I was going to start by saying there was a touch of Spring in the air, but having just been outside for a minute I realise I shall have to think again! Definitely still February out there, and we can but hope that the other day was a taster for the not too distant future.

By my standards it’s been a fairly quiet month, the lull between the storms of the festive season and the beginning of Spring when everyone comes out of hibernation. I’ve been concentrating on getting the Borough shop all spick and span, and planning ahead for a busy Summer. One of the crew is heading off to Singapore and Malaysia soon, and will hopefully bring back new and interesting spices for me to play with – watch this space!

This month we are concentrating on the humble potato – such a ubiquitous staple food, and yet the source of infinite foodie dreams. This versatile vegetable is a magnet for spicy flavour, and we share our favourite things to do with our spud, with ideas from around the world. Spice of the Month is, naturally, our Patatas Bravas blend, and the recipes are also potato friendly, so if you are on a no-carb diet of some kind, sorry! We really don’t mean to lead you into temptation!

Here’s hoping that by the next time we speak, the weather has genuinely turned the corner and we will be on the verge of a sizzling Summer – take care!

Spice of the Month

Patatas Bravas Blend

One of the most popular Spanish dishes of all, Patatas Bravas is always one of the first picks from the tapas menu! Fried potatoes spiced up with a blend based on smoked paprika, the dish can be enjoyed as a snack with drinks, or as part of a larger meal. It is one of those things that has a million variations depending on where you order it, but when done properly totally delicious. Our favourite way is to make a quick tomato sauce with the blend – simply heat through a carton of passata seasoned with 3 teaspoons of Patatas Bravas blend, then drizzle the sauce over your fried potatoes. A ‘dry’ version can be made simply by tossing the fried potatoes in the spice blend. The blend can be used for other things too – it is very good when used to season a tomatoey chicken casserole, will give ratatouille a warn, spicy twist, and goes particularly well with eggs. However you use Patatas Bravas blend, it will give a splash of Spanish sunshine to your cooking.

Recipes

Tortilla

The ever-popular Spanish omelette makes for a filling and tasty lunchtime treat, and of course is perfect as part of a tapas table for a dinner party.
Read Recipe

Aloo Gobi

One of the most popular vegetarian curries of all, aloo gobi is a fairly dry dish consisting of spiced potatoes and cauliflower.

Read Recipe

Corn Chowder

There are as many ways to make rice pudding as there are grains in a bag – it is a popular dessert in one form or another all over the world.

Read Recipe

Feature – No Jacket Required

From its original home in the Andes mountains of South America,, the humble potato has done a pretty good job of conquering the kitchens of the world! There are few cuisines internationally which do not feature a spud speciality, and in many cases the potato is a main feature of a national dish. From our point of view, we love the way potatoes match with so many different spices – from simply grating nutmeg into mash, to the flavour explosion of Indian potato curries. Potatoes adapt to pretty much any cooking method too, from the technical ecstasy of, say, a great Pommes Souffle to simply wrapping them in tinfoil and chucking them in a bonfire. Below we highlight some of our favourite potato preparations, all of which include the use of something which gives a spud the Spice Mountain touch!

Cajun Fries – Ah, the lovely, delicious chip! As simple as it gets, but raise the bar by giving your fries a good shake with our Cajun seasoning. This gives them just the right amount of spicy kick, balanced with herbs and sweet, smoky paprika, and results in one of the most popular streetfoods in London today. This also works wells with our Fajita blend.

Patatas Bravas – One of a couple Spanish treats on the list (logical, we guess, as the Spanish were responsible for the world takeover by the potato), this is a classic – fried potatoes in a smoky, spicy dressing and one of the most addictive of potato dishes. Patatas Bravas is explored in more depth as Spice of the Month above.

Gratin Dauphinoise – The Daddy of potato bakes? Undoubtedly. Slowly cooked until oozing with nutmeggy, garlicky, buttery, creamy goodness, it is perfectly possible to eat this as a main dish with a crispy salad. Hopelessly addictive, you will find yourself scraping the crispy bits from the serving dish long after the meal is over.

Roasties Greek style – Of all the ways to do a roastie, this is one of our favourites – the Greeks use a mixture of olive oil, stock and lemon juice as the base, this usually covering half the potato chunk, and then season liberally with garlic, black pepper and herbs (our Wild Herbs blend is perfect). The result is spuds which are meltingly delicious on the bottom, with a nice crisp on the top.

