Garam Masala is an aromatic spice blend designed to activate heat in the body, derived from principles in Ayurvedic medicine. Put simply, garam means “hot,” and masala means “blend” in Hindi. It’s generally considered to be from Northern India, originating in regions that are hit hardest with winter. This spice blend, then, was long used to bring out heat.
With time, it became a foundation of Indian cuisine- and with good reason, as it offers the palette distinct flavours that enrich dishes with a delightful complexity. There are probably as many versions of this blend as there are families in India.
It can be said that Garam Masala is generally composed of a few principal spices: cinnamon (or cassia), cardamom, clove, cumin, and pepper, which adds a lightly hot note. However, these spices also vary greatly according to region. Southern and Northern cuisines differ greatly from one another and environmental factors mean varying levels of access to certain spices. It is, therefore, best to consider regional cuisines when building your Garam Masala. Continue reading →
As the owner of a tea company, I have a vested interest in showing you as many ways to consume tea as possible. This is why, in my opinion, the subject of pairing teas with food has been trending recently, and why there is so much terrible advice on it. Hot tea with tacos? Earl Grey with Mutton Stew? Sure, but why on earth would you do such thing? Just because you can do a thing, does not mean you should.
And so I will attempt to give you a practical guide to pairing teas with dishes by following a few simple rules. Tea can be paired with many dishes easily- without resorting to the lazy approach of just serving mild food, or overthinking the process so much that it sucks the joy out of the meal. Continue reading →
Spices are our main concern at Épices de Cru, but the truth is spices often present their flavour best in combination with the many sauces, pastes, and other ingredients developed by the world’s great cuisines. So we present our series on pantries of the world- important ingredients to have on hand before delving into any regional cuisine.
Turkish cuisine is rich, fragrant, and incorporates the flavours of both Europe and Asia. It is, therefore, one of the few cuisines that makes as much use of both dry spices as fresh herbs (a little like Québec, thanks to the mingling of English and French food).
The most commonly used spices include Aleppo pepper, cinnamon, allspice, saffron and sumac, to only name a few. Like anywhere in the Mediterranean, Turkish cooks use olive oil with great abandon. Olives themselves are often found on dinner tables amongst a variety of mezzes, the small shared dishes that are typical of many Middle Eastern cuisines. In parts of the country where olive trees are rarer, dishes are often cooked in sheep fat.
Dried fruits and nuts (Gaziantep pistachios are among the best in the world) are also of great importance in many dishes, for example rice or bulgur pilafs. It is, above all, the quality of fresh ingredients that make all the difference, but there are still plenty of must-have ingredients that are of great importance when cooking Turkish food. Continue reading →
White pepper has never been my favourite pepper. I understand many people crave the hot, pungent bite of a well-fermented mature white pepper, and others use it for keeping white sauces white. But for years now I’ve used it in recipes from around the world only to find everything I cook has the unmistakable whiff of overripe fruit. Then one day we got a call from our longtime pepper supplier in Madagascar, and everything changed. Now that wild Voatsiperifery (or Tsiperifery) has entered my life, I can see that judging pepper varieties is no longer a matter of black and white.
I should first clarify my position on white pepper. If you missed our guide to pepper varieties, I’ll say briefly that white pepper is the seed the of the mature pepper berry left to ferment in running water. Pulp removed, white pepper emerges hot and earthy, with strong vegetal notes. To me it smells like a barnyard after the rain. Continue reading →
Pu erh is perhaps the most singular of the seven tea families. It’s known as the least accessible tea category, especially because of its distinct and sometimes intense flavours. You don’t need to be a tea expert to appreciate its elegant side- suffice it to say a single taste has hooked more than a few first-timers. With the growing enthusiasm for tea of the last few years, pu erh is getting more and more popular. And as we become ever more accustomed to its characteristic taste, we can treat it a little like a hearty cheese or even a nice piece of dark chocolate.
Pu erh is an aged, fermented tea that can be found in many forms. In the most common, the leaves are compressed into little cakes called bing cha, in little nuggets called tuo cha, or in the shape of a brick. Yunnan province, in southwest China, is where the majority of pu erhs are produced. Pu erh originated in Yunnan, where wild tea trees, aged over 1,000 years, still grow in the forests. Once upon a time, the tea leaves were harvested then compressed to facilitate their transport to the village of Pu’er, on old commercial center for tea exchange. This is how, with time, the name Pu’er came to be associated with particular type of tea. Continue reading →
There is a great multitude of different eggplants in various shapes and colours- it is, after all, a vegetable that is grown nearly globally. In the Mediterranean, it’s used in classics from ratatouille to Greek moussaka. It’s commonly found in Turkish cooking and numerous Middle Eastern countries, as well as India and China. In many of these dishes, it’s better to salt the eggplant to draw out some of its water. This will also reduce its bitterness, particularly for larger eggplants.
Eggplant is slowing winning the hearts and mouths of Épices de Cru, although its still not universally beloved (it’s one of Philippe’s least favourite ingredients, though he still cooks it with remarkable ingenuity!). To persuade you of the eggplant’s value, or just cook with it more, we present you with a few recipes that appear on the menu for staff lunch regularly and always to rave reviews.
Pasilla de Oaxaca is, without a doubt, one of the eternal favourites of our company. We can also say that, with time, it’s become one of our customers’ favourites too. Pasilla de Oaxaca is more than a simple chile- it’s a witness to the knowledge, traditions, and characteristic terroir of the corner of Mexico in which its grown.
Oaxaca is a Mexican state situated at the junction of the grand Sierras, on the central plateau where the valley of the same name is found. It’s an agricultural region that’s been inhabited for millennia. The highest plateaus can reach 2000 m above sea level. It is there, in the misty rainforests sprawled on the plateau’s summit, that the Pasilla de Oaxaca is grown. Our Pasilla de Oaxaca is cultivated by the Mixtec and Zapotec Indians in the Sierra Mixe (watch our video describing the winding road that brings the chilies from the highlands to us). Continue reading →
I make really good chai masala blends. Having grown up in a spice company with a personal obsession with tea, I make my chai masalas with love, experience and an need for strong, emotional beverages. Subtlety is not my strong suit.
I have been trying to get people to make their own chai masala for years. Why ? “I don’t like cinnamon,” or “clove is too strong for me,” or my favourite, “is that cardamom I see? I don’t think I like cardamom…” is something I often hear from our customers. Well, liberate yourself! Chai simply means “tea” and masala simply means “spice blend,” so all you need to make a good masala chai is tea and spice. Choose only the spices you like and create a unique blend suitable to your palate.
But wait? How can I just add the spices I like and make a masala chai successfully? By following these simple rules of course! Continue reading →
The employees at our headquarters, nicknamed “2222,” work with our teas and spices every day. It is they who, over time, have made this company what it is. We invite you to join, each month, a conversation with each one of them.
Oksana is the embodiment of good accounting: earnest, dependable, and kind. Never one to shy away from a difficult problem, she can be relied on for sensible and effective solutions. Oksana is one of our longest-serving employees, and, considering her almost total implication in every aspect of the company, we look forward to her working with us for years to come.
Where are you from?
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine. I moved to Montreal in 2001.
Where did you work before Épices de Cru?
I was the chief accountant at an office supply and repair company for a number of years in Ukraine. I actually quit my technical studies at Kiev Polytechnic University when we decided to open the company. It grew quickly, and soon I was studying accounting! It was the early 90’s and we entered the market at a good time. It was a difficult and important job, but the company was like a baby, I loved watching it grow. Continue reading →