operation.  The people wanting their special blend wouldn’t really fancy paying the hourly rate involved in fulfilling their requests!  However, there’s a really easy solution.  In The Spice and Herb Bible – Third Edition, Herbie has given away lots of his secrets, with the actual recipes for many of our most popular blends.  So all you need to do, to have your own salt-chilli-garlic-free blend, is copy the recipe from the book and tailor it to your specific needs.  You still have time to let Santa know that you need The Spice and Herb Bible – Third Edition by Ian Hemphill! Having been in print continuously since 2000, (originally as Spice Notes and Spice Notes and Recipes), it is truly a best-seller.

    Of course, there are many blends that don’t have salt, including our fabulous Zalt – It’s Not Salt, to add a lovely bright tastiness to your food without sodium.  You can find our salt-free blends on our website: Blends Without Salt

     

     

     

    There’s a saying: if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.  That rather applies to us here at Herbie’s, as, amidst the busiest period we’ve ever experienced, we have disrupted our workplace in order to build a retail shop within our factory.  We look forward to welcoming more visitors, and providing them with a better, more complete shopping experience. Each product has a tester jar so that you may smell, compare, investigate, and learn. Those of you who remember our store at Rozelle will find our new venture is true to our original vision; we’re still doing our best to bring you “the ultimate spice experience.”  We’re open Monday to Friday, 9.00 to 4.00, and Saturdays, 9.30 to 2.00. We’re close to the Sydney-Newcastle expressway – pop our address, 25 Arizona Road, Charmhaven, NSW in your GPS, and come and visit us!

    INSIDE OUR OWN ALADDIN’S CAVE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Anyone who drives the highways this year can’t help but notice the number of camper-vans and caravans on the road, as we all take our domestic holidays.  There’s never been a more appropriate Christmas gift than our Happy Campers Spice Kit, a great way to ensure that your taste buds don’t get homesick in remote areas.  It’s packed in a sturdy, off-road box in a variety of colours.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    What’s new at Herbie’s?  We love it when customers tell us what they’re looking for, like the man who wanted the spices to make a raita to go with his Indian curries.  Being very familiar with Indian cuisine, it was instinctive for Herbie to put the ingredients together into a convenient blend, and we’re just loving it!  One teaspoon of Raita Spice Blend to four tablespoons of plain yoghurt makes a delicious cooling condiment to serve with curries, cold cuts or grills.  Add some fresh cucumber to suit your taste – it’s truly that easy!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Also new is our seasonal Box of Ideas … Summer 2020-21. Feeding friends and family during the summer months can be either a pleasure or a chore.  Although the consommé here is time consuming, there’s a kind of Zen satisfaction in letting it proceed at its own pace.  Cook-ahead winners like the sage shortbread mean more time to relax with those you love.  Fire up the barbecue, bring a gorgeous sorbet out of the freezer, and enjoy the holiday season! Contains five spices and spice blends with seven great recipes.

     

    There have been many unwelcome COVID-related inconveniences during the year, and there are more to come. Spice shortages will occur, as rural workers in spice-producing countries have not planted and harvested in their usual way.  Also, much-needed imports are held up on Australian wharves, so we have to think on our feet to keep as much as possible available for you.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Grains of Paradise are temporarily out of stock, so their place in our ever-popular Ginspiration Kit has been taken by Australian native pepperberries, which give the resulting gin a lovely pink hue.  As pepperberries were originally in our Ginspiration Plus box, we’ve replaced them with wattleseed.  Happily, we’ve found that a gin that includes three Australian natives – pepperberry, wattleseed and lemon myrtle – has a delicious dark allure, with elusive hints of coffee.  It’s one to have over ice.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    When a group of male friends get together, the talk eventually comes around to barbecues, food, and who does it better.  Our son-in-law, in a rural NSW community, took up the challenge with his tennis mates to see who could cook the best ribs.  He came to us for a little inside knowledge, and we showed him our Rib Spice … well, what do you know?  His ribs won hands down!!  (Not so surprised, really.) Now all his friends want to know his secret, and we’re happy to share.

