Road Testing a Future Present – Spices in the Post

Searching for a birthday present for my brother I came across a company called The Spicery who sell lots of interesting (and sometimes unusual) spices, blends and spice kits which are delivered to you (free in the UK, £3 to Europe) all weighed out and ready to use along with recipes.  The particular option that caught my eye for my brother was their Friday night curry packs which sounded like a great idea. 

Once a month they post you all the herbs and spices to make a different curry and selection of side for four people.  You just have to supply the rest of the ingredients (e.g. the meat and the rice!) and actually do the cooking.  There are different options to choose form if you prefer traditional curries, something a bit different or you’re a vegetarian.  There’s also a world food option if you don’t fancy a curry.

As my brother likes cooking for friends I thought this might be a fun and stress free way for him to try some new dishes.  Figuring that I ought to see if they were any good before I bought them as a present I decided to treat myself to a “Lucky Dip” in which you get 2 recipe kits and two spice packs and I also grabbed some of their mix for making chilli and apple chutney.  I was really pleased with how quickly my spices turned up (so many things ordered from Britain seem to take an age to reach me) and also with the contents of the box. 

The contents of my spice box

The contents of my spice box

The two recipe kits that I received were for making Chicken Paprikas, a Hungarian dish, and Pasteria de Grano, an Italian cake, (both of which I had never heard of before) and the spice packs were a mix for beef burgers and another for chicken (or fish).  In addition to these there were also four free spice pack samples: a rose masala, panch pooran, a Jamaican drink and a love blend (some romantic spices to add to desserts!).

The first thing I made was the chilli and apple chutney.  It said it made 3 jars which is more than I fancied right now so I halved everything (and only used half the pack!) and it still made one huge jar and one little one!  The spice mix contains four different chillies (which I had also never heard of before – lots of new things for me) along with ginger cloves and other lovelies – a pretty heady mix.  I just had to supply some apples, onion, sugar, vinegar and raisins.  This was really simple, just chop the apple and onion, chuck everything in the pan and cook. 

Ingredients for the Chili Apple Chutney

Ingredients for the Chili Apple Chutney

Finished Chili Apple Chutney

Finished Chili Apple Chutney

When set the chutney is pretty solid and a little difficult to spread (I’ve ended up just placing lumps on cheese) but I really like the flavour.  The first thing you get is the sweetness but then the deep chili flavour starts to build.  After about 3 or 4 bites it’s actually quite intense but it’s never quite burning hot.  It would overwhelm some things, but with a robust cheese I really like it!

Next up was the chicken paprikas.  The pack supplied two different types of paprika and some caraway seeds and was enough for four servings.  The recipe was clear and easy to follow and was pretty simple to make.  I really enjoyed the result, tasty yet creamy, and (as I have a fair few paprikas stashed away in my cupboard) I will probably have a go at making this again!

Chicken Paprikas Spices

Chicken Paprikas Spices and Recipe

Chicken Paprikas

Chicken Paprikas

The sample of panch pooran (looked like it was a mix of fennel seeds, nigella seeds, mustard seeds and something else I didn’t recognize – it didn’t say what was in this pack!) suggested toasting the spices and the sprinkling them over the a curry so that’s exactly what I did.  I added them to the saag aloo I had made for my lunches.  They added a nice bit of crunch, but I’m not sure I could pick out the flavour on top of all the spices in the saag allo itself!

Saag Aloo with Panch Pooran

Saag Aloo with Panch Pooran

The final thing that I have used so far this week is the beef burger mix.  I’ve always been a big fan of homemade burger and love trying out new flavours to add to the mix so I was excited to give this a go.  The pack contained (among many other things!) chili, paprika, oregano, celery seed and cumin.  It was fairy pungent.  I mixed it with beef mince and shaped the patties getting very orange stained hands in the process!

burgers mixed with spices ready to cook

Burgers mixed with spices ready to cook

To eat the burgers, on one I just had tomato and some sauce to try and test out the flavour and on the other some blue cheese and fig jam!  I normally use flavour to enhance the beef but in this case the beef was swallowed up whole by all the spices.  The flavour while quite strong was not unpleasant, I just couldn’t have identified what the meat was at all if I was given this blindfolded.  That said it was lovely with the simple tomato and still worked with the fig and blue cheese so not bad overall!

Burgers cooked

Burgers cooked

All in all I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve got in this box.  If you go for the normal subscription you get a bit more control over what arrives, which is a really nice touch, but I’ve actually enjoyed the adventure of using whatever happened to turn up (luckily there’s not much in life that I don’t enjoy eating so the chances of getting something I won’t use are pretty small).  I was really pleased with the quality of the recipes and of the spices themselves so I’m going to order it for my brother and maybe some more for myself as well.  Hope he likes it!

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