Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine – Drink and Be Merry

Mulled Wine is one of the best ways to stay warm this autumn and winter. What is mulled wine? In short it’s warm spice infused wine. According to science, mulled wine dates back to a time where people were cold but still wanted to party. After a couple of glasses of this warm wine someone decided to throw in spices.  This is irrefutable history.

Now mulled wine is pretty simple to make, yet some of the essential ingredients are always annoyingly missing from your spice pantry, and if they are not missing chances are you used them the last time you mulled wine back in 2006. Trash them. The Fair Seas Spice Co. has solved this problem by assembling an all inclusive mulled wine spice kit. Our Mulled Wine Spice Kit includes 100% Fairtrade certified cinnamoncardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla, along with ethically sourced bay leaves and star anise.

While there are many mulled wine recipes, this one is tried, tested, and pretty awesome.

First what you’ll need:

  • The Fair Seas Spice Co. Mulled Wine Kit
  • 1 orange or two Clementines
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 200g of Sugar (or less if you you prefer a less sweet drink)
  • 2 Bottles of red wine
  • a Nutmeg grater (any fine grater will do)

What you need to do:

  1. Open up your Fair Seas Spice Co. Mulled Wine Spice Kit and pour the spices into a bowl; remove the star anise, nutmeg and vanilla.
  2. Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise using a sharp knife and return to bowl
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, remove large portions of the citrus peels.
  4. Over medium heat add your sugar to a large saucepan along with the citrus peels, the bowl of spices, and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg.
  5. Squeeze in the orange or Clementine juice
  6. Add just enough wine to cover the ingredients and let simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  7. Bring to a rolling boil, about 4 to 5 minutes, until you’re left with a thick and fragrant syrup. This syrup base will add amazing flavour to the mulled wine.
  8. Reduce heat to low, add the star anise and the remainder of the wine and let simmer until nice and warm (DO NOT BOIL, this will evaporate the alcohol and no one wants that to happen, NO ONE)

Now the following steps are optional but are most often taken.

  1. drink
  2. drink
  3. drink
  4. lose your inhibitions
  5. get into an awkward argument about climate change with your Tea-Party cousin
  6. Agree to disagree
  7. hug it out
  8. drink

There you have it, Mulled Wine.

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Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin Spice – The Real Deal

Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin Spice with Cassia Cinnamon

Pumpkin Spice; nothing says autumn like those two simple words uttered in the same breath. For good reason – for the next few weeks you’ll practically be inhaling the stuff every time you pass by a coffee shop, someone bites into their special seasonal muffin or opens up a bottle of micro-brewed fall beer. The bottom line is we can’t escape it, it’s everywhere. What gets me and our team of one other employee is that most of the pumpkin spice we’ll consume in the coming weeks is a fragrant cocktail of dyes, artificial flavors, and type 2 diabetes causing sugars. So think twice before buying your pumpkin spice either pre-blended, mixed into your coffee, or baked into your 6 dollar 14,000 calorie healthy whole wheat muffin.

Here at the Fair Seas Spice Co, I and the other guy I work with are doing it old-school. We won’t be selling you a convenient little shaker filled with spices blended over 2 years ago. On the contrary, our pumpkin spice requires a little elbow grease because we’ll be selling it whole spices and all. This means you’ll have to go home and grind it for yourself. Our blend it yourself pumpkin spice kit will allow you to really taste the difference between the freshly ground authentic stuff and synthetic alternative. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

So what goes into our pumpkin spice? First we start with Cassia or Ceylon Cinnamon, Cloves, Dried Ginger, Nutmeg, and Mace. These spices are fall’s quintessential warmth inducing ingredients. When freshly ground and combined together the result is a shift in your mood. Rather than complain about the impending cold you’ll welcome it as a reason to prepare and indulge in your favorite home baked deserts.

You can find our pumpkin spice at http://www.fairseasspice.ca/products/pumpkin-spice

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.

Recipe: Berberé – Hot East African Spice mix

Recipe: Berberé – Hot East African Spice mix

When we think of going out for dinner or preparing a home cooked meal, rarely does the prospect of Ethiopian food arise. If you’ve never experienced Ethiopian I’ve included a little introductory video.

Now Ethiopians are master culinary tacticians. Their innovative use of spices delivers food with unmatched flavour and complexity. In this short post I’ll focus on a common East African spice blend called Berbere, This amazing spice blend lends Ethiopian food its unique character. The ingredients are simple enough:

This great video will walk you through the process.

I cannot stress this enough: Spice blend recipes are rough guides. You should be able to add or subtract any spice you wish and make it your own. This is an awesome way to develop your palate and discover new flavours.

I’ve also found am insightful blog post which gives a great, albeit slightly different version of the blend.

http://globaltableadventure.com/2011/02/27/recipe-berbere-hot-east-african-spice-mix/

Enjoy

This Week’s Specials

We’ve got some great promotions going on this week at fairseasspice.ca. Check in on our recipe blog throughout the week for great recipes on all our featured products.

50% off Fairtrade Certified Cassia Cinnamon.

