Her­bie tells all in his spice and herb bi­ble

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - MIA STAINSBY

The thing about be­ing an ex­pert is, you come with a lot of bag­gage. Knowl­edge bag­gage, that is. Such is the case with Aus­tralian Ian Hem­phill, a herb and spices ex­pert.

And thus, with reg­u­lar use of his book, Spice & Herb Bi­ble (with recipes by his daugh­ter Kate Hem­phill), one could de­velop a nicely toned fore­arm — it’s almost 800 pages and weighs about three pounds.

The spir­ited Hem­phill was nick­named Her­bie in child­hood, owing to his par­ents run­ning “a le­gal herb business.” He says many Aus­tralians are open to try­ing new things. “Many cul­tures are bound by tra­di­tion. In Aus­tralia’s short his­tory, there have been mi­gra­tions of Ital­ians, Greeks, Viet­namese, In­di­ans, Fi­jians, folks from the Mid­dle East and peo­ple brought their herbs and spices. When some­thing new is in­tro­duced, we say ‘Give it a go, mate.’ It has a short culi­nary his­tory so there aren’t tra­di­tions to break through.”

The Aus­tralian abo­rig­i­nals used herbs and spices medic­i­nally rather than for cook­ing.

His book in­tro­duces you to 97 of the most com­monly used spices and herbs, although I don’t know how many of you have akud­jura, alexan­ders, am­chur, an­gel­ica, am­chur, asafetida or an­natto seeds in your cup­board.

Hem­phill, who now runs Her-

In­dian But­ter Chicken

This rich, lav­ish curry, which orig­i­nated in Delhi in the 1950s. The in­gre­di­ent list is very long but it is not a dif­fi­cult recipe to make. And you will be well-re­warded for your ef­forts when you taste it.

But­ter Chicken Spice Blend 2 brown car­damom pods 2½ tsp (12 mL) sweet pa­prika 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin 1 tsp (5 mL) ground co­rian­der seeds

½ tsp (2 mL) ground ginger

½ tsp (2 mL) ground cin­na­mon ½ tsp (2 mL) ground fenu­greek seeds ½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pep­per ½ tsp (1 mL) ground medi­umhot chili (see tips) ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground green car­damom seeds ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground car­away seeds

Curry 1½ cups (375 mL) plain yo­gurt 6 skin­less bone­less chicken breasts

2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato sauce bie’s Spices, a herb and spice shop in Syd­ney called one of the world’s best spice shops by Food & Wine mag­a­zine, ex­plained the dif­fer­ence be­tween a herb and a spice. (You can buy his spice blends through a Cana­dian distrib­u­tor at savouryspi­ces.ca.)

“Herbs are the leafy part of a plant, like cilantro, basil and pars­ley. Spices are any other part of the plant — the buds, bark, berries, seeds, pods, even the stigma of a flower like saf­fron. Spices make up a very big group. The per­cep­tion is that spices are hot, but it’s not all about heat. Many have lit­tle or no flavour when first har­vested, but nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring en­zymes change 1 tbsp (15 mL) palm sugar or packed light brown sugar the flavour when dried.”

The vanilla bean, for ex­am­ple, has no flavour or aroma when har­vested and cures for 28 days, dur­ing which time it’s han­dled 200 to 250 times.

“It’s ex­tremely labour in­ten­sive,” says Hem­phill. And that ex­plains why a vanilla bean costs so much.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween dried and fresh herbs is as dra­matic as a sun-dried tomato and a fresh tomato. “Sug­ars caramelize dur­ing dry­ing,” he ex­plains.

Ground and whole spices have com­pletely dif­fer­ent shelf lives.

“Spices get their flavour from volatile oils. When they’re whole, it’s sta­ble and en­cap­su­lated and if you keep it air­tight, it can last three years main­tain­ing flavour, but the oils grad­u­ally ox­i­dize and the flavour is less fresh,” he says. But once ground, spices last 12 to 18 months, so he ad­vises buy­ing in­fre­quently used spices whole (like cloves) and grind as needed. The best way to gauge fresh­ness of ground spice is to smell them.

And, he says, don’t shake ground herbs or spices over a steam­ing pan.

“Even a small amount of mois­ture will ac­cel­er­ate de­te­ri­o­ra­tion,” he says. Fresh herbs shouldn’t be cooked longer than 15 min­utes or, in some cases, cooked at all. The rule of thumb with dried herbs is to use a quar­ter to a third of the amount used if fresh. Oh, and if you have a pep­per­corn blend with pink berries, be wary.

