Stephanie wants us to add a little spice to this month’s blog party, and my first thought was urgghh I am not particularly a fan of spicy food but that’s possibly just my personal prejudice. I have always disliked curries of any heat and an abundance of chillies in any food but other spices I really do enjoy. Freshly crushed aromatic black pepper scattered over almost anything, a few scrapes of nutmeg makes a cauliflower cheese or egg custard sing, I love a little kick from some Dijon mustard smeared over meat before searing, hot cross buns cries out for mixed spice and cinnamon and finally ginger enrobed with silky dark chocolate has to be one of my favourite culinary marriages.
I was interested to read in Glynn Christian fascinating book “How to Cook without Recipes” that he agrees with me that the excessive chilli heat that some diners insist upon is an incorrect assumption that who you need it enjoy certain foods authentically. He refers to locals having a chilli-scarred tongue due to years of eating the hot food of their native cuisine as to them it doesn’t taste particularly hot. If I tried to keep up with my delicate northern England palate, I just find it much too painful and wouldn’t remotely get any pleasure from that meal. And even though I’ve enjoyed a warming hint of chilli in an autumnal butternut squash risotto or if feeling daring in a square of dark chocolate but that’s the extent of my tolerance. Glynn quotes Aerosmith’s Joe Perry talking in BonAppetit magazine on the subject - “I found a lot…bury the flavour of everything else. A really strong habanero flattens your taste buds. It’s like listening to really loud music all time. You don’t hear any nuance anymore”
But without resorting to my Masala Dabba (generally a double lidded stainless steel tin containing seven smaller stainless steel pots) for spicy dabblings as I don’t actually own one, I am sure I can spice things up a bit anyway.
Firstly it’s just after Valentine’s Day and I do love a heart shaped food so when I decided for some delicious canapés of peppered beef on rösti I thought I’d spice things up by cutting the rösti into heart-shapes - just to make it a little more challenging. The taste was unaltered but they made cute and tasty little nibbles.
Inspired by a Nigella recipe for some sticky gingerbread, I thought I’d reinterpret it into a sticky little mouthful. Nigella topped hers with a lemon laced icing whereas for some peculiar reason I felt that the super sticky gingerbread wasn’t enough so I scattered mine with cubes of even more incredibly sticky stem ginger. I think it will take a week to syrupy stickiness off my fingers by the stem ginger topped ginger cake was very good to eat.
My first thought of spicy drink was a Bloody Mary but though I know that a vodka-free version is a Virgin Bloody Mary I wasn’t sure what you’d call a tomato-free one, Mary perhaps? As I wasn’t sure that a Mary would set the world alight I went in search of some ginger cocktails. I’ve had some fabulously ginger-laced concoctions at Jewel and Lab in the rare occasions I indulge in cocktails in some trendy London bar. I found a great suggestion from Olive magazine for a Ginger Champagne, and as I had a surfeit of cubed stem ginger and some root ginger I thought I’d embellish it all a little – Ginger Fizz anyone?
So despite not being able to cope with food that it too hot, hot, hot (I’ve probably been traumatised by that scary green chilli on the Subway advert) I’ve managed to spice up my February a little. And if they answer the door to me, as I am rather late – their spicy contributions will be here.