Cassia Cinnamon

Cassia Cinnamon

If you’ve not added cinnamon to your dishes, it’s time you start. While North-Americans usually attribute this awesome spice to cinnamon buns and apple pie, around the world Cinnamon actually forms the backbone of many a savoury dish. Whether you’re using Chinese Five Spice, or cooking up some hardcore Indian, Middle-Eastern, or North-African fare, cinnamon will add a wonderful depth of flavour to your cuisine. We also sell our cinnamon whole. Why? Because the moment the cinnamon bark is ground, essential oils begin to evaporate and the flavour quickly mellows and deteriorates. Buy it whole, grind it fresh and experience real cinnamon, and it’s 50% off to boot. So go nuts.

35% off Cumin Seed

Cumin

Cumin

If I could virtually roast off and grind a handful of these bad boys and transmit the fragrance online, I’d be going through cumin at an alarming pace. This cumin is the real deal. Pungent and flavourful, just a pinch of this spice will propel your cooking from good to great (or not so good to tolerable, we sell spices not miracles). Cumin will enhance almost any dish it dropped into. Don’t believe me? Buy some. The question really is, can you afford not to buy some? We’ll be posting some great cumin recipes this week on our recipes blog, so stay tuned for that.

35% off Turmeric Root Whole/Dried

Turmeric root

Turmeric Root

If Turmeric could speak it would have millions of  devoted followers listening attentively and with blind conviction to its every word. This simple, yet not so simple, spice has developed a cult like following amongst health gurus and nutritional experts. Look online and you’ll find claims (some legitimate, some more dubious than others) that turmeric heals any and every ailment. Now I won’t go on record telling you that turmeric is the new penicillin or some kind of wonder spice, but if even 10% percent of the claims are true, there is no good reason we shouldn’t be consuming just a little of this stuff on a daily basis. How do I add this spice to my daily diet? I just grind it into a fine powder (use a coffee grinder, or if you’re ready for the big leagues, buy our Waring professional spice grinder. I have one but whatever, its no big deal)  and put about a quarter tea-spoon of the stuff into my fruit smoothies, rice, stir-fry, omelette ext. Seriously, you can add it to almost anything.

35% off Fenugreek

Fenugreek

Fenugreek

First of all Fenugreek has nothing to do with Greece. Secondly, why did we decide to make fenugreek one of this weeks featured products? Because not enough people know how bloody awesome this little spice is. When roasted and ground fenugreek imparts this incredible sweet, almost maple like flavour. Fenugreek’s natural sweetness balances a dish’s more bitter notes, and works in perfect harmony with robust flavours like coriander, cumin, and paprika, making it ideal for savoury cuisine.  Not only is this spice essential in recipes spanning Asia and Africa, you’ll sound super sophisticated when you tell people you cook with fenugreek.

Visit http://www.fairseasspice.ca

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.

Ras el Hanout

Ras el Hanout

A few years back I had the opportunity to spend a some time in Casablanca en-route to Cairo, Egypt. Was Casablanca a beautiful city? No, not in the least. However what Casablanca lacked in esthetics, it made up for it in charm and great food. I had the opportunity to venture into the Quartiers des Habous, a district slightly off the beaten track with great souks (markets) selling anything and everything Moroccan.  It was there that I found a great olive and spice shop. I struck up a conversation with the shopkeeper who offered me a stool to sit on and some sweet slightly spiced tea.

olivesSidebar: While I’m no Frommer’s or Lonely Planet, I can issue this bit of travel advice: Sweet tea is an effective tool used by shopkeepers to get unsuspecting foreigners to buy their goods. Unless you’re planning on dishing out some currency, do not accept their gracious hospitality. If you do, you will end up carrying around an overpriced and unwanted backgammon set, similar to the one I picked up in Jerusalem in 2001 for a mere $90.00. I now play backgammon, not quite by choice however.backgammon

Now since I planned on dropping some cash, I made myself comfortable by drinking copious amounts of his sweet tea and asking him endless questions about Moroccan culinary history. Impressed with my French and Arabic he was all too happy to feed my insatiable appetite for information.  spices in bottlesWith a sense of passion he described to me the essence of Moroccan cuisine. In a nutshell he spoke volumes of Ras el Hanout. Ras el Hanout is Morocco’s version of Garam Masala. He explained the blend’s alluring mystery, how no recipe exists, how the amount of spice one adds or doesn’t add is arbitrary, and how each shop will claim to blend the best Ras al Hanout in Casablanca, a claim he himself was unabashed in making. When I asked him what his recipe was he simply laughed and said in French “un secret est un secret”.

spices in bagApart from being fun to say, what does Ras al Hanout actually mean? The word “Ras” (رأس) translated from Arabic means “head” or “top”, whilst Hanout ( الحانوت) means shop. Simply put, head or top of the shop means you’re consuming a blend of a shops most premium spices. Ras el Hanout is typically used to season meat, poultry, fish, game, vegetables, rice, couscous, you name it. You can pretty much put Ras el Hanout on anything that can use a serious infusion of flavour.

Recipes for this classic Moroccan spice blend are infinite; however at its core Ras el Hanout usually contains the following spices:

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Ras el Hanout

Basic guide to Ras el Hanout

Now please consider the above mentioned spices as merely a flavour foundation, the building blocks on which to build your gastronomical masterpiece.  Ras el Hanout, should you decide to go nuts and please go nuts, can contain over 30 varieties of spice. Feel free to add whatever spice you’d like, be it Star Anise, Cloves, Allspice, Bay Leaves, Nutmeg, Mace, fenugreek, ext. This blend seriously allows you to go all out with culinary creativity.

All pictures are courtesy of Mel Hadida whatwouldjaishreedo.wordpress.com