Ive been sent Barts new range of world spice blends to try because, as it says in their press release, I like to think of myself as an adventurous cook who likes to explore authentic regional flavours (as opposed to a bloke from a Manchester council estate who like to explore the local chippy, which is the truth!).
The release continues: œAll of them will enhance day to day cooking without elaborate preparation and with simple cooking techniques, such as grilling, frying or roasting.
Anyway, enough of the PR stuff. These are the blends I tried, and these are the adventurous way I cooked with them. MasterChef, I aint, but my wife loved them, as did I.
The Blend: PUNJABI TANDOORI MASALA
BARTS SAYS: A Punjabi style blend for creating Tandoori dishes. Ingredients: Paprika, garam masala (coriander, cumin, cassia, ginger, black pepper, cloves), cumin, coriander, black onion seed, garlic salt, black mustard seed, cayenne, beetroot powder, sugar, coriander leaf, ginger.
HOW I USED IT: As a marinade with trimmed, grilled lamb chops. In a freezer bag, mix 1 tbsp of Tandoori Masala, with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt and juice of 1 lemon. Trim the chops of excess fat and add to the marinade. Set aside for 1 hour. When ready to cook, heat a grill pan until smoking hot, then cook the chops for 3 mins each side, for rare, longer if you prefer more well done. Serve with salad and/or Pilau rice.
The Blend: PILAU
BARTS SAYS: A mix of herbs and spices to create an authentic pilau rice in a quick and simple way, combining the fragrance of cardamom and clove with the vivid colour of turmeric.
HOW I USED IT: I made a masala from 1 chopped onion, sweated down in 1 tbsp sunflower oil, then added 1 tbsp Pilau seasoning to the mix and cooked for 5 mins. Then I boiled basmati rice and added the Pilau masala to the rice at the end of cooking.
The Blend: AROMATIC THAI
BARTS SAYS: Blended to create fresh and fragrant soups and curries, this seasoning blends purple basil with ginger, coriander leaf and chilli.
HOW I USED IT: To jazz up a roast chicken. I mixed 1 tbsp of Aromatic Thai blend with 1 tbsp olive oil, then carefully lifted the skin away from the breasts of a whole free-range chicken and smeared the spice paste onto the breast flesh. Then I sprinkled another tablespoon of the blend onto the outside of the skin and into the cavity. Then I roasted the chicken for 1 hour 30 mins at 180C/Gas 4. It made for an incredibly tasty roast and spectacular leftovers for a Thai Chicken Curry.
The Blend: PIRI PIRI
BARTS SAYS: Unusually with no added salt, this Portuguese inspired chilli seasoning combines two types of chilli with paprika, lemon, peppers and other ingredients to add excitement to meat dishes.
HOW I USED IT: To make posh polenta chicken nuggets. Cut a couple of chicken breasts into chunks, then roll them in flour. Dip into beaten wash, then roll in cornmeal /polenta, mixed with 1-2 tbsp Piri Piri spice blend. Heat 1 llitre sunflower oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken nuggets in batches for 5-6 mins, until crisp and golden. With a sharp knife, cut one of the nuggets in half to check the chicken is cooked all the way through. Serve with baked potatoes.
The Blend: SHICHIMI TOGARASHI
BARTS SAYS: Japanese style table seasoning with chilli and sesame. The characteristic blend of chilli peppers with sesame seeds is widely used all over Japan and can be added to any dish. Ingredients: chilli, sesame seeds, orange peel, seaweed, coriander leaf, ginger.
HOW I USED IT: As a spicy coating for a middle-cut Sous Vide fillet of beef for a spectacular dinner party centre-piece. Rub 1 tbsp olive oil all over the beef, then roll it in 3 tbsp shichimi togarashi spice blend. Seal in a Sous Vide vacuum pack and then cook in a Sous Vide water bath set to 55C for 2-3 hours. At the end of the cooking time, remove the beef from the vacuum pouch and drain the juices. Heat a grill pan until smoking hot, then sear the beef on all sides, before carving into slices.
The Blend: HARISSA
BARTS SAYS: A dry mix inspired by a traditional Tunisian recipe with a fiery kick, softened by mint and caraway.
HOW I USED IT: Mixed with a little oil and lemon juice to make a marinade for chicken thighs, which I then griddled and served with salad.
OTHERS IN THE RANGE
Panch Phoran: A Bengali style blend of five whole spices, widely used in the North East of India and Bangladesh combining the seeds of cumin, nigella, black mustard, fenugreek and fennel.
Indonesian Goreng: The Indonesian word for œfried, Goreng can be added during any stage of cooking for a curry flavour with a spicy twist, blending 12 ingredients which includes paprika, coriander seed, ginger and galangal.
¢ The new range is available from Waitrose, Ocado and independent grocers and delicatessens, as well as from the Bart web site, priced at Â£4.00 per tin, which contains enough for around 4-5 meals.