I’m not sure whether I am typical, but when I’m out shopping I do seek out particular varieties. Take potatoes for instance, a Maris Piper is a great all rounder. I am also fond of Roosters. When it comes to spices and flavourings do I take as much care?
There’s likely to be very little choice at the supermarket, perhaps the supermarket’s own and a branded version such as Schwartz and often expensive for the quantity you purchase. What’s the alternative?
A conversation I had with Bindiya on the opening night of her wonderful new Gujarati restaurant, Bindi started my pondering. She explained how she was very particular about the spices she uses. She’ll get in touch with various spice merchants and ask for samples before selecting one that’s just right for her dishes. You can certainly taste the difference.
So this week, I caught up with to two passionate entrepreneurs Kirsty from Zing Organics and Ian from Just Ingredients.
Ingredients, discounts and a recipe
Caroline and I have been cooking with ingredients from Just Ingredients and Zing Organics for a few weeks now. We’ve been cooking our favourite dishes and experimenting with new ones and quite frankly we’re bowled over.
A box full of spices arrived from Just Ingredients. The box was a treasure trove from all over the world. What a tempting mixture: favourites such as cinnamon and smoked paprika, some of the fattest cinnamon sticks I’ve seen and more unusual ingredients such as chipotle peppers, lemon pepper and a particular favourite of mine, ras-el-hanout which we often use in a sauce for fish. We’ve added cardamom pods, black pepper and cinnamon to basmati rice; made cinnamon buns, added smoked paprika to roasted vegetables – heaven.
Ian Butt is a co-found with Ben Cunningham of Just Ingredients. They were approached when the company was launched and asked to run it and take it forward. They took on the challenge and love the company as if it were their baby! Over the past three years, they have always strived to instil their love of good food, new ideas and community feel into the business.
The website is particularly easy to use, to select the size packet you require or in another section, shop by price. And it’s not just spices, but all manner of ingredients perfect for people who love cooking: wholefoods, superfoods and oils and more.
They test all the items themselves believing that quality is something that defines their business and of course, they demand the best! They’ve many customers who are professional chefs who are very discerning. Ian tells me that they particularly enjoy the wide range of unusual ingredients not easy to find elsewhere in particular the range of chillies including Ancho, Pasilla, Guajillio, Habanero and Chipotle, and expensive items like Spanish saffron, lime leaves and vanilla powders – all favourites because of their quality.
I ask Ian about his favourite dish; “I am a BIG fan of anything North African. I love the use of warm spices and pungent chillies used in these dishes. I cook a lot of tagines and always use our Ras el Hanout with its strong hints of Cinnamon and Rose petals along with some Harissa paste”. I agree with him there!
Zing Organics – Aromachefery
Kirsty Morrison lives in Argyll, Scotland – some 3 hours away from the nearest supermarket. Fresh ingredients that we’re used to in the city are hard to come by there which is one of the reasons why she started her business, Zing Organics. However it is also in the blood. Her Grandfather was a market gardener who instilled the love of plants in her. Her Dad was the GP in a wee village who became adept at dealing with all manner of small accidents; mostly involving his own untamed children. He used poultices effectively and natural ingredients within to deal with all of these minor incidents. With such inspiration, she first started making aromatherapy products before branching out into salts and sugars infused with essential oils.
The difference between a flavoured salt or sugar and the infused version is remarkable. The flavours are crisp, clean and yet subtle. Caroline used the geranium sugar in the base for the ice cream cake, and made hot chocolate with cocoa, geranium sugar and soy milk. (Yum!) She also sprinkled lavender salt over an apple, spinach and tomato salad. On purpose,she made sure the salt was sprinkled on the apple: it goes really well. I’m currently cooking a lot of apples fallen from the tree in the garden and have particularly enjoyed the subtle nutmeg sugar flavours. My particular favourite is the lemon salt. Just a tiny pinch really elevates a dish that was originally just ordinary. Try it on roasted slow roast tomatoes – amazing!
Living near Campbeltown which was once the epicentre of Whisky making, Kirsty is able to get her hands on some very rare Whiskies. She has made infused local honey (gold dust – very few hives produced) with rare ‘Longrow’ Single Malt and a tiny bit of sea salt for a chef in London who was after something intensely peaty. Another local chef uses the geranium infused sugar within the marinade for a side of salmon before washing off and smoking it.
She loves experimenting with unusual blends such as rosemary and ylang ylang or tarragon and pine. each combination becoming as ever more than the sum of their parts when it came to the aroma and flavour! The first was a salt and the latter a sugar but anything goes!
I am looking forward to trying two of the Christmasy flavours!
Find out more
Lets start an ingredient revolution. Let’s seek out the very best and dust off those cookbooks and try new tastes and flavours. There’s nothing quite like a dish made with freshly prepared ingredients. Get buying! And look out for our recipes using these ingredients in the coming weeks. We’re delighted to say that our friends at Cranachan and Crowdie Edinburgh will be stocking Zing Organics Lemon Salt to complement their huge range of wonderful products sourced only from Scotland.