Want to use your old herbs and spices? Just. Don’t.
EDIT: Entries to this giveaway are now closed, though you are still welcome to comment if you’d like. Congratulations to Nikki from Hamilton Hill, WA, our lucky winner. Your prize is on its way to you.
McCormick have asked me to chat about their new range of Recipe Creations flavour pouches. I loved them so much, we’re offering a giveaway worth $150 to a lucky reader. Oh and there’s a recipe of mine included. Oh yes there is.
There’s a person I know who, without mincing words, is a food hoarder.
I’m not talking about those people who store away bulk amounts of food for an upcoming end-of-days food shortage. I’m not referring to those who like to buy in bulk twice a year and eke it out over the next six months with the help of very well thought out menu plans (Seriously, WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE? and can you please share your ideas with us?) I’m certainly not talking about the majority of us who have full pantries because we don’t use shopping lists enough and so end up with extra bottles of sauces we don’t need. Or six half-used packets of cereal.
No, I’m talking about the people who have masses and masses of all types of food in their cupboards because a) they like to fill their cupboards (including food they will never use or eat) and b) they can’t bear to throw anything out.
In this person’s kitchen, in which I have cooked on more than one occasion, there are not one but two fully laden spice racks, each holding about thirty jars and bottles of various powders and seeds. In addition, there are rows and rows of jam jars filled with yet more spices, all carefully labelled, all neatly arranged on top of the tall food cupboard because there is no room on the shelves inside. Just about all of it is completely inedible and unusable. The waste of it appalls me.
Spices and herbs may look pretty all lined up on a rack next to your stove, but they lose their intense flavour and colour within weeks. At best spices last about six to twelve months, before they turn musty and stale. Beyond that, they are a waste of space. Add stale spices to your food and you risk spoiling the entire meal with a wretched taste of dust.
- Do not store your spices on a rack in full daylight or near a heat source like your stove. Store them away from direct sunlight, in a cool dark cupboard if possible to minimise colour and flavour deterioration. Keep them in airtight containers at all times.
- Do not store your spices for more than about twelve months – do everything you can to use them up in the meantime. The more airtight the container the longer they are likely to last.
- When using spices or dried herbs, roast them, whole, in a dry frypan over low to medium heat for about three minutes. Shake the pan or stir them with a wooden spoon to keep them moving and to prevent burning. The oils in the herbs and spices will warm up and release and the flavours of the spices will intensify. It brings them back to life and is invaluable when your spices have been stored for a while.
- Use a mortar and pestle or a small coffee grinder (use a separate coffee grinder to the one you use for coffee beans!) to crush the spices after you roast them, then add them back to your cooking. You’ll be amazed at the difference a few minutes can make.
The problem most home cooks have with herbs and spices is they use them for one or two recipes and then run out of ideas to use up the rest of the jar. While some strongly flavoured spices can withstand being used only a few times a year – like cloves or star anise – most do not. For this reason I have always advocated buying small quantities of herbs and spices at any one time and limit yourself to those spices you know will get a good outing in your kitchen.
Which is where McCormick have very cleverly come up with an answer. Small, meal-sized pots of herbs, ready to add to your favourite meal. Oh and did I mention the recipe ideas that come with them?
From chicken and potatoes, Beef scallopine and mushrooms to a hearty beef stew with dumplings and a lemony chicken casserole, McCormick have come up with a range of ideas, called Recipe Creations and combined them with all the herbs and spices you will need to create a brilliant family meal guaranteed to earn you brownie points at home. They come in nifty pouches, ready to be added, with recipe instructions included. Fantastic. It solves all the problems of storage and gives you an idea for a meal right in the middle of that mid-week I-can’t-be-bothered slump.
McCormick sent me a wonderful range of Recipe Creations for you as a giveaway, but one of them, for Herbed baked chicken and potatoes, ended up a little worse for wear during postage and I couldn’t really send it on, so I decided to use it. Then I realised I didn’t have any chicken in the house either, but I did have a piece of bolar blade beef waiting for a dinner with friends later in the week. My solution? I added the spice mixture to create a beautiful Pot Roast. No, really. It was so sensational, I photographed it and the recipe is below. You’re welcome.
McCormick has a wonderful package for you as a giveaway, including 10 packets of Recipe Creations herb and spice meal ideas, a handy guide to popular herbs and their use, a lovely linen tea towel and a wonderful and very well made Peugeot salt and pepper mill set in this year’s fashionable Tahitian green, all valued at $150.oo
To be in the running, please comment below on your favourite or your go-to herb or spice based meal. You can comment as often as you like but your name will only go once into the draw.
The winner will be selected at random as in previous giveaways and due to postage is open to Australian residents only.
The competition closes at 7pm Friday AEST, 27th July 2012.