In the mix: bloggers’ favourite spice mix recipes

While I love experimenting with different spices, I must admit to resorting to a handful of tried-and-tested spice mixes for many of our meals: garam masala for instance for curries, or ras-el-hanout for meat rubs. So you’ll see there was a fair bit of self-interest when I set Spice Mixes as the theme for the last Spice Trail challenge; I was after a little spicy inspiration for new meals to try out with different spice mixes I’ve never played with before. And as ever my fellow food bloggers didn’t disappoint. Here follows a sensational selection of spicy dishes that are guaranteed to get your own culinary creative juices flowing or, at the very least, your mouth watering…

Continue reading “In the mix: bloggers’ favourite spice mix recipes”

Healthy and delicious temple food

Temple Food Collage

Temple food
Definition: food that does you good from the inside out;
restorative, refreshing, reassuring and revitalising;
virtuous and delicious;
as in ‘my body is a temple’

As you know, I’m on a mission to eat more healthily; not just by embarking on a silly fad diet, but by introducing better, more balanced food choices as part of my everyday lifestyle. And I am feeling so much better for it.

Thanks to my fellow bloggers who took part in the latest Spice Trail challenge, I now have an incredible menu of vibrantly virtuous (and of course beautifully spiced) dishes to test out in the weeks and months ahead. Take a look at the entries below – eating well never looked so tempting! Continue reading “Healthy and delicious temple food”

Kale and cauliflower samosas

Samosa Collage

One of the ways I am trying to feed my family more healthily is to increase our intake of seasonal vegetables while reducing the amount of red meat we eat. Normally I love my samosas filled with spicy minced lamb but this version with kale and cauliflower is every bit as tasty and much, much better for you.

I wasn’t 100% certain my children would be so taken by them though, so I was extremely pleased when they gave them their seal of approval, with Jessie, my oldest, happily tucking in to seconds and then thirds. Continue reading “Kale and cauliflower samosas”

The Spice Trail challenge: temple food

Temple Food

I’m on a bit of health kick these days. I assure you though, it’s not just another faddy new year’s resolution in reaction to an over-indulgence at Christmas. Since last autumn, I’ve been really trying to take a more healthy and positive approach to what I eat and how I exercise. Rather than counting the calories in absolutely everything I consume and sticking to a ridiculously restrictive diet, I’m focused on making better choices as part of my overall lifestyle and day-to-day routine, which I hope will be easier to keep up in the long run.

Being healthy shouldn’t be a chore or all about self-sacrifice and self-flagellation. I want to enjoy eating and enjoy exercise in the knowledge that I’m doing my body (and mind) some good.

So the theme for this latest Spice Trail challenge is Temple Food… as in my body is a temple.  I’m looking to the food blogging community to help inspire me with their healthy, feel good recipes. Virtuous and delicious, that’s the order of the day. And, of course, nice and spicy too. So it’s not all about diet ‘rabbit food’. I’m simply after your dishes that do you good from the inside out: restorative, refreshing, reassuring and revitalising. Continue reading “The Spice Trail challenge: temple food”

The Spice Trail round-up: peppercorns and allspice

spice trail badge long

I’m playing catch up with The Spice Trail this month and bringing you two months’ worth of recipe round-ups in one go. November saw us celebrating the humble peppercorn as a star ingredient in its own right, while in December we showcased recipes using the gorgeous and very versatile allspice berry. Continue reading “The Spice Trail round-up: peppercorns and allspice”

Black pepper chicken

Black pepper chicken

I’d love to tell you some story about how I first came across this black pepper chicken curry when I was backpacking around India, or how I discovered it in some wonderful Keralan restaurant. But in fact this was the first time I’ve tried this recipe and it was the result of looking up inspiration for pepper recipes online.

When I started researching something to cook for this month’s Spice Trail challenge, which has peppercorns as its theme, Kerala-style dishes came up again and again. I suppose this isn’t surprising really, since black pepper is thought to originate from the rainforests of Kerala in southern India and it’s still one of the main producers of the spice. Continue reading “Black pepper chicken”

8 perfect pickles and preserves

There’s nothing finer served up with some thick, crusty bread and a big hunk of cheese than a tasty, spicy pickle. Especially when it’s of the homemade variety. Here are some delicious pickle recipes from food bloggers around the world you’ve just got to try out; all entries in last month’s Spice Trail challenge.

Continue reading “8 perfect pickles and preserves”

More than a seasoning… The Spice Trail challenge celebrates the peppercorn

Much loved by the Romans, even though it was hideously expensive – Gibbon tells us that Alaric the Goth demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper as part of his ransom for Rome in the 5th century. Pepper is ubiquitous worldwide now, and if there is a downside to its mass popularity, it is that people forget its true spice status and tend to overlook making it a star player in its own right…

So says Allegra McEvedy in Leon’s Ingredients & Recipes. And she’s right. All too often the only time pepper makes as appearance in a recipe is at the end when the cook is called to add a little salt and pepper to taste in order to ‘finish off’ their dish.