     

     

    We have the ultimate gifts for any spice-lover … our gorgeous new wooden boxes with 12 jars in each.  The clear sliding lid lets you see what’s what, with labels on the jar lids as well as the traditional wrap-around labels.  A pepper freak will love the Pepperer’s Guild, twelve varieties of pepper to add bite in different ways; or make your own curries from scratch using twelve essential ingredients in Curry Essentials.  These are available from our new retail store, or online.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    What’s coming in 2021? In early 2021 you’ll see some changes to our website that will make the Herbie’s on-line experience even more informative. We have simplified some elements based on feedback we have received for you over the last few years. A major improvement will be our search facility, so instead of just searching for blends with chilli or garlic, you’ll also be able to look for items with NO chilli or garlic. We always welcome your comments, as these help us to make your Ultimate Spice Experience with us even better.

    We also love to see your cooking creations, so tag us in your foodie posts @herbiesspices

     

     

    Here’s hoping for a bright and positive new year! Happy spicing –

     

     

    Herbie and Liz

  2. CANCELLED “Spice Appreciation with Herbie & Liz”

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    Spice Appreciation with Herbie & Liz

    SADLY THIS CLASS HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

    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.

  3. Herbie’s Spice Appreciation – with bonus Gin making kit

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    Herbie’s Spice Appreciation – with bonus Gin making kit

    This is the comprehensive introduction to spices that almost needs no introduction!

    In this two-hour session, Ian Herbie Hemphill, will navigate through the exotic waters of the history of the spice trade, while Liz prepares tasty spiced morsels. You will learn about many different spices, their origins, and how they are processed and traded. Most importantly, Herbie and Liz will de-mystify their flavours and explain the principles behind spice blending, so you will feel comfortable using them in everyday cooking.

    In addition to this, Herbie will show you how to use his beautiful quality botanicals to create your own Gin at home.

    Included in this class

    Herbies ‘Ginspiration Kit’ so you can go home and brew up a batch (RRP $69.95)

    – A glass of Herbie’s own gin and tonic on ice

    – An array of delicious spicy nibbles!

    PARKING

    St Margaret’s Car Park at 417-435 Bourke Street, Surry Hills is a great option for parking with 80 spaces available and a 5-minute walk from the Cooking School. Casual parking rates after 5 pm are $4/hour.

    https://goo.gl/maps/wjqrwSKXBFF2

  4. HERBIE’S SPICES SPRING PICNIC SPREAD IN BOWRAL

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    HERBIE’S SPICES SPRING PICNIC SPREAD

    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

  5. SPICE TRAIL WITH IAN “Herbie” HEMPHILL: MARVELLOUS MIDDLE EAST

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    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!

     

  6. 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

  7. Spice Appreciation in Conversation in Hobart

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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. You will learn about many different spices, their origins, and how they are processed and traded. Most importantly, Herbie will de-mystify their flavours and explain the principles behind spice blending, so you will feel comfortable using them in everyday cooking.

    Date: Tuesday 30 July  2019

    Time: 6pm to 8pm

    Location: Royal Hobart Yacht Club

    Cost: $35 per person

  8. Spices at The Cook’s Workshop, Dural

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    Spices at The Cook’s Workshop, Dural

    Introducing a unique spice appreciation and spice blending workshop with Ian 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 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 9 identical spices can be used to make four completely different spice blends. These blends will then be used hands-on when you collaborate to make four different recipes, featuring the flavours of Morocco, China, India and the Middle East. 
     
    Herbie has long been the nickname of Ian Hemphill, one of Australia’s foremost culinary herb and spice experts.

    Herbie spent his childhood surrounded by herbs and spices, when his parents, John and Rosemary Hemphill, were pioneering the herb and spice scene in the 1950s.
    Forty Five years of working in the industry, including face-to-face lectures to groups from the general public, industrial brokering, manufacturing and marketing, has made Herbie a well-respected and popular figure amongst his peers, in Australia and overseas. He now enjoys sharing his extensive experience and knowledge with his customers at Herbie’s Spices.

  9. Spice Appreciation Class in Canberra With Herbie & Liz

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    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.

  10. SPICE TRAIL WITH IAN HEMPHILL @ JULIE’S PLACE, GOSFORD

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    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 Indian sub-continent 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!

  11. NEWSLETTER AUTUMN 2019

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    NEWSLETTER                                                  AUTUMN 2019

    Thank YouMoroccan Spice Kit

    As we wish you all the best for 2019, we want to thank you all most sincerely for giving us our busiest December in years.  It’s great to know that the spice kits are still working well as gifts for your family and friends, and that your kitchens are well stocked with the best spices you can find.

