How to improve store-bought BBQ Sauces

Chile_Chipotle_large

How to improve store-bought BBQ Sauces

No question, a homemade BBQ sauce will kick the butt of most bottled sauces available. It takes time and an investment in ingredients though, so finding some shortcuts to boost the taste of the store sauces might be just the compromise between convenience and customization.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Add chipotle for a kick of heat and smoky goodness. A classic complement to chipotle is orange juice. You can stop there or make some more additions. Add some sweetness with honey and more chili complexity with ancho or pasilla chile powders.

Take a store-brand sauce and give it a Korean overhaul. A spoonful of galangal powder or Chinese 5-spice, a dash of fish sauce, a glug of rice vinegar and soya sauce plus a couple drops of sesame oil are transformative

Think heat, sweet and tang.
Stir in some Epicentre Fire and Brimstone for a warm complex flavour or True North for southwest flavour with maple sweetness. Coffee/Chili steak rub is not just for steak; it will also bring the sweetness of brown sugar, the tartness of Worcestershire sauce and the unique flavour of Aleppo pepper. Roasted cumin adds a whole other dimension and smoked black pepper is right at home on the grill.

If you check the ingredients of bottled sauces you will likely find a whole lot of sugar. It is most often white sugar though which does a whole lot of sweet without the benefit of rich flavour. If you find the sauce could use more sweetness or is overly spicy or tart, add some brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses and/or honey.

Balance the sweetness of off-the-shelf sauces with the addition of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the standard in barbecue sauces but rice vinegar can have a more subtle touch. Lemon or lime is also good for upping the acidity and prepared or Dijon mustard can enhance the tang factor.

A little liquor goes a long way
Bourbon is classic. Once the alcohol cooks off you’re left with the spirit’s rich woody and smoky notes. (Don’t try this with Scotch: the flavour of the liquor is too strong)  A slosh of beer, rum, vodka, brandy or liqueurs like Drambuie help elevate even bargain basement bottled sauces into gourmet zones.

Black Cardamom

black cardamom with basmati rice

Black Cardamom

Black cardamom, the wild cousin of green cardamom, has a much larger pod and is by no means a substitute for green cardamom.
It is quite bold and smokey compared to the subtle floral notes of its cousin. Popular in savory dishes of Africa and northern India, it lends a smokey, earthy camphor/like flavour. This component of garam masala, is definately a warming spice!
Try adding some of our ground black cardamom to cooked basmati rice, sautéed onion, a pinch of kashmiri chile and an a squeeze of lime. a perfect side dish for a meat or vegetarian meal! 

The Epicentre Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

The Epicentre Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Ingredients for Epicentre Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

CTM-06 minced garlic cloves
4 tsp peeled and grated ginger
4 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp The Epicentre’s Garam Masala
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp The Epicentre’s Roasted Cumin
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
3 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee (if available)
1 small onion sliced thin
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 The Epicentre’s whole green cardamon pods crushed
1 tsp The Epicentre’s Kerala chili powder (very hot) or Kashmiri (mild) or Reshampati (hot)
1-2 tbsp of The Epicentre’s dried Fenugreek leaves chopped 
CTM-1 CTM-2 CTM-3 CTM-4CTM-5a CTM-6 CTM-71 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups fresh chopped cilantro
stemed basmati rice

Order our Indian spices here 

Method

Combine garlic, ginger, turmeric,coriander The Epicentre’s garam masala and The Epicentre’s roasted cumin in a bowl. 
Mix yogurt, salt and half of spice mixture in a medium bowl then add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and chill 4-6 hours. 
Cover and chill remaining spice mixture.

Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and The Epicentre’s Kerala chile powder and cook, stirring often until tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining half of spice mixture and cook, stirring frequently about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices, breaking them up as you add them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer and stir until sauce thickens about 8-10 minutes. 

Add cream, The Epicentre’s fenugreek leaves and the chopped cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens, 30-40 minutes. As the sauce thickens, preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside sheet. Arrange chicken onrack and broil until chicken starts to blacken slightly about 10 minutes.

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, before adding to sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 
8-10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice, cilantro sprigs, your favourite chutney and warm naan bread!

The Spice of Life – Health Benefits of Spices

The Spice of Life - Health Benefits of Spices

Antioxidant, anti-inflammation, exercise recovery, heart health and more benefits from spices.

The same antioxidants that convinced doctors that fruit and vegetables help prevent heart disease and certain cancers are now known to be present in spices, and in larger quantities than was previously thought.

Recognizing the potential health benefits of spices, the American government has been analyzing the antioxidant content of herbs and spices and adding them to its USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) nutrient database.

Just adding herbs and spices to an otherwise balanced diet can provide benefits. USDA data shows that a half teaspoon of cumin equals standard portion of red grapes or kiwi fruit for antioxidant potential. A teaspoon of dried ginger or paprika can match a portion of tomatoes or green pepper.

curry powderAnalysis of some curry powder blends of spices by Australian and American researchers both determined that one teaspoonful is as powerful an antioxidant fix as portions of broccoli, spinach, red peppers, carrots and other high-scoring antioxidant vegetables dubbed ‘super-foods’.

