By Sharmini Jayawardena
We are embarking on this special trip, let’s say! A journey beyond, “light years beyond”, that of the mere mortals, where spices are concerned⚡
The literal spice trail, dating back to centuries, when the Arabs, firstly, and the explorers, (who called themselves, discoverers), next, set forth aboard seaworthy vessels to arrive at lands where secrets abound. The mystical East.
One such secret is that of the spices, that unlocked an amazing and a myriad of aromatics, flavonoids and oleoresins, creating an explosion of the taste buds.
The game simply changed a 180 degrees in the food world, the world of fragrances and even in that of medicine.
The world actually discovered for the first time, that food could be made that much more palatable with the inclusion of these vast array of condiments from which a wide selection of recipes were made possible.
It literally gave that zest, that umph, to all dishes.
Even if you were not making a curry per se, adding a pinch of nutmeg to an egg, a dash of cinnamon to a soup, elevated the dish to another level.
To top it all, there are so many of them, in terms of variety, that it’s literally mind boggling: this world of spices. This spice world.
From, the now well known, Ceylon Cinnamon, (Cinnamomum verum (AKA C. zeylanicum), known as “Ceylon cinnamon” after its origins in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), is considered to be “true cinnamon”), nutmeg, allspice to cardamoms, cloves, star anise, to the less traversed, coriander, cumin and sweet cumin and farther.
Mustard comes in varying types, and the one used in spicing up curries, is the dark brown tiny perfectly spherical seed that pops when it is dropped into heated oil, and turns into a ‘mustard yellow’, when ground into a powder or a paste.
Then you get the fennel, asafoetida (which is from a herb). There are herbs that go along well with the spice blends: the curry leaf, the screw pine or pandan leaf, lemongrass and so on.
The black and white pepper corns add a biting flavour when added to a dish, together with one or more of the rest of the spices, to spice up a dish.
Turmeric has come to occupy a special place in the limelight these days, with the introduction of the ever popular, turmeric golden milk, which health gurus swear by for relieving numerous ailments, due to its antioxidant properties.
Of course, no foodies worth their salt will leave the ubiquitous chili, behind, in all of this.
There are also many aficionados out there, contributing to and sharing their own knowledge on how to store, blend, roast (or not), powder (or not), to what degree, all of these spices, adding a scientific touch to it all!
Ok, now I will share with you as to why I titled this post – ‘Our Very Own Spice Trail’.
Having rediscovered a vintage recipe of our grandma’s, through mum’s memory banks, we embarked on prepping this recipe, (which is now a secret, that I’m unable to share with you, sadly), for the recipe being close to commercial demand, now, in barely a couple of weeks!
Let’s say, the more they sniff it, or the more they smell it, the more they want it. So, it has come to be a spice trail, in itself. One with a difference of course.
Since every trail has a story behind it, ours’s has one of its’ own, which I will willingly share with y’all.
One day, I asked Sumitra to bring me some curry powder, as I had run out of my stock. He delayed in getting it for me.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Invention or not –
I recalled my mum’s spice mix recipe from memory, which I had gleaned by questioning her as to what ingredients went into it and so on, and she imparted her knowledge of it to me, while she prepped it, when I was barely a teenager, I think.
She shared the whole recipe with me as she did many more recipes and knowledge.
Voila! There it was, a chicken curry cooked by me, with my mum’s spice mix and Chicken Curry Recipe.
You definitely tasted the difference in flavour, when you tasted it. The aroma even before you tasted, was inimitable. It’s all in the ratio of the main ingredients, with a few other ingredients thrown into it at random, that gave such a splendid flavour to the mix which made the curry.
Ever since, we’ve not looked back. We never went back to that supermarket isle for the packeted kind (which I had been using after having roasted it of course).
When we shared my mum’s recipe for Wild Boar Curry, on our site, friends wanted to try it with our own spice mix. (You only need to use very little of the mix for impact.)
(Note: wild boar can be substituted with any meat or fish).
We were thrilled when one person, our friend’s uncle who tasted the curry, said that he had tasted such a curry 25 years ago at a toddy shop, somewhere in Malaysia. Unbelievable.
The orders have come-a-tumb-a-ling in, since then and we are working diligently at producing a quality product to meet the demand.
Hopefully, soon we will be able to go really big, in the flavour area. We don’t want to make it a mass market product, but a specialty find.
We want those who come across it, to have the same “eureka” moment, that we had, rediscovering it.
Something, you discover when weathering the storms and braving the high seas, which are the pitfalls of a novice adherent to the world of spice! Or, one when a veteran spice dabbler, suddenly finds s/he has stumbled upon and struck gold❣
So, our spice trail starts with my mum and works its’ self along the way through her grandkids, great grandkid to where her grandkids-in-law descend from: nearer the Far East and Down Under.
The world of spice is a vast one and one that is supposed to be an intimidating and daunting domain. But, however mighty this world which also boasts of such subtle and vivid flavours and aromas as that of saffron and equally robust flavours like the clove, may be, we are in a league of our own, I would like to believe. We are sallying forth, in possession of our very own recipe, albeit a secret one, for, the spice mix!