Fairtrade Spices

Investing in Fairtrade

The Fair Seas Spice Co., that’s pretty me and two other guys, have recently expanded our line-up Fairtrade certified Spices

Fairtrade Spices

Our Expanded line-up of 100% Fairtrade Certified Spices

Our newest collection, available in 6 convenient sizes, is the perfect gift for even the most ethical consumer out there.

While we source virtually all our spices from small-scale farmers and cooperatives, we are especially proud of our Fairtrade product line. Fairtrade International, a remarkable organization, has done an amazing job in bringing to the forefront the plight of small-scale farmers and producers across the developing world. Often times we forget exactly how our neatly packaged spices, teas, coffees, and clothing (just to name a few examples) found their way onto store shelves. In too many instances, the products we use, consume, and take for granted are the result of some form of exploitation. The Fairtrade stamp is a friendly reminder that as consumers we must always be conscious of purchases we make, and that we always have a choice.

Small Scale Farmer

Small-Scale Farmer in India. Picture by Melanie Hadida

Fairtrade International has relentlessly championed the cause of small-scale producers across the globe. Under the legacy which Fairtrade International has established, hardworking producers who would otherwise receive a pittance for their labour or goods are now receiving just and fair market wages. Along with fair wages, Fairtrade International also places a premium on community development. Buying Fairtrade is not a charitable act, rather it is a legitimate investment in a communities inherent potential.

As of mid-September, the Fair Seas Spice Co. will be launching an expanded 100% Fairtrade Certified Spice Collection. All 11 of our Fairtrade certified spices will be now be included.  Our newest collection, available in 6 convenient sizes, is the perfect gift for even the most ethical consumer out there.

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Fair Seas Spice Co.

This Week’s Spice Specials

Due to strong demand we’ve decided (all two of us) to extend our sale on Fairtrade Vanilla Extract and our Fairtrade Black Pepper. We’ve been getting such great feedback on both spices it would be irresponsible to end it now . On tap this week we also have fennel seed and bay leaf.

40% Off Homemade Fairtrade Vanilla Extract Kit

Vanilla Beans

Fairtrade Certified Vanilla Beans

The Vanilla Extract Kit makes for an ideal gift for anyone with a sweet tooth and a penchant for baking. Your homemade vanilla extract will not only taste amazing, this spice has many alleged health benefits as well.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Kit

Fairtrade Certified Homemade Vanilla Extract Kit

Vanilla is thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties; the beans also contain essential B-vitamins such as niacin, panthothenic acid, thiamin, and riboflavin. What’s panthothenic acid you ask? I have no clue, I’m just a simple spice slinger, but apparently it’s pretty good for you. Studies also suggest that vanilla can increase ones libido. We thought about testing the libido claim around the office but ultimately concluded we don’t want to get sued. Libido and lawsuits aside, vanilla extract is said to help with skin disorders, mend burns, make cough syrup a little more palatable, and soothe toothaches. Although we cannot verify these health claims with any measure of certainty or authority, we can say with confidence it tastes good.

35% Off Fairtrade Black Pepper  and Receive 50g of FairtradeBlack Pepper with the Purchase of any Pepper Mill

Black Pepper

FT Certified Black Pepper

The Fairtrade certified Black Pepper has also proven to be a hit. Not only is our black pepper 35% off, we’ve decided to include 50g of our FT black pepper free with the purchase of our made in USA pepper mills. Our pepper mills are actually pretty awesome.

Pepper Mill

Pepper Mill

We’ve all gone out and bought those fancy looking but poorly built pre-filled pepper mills. Odds are that pepper mill was made within a stone’s throw away from where your Iphone was built. Let’s just say the quality of those items leaves something to be desired. On the other hand our pepper mills are built in far-flung and exotic Pennsylvania, USA. They come with a life time warrantee on the stainless steel grinding mechanism, and are all encased in beautiful wood sustainably harvested in Vermont and New Hampshire. These pepper mills also make for an amazing gift idea.