     

     

     

    Sydney Spice

    It’s many years now since we introduced the suburb-specific Balmain and Rozelle Spice mix.  Originally it was created at the request of Tourism NSW, when it was running a promotion for that Sydney area.  After all this time, we feel that the sunny, fresh and outdoorsy profile of this mix would be better described as Sydney Spice.  We have been running the same product under both names for nearly a year, and the time has come to let the old Balmain and Rozelle name slip away.  So, if you’re a fan, look for it under the new name, Sydney Spice, for the same great flavor.

    (Great with seafood, by the way, in case it’s new to you.) Try our Sydney Spiced Salmon Recipe

     

     

     

    Urfa Biber

    How often have you looked at your Turkish or Middle Eastern recipes and wondered about Urfa Biber (also called Isot or Pul Biber)? They are small Turkish chilli flakes, and we have finally found a supplier. Differing from most dried chilli flakes, the Urfa Biber flakes are mixed with a little vegetable oil and salt, giving them a salty tang similar to Sumac, with very pleasant rich yet not too hot chilli flavor. I’ve been putting Urfa Biber in our muhammara dip (see our website for the recipe), which is a staple in our house. We’ve also found a dusting of Urfa Biber is just the ticket on seared scallops. And because we love a little touch of chilli just about any time, we’ve mixed equal parts of Sumac and Urfa Biber, for a tangy, tasty, and slightly hot finishing touch, to sprinkle over our salads

     

    Autumn Box of Ideas

    The Autumn Box of Ideas has given us lots of fun as we’ve developed the recipes using some of our newest products. Rose Harissa is a star, as we can see from our sales that you’re loving it. Also in this season’s Box of Ideas are: Bill’s Steak Rub, Herbs de Provence, Tagine Spice Mix and Mustard Seed Ground. We’ve taken a mix’n’match approach this time, so you’ll find there are lots of variations and riffs to give you more options. It’s in an autumn-leaf russet-coloured box, and as usual, the price is $25.00 plus postage

     

     

     

    Rose Harissa

    Rose harissa is the most versatile of spice blends. Kate, who develops the recipes you see on our website, keeps a sauce on hand, simply made with Greek yoghurt, rose harissa and a little crème fraiche. It’s great as a dressing on a salad, or a drizzle over a grill. We love the dry mix sprinkled over slices of haloumi before we cook them in the pan … easy

     

     

     

    Escape from the City

    Did you happen to catch Escape From the City on ABC TV recently? Thanks to the few minutes shown where our old friend Simon Marnie visited the Herbie’s factory and had a nicely spiced meal with Herbie at home, lots of people have realized that we really are still in business … closing the shop in Rozelle did not mean that we ceased operations.

     

    Laksa Spice Mix

    Have you fallen into the habit of picking up a jar of curry or laksa paste when you’re at the supermarket? It’s so easy, isn’t it, whilst you’re there? Perhaps it’s time to remind you that pastes are mostly powdered spices mixed with onion, garlic, oil and water. (Read that label!) You have those extras at home, don’t you? Is it time you re-discovered our amazing Laksa Spice Mix? Most laksa pastes contain powdered shrimp, so if you’re vegetarian or vegan, ours is one of the few that will suit you. Many of our regular customers say they don’t bother to order laksa when they’re out any more, because they know they can make a terrific one at home, using their Herbie’s mix!

     

     

    Spice Tours of India

    It seems that our Spice Tours to India are back – we’re just having so much fun! Our forthcoming India – Food and Festivals later this year was filled from the list of those who had asked to kept informed as plans evolved. Plans are afoot for a tour in January 2020, focusing on Chillies (including the largest wholesale chilli market in the world) and those spices grown in the south of India, as well as some amazing not-so-well-known ancient historical sites. Plus a nice serving on the side of the kind of unbelievable luxury that India does so well for its visitors. If you’d like to know more about dates, costs etc, just let us know and we’ll put you on the email list and keep you updated as plans take shape.

     

     

     

    The Essential Ingredient

    The Essential Ingredient has moved from Rozelle, where it had become the quasi-Herbie’s, just up the road from where our shop used to be. With no renewal available on the Rozelle lease, they have found beautiful new premises in Foveaux Street, Surry Hills, where Sydney cooks can still find the complete Herbie’s Spices range, as well as all their other special kitchen needs. We wish all at Essential well in the new locality.

     

    Happy Spicing,

    Herbie & Liz

  12. Juniper, Gin and Ginspiration!

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    Making your own bespoke gin can be fun and satisfying if you have the right botanicals. Herbie’s Spices Ginspiration Spice Kit, combined with a vodka of your choosing, is a great way to commence your gin journey.