Us­ing mor­tar and pes­tle, roughly grind brown car­damom pods. Trans­fer to a small bowl and add pa­prika, cumin, co­rian­der seed, ginger, cin­na­mon, fenu­greek, pep­per, ground chili, green car­damom seeds and car­away. Mix well.

Curry: In a re­seal­able bag, mix yo­gurt and half of the pre­pared spice blend, re­serv­ing re­main- ing half. Add chicken, seal, and turn to coat chicken thor­oughly. Re­frig­er­ate overnight.

Place oven rack in high­est po­si­tion. Pre­heat broiler. Line a bak­ing sheet with alu­minum foil.

Re­move chicken from mari­nade, keep­ing as much mari­nade as pos­si­ble on the chicken (dis­card ex­cess mari­nade).

Place chicken on pre­pared bak­ing sheet and broil for 4 to 5 min­utes on each side, un­til chicken is cooked through and well-browned.

“I reckon 50 per cent of pep­per mills are thrown out be­cause the pink pep­per­corn re­leases oils and clogs the mech­a­nism. In fact, it’s not a true pep­per­corn. The only true one is stored in brine to pre­vent the ac­ti­va­tion of an en­zyme that will turn it black. We’ve never ever found a way to dry them. It comes from a tree in Brazil not re­lated to pep­per in any way.”

At his shop, Hem­phill’s spice blends can con­tain up to 30 spices.

“Peo­ple think it would be a dog’s break­fast,” he says but it’s a bal­anc­ing act of sweet, salty, bit­ter, sour and umami, he says.

He thinks of spices as fall­ing into five cat­e­gories: sweet (eg. cin­na­mon, nut­meg, vanilla), tangy (capers, sumac, tamarind), pun­gent (cloves, car­damom, dill, ginger, mace), hot (chili, mus­tard, black pep­per) and amal­ga­mat­ing (co­rian­der seed, fen­nel seed). The lat­ter, he says, helps to bring flavours to­gether.

Only a pinch of a pun­gent spice like clove is needed, but it adds bright­ness and life. “With­out it, it’s dull,” says Hem­phill. And this just in: clove loves tomato.

“Crush a basil leaf and think of cloves. They’ve got the same volatile oil. Just a pinch of cloves com­ple­ments toma­toes beau­ti­fully. It’s an amaz­ing thing.”

Hem­phill isn’t just pas­sion­ate about herbs and spices, he says.

“It doesn’t de­scribe it. I am ob­ses­sive. The more I learn, the more I re­al­ize how much there is to learn.”

Mean­while, in a small bowl, com­bine re­served spice blend, tomato sauce, sugar, curry pow­der, ground al­monds, tomato paste, chut­ney and garam masala.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt ghee. Add cumin and cook, stir­ring con­stantly, for about 30 seconds, un­til fra­grant. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 min­utes, un­til onions are soft­ened. Stir in pre­pared tomato sauce mix­ture, bring to a sim­mer and cook for 2 to 3 min­utes. Add cooked chicken, along with pan drip­pings, and stir to coat well. Stir in co­conut milk, cream, co­rian­der leaves and salt to taste. Sim­mer gen­tly, un­cov­ered, un­til slightly re­duced, about 10 min­utes. Gar­nish with ad­di­tional co­rian­der leaves. Serve with bas­mati rice.

Tips: Ground Kash­miri chili is medium-hot and you can find it at most In­dian mar­kets at vary­ing lev­els of heat.

Ghee is a type of clar­i­fied but­ter used in In­dian cook­ing. If you don’t have any, you can sub­sti­tute an equal amount of but­ter or clar­i­fied but­ter.

The spice blend can be made up to a week ahead and stored in an air­tight con­tainer.

Makes 6 serv­ings

After cel­e­brat­ing the 25th an­niver­sary of the event last year, or­ga­niz­ers are breath­ing new life into Christ­mas in Novem­ber this time around, bring­ing in new per­son­al­i­ties and sem­i­nars.

Among the changes is the ad­di­tion of celebrity chef Lynn Craw­ford, who stars in the Food Net­work Canada show Pitchin’ In and has made guest ap­pear­ances on the can­celled Top Chef Canada.

“She’s a great per­son­al­ity,” says Markus Trep­pen­hauer, the lodge’s gen­eral man­ager.

“She is down to earth, ap­proach­able, wants to talk to peo­ple.”

What sets Christ­mas in Novem­ber apart from other hol­i­day-geared events is that it’s small enough that peo­ple do have a chance to spend time with the pre­sen­ters out­side of their demon­stra­tions, says Trep­pen­hauer.

“It’s evolved to the point dur­ing the re­cep­tion, in din­ners, they all make time to talk.

“That’s what makes Christ­mas in Novem­ber unique.”

For Craw­ford, the only an­swer when asked if she wanted to join this year was “ab­so­lutely.”

“It has the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing the place to be to start the Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions,” she says.

“I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to do other fes­ti­vals, but this is spe­cial. It’s the kick off to the hol­i­days.”

Christ­mas is the time to cel­e­brate food, friends and fam­ily, Craw­ford says.

This event is also about those things.

“To me, it’s about hav­ing fun and be­ing in a fan­tas­tic place and just hav­ing a good laugh and fos­ter­ing new friend­ships and shar­ing re­ally great food,” Craw­ford says.

At the same time, the Jasper Park Lodge is bring­ing in more pre­sen­ters from Cal­gary, cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the grow­ing in­ter­est from those in the city mak­ing the trip to Jasper.

“There’s more peopl e f ro m Cal­gary t han ever,” says Trep­pen­hauer.

About one-quar­ter of those at­tend­ing this year will be from Cal­gary — the most of any year the event has been held.

“We’re mak­ing an ef­fort. This is one of t he best f ood a nd wine events; we want to ex­pose more peo­ple to it,” says Trep­pen­hauer.

Cook­book au­thor and food blog­ger Julie Van Rosendaal is back for her 14th year at the event, joined again by Top Chef Canada com­peti­tor and Alice Eats co-au­thor Pierre Lamielle.

Michael Alle­meier, a chef in­struc­tor at SAIT, is also re­turn­ing.

New this time are Char­cut’s Con­nie De­Sousa and John Jack­son.

“We wanted to work with Char­cut this year,” says Trep­pen­hauer. “We re­ally wanted to have some of the favourite restau­rants in Cal­gary (rep­re­sented).”

Van Rosendaal says it’s great to see Cal­gary names on the roster to bal­ance out the big names from Toronto — in­clud­ing celebrity chefs Bob Blumer and Corbin To­maszeski this year — as well as lo­cals from Ed­mon­ton.

“It’s a good sign there are so many fan­tas­tic, well-known chefs in Cal­gary that they want to have out as pre­sen­ters,” she says.

She adds Cal­gar­i­ans are t he per­fect au­di­ence for an event like this.

“We love unique ex­pe­ri­ences and it’s dif­fer­ent from any event I’ve done any­where,” she says.

The lodge, nes­tled into the for­est and edg­ing onto Lac Beau­vert, is the ideal spot for an event like Christ­mas in Novem­ber.

“Ev­ery­thing is on site and there’s no rea­son to leave the grounds, giv­ing guests a chance to re­ally es­cape.

“It’s so unique be­cause of the lo­ca­tion,” says Van Rosendaal.

Trep­pen­hauer says he’s sur­prised to find ev­ery time he vis­its Cal­gary that he hears from peo­ple who said they’ve never been to Jasper, only Banff and Lake Louise.

Many peo­ple con­nect Jasper more closely with Ed­mon­ton, but the time on the road to get there from both Al­berta’s ma­jor ci­ties is about the same.

Also, Van Rosendaal notes, it’s one of the most beau­ti­ful drives as the high­way carves its way north through the moun­tains.

“It’s part of the sell­ing point,” she says.

Richard Lam/Post­media News/Files

Ian Hem­phill whips up a few dishes while pro­mot­ing the lat­est edi­tion of his book, which in­tro­duces read­ers to 97 herbs and spices.

Chris Chen/Post­media News/File

1 tbsp (15 mL) medium-heat curry pow­der, such as Madras 1 tbsp (15 mL) ground al­monds 1 tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste 1 tbsp (15 mL) tomato or mango chut­ney or mango pickle 2 tsp (10 mL) garam masala 1 tbsp (15 mL) ghee (see tips) 1 tbsp ground cumin...

Chris Chen/Post­media News/Files

The Spice & Herb Bi­ble, Third Edi­tion by Ian Hem­phill and Kate Hem­phill.

Lynn Craw­ford

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