35% off Fennel Seed

Fennel Seed

Fennel Seed

Fennel Seed is one of those spices we’ve all tasted but never actually used. Slightly sweet with anise and liquorish notes, Fennel pairs so well with so many different flavours and works beautifully with so many different cooking techniques. Whether dry roasting or consumed raw, fennel will add distinguishable yet subtle flavour. A common spice in many blends, fennel has found its way into Chinese Five Spice, Panch phoron (a great East-Indian Bengali seed blend), and almost every Garam Masala ever mixed in India. When eating rich foods like Italian sausage or oily fish, fennel cuts through fat providing that perfect culinary balance.  Not only is fennel an ideal counter balance in rich savoury dishes, it is flawlessly adjusted for sweet dishes as well.

35% off Bay Leaves

Bay Leaf

Bay Leaf

I’m sorry to tell you this, but it’s high time you throw away those bay leaves you bought back in 2006. They are probably as brittle as my 90 year old grandmother’s hip. Whilst grandma is still kicking, your bay leaves aren’t. Bay leaf is the perfect ingredient for slow cooked savoury dishes such as soups and stews. Dry roasted and ground with other spices, bay leaves are also a key flavour component in many garam masala recipes. Because of its versatility and depth of flavour, Bay leaf recipes stretch from Asia to Africa, and Europe to the America’s. Pungent and aromatic with a sharply sweet and slight woody flavour profile, one or two bay leaves are all you need to add wonderful complexity to your cuisine. Remember, fresh bay leaves are aromatic and will bend before they snap. If your bay leaves odourless and crumble in your hands, they most definitely need to be replaced,

Montreal Steak Spice – But only on Ethically Sourced Steak

The intention of this post is to discuss Montreal Steak Spice. Of course in order to use steak spice, one must have a steak. You can buy steak virtually anywhere, but you really shouldn’t. Being an ethical consumer means the only place you should be buying your beef is from local farms, or from a trusted butcher who sources meat locally and only from farms and cooperatives committed to the strictest ethical practices and standards.

Free-Range Beef

USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

How can a farm which harvests beef be ethical? First of all not everyone will be convinced there is no such thing as an acceptable way to kill animals for food, and that opinion is well respected. Yet what if someone is a meat-eater? How does one both both consume meat and enjoy guiltless sleep? First things first, be prepared to pay a little more for your Sunday BBQ. Second, buy only free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef. These popular catch phrases however should not satisfy all your ethical concerns. You really need to get to know the farm on which your beef pastures. So go ahead, give them a call or even pay them a visit. Any farm which is proud of its products will happily field all your questions and concerns, post pictures on their website, and possibly offer tours of their facilities. These types of farms and farmers take pride in the absolute quality of their harvest and will jump at the chance to demonstrate why their beef is worth their time and effort and of course your money. Apart from being more ethical, you really are receiving a healthier beef. Grass-fed beef is higher in Omega-3 to Omega-6 fat ratio than the industrial grain-fed cattle. It is also much higher in B-vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), vitamin K, and trace minerals like magnesium, calcium, and selenium.

Schwartz's Deli

Some rights reserved by jofo2005

Back to Montreal Steak Spice. According to the world famous Montreal Schwartz’s Deli website, Montreal Steak Spice finds its roots in Eastern Europe. Brought to Montreal by Jewish

Montreal Steak Spice

Attribution Some rights reserved by Paul Lowr

immigrants in the late 18 early 1900’s, the blend was used to preserve and season meats. After receiving a generous coating of the rub, the meats were cured and smoked. According to Schwartz’s, around the 1940’s, employees started seasoning steaks with the delicious spice blend. Customers caught wind and started requesting the same. Before long every deli and steakhouse in the city was blending their own rendition of the Montreal Steak Spice.

    This blend is a mix of the following spices.

Why take the time to mix this blend yourself? Store bought brands contain cheap and unhealthy oils, not to mention traces of gluten.

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Lastly, I’ve included a short DYI video.

Spice Sale

This Week’s Featured Spices

We’ve launched some pretty interesting specials to kick the week off.

40% off our Fairtrade Certified Home-made Vanilla Extract Kit.

