Last week, an innocuous-looking package landed on the doormat. As soon as I broke the seal on the envelope, I knew what was inside because the fragrance wafting out mentally transported me to the wonderfully aromatic spice markets that we visited in Turkey.
Inside the envelope was a beautiful drawstring pouch from Spice Kitchen, containing 8 fabulous spice blends using approximately 35 different whole spices. Each blend comes in a resealable 20 gram packet and the selection promises to send your taste buds to the four corners of the Earth. As a keen globe-cooker, I was delighted to discover :
Garam Masala (India / Pakistan) - contains cloves, star anise, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin and ginger
Sri Lankan Curry Powder - contains basmati rice, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cassia bark, fenugreek seeds, cloves, cardamon, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, kashmiri chilli & turmeric
Panch Phoron (Bengal) - contains cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and fennel seeds
Mexican Spice Blend - contains cornflour, cumin seeds, paprika, oregano, chilli powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, onion powder and cayenne pepper
Jerk Spice Blend (Jamaica) - contains cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, parsley, sugar, salt, paprika, all spice, black peppercorns, nutmeg and cinnamon
Chinese Spice Blend - contains liquorice, star anise, cassia, szechuan peppers, black cardamon, orange peel and cloves
Ras El Hanout (North Africa / Morocco) - contains cloves, mace, star anise, cayenne pepper, allspice, cardamon, black peppercorns, sugar, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, nutmeg. paprika, salt and turmeric
Baharat (Middle East) - contains cloves, black pepper, cumin seeds, nutmeg, paprika, cardamon & cinnamon
It says a lot about my cooking style that I already had quite a few of these on my spice rack (baharat, ras el hanout, jerk, Mexican, garam masala and Chinese) but no two spice blends are ever the same so I was still keen to try them out and get my tastebuds tingling.
As I had some black beans to use up, I decided to try out the Mexican Spice Blend first. When I hear the words Mexican cuisine, I automatically think of intense chilli heat but when I sniffed the contents of the little bag, I could detect a wonderful richness of earthy smokiness. Hmmm, perfect for a hearty, warming, rustic stew.
Mexican Spiced Black Bean and Pepper Stew
200g black beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
2 large onions
2 large cloves of garlic
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper (or green pepper)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2tbsp tomato puree
2tsp Mexican Spice Blend
Roughly chop and fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil over a low heat, to allow the onions to caramelise and release their flavour and sweetness.
Deseed the peppers and chop them into fairly large chunks. Add to the pot and cook for a further 5 minutes. Sprinkle over the spices and stir to combine.
Add the tinned tomatoes (in an ideal world, I would have oven-roasted some cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar but the kids eat cherry tomatoes like sweets so there are never any left in the fridge when I want them !) and black beans. Top up with water (the beans will soak up a lot so be prepared to add more as needed) and simmer for about 45 minutes until the beans are tooth tender.
Stir in the tomato puree and adjust the seasoning, adding extra spice if it needs a bit more kick. We decided to eat this as a rustic stew rather than a smooth soup but you could use a stick blender to liquidise it if you wanted. Serve with crusty bread.
*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***