    Juniper Berries are the main ingredient that must be used to call a product Gin. However there are a number of other botanicals, which when used in the correct proportions, open an Aladdin’s cave of exotic bespoke tastes for the adventurous gin drinker.

     

    Botanicals included in the Herbie’s Spices Ginspiration Spice Kit are: Juniper Berries, Coriander Seeds, Rose Petals, Orange Peel Pieces, Orris Root GranulesGrains of ParadiseCubeb Peppercorns, Lavender Flowers, Schinus Pink Peppercorns and Sri Lankan Cinnamon.

     

     

     

    These spices are infused in vodka for just 3 days, you then strain the liquid off and bottle for your enjoyment, over ice or with your favourite tonic water.

     

     

     

     

    JUNIPER BERRIES (Juniperus communis)

    There are many different species of juniper, ranging from small shrubs 1.5 to 2 m high that provide us with the juniper berry of culinary use, to 12 m tall trees. Juniper bushes are compact with grey–green, ridged, sharp needle-like leaves that protrude at right angles, making the berries painful to harvest unless one is wearing strong gloves. The greenish-yellow flowers are indistinct and are followed by small, 7–10 mm diameter berries that take three years to mature. Initially hard and pale green, juniper berries ripen to blue–black, become fleshy and contain three sticky, hard brown seeds. When dried, the berries remain soft but if broken open, one will find the pith surrounding the seeds is quite friable. The aroma of juniper is immediately reminiscent of gin, with a woody, piney, resinous smell that is somewhat flowery and contains notes of turpentine. The flavour is equally pine-like, spicy, refreshing and savory, making it an excellent foil for rich, gamey or fatty foods. Although considered harmless to most, pregnant women and people with kidney problems are advised to avoid too much juniper.

    Origin and History

    Juniper trees are native to the Mediterranean, Arctic Norway, Russia, the north-west Himalayas and North America. Juniper has been regarded as a valuable item for medicinal purposes since the birth of Christ and has been considered throughout the ages as a magical plant. The Greek physicians Galen and Dioscorides wrote of juniper’s virtues around 100 AD and it is also mentioned in the Bible. Because of its air-cleansing piney fragrance, the foliage was used as a strewing herb to freshen stale air, and the Swiss burnt the berries with heating fuel in winter to sanitise stale classrooms. Juniper berries were sometimes utilised as a substitute for pepper, and they have been roasted and used as a coffee substitute. Gin, the alcoholic drink that derives its unique flavour from juniper berries, is named from an adaptation of the Dutch word for juniper, jenever.

    Processing

    Because juniper berries take three years to mature, a tree will bear both immature fruits and ready-to-be-harvested blue–black berries at the same time. The best-quality berries are picked by hand when ripe (usually in autumn) as any form of mechanical harvesting will crush these small pulpy spheres, allowing them to dry out and lose much of their flavour. We found picking juniper berries – nestled among their treacherous, needley foliage – so painful that we resorted to removing them with chopsticks. This was an inordinately slow task, which at least had the side-benefit of greatly improving our chopstick-handling skills.

    Buying and Storage

    Juniper berries are at their best when they are still moist and soft to the touch, squashing relatively easily between one’s fingers without crumbling from excessive dryness. It is not unusual for some berries to have a cloudy bloom on their indented, smooth blue–black skins, and although this is a harmless mould, berries that have not been properly dried may be excessively cloudy in appearance. Always wait to crush or grind juniper berries just before you use them, as the volatile component evaporates rapidly once exposed to the air. Store in a cool place in airtight packaging.

    Use

    Juniper berries perform a unique role by contributing as much to the character of food through their ‘freshening’ ability as they do by way of their specific taste profile. As well as flavouring a dish, juniper cuts the gaminess of game, reduces the fatty effect of duck and pork and removes a perception of stodginess from bread stuffing. For this reason juniper berries are included in recipes for all sorts of game, such as venison, including reindeer in Scandinavia and wild duck in Ireland. They are added to fish and lamb and blend well with other herbs and spices, especially thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, bay leaves, allspice and onions and garlic. One application I am particularly fond of is in a simple chicken casserole, moistened with plenty of rough red wine and spiced with all the above plus a few juniper berries.

     

    For information on hundreds of herbs, spices and spice blends, see The Spice & Herb Bible 3rd Edition by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill and published by Robert Rose Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.