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Indian Subcontinent

Equinox Detox- Autumn Spice Overhaul!

Ready for Fall!

Ready for Fall!

The Autumn Equinox brings many things around the Pacific Northwest: our infamous drizzle begins anew, the few maples and oaks color aflame in between the miles of evergreen, the oysters are firm and plump again, garden kale stems grow thick and tough in preparation for wintering over, and, perhaps less famously but no less excitingly– my spice cabinet gets its quarterly makeover! Fall is when my cooking gets hearty, and I rely the heaviest of blended spices to warm my belly and my soul through the short, grey days, and the long, cold nights. It should come as little surprise to anyone who follows my blog-y musings that I delight in the unexpected, so here I’ll share a few of my top, must-have-on-hand blends that add cheer, color, and interest to my standby fall dishes.

Hearty Things: 

Whole Harissa

Whole Harissa

The man who shares my life also shares with me an almost unnatural love of Harissa. At once familiar and unexpected, Harissa adds such depth and warmth to everything it touches. Instead of the traditional thyme and rosemary, I rub harissa on a chuck roast before sealing it in my dutch oven and slow-roasting it overnight. The juices from the meat mingle with the exotic spice, and makes the most sumptuous little pan sauce- after you’ve pulled your tender roast, just reduce the liquid by half, and add a pat of butter.  Our cous cous with roasted vegetables and Harissa sauce is a year-round classic in my house, too.

My family is a bit “leftovers-challenged,” which is a nice way of saying that even the meals that get raves on night one, die slow deaths in the refrigerator if not re-imagined in to other things. When I make our Turkey Mole, the first night I’ll use the meat to make enchiladas or tacos, while the second, I’ll thin the sauce with chicken stock until it’s just thicker than broth consistency, and add chopped tomatoes, white beans, corn, and onion, and simmer for half an hour to make the world’s fastest and most delicious chili. Soul satisfying, and infinitely more interesting that your traditional “bowl of red.”

Roasted Things:

Acorn, Butternut, Delicata, Hubbard, Kabocha, Spaghetti, Turban… Gardens and markets abound with scores of winter squashes — to say nothing of the dozens of pumpkin varieties — all delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, and begging for a roasting. A dash of cinnamon, a grate of nutmeg- fine, I suppose, but who settles for “fine” when “amazing” is available? I stock Kashmiri Curry and Besar for just these occasions. Both have the toasty, sweet spices that bring out the inherent sweetness of the squash, but add so much more, whether you’re roasting whole to mash, or cubing and caramelizing your gourds.

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The easiest side dish at this time of year is roasted root vegetables. Heat a sheet pan in a 450 degree oven, toss a sampling of carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, and onions in a bit of oil, spread in an even layer on your hot pan, and roast until tender and golden. It may be natural to reach again for the rosemary, or even the Italian Herbs, but I prefer the savory crunch of Svaneti Seasoned Salt. This eastern European blend is so versatile that I find it pairs no matter how I’ve seasoned the main dish — European, north African, Middle Eastern, or Indian. I go through quarts of the stuff, I just can’t get enough.

Sweet Things:
I have to preface all of this by saying that I do not consider myself a baker. I usually find the excessive measuring and strict orders of operations stifling, and too math-like to be enjoyable to my free spirit. However, creatively spicing puts the joy back in. Pumpkin pies abound at every gathering this time of year, and though I love them, I do grow weary. I prefer this pie, adapted from a very traditional Southern recipe, using sweet potatoes and Sri Lankan curry. Deeply toasted and just a bit spicy, this warm, sweet blend has all but replaced Pumpkin Pie Spice in my kitchen, for sweet potato and pumpkin pies.

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This Apple-Carrot pie has also become a standby in my kitchen. When I first posted it, great Seattle food blogger cook.can.read commented that “Cinnamon is the gateway drug. Chinese Five Spice is the destination.” I couldn’t agree more! Try using Chinese Five Spice anywhere your autumn baking calls for cinnamon- I’m talking pumpkin or zucchini breads, muffins- even toss it with sugar to coat the outside of your snickerdoodles!

So, if you’re open to any advice from your humble spice merchant,  although nature may be hunkering down for the chilly months ahead, use this time to re-awaken your spice stash. Grab a few unfamiliar and exotic blends, and turn over those spices that have been languishing for six months or longer. The bright flavors of fresh spices will all but erase the dreary skies from your psyche. We’ve got an entire display dedicated to these blends and a few other fall staff favorites, (as well as a bunch of new books!) so drop by for a sniff and a chat!

