spices: 14 posts

Coriander and Cumin or The CC Powder

Being married into an Indian family, I learned a few things: Time is a flexible, fluid entity; when you have a few millennia of history underpinning your culture, what’s an hour here or there. You can always eat–and if you can’t, you’re probably not conscious. Spices to a cook are like essences to a perfumer. On this latter point, I would like to linger.

cc powder

I thought I knew spices before I went to India, but nothing prepared me for the dazzling array of flavors and the variety of techniques with which they can be brought to life. India is divided into 29 states, and each region has its spice signature; generalizing is all but impossible. For instance, Aai’s, my mother-in-law’s cooking combines the refined sweetness beloved in her native Gujarat with the robust spiciness of Maharashtra fare. These two states share a long border, but the cuisines are remarkably different. Gujarati cooking is rich in coriander, tamarind, with peanuts and sesame giving it a nutty flavor, while Marathi dishes have a sharp bite of garlic, chili pepper and mustard seeds. Cross into northern India, and the richness of cinnamon, clove and fenugreek color the local meals. Travel down the southern coast, and coconut becomes the main leitmotif.

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Hermessence Epice Marine : New Perfume

Épice Marine is the 11th fragrance in the Hermessence collection from Hermès. Inspired by a meeting in Cancale, Brittany with chef and spice master Olivier Roellinger, it captures the scents of Brittany’s coast and  spices. Roellinger is renowned for his intricate spice blends, which are as complex as perfumes, and the interaction between the two creators inspired them both. Ellena went on to compose Épice Marine, while Roellinger–La Poudre des Bulgares, a blend of cardamom, vanilla, saffron and sesame to perfume yogurt.

Hermessence-Epice-Marine

 

The chef gave Ellena a taste of toasted cumin seeds, which sparked the idea for Épice Marine. Unlike fresh grains, toasted cumin doesn’t have the sweaty, animalic brashness, but it smells woody, caramelized and sweet. Other notes of Épice Marine include bergamot, cardamon, cinnamon, watery and smoky accents. Available starting October 2013 at Hermès boutiques.

Roellinger’s La Poudre des Bulgares is currently available at his store in Paris and at epices-roellinger.com.

Adding on: if you read French, I recommend taking a look at the Vanity Fair article Le Mariage d’un Chef et d’un Nez. It describes how Ellena and Roellinger met and how Épice Marine was born.

Via press release

Belgian Gingerbread Treasure : Speculoos (Speculaas)

It’s called spéculoos in French, speculaas in Dutch, and Spekulatius in German, but by whatever name you call this fragrant gingerbread cookie, it will always evoke the scent of holidays in this part of the world. Speculoos may look humble, but take one bite, and you will know why it’s a favorite among Belgians. Perfumed with cinnamon, clove and cardamom, the cookie tastes of butter and caramel, and it’s impossible to have just one.

For me, speculoos is one of the quintessential Belgian tastes. Of course, there are also fries and waffles, but speculoos have their place of honor in this small country of 10 million, bridging the cultural divide between Dutch-speaking Flanders in the North and Francophone Wallonia in the South. Speculoos are eaten all over the Benelux region, with some areas such as Hasselt specializing in their own unique versions. Traditionally, the cookies were baked to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on December 5th in the Netherlands and December 6th in Belgium, but today you can find them at bakeries all year round. In Paris you will be served your expresso with a square of dark chocolate, but your lait russe (café au lait) in Brussels will arrive with speculoos on the side.

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Candied Orange Peel (Pierre Herme Recipe) : Star Anise and Vanilla

Candied peel2

The Sugar Plum Fairy bade Marie and Nutcracker sit down while a feast was brought before them: teas, cakes and the rarest of fruits. The food was the feast, first for the eyes, then for the palate… Marie hardly had time to nibble at her sweetmeats before the next diversion was presented: the music abruptly changed to an adagio tempo. Arabian dancers dressed in gauzy veils garnished with gold medallions and jewels swayed hypnotically past… The rich aroma of coffee drifted past.  –from E.T.A Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

The last days of each year are invariably orange hued for me: an evening spent peeling the stubborn orange peel with orange stained fingers and tossing the curls into the fire; the delicious icy chill of mandarins brought home from an outdoor winter market; the vanilla-orange sweetness of vin d’orange and slender orangettes dipped in chocolate. As I set the ingredients to make candied orange peel, I am once again a little girl watching her grandmother making this confection. To prevent me getting near the boiling sugar syrup, I would be given a large illustrated volume of E.T.A Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. To this day, the scent of oranges conjures visions of fairy kingdoms, groves made of candied fruit and coffee scented dancers.

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Vanilla and Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Vanilla

by Elise Pearlstine

There is nothing quite so comforting as a dish made with vanilla, whether it is a rich, warm crème brulee or a dish of really excellent vanilla ice cream, especially if it is homemade. The vanilla bean is an ancient and popular flavor and fragrance ingredient. It is very difficult to describe without using the word ‘vanilla’ but I find a good extract or the beans themselves to have a fragrance that is warm, very sweet, balsamic, slightly earthy and very slightly floral. The odor can be tenacious.

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