Posts Tagged ‘spices and herbs’

Hello everyone.  I had a request a month or so ago (could have been longer, my mind has been wasting a lot of time contemplating Dougray Scott’s lips) for a brief introduction to Mother Sauces.  While I don’t consider Mother Sauces spices exactly, there is A LOT that can be done with spices and Mother Sauces.  So, lets get started, shall we?


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Oh, yes!  This is one Cambodian (Khmer) sauce you won’t be able to live without.  I kid you not!!!  I love a great, flaky white fish, broiled and placed on top of a bed of aromatic Jasmine rice.  Here is the best part, I don’t dip… I pour a line of Ginger sauce down the middle of it all, sit back in the silence broken only by the melody of the aromas and delicately roll my meal in my mouth–bite per bite.  Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Photo courtesy of:  http://www.khatiya-korner.com/images/food/fishsauce_dipping.jpg


Ginger Fish Dipping Sauce


1-3 hot chili peppers, finely minced.  Remember, heat is optional!  Use none or a little or all three.  It is up to you. 

2  1/2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

1/3 cup fresh ginger, finely grated

1/4 cup raw cane sugar, powdered

1/4 cup fish sauce (make your own or commercial is fine)

1/4 cup hot water

2 fresh limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup fresh lime juice)


Place all ingredients in a small, glass sauce pan.  I ALWAYS let this recipe sit in the fridge for 24 hours before using.  I remove it from the fridge and heat it gently and serve.  You may be asking why I use a glass sauce pan.  Well, it is simply this:  lime juice and ginger can be quite acidic and I never place acidic elements (tomato, lime, lemon, etc.) in a metal pan.  Believe it or not the metal can be corroded quickly and spoil the fresh taste of whatever you are cooking!

Hope all of you have enjoyed a brief visit to Khmer cooking.  I just want to tease you all a bit with what will be coming soon…..MOTHER SAUCES.   With a limited number of base sauces you can create endless and wondrous sauces for any and every dish.  It’s time to get creative with Mother Sauces.  And, a big thank you to the wonderful reader who recommended lessons on Mother Sauces two months ago.  Finally, I can meet your desires.  Stay tuned……..



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I know.  I know.  I know.  It has been a long time since my last post.  I am trying to juggle way too many things right now, but at least I’m back for now.  The long promised Khmer Curry Paste recipe is soon to follow.  Unlike other curry mixes this one won’t be a throat burner.  Oh no, this is a subtle, delicious, can’t stay away from it curry paste.    Frankly, as you who follow know, I am addicted to everything flavorful, especially Dougray Scott.  If you don’t know who Dougray Scott is take a look on Google and be prepared to have your heart stop at the site of those luscious lips and intelligent brow.  Sigh.  Dougray Scott, Khmer Curry Paste, a private hotel room with a sauna, Lisa Gerrard on the surround sound……..  Sorry, got carried away there for a moment.  Get out your mortar and pedestal and let’s get started.  Just remember that this recipe will make around a cup of paste or about enough for one large recipe using the blend or two smaller recipes.  I always say it is easier to use less spices than to have to figure out how to blunt the flavor from overuse.  Take this for what it is…a word from the spice wise.

Photo Courtesy of:   http://www.cambodia-cooking-class.com/images/top-mortar-2.jpg

Khmer Curry Paste

Remember, if you don’t know what ingredients I am mentioning, look back at my previous posts on Cambodian spices and herbs.  Also you can get all of these ingredients in large cities or if you live in a rural area, the internet offers you many sites from which to purchase these items.


1/4 cup peanut oil (for those worried about fat in their diet, canola oil or extra virgin olive oil can be used)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black peppercorns

1/4 cup sliced turmeric

8 medium cloves skinless garlic sliced

6 fresh or dried Tai chilies

1 fresh or dried Spur Chile (I have read recipes calling for New Mexico Chili pods, but I have never tried them in this recipe) 

1/4 cup sliced and trimmed galangal root (relative of ginger–see previous post)

2-3 tsp mushroom powder

1/2 tsp shrimp paste

1 lemongrass stalk, cleaned and finely sliced

1/4 cup peeled and sliced shallots

10 kaffir lime leaves (note:  these must be finely shredded)

If you are using dried Chili pods remember to soak them in warm water for one half hour and then drain before using.  Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend for at least 15 minutes or until you notice the ingredients are forming a smooth paste.  Keep the edges pulled in with a spatula so all ingredients are well incorporated.  Use fresh with your recipe or store in refrigerator for no more than one week. 

How was that for simple!  And, soon to come will be an incredible recipe for you to use your spice mix with.  I can’t wait to hear about your smiles as you use your new spice blend paste!