Vanilla Extract

Fairtrade Vanilla Extract

If you love to bake this vanilla extract kit is a must have. Of course one can walk into any grocery or big box store and buy vanilla extract; so why make it yourself? Quality and price are the primary reasons. Vanilla is one of the world’s most expensive spices, second only to saffron. Vanilla extract is also very pricey; problem is the price does not necessarily correspond to the quality. To produce marketable extract, large brands resort to using lesser quality vanilla beans and vanilla bean extractives. They also often add sugar or corn syrup to the mix. Is store-bought vanilla extract terrible? No, it’s far from terrible.

 Vanilla Extract

Typical store-bought vanilla extract

Store-bought vanilla extract is fine for all intents and purposes, but why settle for fine when you can buy the best. Not only is our home-made vanilla extract kit better and cheaper, it’s simple. All that’s involved is a sharp knife, some vodka, and time. Simply remove the beans from the bottle, slit them lengthwise, replace them in the bottle, cover the beans in premium vodka, and let it sit for no less than two months. Our gluten free, organically grown and 100% Fairtrade certified Malabar vanilla beans are plump, fresh, and full of flavour.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract with Sugar Added

The only ingredient aside from pure vanilla is vodka (or any other spirit of your choice). You won’t find a drop of sugar or corn syrup. What about price? At $10.50 this 250ml bottle (8.5oz) is the bottle that keeps on giving. Extract grows better with age. The longer you keep it the more flavourful it becomes. When you begin to run low, just throw in more vodka and a fresh vanilla bean every now and then. This bottle will literally last you for years, and it makes the perfect gift for baking aficionados.

35% Off our Fairtrade Certified Black Pepper.

Black Pepper

Black Pepper 100% Fairtrade Certified

I sell fine spices, so I’m allowed to get upset when I see someone using pre-ground pepper. If there is any spice that should be purchased whole it’s black pepper. In fact there is no point in buying the ground stuff. Black pepper’s flavour’s and aroma’s begin to fade within 30 minutes of cracking its hard outer shell. We also often speak of salt and pepper in the same breath, and often buy salt and pepper as a single set. While salt is a vital flavour enhancer, black pepper is its own spice. Black pepper not only enhances the dishes flavour profile, it actually alters it. So while any salt will usually do, the same cannot be said about black pepper. High quality, freshly ground stuff can make the difference between a single note meal and a meal with depth and complexity.

35% off Nutmeg

Nutmeg

Nutmeg

I’ve talked about nutmeg in the past. Nutmeg is the be-all end-all of baking spice. It’s never a secret when nutmeg is one of the ingredients. Nutmeg’s unique flavour is warm, highly aromatic, and always recognizable. Nutmeg also pairs so well with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamom, and vanilla. Nutmeg is not just a baking spice. It is also a vital component in many a garam masala recipe, it adds a nice touch to home-made sausages, and is the perfect addition to your do it yourself chutney (don’t tell me you’ve never cranked out a chutney. Here is a great yet simple recipe for Mango Chutney).

35% off Coriander

Coriander

Coriander

Coriander is an awesome little spice. It’s delicately sweet, yet woody with a wonderful floral and slightly peppery aroma. Coriander seeds compliment the full spectrum of foods: apples, chicken, citrus fruit, fish, ham, mushrooms, onions, salads, plums, pork, potatoes, and ext.

Koshari

Koshari, Egypt’s National Dish

What can I say about Koshari, Egypt’s national dish? Koshari was a pillar of support during my first days in Cairo. This simple dish actually helped me come to terms with the fact that I had committed the next 6 months of my life to living in Egypt’s magnificent yet hectic capital city.

I’m no stranger to exotic travel, but no matter how many times I’ve settled in a strange and foreign land, the fusion of excitement and terror always hits me like a swift kick to the pants. My first few moments in Egypt were a case in point. I landed in the middle of the night at Cairo International Airport. Just beyond its slick sliding doors, the airports comforting modernity gave-way to a scene of utter chaos and confusion.