Masala Dosa – The breakfast dish of choice all over the Subcontinent (but especially in the south of India), this is basically mashed potatoes spiced with coriander, cumin, turmeric and mustard seed wrapped in an enormous riceflour pancake blanket, ideally with a nice bit of sambar (thin lentil soup) on the side. Spice Mountain has created the perfect blend of spices for this dish, try our Pav Bhaji spices (see next entry).

Pav Bhaji – Our second Indian contribution is this dish which is one of Mumbai’s most popular streetfoods. A big tava full of subtly spiced potato with lashings of butter and usually a few peas, it is served in a bun to become the Indian equivalent of a chip butty. The potato curry can also be made as a side dish to any curry meal, or with added veggies for a main.

Gnocchi – While Italy is much better known for its pasta, in the north of the country just as popular are gnocchi, little potato dumplings which are treated in a similar way to pasta – lightly boiled then dressed with an often cheesy sauce (dolcelatte, the Italian blue cheese, is ideal here). The Italian minimalist will dress gnocchi simply with sage, butter and parmesan, and this method makes for a great side dish. Also substitute gnocchi for whichever pasta you would use in a pasta bake for a lovely one-pot dish.

Tartiflette – Another popular streetfood, tartiflette hails from the Savoy region of France and apart from potatoes the essential ingredients are bacon lardons and Reblochon cheese. The potatoes are parboiled, sliced then finished with the Reblochon, onion, garlic, cream, white wine, black pepper, nutmeg and Herbes de Provence, resulting in a dish of luxurious creaminess which is a fantastic way of keeping out the winter cold.

Tortilla – Along with patatas bravas, this is Spain’s poem to the potato – a thick omelette cooked in a deep pan, the tapas bar version doesn’t feature much apart from eggs, spuds and onions but is still very tasty. We of course prefer to jazz it up a bit, as detailed in the recipe above, and done like this a tortilla always makes the perfect lunch.

Patatnik – A dish from Bulgaria made from grated potatoes (like the Swiss rosti) slowly fried on a low heat with onion, salt and the ingredient which gives it its unique character, mint. In Bulgaria an indigenous mild mint is used, the closest equivalent being spearmint. Cheese or egg can be added, but traditionally is not – the traditional method lets the flavour of the potatoes really shine through, boosted by the subtle note of the mint. Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, the kids will love this one.

Mussaman curry – This Thai curry is much different from the more familiar red and green curries of the country. This is due to the Indian influence on the dish, which means it is a thicker, slower cooked dish, and also means that potatoes are an essential element along with meat. Coconut milk takes the place of the yoghurt which would be used in India, and the resulting dish is not a million miles away from rendang, which is no bad thing!

Salchipapas – It’s only fitting to round up this round up with something from the homeland of the potato, Peru. Salchipapas is a vibrant streetfood treat, now enjoyed throughout Latin America, and is basically Latino sausage and chips. Fries are cooked together with sliced hot dogs, then topped with a sinfully spicy mayonnaise known as salsa rosada. True gluttons will often drop a fried egg or melted cheese on top as well.

SPICE MOUNTAIN A-Z

A

Andhra Pradesh – a region of southern India which is famed for its rich, luxurious and very spicy food, notably the Andhra Biryani, which is truly a work of culinary genius. Popular spices are black pepper and cinnamon, among many others.

Argentina – Famed for its steak, produced from the cows which roam the vast Pampas, and the spicy chimichurri sauce which it is usually served with. Also very popular are empanadas, small pasties filled with spiced meat or cheese and spinach..

Andalucia – The southernmost region of Spain, Andalucia was ruled for hundreds of years by the Moorish caliphates, and the area today retains an incredible amount of ties to its neighbour across the water, both culturall and culinary.

B

Bombay – The old name for Mumbai, one of India’s biggest and brightest cities. People from all over India (and indeed many other countries) have migrated here to contribute to a vast, delicious melting pot of cuisines, one of those places where anything is possible.

Burma – Nowadays known as Myanmar, Burma was an outpost of the British Indian empire bordering Thailand. Its food fuses the flavours of Southeast Asia and the Subcontinent, and to an extent China. Our Burmese curry blend is typical of this.

Brazil – Famous for football, nuts and as its national dish, a black-bean and pork stew known as feijoada. A popular snack is deep fried cassava chips, and the same plant is used to make tapioca and manioc flour.

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