I don’t drink tea. I should say that up front. Can’t stand the stuff.
But I was studying the Schwartz flavour forecast to prepare this post and flavouring stuff with tea was one of the things featured so I thought I’d give it a go.
The report carried out annually for the UK since 2008 has highlighted five top food “trends” and various emerging flavours predicted to influence home cooking in the next few years. There’s particular brouhaha this time around since Schwartz’s parent company McCormick are celebrating their 125th year as a “food industry innovator”.
The key trends identified are:
1. Chilli. Apparently we’re increasingly crazy about chilli and want more and more of it. But we don’t want any old bog standard chilli, we’re seeking out fancy varieties such as Peruvian aji amarillo and Mexican guajillo.
2. Modern Masala. Indian food, we’re told is finally having a “moment”. I’m dubious about this one, I think authentic Indian food was big ten years ago – certainly I started buying books by Anjum Anand and eating street food dishes in restaurant chain Masala Zone at the start of the millennium. Or maybe I’m just so old I’m noticing stuff come round AGAIN.
3. Clever Compact Cooking – big flavours from small spaces. Food being created in tiny urban kitchens. I’m not sure what to make of this “trend” – I like the democracy that a small kitchen is no barrier to creating flavoursome food with fewer tools and ingredients. But I’m more inclined to say kitchens are expanding to take over the ground floor of the home. My friend has just knocked two walls out to achieve just that.
4. Mexican. Definitely authentic Mexican food is now reaching a wider audience – Thomasina Miers’ Wahaca chain has been at the forefront here with branches across London opening since 2007.
5. Brazil. It’s a sure fire bet, with hosting the forthcoming World Cup and Olympic games that the world will be obsessed with Brazilian food in the next couple of years. Another restaurant chain has contributed to interest in this cuisine bubbling under – I reviewed Cabana at Westfield back in 2011.
I grew up being familiar with Schwartz, my mother had aprons and tea towels with their branding on.
As you can see from my double-layered spice box (courtesy of 2 x IKEA “Samla” range cartons), I am not especially loyal to one particular range.
With the wooden spice rack screwed to the wall largely a thing of the past, it’s more important to me to have labels on lids and better still a double edged lid to sprinkle or pour the contents out. Some brands (including newer Schwartz ones) do this although I often think this is done more for shop display than the consumer.
Some of my spices are very old – if I looked I’d probably find ones from 2004 onwards. Even when you know full well old spices are a bad idea, you can’t bring yourself to chuck stuff out when it’s three quarters full. It’s a sad story really that probably 75% of spice jar contents sit languishing unused in cupboards only to be thrown away when the owner moves house.
So this was a great opportunity to refresh my spice collection. The jars look shiny and bright.
Depending on what it is, I generally choose a mix of types of herbs and spices and whereas ground is the best way for some ingredients, it’s not the only way to store your flavour fix. My personal collection breaks down something like this:
Dried herbs in jars:
More mint, oregano.
Dried ground spices in jars:
Ginger (for baking only), cloves, fenugreek, asafoetida, paprika, cardamom (I hate the pods but like it ground).
Dried whole spices in jars:
Cumin seeds, whole coriander, mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, nigella seeds.
Ground in big bags from ethnic store:
More cumin, coriander, garam masala – because I get through these so fast, I can justify buying in bulk at a lower price without worrying about waste.
Freshly bought herbs:
Basil, coriander, parsley (I keep pots going for ages when I remember to water them).
Herbs freshly grown in garden:
Mint, sage, chives, thyme, rosemary. (although I’m a bad gardener and my home grown herbs quickly “bolt”)
Pickled or jarred:
Chopped ginger from Waitrose special ingredients’ range (because I hate grating fresh ginger and both this and the jars of lazy ginger go mouldy at frightening speed)
Jalapeno peppers, chilli pastes.
Garlic. Unless I need slivers or whole cloves, I buy squeezy tubes of lazy style garlic.
Kaffir lime leaves. They stay fresher like this. I buy them in a Thai supermarket in Shepherds Bush.
So the business of choosing and storing herbs and spices is rather complex once you’re familiar with different varieties!
I took my inspiration from the “clever compact cooking” trend with a North African twist. Mint tea blini topped with spiced apricots and seeds. For the seeds I used a Waitrose snack pack of honeyed pumpkin and sunflower seeds but plain ones would do fine. My Schwartz kit oddly didn’t include cinnamon so that’s the one I had already.
An hour or two before, heat 125ml milk in a mug in the microwave and stir in 1 tsp dried mint. Leave to cool. Also heat 125ml milk in a mug in the microwave and dunk in a normal tea bag and leave to cool for a few minutes then take out before cooling completely.
Next take 12 dried apricots snipped into shards and soak them in a mug of hot black tea for at least ten minutes. Squirt 2 tablespoons of honey into a small pan, add 2 tbsp of the black tea from the apricots and 3 dried kaffir lime leaves, a pinch of ground cloves and a pinch of cinnamon. Heat through and simmer on a low heat whilst you make the pancakes.
With pancake day around the corner I’ve been trying out a new Tefal pan. I was surprised to see on the base it was made from titanium. The blini mould is also new – purchased last week on a day trip to Calais. The pancake batter doesn’t look hugely appetising but I kept the faith!
For the pancake batter, mix the milks with 100g self raising flour (I like mine to puff up), 1 egg, a pinch of salt and 1 melted tablespoon of butter.
Oil the pan and heat up!
Pouring the batter into the blini mould, holding one’s nerve that the bottoms won’t be burnt then flipping them over – I love that they look like baby crumpets!
Then finally drizzle with the stewed apricots and honey liquid and scatter with seed mix.
Pick up and bend in half to eat. The tea flavour was very distinct and I must say I like my tea in pancake form rather than a brown milky drink.
Pancakes as canapes – best warm obviously but surprisingly tasty cold too!
Post commissioned by Schwartz with payment in vouchers. As part of their 125 year anniversary Schwartz are seeking to connect 1.25 million peoples’ stories about the role of food and flavour in their lives. Share your flavour story with Schwartz on Facebook. For every story shared Schwartz and parent company McCormick have pledged to donate $1 or upto $1.25 million to United Way and their partners’ organisations.
With thanks also to Tefal for sample frying pans.