Tuesday, 23 November 2010

An Ingredient Odyssey

I went to London recently. I used to live there, with my brother, and I took advantage at the time of the opportunities to buy exotic ingredients. I am now much better educated with regard to fruits, vegetables, and spices in particular, and was hoping to get a few bits in between painting my brother's new flat.

I did well. I took my mother to the Borough Market, an old favourite of mine, and although I was mostly there as a guide, and to soak up the atmosphere before it's swept away by future redevelopment, I did see some great spices. At a stall I've not seen before, I got grains of paradise, cubeb, long pepper, black cardamom - all things I've only ever read about - and really cheap cinnamon sticks.

The next day I went to Waitrose - a supermarket that hasn't made it this far north. Although we have a similar establishment, Booths, I still saw some things I wanted: rennet, Israeli (giant/pearl) couscous, Kashmiri chillies, and dried borlotti beans. A couple of days later I popped into a fairly large Sainsbury's - a supermarket we do have here, but too far for me to get to on foot. I spotted barley couscous - something I've had before, and enjoy as an alternative to the wheat-based variety. Finally, I went to an awesome Turkish minimarket (in fact, it sells food from several cultures), and got more black cardamom (even cheaper), pomegranate molasses, citric acid, carob pods, coconut oil and something so exotic I couldn't identify it - it turned out to be terebinth, which is used by the Turks (who call it menengiç, although it was labelled "melengiç") to make a coffee-like beverage, at least according to Wikipedia. As an aside, I saw raw, untreated olives for the first time in a grocer's - goodness knows how you use them.

And today, I ordered some even more obscure spices from an online supplier - I'd only intended to get orris root (for making pomanders for the festive season), but also chose anise, Habanero chillies, Tasmanian mountain pepper leaves and berries, Madagascan wild pepper, and grains of Selim. Now the difficult but exciting task of finding recipes to incorporate them! :)