My taxi driver, who almost caused by death at least 4 times, brought me to my hotel in the Garden City district of Cairo. In search of adventure, I decided to stay at the storied Garden City House hotel. Back in the 1900’s, the Garden City House was a hotbed of activity catering to European Egyptologists and explorers. Today, while rundown, the hotel maintains a certain sense of old world charm along with absolutely no water pressure. The hotel was situated right near the now famous Tahrir Square (Freedom Square). Protests and politics aside, Tahrir Square is a crazy place even at the calmest of times. Amongst the throngs of people and oppressive heat, cars, trucks, busses, and scooters flow omnidirectionally (not even sure that’s an actual word) with no apparent rhyme or reason.

Jetlag and fatigue had gotten the best of me, it took me two days before I could muster the strength to go outside and face the elements; but I had little choice. I had to venture out in search of real Egyptian sustenance. I had been told that if I were to find any food during Ramadan it would be on the legendary Talat Harb Street. Problem was Tahrir Square stood between me and food. When I finally stepped out of the hotel it was barely 10am. The summer sun was merciless and the temperature was hovering around 47 degrees Celsius (that’s bloody hot in Fahrenheit). As I approached the madness of Tahrir, the temperature slowly began to rise amidst the thousands of Egyptian bystanders and heavy-metal emitting cars. Despite the abundance of traffic police, all of whom were either napping in the shade or drinking tea, I realized there was no safe way to cross the square. A crossing could be considered an act of blind faith. Taking my life in my hands, It took me no less than 15min to cover the roughly 200ft traverse. When I arrived at Talat Harb Street I was mentally exhausted, hungry, and on the verge of heatstroke. In my heat and stress induced haze, I stumbled upon what at that very moment would prove to be my salvation. It was a fast food joint called Felfela (they also have an awesome sit-down restaurant). I walked in and was immediately drawn to the man putting together a mix of rice, lentils, elbow macaroni, fried crispy onions, chickpeas, and some sort of tomato sauce.koshary He slapped everything together in less than 5 seconds, all the while maintaining a memorizing percussive beat with his metal spoons and metal pots.koshary guy I ordered up a serving to go and reluctantly began the treacherous and death defying journey across Tahrir and back to my hotel. Relieved to be back in the relative serenity of my room, I said to myself that there was no way in hell I would ever attempt that crazy again. With that in mind I began eating. After the first bite a sense of calm came over me. This had been the first time since my arrival in Cairo that I forgot about the chaos and confusion which surrounded me and focused solely on the koshari. Before I knew it my wonderful meal had been consumed in its entirety. Problem was I was still starving. I had two choices; stay hungry or go out and brave the streets of Cairo one more time. My stomach had already usurped my brains authority and demanded a second helping of Koshari. Without a thought I got up and left for a second serving, only this time it took me 5 minutes to make the crossing, and rather than exhaustion, I felt exhilaration. I may still have been a lightweight by local standards, but I knew right there and then that Cairo and I would get along just fine.

I’ve added a great video on how to prepare this dish. Between this and the recipe card you should be good to go.

If I may add a little epilogue to this story, I discovered a few days later that Tahrir Square benefited from underground walkways.

Baharat Spice

Baharat Spice Blend – The key to Iraqi T’Beet

Baharat is an essential Middle-Eastern spice blend. Being Iraqi, Baharat has played a huge role in my gastronomical upbringing. My mother, who was born in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, has done well to impart her countries rich culinary heritage onto me and the younger generations. Because of my mother, when I think of my “Iraqiness”, my mind conjures up memories of the many dishes she brought to our kitchen table. Among the myriad of mouth-watering offerings stands the iconic T’beet (pronounced ta’beet). Why T’beet? Because Baharat is at the epicentre of this dish’s awesome, sometime emotion provoking flavours. T’beet is as close to my heart as it is to my uncles expanding waistline and double chin.

Now most of you have obviously never heard of or tasted T’beet, a masterpiece of Iraqi cuisine. Hence, I’ll provide for a little crash course.