On the sweeter side, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon or cloves packs in as much antioxidant power as a portion of blueberries, raspberries pr cranberries.

Making regular use of spices and herbs is a healthy and economic way to enhance health and your cooking. Spices allow you to reduce salt, sugar and fat content and still have tasty food.

But not all spices are equal. According to the Journal of Nutrition there can be 1,000-fold difference in antioxidant content. At the top of the chart are allspice, chilli, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, curry spice mixes, garlic, ginger, mustard, paprika and turmeric. Freshness is another factor. Proper storage is essential. Avoid buying spices that have been sitting on grocery shelves for who-knows-how-long or those exposed to light.

Ongoing research into the health benefits of spices

Ongoing research will follow other potential benefits. Antioxidants can reduce the risk of chronic inflammation involved both in heart disease, and as a precursor to diabetes and certain cancers. We are interested to see if on a daily basis culinary use of spices and herbs might mitigate the risk of chronic inflammation. Weight management is another area of interest because spicy chillies speed up metabolic rates. 

cinnamon sticksOne study relates to stress and inflammation. Stressful situations, such as public speaking and performing arithmetic calculations, increase inflammation and this study will determine whether such inflammation can be reduced or prevented by a meal containing spices.

Research is underway that will study the ability of a mixture of high-antioxidant spices to reduce stress-induced inflammation in moderately obese, middle-aged to elderly subjects. Another study is looking at the impact of spices on cardiovascular markers including blood pressure and arterial function.

Regularly eating ginger can also help reduce muscle pain after exercise. New research that will be presented this summer shows that healthy young subjects who consumed two grams of ginger per day for eight days experienced significantly less pain the day after exercise compared to subjects who received a placebo.

You don’t have to do vigorous exercise or a stressful job to benefit. If you just want to relax around the BBQ this summer, a newly published UCLA study into making burgers healthier, might be more pertinent. The study found that adding spice blends similar to our Moroccan rub or Fire & Brimstone reduced formation of oxidized fats during cooking and digestion by 70 per cent.

These results suggest that high-antioxidant spices can reduce oxidation of harmful ‘bad’ cholesterol, the primary cause of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries that leads to heart attack and stroke).

If burgers are not for you, using spice ‘rubs’  like the Epicentre’s True North by SW, Coffee Chile Rub or Chicken Love on steak, poultry and other meat, or marinating them in spice mixes before cooking can also reduce production of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), suspected carcinogens formed in muscle foods during high temperature grilling or cooking.

In studies at the Food Science Institute, Kansas State University, Caribbean herb and spice mixes like our Jerk Rub reduced HCA production by more than 80 per cent. Italian studies have shown that the addition of herbs such as lemon balm, marjoram and oregano to salad, and spices and herbs to salad dressing, increases their antioxidant activity significantly.

So spice up your life and head over to our new Online Spice Shop for a unique selection of blends and hard-to-find spices you are going to love (and they will love you back with health benefits)

Photo credits: 
Curry powder” by jacqueline

Valentine’s Day is for the birds

love birds

Valentine's Day is for the birds

There was a popular notion in England and France during the Middle Ages that birds started to look for their mates on February 14. The reason for this assumption is not clear but might be related to the fact that the warbling of the first songbirds after a long winter started sometime in mid-February. Hence St. Valentine’s day’s association with birds, especially lovebirds and doves. People observed this day by writing love letters and sending small gifts to their beloved.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340/45-1400), an English poet mentions this belief in his “Parliament of Foules“:

“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

St. Valentine’s Day was mentioned by Shakespeare. The poet, Drayton, wrote verses entitled “To His Valentine,” in which he expressed the idea of the birds’ mating on St. Valentine’s Day.

“Each little bird this tide
Doth choose her beloved peer,
Which constantly abide
In wedlock all the year.”

(In parts of Sussex Valentines Day was called ‘the Birds’ Wedding Day’)

People believed that the kind of bird a young lady might see on Valentine’s day would determine the type of man she would marry. (If a young girl saw a hen and a cockerel together on St Valentines Day then she will marry soon. )

Here are some examples of what you should look out for! (Hanging around a farm on Valentine’s day might be a good idea!)

Blackbird: A man of the cloth (Priest)

Bluebird: A man with a sense of humour

Crossbill: A man of argument

Dove: A kind mind

Goldfinch: A wealthy man

Robin: A man of the sea

Sparrow: A man of the country

Woodpecker: No man !!

Yellow Hammer: A wealthy man

Yellow Wagtail: A wealthy man

Whether you’ve just spotted your gold finch or robin, it’s always inspiring to think of the loyal birds who mate for life:

Doves
The most famous bird of love is the dove. Doves have been associated with love and marriage for thousands of years. They are extremely loyal to each other and their young.

Canada Geese
Canada Geese are extremely loyal and if one of a pair is injured, the other will stay with the injured bird and guard it until it’s better. Both care for their young.

American Bald Eagle
Eagle pairs mate for life and build a large nest together high in a safe location. There they tend to and raise the few chicks they hatch each year.