Photo Courtesy of:  http://images.travelpod.com/users/timrie/4.1262609656.making-curry-paste.jpg

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Photo courtesy of:  http://www.paradiseinfiji.com/blogimages/Activities/Culture_Warrior005.jpg


Everyone was so pleased with my posts of Fiji, that I thought I would post another Fijian recipe that is as easy as they come and as delicious as can be.  If you like ceviche you will love this slightly spicy white fish dish.  Let’s hit it, folks!



4 White Fish fillets (I use Halibut, but for more authenticity use Mahi-Mahi)

Juice of 3 large limes or 4 small limes

1/2 tsp sea salt

3 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced in small cubes

1 very small green chili (Serrano works fine) minced very, very fine.  Remember, always remove seeds, stems and veins  (use less for less heat)

1 medium onion, minced

1 orange bell pepper, seeds, veins and stems removed and minced

1 cup coconut cream  (NOT coconut milk, but coconut CREAM)


Cut the fish fillets into bite size pieces and put them in a GLASS bowl with the lime juice and salt.  Do NOT put the lime juice in a metal bowl or it WILL react with the metal and ruin the flavor of your dish.  Mix the fish, lime and salt well and then cover and refrigerate overnight for no less than 12 hours. 

Remove from fridge and add coconut cream and minced onion. Stir well.  Serve immediately and sprinkle tomato and diced orange bell pepper over top.  I love serving this dish on a fresh bed of huge lettuce leaves.  I have even had folks roll the Kokoda in a lettuce leaf and eat it like a taco.  If you are really adventuresome, invite some dancers over to give a show to your family and guests.  Or, better yet, have a beach party where less clothing is more fun!  Yum is all I can say. 


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Good afternoon fellow spice and herb lovers.  Let us unite today, under grey or blue skies, and make our home a little brighter, lighter and homier with the wonderful aromas created by Chicken Curry, Fijian Indian Style.  Oh yes, let us gather our friends and loved ones and set out tables with bright cloths and drinks of greens, reds and yellows.  Amen.  Let us celebrate life, love and family and friends as we feast and unite over the fresh, delightful cuisine of Fiji!  Take my cyberspace hand and we shall walk through the simple path of cooking this delightful dish.  Don’t forget that the spice mix you will need for this recipe was posted a few days ago.  Just head backwards in my posts, make the blend and you are ready, my friends, to partake of  Chicken Curry.

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.matavuvale.com/profiles/profile/show?id=joji_Fiji_Living

Chicken Curry Fijian Style


1 Whole Chicken cut into bite size pieces

5 small cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 small onion, finely minced

Chicken Stock as needed

1 large tomato, chopped

2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp curry paste

2 tbsp Fijian Curry Spice Blend (see earlier post)



Add two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a medium-sized, deep skillet and heat over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, 2 tablespoons Fijian Spice Blend and stir for about two minutes.  DO NOT BURN, as spices and oil will become very bitter.   Add 2 tablespoons curry paste ((I recommend a mild curry paste for beginners) and stir well for another minute or so.  Add chicken and salt to taste.  Stir and let cook for 30 minutes over medium heat, stirring to keep chicken from sticking.  If chicken begins to stick I always add a bit of chicken broth to this recipe to keep things simmering along and not burning.  Add chopped tomatoes at end of cooking, stir,  and serve immediately.  My favorite way to finish this dish is with a side of turmeric and saffron steamed rice.  Ummmmmmmmmmmm.  DELICIOUS.  

So simple, but yet so Fijian Indian style.  You will love this recipe and your heart will forever yearn to visit Fiji and wonder at the currents of culture that flow through the Islands and make them what they are today!

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Yes, Haggis and Scotland.  Lord, that last pic says it all.  Scotland is a rugged and beautiful place, but it is as a result of its ruggedness that its early residents had little in the way of wealth  or trade.  As a result, spice use in cooking was minimal and tended towards salt, turnips and onions.  Sugar and brown sugar use came a bit later as did the addition of lavender as a flavoring agent.  Using Haggis as an example of a well-known Scottish dish, we know that it is a lovely mixture of oatmeal, meat (windpipe, heart, liver and lungs of sheep) and whatever spices were available, all placed in the sewn up stomach of a sheep (dead sheep we might add) and then boiled and roasted.  It is of critical note at this point that the best spice used in Scotland is Scotch Whiskey.  Yes, no surprise there!  Just ask Craig Ferguson and his Scottish lads below.  Ummmm.  Haggis and whiskey look fun to me.  Maybe they have to be drunk to eat the Haggis.