Is this a vegan or vegetarian friendly dish? No. In fact it’s the exact opposite. Not only is T’beet loaded with meat, it’s loaded with two types of meat. I actually pity the fool who attempts to dissuade my traditional mom from cooking and consuming meat. This is an argument which even PETA and Greenpeace would deem too dangerous to engage in.

In a nutshell, T’beet is chicken and chicken skin stuffed with Baharat spiced minced meat and rice, then slow cooked over night with rice. The tradition of slow cooking the T’beet overnight arises from the fact that this dish is traditionally consumed during our Jewish Sabbath. Now I’m not a religious scholar, nor was my parent’s investment in my Jewish education money well spent, so I apologize if my interpretations of the rules are a little unpolished, but on the Sabbath it is forbidden to use fire. To circumvent this rule, we simply lit our fires (or modern-day ovens) before the start of the Sabbath (sundown) on Friday, and then slowly cooked our T’beet until Saturday afternoon. As soon as the T’beet was removed from the oven, with the same primal instinct as a pride of lions surrounding a fresh kill, my family went to town on this quintessential Iraqi delight.

Like in the animal kingdom, there is a hierarchy of sorts when it came to consuming T’beet’s most choice parts. Let me explain. A bi-product of the long cooking process is the charring of the rice along the inner edges of the heavy pot. This rice, called H’kaka (don’t laugh) is coveted amongst Iraqi’s. Notice the beautiful H’kaka in the picture to your right.

Now my family was a ruled by my grandmother, a true matriarch. She was at the top of the food chain. When it came time claim our share of the H’kaka, we all fought to be the grandchild who would so graciously place the burnt rice on her plate. This was considered a true act of respect. After my grandmother there was the regular pecking order, uncles and aunts were followed by cousins oldest to youngest. Bottom line, no Saturday was ever complete without our T’beet fix.

As for the T’beet recipe, I’ll defer to an expert in the field of Jewish Iraqi cuisine, Rachel Somekh. Rachel has put together a very detailed collection of recipes, along with a great account of Iraqi culinary history. A must visit for anyone interested: recipesbyrachel.com.

What made T’beet a venerable delicacy however was the Baharat spice blend. Baharat, perfectly infused into every bite, is essentially the essence of T’beet. Like with any spice blend there is variation. At its core however, the Jewish Iraqi version of Baharat is composed of:

CardamomCardamom Black PepperBlack Pepper Cassia CinnamonCassia Cinnamon NutmegNutmeg ClovesWhole Cloves

But there are no limits as to what you may include: CuminFennelCorianderAllspiceGingerRed Chilli’sPaprika, Rosebuds, Ext. Each country, region, town village, and family, be it in  Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, ext, have their own unique version of this blend. In fact, the blend will vary from cook to cook. Whatever changes one makes to the blend, it will always be delicious. This blog does an awesome job describing the many variants of the Baharat spice blend. Check it out.

Baharat Spice

Baharat Spice Blend

Preparing the spice blend is easy. Place all of your non pre-ground spices (whole seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves) in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium-high heat, tossing regularly to prevent scorching, for 3-4 minutes or until very fragrant. Transfer to a spice or coffee grinder and let cool. Then proceed to add whatever pre-ground spices you have to your freshly ground spices. That’s it, you’re done, and you’ve made a Baharat spice blend.

Lebanese Red Lentil Soup

Everybody loves soup. A simple yet delicious recipe.

Herbivore

RedLentilSoup

This soup is one of my favorite easy recipes to make, and is great for a winter weekday, when you just want something simple, warm, and full of flavor.

The recipe, originally from the Allrecipes.com website posted by JENP1, is closest I have been able to come to my favorite red lentil soup served at Mezze Bar in Auckland CBD.  It was not originally a vegetarian recipe, but with the substitution of vegetable stock for chicken stock, and a few small tweaks of the spices, I do not think it has lost any of its flavor.

Red lentils, which are very high in protein, vitamins, and nutrients, are often used in Middle Eastern style cooking. Lentils were one of the first domesticated crops, but may have been eaten by humans almost 13,000 years ago. Red lentils contain a lower concentration of fiber than green lentils, but that means they…

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