But pepper is a wonderful spice – tasty, fruity, warming, vibrant and even fiery – depending on which type you use and how much – and deserves to be celebrated in its own right. So that is our mission this month, to put the humble peppercorn on a pedestal all of its own and show just what this much-neglected spice can do!

Whether it’s black, white, green or pink (although technically pink peppercorns are a completely different species entirely but we’ll ignore that fact for the benefit of this challenge), I can’t wait to see how you incorporate peppercorns into your cooking and make them star of the show.

How to enter The Spice Trail

spice trail badge square

  • Display the The Spice Trail badge (above and also available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  • Up to three recipe links accepted per blogger, so long as each one feature’s this month’s spice, peppercorns, as a central ingredient.
  • Feel free to link up recipe posts from your archive, but please add the information about this challenge to the post and The Spice Trail badge.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Sunday 30 November 2014.
  • If you tweet your post, please mention #TheSpiceTrail and me @BangerMashChat in your tweet and I’ll retweet each one I see.
  • As entries come in, links to these will be added to the bottom of this page.
  • At the end of the month, the winner will be announced in a round-up of all the entries.
  • Entries from bloggers all around the world are accepted.
  • All entries will be added to The Spice Trail Pinterest Board.

I look forward to seeing your entries, and keep an eye out for the round-up of October’s Pickles & Preserves challenge – coming very soon!

November’s entries

  1. Mulled Grape Juice from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  2. Spiced Shortbread from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  3. Schezwan Idli and Sambar from Home Cook Food
  4. Maple and Mustard Glazed Ham from Searching for Spice
  5. Home-roasted Pumpkin Seeds from By the Way… By Nasifriet
  6. Indian Potato Sliders from Home Cook Food
  7. Black Pepper Chicken from Bangers & Mash
  8. Braided Chilli Bread from By the Way… By Nasifriet
  9. Tuscan Panforte Biscotti from The Lass In The Apron
  10. Salt and Pepper Chocolate Truffles from Bangers & Mash
  11. Cambodian Green Peppercorn Prawns from Lapin d’Or & More
  12. Sprouts with Lemon & Black Pepper from Eat Like You Love Yourself

Mango and chilli chutney

mango and chilli chutney web text

One of the things I like most about an Indian meal is all the condiments that come with it. And one of my all-time favourites is mango chutney. There happened to be an offer on mangoes at the supermarket and, rather than turning them into smoothies for the girls, the thought occurred to me to have a go at making my own mango chutney.

The end result was really very good, even if I do say so myself. I made it when Mum was staying with us the other weekend and she took a jar back home to Spain and has been raving about it, so you see, it’s not just me that thinks so.

spices web

It packs a punch, flavoured with a whole bunch of aromatic spices and a healthy hit of fresh chilli, partnered with the sweet red onion and the even sweeter, sticky, gooey mango. With a big pile of poppadoms in front of me, I could probably work my way through an entire jar in one sitting. Easily. It’s possibly a little too fiery for the children, although our nine-year-old might be brave enough to give it a go. But I rather hope she’s not too keen. All the more for me then.

mango and chilli chutney2 web

Mango and chilli chutney

Makes 3 jars

1 cinnamon stick or a few pieces of cassia bark
1 whole nutmeg
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp whole cloves
½ tsp white peppercorns
1 Indonesian long peppercorn (optional)
3 large mangoes (slightly under-ripe are best)
juice of 1 orange, plus the rind of 1 quarter, finely chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
250ml white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 red chillies, finely chopped (I kept the seeds but you might want to remove these)
450g demerara sugar

Place all the spices in a piece of muslin and tie with string to form a little spice bag.

Peel, stone and chop your mangoes – keep half of the flesh big and chunky, and cut the other half into smaller pieces. We all have different approaches to cutting mangoes and I generally end up hacking mine to pieces. But for more professional tips, check out a YouTube video – there are videos on YouTube for absolutely everything, aren’t there?

Reserving the sugar and larger mango pieces until later, put the rest of the ingredients, including the spice bag, in a really large stainless steel pan. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes until the mango and onions are soft.

Throw in the rest of the mango and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Then increase the heat and boil until the mixture becomes thick and jam-like, stirring every now and then.

Remove from the heat and take out the spice bag. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, which gives you enough time to sterilise your jam jars. Wash them in soapy water, rinse clean and dry. Then pop the jars in the bottom oven of the Aga or a conventional oven preheated to 110°C / gas mark ¼ for 20 minutes.

Pour the chutney into the hot, sterilised jars and seal.

As well as being a traditional accompaniment to Indian food, mango chutney is delicious with cold meats and very good in a Cheddar cheese sandwich.

mango and chilli chutney3 web

I’m entering my mango and chilli chutney into the Spice Trail challenge, a monthly food bloggers event which I host and is this month celebrating spiced preserves and pickles.

spice trail badge square