Photo complements of:  http://www.videosat.org/scotsman/


Early and traditional Scottish cooking relied on sheep for meat, potatoes, turnips, onions, leeks, carrots, honey, salt, butter, dairy products and occasional rice.  As other ingredients became available to the residents of Scotland, the use of ginger, almonds, cinnamon, and raisins became more common .  Oats, of course, were considered the “backbone of many a sturdy Scotsman,” as it was said for many years.  It really wasn’t until more modern times that olive oil, lemons and other more common cooking elements were added to Scottish cooking.  In the Late Middle Ages the Scotts allied with the French in what was known as the “Auld Alliance.”  This led to the introduction of new herbs and spices, especially among the class that could afford them.   

Many experts today agree that Scottish cooking still has a heavy reliance on fat, which contributes to a high rate of heart disease and obesity in the country.  Drink as well has taken its toll on the Scotsman health.  Haggis is extremely high in fat and having it fried is a common meal in Scotland.  Also, fish and chip shops, introduced by the British, have led to further consumption of high fat foods.  But, in recent years influences from other countries has begun to lead to restaurants feeding healthier fair.  Perhaps someday, Scotland will be the gold standard of culinary invention and delight.  However, don’t hold your breath (unless you’re eating Haggis) waiting for Scotland to become a world leader in spice and herb flavored cooking. 

But, if you want a good Scotch, Scotland is for you.  And, if you want to taste a true Scotsman, Scotland is your only option.  BYOS (Bring Your Own Spices).    

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Hey, I’m baaaaack.  I hope for good until my vacation in mid June.  Mother is doing better and my heart is lighter and my soul bright.  The other day I had a call from my friend in Wisconsin and she had a recipe that called for Bechamel Sauce.  She asked if I knew what that was.  I straightened my oversized sweater and puffed out my large chest.  “Why yes,” I responded, “I do indeed know what Bechamel Sauce is.”  Deeny was an eager learner as I unloaded my boundless knowledge of French cooking.  I know, you scoff at me, and you probably have a right to.  But, Deeny, being the innocent that she is took it all in and was grateful for the education she received. 

After getting off the telephone I thought, as I often find myself doing, what I could do with such information.  Of course, a light bulb went off immediately in my bloggers brain and I knew I had to write a short note on the base sauce used in the making of many, many other French sauces.  Given that the French are so saucy in the first place, this should come as no surprise to my readers.  As evidence of this see the pictures below–talk about saucy.

Pic courtesy of:  http://a.images.blip.tv/Katie-SexyFrenchMaidMagicTheMagicBag837.jpg


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Picture courtesy of:  http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v434/nataliegracie/oliver.jpg&imgrefurl


Lord Jesus.  Be still my elderly, overly fast paced heart.  Talk about a saucy man.  Spank me, spank me, spank me.  I need the spanking to get my heart back into rhythm.  🙂

Anyhoo, you may have now forgotten that our topic is Bechamel Sauce.  The French use Bechamel Sauce, also known by the French as the “Mother” Sauce as a sauce for many of their more delicate dishes such as eggs, chicken and vegetables.  I personally use Bechamel as a base and add spices to the sauce to make incredible variations of white sauces.  Bechamel is beautiful and you will learn to love it quickly.  It is relatively easy to make and you can impress your French friends with your knowledge of their culinary culture.  So, hold onto your hat, tighten your seat belt and let’s go!

Bechamel, My Lovely Mother Sauce


2 cups whole milk

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 small sprig of fresh thyme

2 tbsp chopped onion (very finely chopped)

1/4 tsp ground white pepper

4 tbsp unsalted butter

6 tbsp flour


Combine milk, chopped onion, nutmeg, thyme and white pepper in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil.  Immediately take the pot from the heat and add a cover and set aside for 12 minutes.  In a heavy saucepan melt butter over low heat.  Once melted remove saucepan from stove and, using a wire whisk, stir in the flour.  Return saucepan to stove top on low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes or until mixture begins to foam and froth.  Pour in the milk mixture and beat vigorously with the wire whisk until very thoroughly blended.  Increase the heat to medium and, stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil until it thickens.  Reduce heat to as low as possible and simmer softly for no more than 15 minutes.  Don’t forget to stir the mixture.  Take the sauce from the stove.  Many cooks use as is and some prefer to strain the sauce through a sieve to remove the thyme and chopped onion.  Serve with your favorite recipe requiring Bechamel sauce.  

Don’t forget to explore the use of Bechamel sauce to make other French sauces and as a massage rub for those quiet evenings you spend with your “French” boy friend.  Ah, being French never tasted so good! 



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