Categories: Curries & Masalas, Eastern Europe, Global Cuisines, Hot Topics, Indian Subcontinent, Main Meals, Middle East, Recipes, Sides, Spice Notes, Sweet Somethings, Tools of the Trade | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Continental Curry Biryani

It’s almost Buddha’s birthday! Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese lunar calendar in nearly all east-Asian countries. This year it falls on Friday, May 17th in the Western calendar. Because it is customary to eat rice on Buddha’s birthday, we developed this heavily spiced vegetarian biryani to honor the Buddha and many of the exotic lands from which our spices come. Our Continental Curry is the perfect blend for this occasion, as it combines the best elements of several varieties of yellow curry. While we can’t promise a permanent Nirvana as a result of this dish, we guarantee at least a transient one!

Continental Curry Biryani

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Continental Curry Biryani

Ingredients

For the Rice
1 cup basmati rice, well rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 big pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons cashews, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cloves, whole
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, whole
2 cups water
For the Curry Paste
6 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons Continental Curry, ground
2 medium onions, chopped
7 mint leaves
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablesoon olive oil
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup peas
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup water
For Baking the Biryani
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup warm milk
1 pinch saffron
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cashews, chopped
Pan spray
Greek yougurt

Instructions

    For the Rice
  1. In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, add the oil. When hot, add the onion and cook until softened.
  2. Add raisins, cashews, cloves, cumin, Indian coriander, green cardamom and cassia sticks.
  3. Saute spices until fragrant and the seeds start to "pop", about 3 minutes.
  4. Add salt, water and saffron and bring to a boil.
  5. Add rice and turn heat down to simmer.
  6. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Rice will be 3/4 of the way cooked. Spread in a shallow pan to cool.
  7. While rice is cooking, par-cook the vegetables. In a shallow pan over medium-high heat, add the vegetables and water. Cover and steam for about 5 minutes.
  8. For the Paste
  9. In a food processor, puree the garlic, ginger, onions, mint leaves, Continental Curry, jalapeno, salt and tomato.
  10. In a medium saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil.
  11. Add paste and saute for 5 minutes.
  12. Add par cooked vegetables, stirring well to combine. Taste for seasoning and salt.
  13. To Bake the Biryani
  14. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  15. In a small saucepan, warm a pinch of saffron and the milk. Remove from heat.
  16. Spray a large ovenproof casserole dish with pan spray.
  17. Layer in half of the rice and sprinkle with half of the cilantro.
  18. Evenly spread the vegetable curry paste mixture over the rice.
  19. Top with remaining rice and sprinkle with remainder of cilantro.
  20. Drizzle with the saffron-infused milk.
  21. Cover the casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes, until the rice is cooked through.
  22. Turn the oven off and let the biryani stay in the hot oven for another 10 minutes.
  23. While the biryani is baking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
  24. Add the sliced onions and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels.
  25. Add chopped cashews and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels.
  26. Remove the biryani for the oven.
  27. Top with fried onions and cashews.
  28. Serve with Greek yogurt on the side.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/continental-spice-biriyani/

Categories: Asia, Curries & Masalas, Global Cuisines, Holiday, Indian Subcontinent, Main Meals, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kala Masala Skillet Cornbread

This savory cornbread knocked our collective socks off at first bite. Our Kala Masala spice blend is a complex one, and that complexity of flavor transfers easily to the skillet cornbread.  There’s a tiny bit of heat from some guajillo chiles in the blend that is balanced perfectly by a healthy dose of toasted coconut for sweetness. Try it with a fish, lentil or vegetable soup for maximum enjoyment!

Cast Iron is essential for crusty cornbread!

 

Kala Masala Skillet Cornbread

Ingredients

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Kala Masala, ground
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg
¼ cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons butter, bacon fat or vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to get hot while you make the batter.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda and Kala Masala. In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and the ¼ cup melted butter together.
  3. Take the hot cast iron skillet out of the oven, and add in the butter. Swirl it around until the butter starts to melt, being sure to tilt the pan to coat the sides and bottom evenly.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients in the dry ingredients and mix quickly, just until moistened. Do not overmix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cornbread until it’s golden brown, about 20 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, and try to let it cool for a few minutes before you dive into it. Cut into 8 wedges.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/kala-masala-skillet-cornbread/

Categories: Course, Curries & Masalas, Indian Subcontinent, North America, Sides | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Than a Minute for Chai…

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The trains of India are legendary- they wind through the vast countryside and into the crowded cities, packing in locals and adventurers alike. Merchants selling traditional tea beverages- or chai wallahs- announce their wares at every stop, circulating through the cars to provide passengers with cups of steaming brew in low-fired clay cups (that you throw out the window when you’re finished!), jumping from the train as it pulls away from the platform.

Chai is such an integral part of the Indian culture that even if you’re miles away from food or potable water, there will always be someone to give you a hot cup of chai. The classic version is an aromatic brew centered around a black tea base, flavored with spices, and tempered with milk and a sweetener. Traditional chai beverages are brewed with different proportions of  warm, sweet spices such as ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and clove.

