Thursday, July 27, 2006

Foodie Gifts: Weird Spices

Our friends Linda and Anders visited us a few nights ago. They live in Gothenburg, and were in Stockholm for a short vacation. They own one of our little darling kittycats - actually one that has been presented here on the blog quite a bit: little Honey.

Anyway. They brought gifts! A catnip-filled veterinarian for the kitties to enjoy (Hamlet in particular liked him) and a collection of strange spices for me. Linda had actually walked into one of the best spice shops in Sweden, and asked the owner for his weirdest stuff. So, I know what some of this is, sure.. but not all. Good thing I have a blog, and can ask for help!

1. Pan Masala. (Close-up!) This is very pretty. But what the heck do I do with it? Another friend said that you don't eat this - you roll it up in leaves and use it like snuff. Huh. It does have tobacco in it so I guess that's a valid theory. In which case I'll mostly be admiring the pretty colors, I suppose. Any input? What do I use it for??

2. Hickory smoked salt. I know what to do with this! Yum!

3. Mexican Green Jalapeño. Surprisingly yellow in color, but I assume this is just some kind of ground up chili. I'll play around with it - it sounds lovely.

4. Go Cajun! Well, this is a perfect spice mix, and I think I'll start by using it as a dry rub for chicken or beef, to go on the barbecue. Should work well!

5. Berbere. Ethiopian Pepper? Huh. I've heard of it. What do I do with it - any special ideas?

6. Rouille. Oh, this is a French blend, perfect with fish. I think I'll try a fish soup with it soon!

7. Zahtar. Enlighten me, please - what do I do with this?

8. Sumac. Oh, I've heard of this too. I just don't know where to start - what should I try?


chrispy said...

Zatar is a middle eastern spice. Each country and even regions within a counrty have their own blend. It is traditionally served for breakfast. You dip flat bread in olive oil and then dip it in the zatar. Or you can bake up some flat bread before placing it in the oven slather with a thick buttermilk or plain yogurt then sprinkle with zatar.

I use it to make a savory bread instead of cinnamon swirl bread I replace with the zatar. Since the main ingrediant is thyme I like the extra flavor it adds to dishes that request thyme in the ingrediant list.

Also nice in veggie stew and tomatoe soups.

karin said...

Zatar is a blend of thyme, sesameseed and sumak . I use it on flatbread like Chrispy said or mic it with some olive oil and baste chicken with it. Ut´s really tasty.
Sumak is a sour spice, I use it when making taboulle

Anonymous said...

Anne - the pan masala that i see on your blog- is merely an after meal mouth freshner cum digestive aid. ideally it should not have any tobacco in it. if it does have tobacco, it should be eaten folded in betel nut leaves.

most pan masala products are used as after meal mouth freshners though


Maria said...

Etiopisk peppar! Jag har nästan växt upp med den kryddan och kan inte tänka mig att leva utan den.

Du kan göra en kryddstark och helt underbar köttfärssås med berbere. Bryn en hackad lök tillsammans med 1-2 tsk etiopisk peppar (etiopisk peppar bör brynas för att få fram hela sin smak, som curry). I med ca 5 hg köttfärs och låt få färg. Sedan en buljongtärning, lite mjöl, chilisås, salt och vatten till önskad konsistens och smak. Koka upp och låt sjuda en stund. (jag föredrar en ganska "torr" sås i detta fall). Köttfärssåsen serveras antingen med spagetti eller på vanligt vitt bröd.

Tack för tipset på rosévinet - norpade de två sista flaskorna på "mitt" Systembolaget idag. Det smakar verkligen sommar.

Maria said...

Oops! Sorry, I should of course have written in English...

Anonymous said...

As everyone else wrote, zahtar or zatar is a middle-eastern spice. It is indeed a mix and you can make your own zatar as well. I rub chicken meat with it before I grill it. It is quite delicious.


alice said...

Oh! Berbere! I've been looking for a local source, but have been coming up empty. I'm going to start doing the online ordering soon, I think.

Anyway - you can use it to cook all sorts of great lentil dishes. Since I haven't found a source for the berbere, I haven't tried any of the recipes I've found, but this one looked promising:

Anonymous said...

Hi Anne,

As Sameer has already pointed out, pan masala is widely popular in India as an after meal mouth freshner. It can also be added to betel-leaf along with other ingredients like betel-nut, quicklime, etc. to form and "Pan", which is often used as an after meal mouth freshner and digestive in India.


joey said...

Lucky you! I love all kinds of spices...just bought some at this store I discovered in my city, so I loved reading this post and could relate to your excitement :)

I have tried pan masala before...interesting!

Pene said...

What an interesting selection, Anne. Have fun experimenting! And I'm looking forward to seeing Stockholm again & meeting you this weekend.

SweetSarahJ said...

Hi Anne! I love Zatar, especially when it's on Mana'eesh, a small disc of dough crisped up in olive oil and baked like a pizza. I've got a post with a recipe which I highly reccomend you try if you like thyme. Here it is.

Also, sumac is a great addition to grilled meats and salads. Our "house salad" is romaine, cucumber, tomato, green onion, fresh mint, and a sprinkling of sumac. Iranian kebobs (called kofta) are sprinkled with sumac after coming off the grill. It adds a tart, acidic flavour and is complementary to lemon.
I hope you have a lot of fum with you new spices!

Anne said...

Oh, you guys are perfect, thank you so much for all your tips and suggestions!

Just one more on the pan masala. A friend said that betel nut - which it contains - can make your mouth feel swollen. Is that normal, or did he have some adverse reaction?

steve and kim said...

Sorry I'm a little late hopping on the thread. My wife and I enjoy sumac in our fattoush dressing. Out version of this bread and vegetable salad has tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, toasted pita, and a dressing of lemon, olive oil, thyme, salt/pepper, and sumac. The sumac adds more sour and tartness, like lemon zest. It also adds a nice color (to everything but the green peppers). We also like zahtar, cracked peppercorns, and olive oil on grilled or toasted pita with crumbled feta (or some other soft sheep or goat cheese). Thanks for your wonderful writing.

Bean said...

I think Berbere is used in traditional Ethiopian meat stews. Depending on the color it can be very hot or pleasantly warm.

Rachael said...

What a great selection! I would put the Cajun spice on fish...catfish if you can get it. And the Zahtar, well, I put it on lamb, or mix it with yogurt and put over lamb. Its tasty!

Have fun!


Anonymous said...

Nigella's 'Forever Summer' is chockful of recipes using both sumac and za'atar, for example a baked potato salad using sumac and za'atar chicken with fattoush and za'atar flatbread. You're so lucky to have these spices, hope you get inspired!

Michael Harlan Turkell said...

Berbere is a spice mixture used for "wats" (stews). It includes chili, ginger, cloves, coriander, allspice, also, rue and bishop's weed berries.

As per the chilis, I like using either aleppo or urfa biber. Aleppo is hot and tart, urfa biber is darker with an almost raisin taste.

Ema Villanueva said...

Well, I'm from Mexico, love cooking and know a lot of spices used the different regions of the country, and we never use such a thing as dry, powdered jalapeño chili. What we do use a lot is fresh jalapaño, and its dry, smoked version: chipotle, but I guarantee you'll never find an authentic Mexican recipee that asks for powdered jalapeño. If I had it, I would use it, as you suggest just like any other powdered chili...

Anne said...

Ema - the spice is long gone now, but I'm totally with you, I'd much rather use fresh jalapeno, or powdered chipotle chili. This one was weird - it was extremely hot, and sort of tangy. I never did find a decent use for it.