Memories…

At this time of the year I often find myself thinking about the Summer that’s almost gone, when I really have better things to do! But it’s always good to reflect on good times, new places, seeing family and friends always, of course, looking for new spice ideas to pass on to you. It has certainly been a busy Summer travel-wise, as I have related in previous newsletters, and the last days of the season took me (all too briefly) home to Mauritius, while one of the Spice Mountain crew was enjoying the ‘scorchio’ heat of southern Spain – 44 degrees, apparently! This month’s recipes were gathered on this Spanish sojourn, just a few sunshine treats to brighten up the coming dark evenings; I’m sorry to be reminding you of this!

Our two spices of the month, paprika and saffron, are also Spanish staples. And back to Bermondsey came spices (no member of the Spice Mountain family is allowed to return from foreign shores empty handed!), which I will put to use in a few new blends you can look forward to enjoying over the next few months.

Our feature this month focuses on pickles, one of the oldest of food preparations and a great way to preserve the summer’s bounty for the winter – as well as giving you a look at Spice Mountain’s classic English style Pickling Spice Blend and an interesting alternative, we also have a look at a few of our favourite pickles from around the globe.

So, time to take one last moment to reflect on what has been a glorious Summer, and then I guess I’d better have a look in the wardrobe and find the coats and jumpers that have been languishing there for the last four months. See you next time!

Magali

Spices of the Month

PAPRIKA and SAFFRON

Although at first glance saffron and paprika may seem like opposite ends of the spice spectrum (saffron rare, delicate and expensive; paprika commonplace, bold and relatively cheap), they are also perfect partners in many dishes, especially in Spanish cooking. Unable to choose between them for our spice of the month, we’ve decided to feature both!

PAPRIKA

Paprika is one of the most commonly used spices worldwide, turning up in cuisines as diverse as Spanish and Indian. It is basically dried and ground red peppers, but many different varieties of pepper are used depending on where the paprika is produced. It is the national spice of Spain, and here it can be smoked or not, with three basic levels of heat – hot, bittersweet and sweet. Its vibrant red colour and earthy flavour turns up everywhere in Spanish food, and it is the main seasoning in chorizo sausage. The other cuisine in which paprika is essential is Hungarian, and this paprika tends to have a more scarlet hue, rather than the brick red of Spanish. It is not usually smoked, and is either hot or sweet. Hungary’s national dish, goulash, relies on large amounts of sweet paprika.
In other cuisines around the world paprika tends to be used alongside many other spices, rather than as the star of the show. Many curry powders will include paprika, as will Mexican or Cajun blends. Definitely a spice cupboard essential, paprika can be used anywhere depth, colour and flavour are needed.

SAFFRON

One of the jewels in the spice cupboard, saffron has long been considered one of the most precious of spices due both to its colour and aroma, and the method of production whereby each strand has to be removed by hand from the crocus flower and then dried. In Victorian times most saffron used in Britain was grown in Essex, around the town of Saffron Walden (this has been revived recently), but now commercially saffron is cultivated mainly in three places, Spain, Iran and Kashmir, and the Iranian is considered to be the finest quality. In Spain saffron grows in the region of La Mancha, and it is an integral part of the national dish paella. Its use extends to the south of France, where it is an essential part of the fish soup bouillabaise. In the Middle East and India saffron is used to create luxurious rice dishes, pilaus and birianis, and it is an important part of the Ayurvedic diet. The strands need to be soaked in hot (but not boiling) water for a short while before using, as this releases the spice’s aromatic qualities, and always remember that a little goes a long way – using too much can turn food very bitter and astringent.

Recipes

papas-arrugadas

Papas Arrugadas con Mojo Rojo

(‘wrinkled’ potatoes with red sauce)

The best known Spanish potato preparation is, of course, patatas bravas, which features on pretty much every tapas menu on the planet.

Read Recipe

pollo-al-chilindron

Pollo al Chilindron

(chicken with peppers and tomatoes)

This dish is a favourite from northern Spain and the Basque country, a simple preparation which makes the most of local ingredients.

Read Recipe

tortillitas-des-camarones

Tortillitas des Camarones

(prawn fritters)

While in Andalucia recently, we came across these delicious treats, which turned out to be basically a Spanish pakora.

Read Recipe

Feature – Let’s get pickled!

pickles

 

Most cuisines around the world feature a pickle of some kind or another, and their main raison d’etre probably originates from the need to preserve seasonal vegetables for those times when they are unavailable. Secondary to that is their ability to liven up the most basic and bland of foods, often an essential requirement to those who have to eat on a tight budget. In times gone by if all you had in the pantry was a lump of cheese and some bread, the addition of piccallili or pickled onions would make your lunch much more satisfying. Equally if you were in India or China and had nothing but rice, pickles can again turn the most basic of foods into a spicy treat.

Spice Mountain’s pickling spice is ideal for making your own English-style pickles. The mix of brown and yellow mustard seeds, black and white peppercorns, coriander seeds, dill seeds, chilli flakes, allspice berries, cloves, ginger and bay leaf can be used for onions, or indeed any crunchy vegetable. To make a straight-up pickle with a more exotic, Indian flavour, a great idea is to use Panch Puran (Bengali 5 spice) as the pickling spice – wonderful! Of course the range of pickles available is huge, and below we list a few of our favourites from around the world.

Piccallili In our mind the most classic of English pickles (notwithstanding that it is actually an Anglo-Indian creation), it features cauliflower, onion and runner beans preserved in a sauce based on mustard, turmeric and cayenne. The ideal accompaniment to good strong cheese or cooked ham, and absolutely magnificent alongside a quality pork pie.

Kimchi From Korea, this is a fiery preparation using cabbage alongside garlic, vinegar and gochugaru, Korean chilli flakes. It is served as a side dish at almost every Korean meal, and is very popular around the world these days.

Lime Pickle Probably India’s favourite preserve, lime pickle lends a sour and hot note when used as a garnish to curries, and it is always a feature of a South Indian ‘thali’. It can be found mild or hot, but is always best hot!

Sambal Oelek This is an Indonesian chilli pickle, made with vinegar and lots of salt plus fish sauce, and it is predominantly used as a table condiment. In cooking it is an ingredient in a classic Prawn Sambal. It has an amazing affinity with eggs – try using it with a simple omelette to see how!

Sauerkraut This pickled cabbage preparation is common around northern Europe, particularly in Germany and Poland, and is the traditional accompaniment to the sausages enjoyed in these countries. It is also used as an ingredient, for example in choucroute from the Alsace region, and the classic Polish bigos.

Preserved Lemons Mainly associated with North African cuisine, where they are a common ingredient in tagines, preserved lemons are also used in Cambodia (presumably a result of the French influence there). Salt is the pickling medium here rather than vinegar (of course the lemons have acid present in them already). Interestingly, they turn up in the Ayurvedic diet to counter stomach disorders.

Pickled Jalapenos No piece on pickles could be complete without mentioning these totally addictive firebombs, which are absoutely integral to the nation’s favourite pub finger food, Nachos. If you order Nachos and they come without pickled jalapenos, send them back.

SPICE MOUNTAIN A-Z

R

Rogan Josh – A very popular curry originating in northern India, this dish is characterised by its deep red colour, which comes about from the use of mild Kashmiri chilli powder and plenty of tomatoes. Best made with lamb, though beef and chicken work also.

Rendang – Sorry India, but to our mind rendang is the Daddy amongst curries; a national treasure in both Malaysia and Indonesia, this slow-cooked beef dish features coconut milk, lemon grass, galangal, turmeric and plenty of red chilli,

Ras el Hanout – This classic blend is ubiquitous across North Africa, and particularly associated with Morocco. It translates as ‘top of the shop’ and traditionally would the shop’s premium blend, usually featuring rose petals and an array of aromatic spices.

S

Spice Mountain – The best spice shop in the world!…. Naturally.

Sausages – A favourite around the world, and most feature spice in some way – from the mace and nutmeg in a classic English banger, to paprika in the Spanish chorizo.

Satay – Southeast Asia’s favourite streetfood, these are delicious little sticks of seasoned chicken or pork, served with a spicy peanut sauce for dipping. Good satay is one of the most addictive foodstuffs available to mankind! Spice Mountain makes an amazing Satay blend.

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