World Spice offers a variety of original chai blends to suit most any palate. Our most popular Sweet Chai is most traditional, with a little orange peel added for a full, aromatic flavor. Our Roast Chai makes use of deeply toasted spices to produce a sumptuous brew reminiscent of cocoa- and is also fabulous infused in to alcohols, or ground and used in desserts. Our Chipotle Chai is the chile-heads’ dream- flavorful, smoky, and spicy. The heat of the chile warms from the inside-out, no matter how frigid the drizzle.

We like to brew chai in a 16 oz. french-press pot, because it allows us to steep in two stages, getting maximum flavor from the spices while preventing the tea from becoming bitter. Add two tablespoons (or more!) of freshly cracked chai spice, and fill the pot half way with boiling water. After steeping for three minutes, add two tablespoons of black tea- our favorite is Assam- and top off the pot with more boiling water. Steep another three minutes, press, then add warm milk and honey to taste. Feel free to adjust the spice to tea ratio for a perfect personalized cup. If you’re accustomed to processed, syrupy chai concentrates, this process will be a revelation. Though a bit more of a time investment, you’ll find the reward well worth the effort- both for the steamy and fragrant amber brew, and for those few minutes you’ll learn to delight in taking for yourself.

Categories: Hot Topics, Indian Subcontinent, Notes from the Field, Spice Notes, Sweet Somethings, Wet Your Whistle | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Masala Dabbas

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World Spice is the most aromatic place in Seattle, in a good way. The fragrance is so intoxicating that it can sometimes overshadow the visual of all of the seeds, roots, powders and pods in their little jars, most of them in subtle and varying earthy color tones. In the center of the store, though, there sits a bright contrast to the natural richness of the spice color palette — it’s a pyramid of shiny Masala Dabbas, the traditional kitchen implement of India. The gleam of the stainless steel is impossible to ignore, and is the perfect palette for the spice-centric cook.

A masala dabba (mah-SAH-lah DAH-bah) is a container kept close at hand in Indian kitchens. They consist of an outer cannister, inner ramekins, an inner lid, an outer lid, and a small spoon. The containers are filled with the most often used spices in that particular kitchen; usually some combination of Turmeric, Cumin, Indian Coriander, Green Cardamom Pods, Cloves, Black Peppercorns, Red Chile Flakes, Indian Cayenne, Amchoor, Brown Mustard Seeds, Fennel Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, or Nigella Seeds. Having a selection of spices close at hand enables cooks to create curries on the fly to complement specific ingredients, leaving pre-mixed curry powders to less experienced culinarians.

Antique dabbas are found in both copper and wood, though in recent times, stainless steel has become the most popular material for its sleek appearance and ease of care. The dabba we offer has seven inner stainless-steel cups, each with about a 1/2 cup capacity, though we recommend only filling them half-way, and replenishing from your air-tight spice storage often. The gift of a masala dabba traditionally marks a coming of age, given from mother to daughter- though they make excellent gifts for any cook or aspiring cook on your list, most especially paired with a Make Your Own Curry gift set, or a 660 Curries book.

The dabba fun doesn’t end with Indian cuisine, however… We use our masala dabbas for every kind of cuisine imaginable. For the barbeque enthusiast who loves to make their own rubs, a dabba filled with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Indian Cayenne, Yellow Mustard Seed, European Coriander, Granulated Garlic and Onion Powder is sure to please. For fans of south-of-the-border fare, Mexican Oregano, Cumin Seed, Ancho Chile Flakes, Chipotle Flakes, New Mexico Chili Powder, Mole Ole, and True Cinnamon Sticks will be just the ticket. Your imagination is the limit!

Categories: Curries & Masalas, Indian Subcontinent, Tools of the Trade | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Seed Roasted Potatoes

This fabulous twist on roasted potatoes generously comes to us from chef Jerry Traunfeld of Poppy restaurant here in Seattle. The spice mix is a version of Panch Phoron a.k.a. Bengali Five Spice, using ajwain seed in place of fennel.  I made this for a celebratory Sunday evening feast after enjoying  the sunny afternoon harvesting potatoes.  Lots of love went into growing our potatoes this year and it was a joy to toss them with this exquisite mixture.  Thanks, Jerry!

Five Seed Potatoes

Five Seed Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

2 lb. small potatoes fingerling, red or yukon gold
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1/2 tsp. ajwain seeds

Instructions

  1. Parboil whole potatoes until just tender, drain and slice in halves.
  2. In a small heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add brown mustard seeds. When they begn to pop, add fenugreek seeds and toast for a minute or two. Then add remaining seeds and toast for a few minutes more until all are browned.
  3. Toss toasted seeds and oil with potatoes, add 1/2 tsp. salt and roast on a sheet pan at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with another 1/2 tsp. of salt and serve.
  4. These flavorful potatoes make a lovely side dish alongside roasted meats, breakfast eggs or just about anything!
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/five-seed-roasted-potatoes/

Categories: Global Cuisines, Indian Subcontinent, Recipes, Sides | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment