The spice of life, March 26
This month Jenny hosted a spice-blending workshop, welcoming some new neighbours to the Food Connection table at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House. Before we even started, Chef Andrew Hunter had a surprise for us. He’d received a donation of Swiss chard, tomatoes, sprouts, radishes, avocado and onions, and we were all invited to take home as much as we could carry -- which turned out to be quite a lot!
As always, our tradition of eating dinner together was followed by a hands-on exploratory learning experience. This time, we sampled dozens of spices, wrinkling our noses at the ones we disliked, and sharing stories about our favourite dishes and seasonings.
About eight years ago, a close friend’s father and grandmother shared their family recipes with Jenny, teaching her to create Punjabi spice blends and curries from scratch. She’s been hooked on the art of spice blending ever since.
As we all discovered during the workshop, blending spices is something everyone can try. It doesn’t take any special skills -- just our five senses, plus a sense of adventure. Adding a bit of spice is one of the least expensive ways to add delicious flavour and nutritional value to quick and simple dishes.
While getting our hands dirty to craft blends of chili powder, five spice, garam masala, and Ras El Hanout, we found that little risks can lead to sensational rewards. By the time the night was over, Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House smelled like it had transformed into a Silk Road marketplace.
We all went home feeling well-fed and happy, but the story doesn’t end here. Food Connection regular Nancy Low wasted no time putting her spice blends to work. A couple of days later she sent us an update: “Rocking the garam masala tonight. Made chicken curry with puréed chard (donated from Mt Pleasant Neighbourhood House). Curry mushrooms, red onion (from donation), and garden carrots. Used whole cumin, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, kasori methi, skim milk as curry base. Super yum!”
We hope she’ll let us sample her new recipe at our next gathering in April.