Spices and herbs are the lifeline of any cuisine. The way each cuisine of the world had been using spices and herbs, is a wonder that unfolds with each bite we relish with our senses. The classic flavor combinations have been time tested and it is not so much of a surprise that each one of the classic flavor combinations is good for health as well in terms of micronutrients and assimilation of nutrients in general.
Last month I received a spice box from Foodie Trails and Australia Tourism and the contents were really interesting. Seeing some tart fruit powders like Davidson Plum, Kakadu Plum, Quandang Peach, Finger Lime etc reminded me of how we use our anardana, amchoor, berchoor (yes, the powder of tart red zuzubes) and even crushed apricots that one finds in Leh markets. I was wondering if we could get tamarind, kokum and even elephant apple powders processed so beautifully.
The spice box had a few myrtle varieties too and I was amazed to see how potent flavor each one is. That’s not just because these plant products are themselves so flavorful but how well these are processed and packaged too. The powders have retained the colors and flavors really well and once they are added to the food, the aromas hit the senses gently and pleasantly. I was amazed with the aniseed myrtle when I used it in an herb tea and then in this ragi banana pancake.
Taking a cue from classing flavor combinations has always been useful when trying out new herbs and spices and that’s what I did.
The finger-lime powder was really good for a masala lemon tea. The bright color and sharp tartness of Davidson Plum powder worked really well for a fruit compote I made with apples and ginger.
The Mountain Pepper Leaf turned out to be great when I used it in a mutton curry with mince, the north Indian Rahra Mutton style. I used ½ tsp each of Mountain Pepper Leaf powder and Desert Lime powder and skipped adding tomatoes to the dish, resulting in a sublime aromatic flavor imparted by these two.
Here is a picture of the Rahra mutton direct from my stovetop, rustic North Indian mutton curry that has incorporated native Australian spices like its own kin.
The Davidson Plum compote with a base of apples turned out to be really good and when smeared on ragi banana pancakes that were pleasantly aromatic with the scant use of Aniseed myrtle, it was a delight.
Sharing the recipes here so you can follow these whenever you get a chance to try these fruit powders, spices and herbs coming from the indigenous communities of Australia.
Davidson Plum fruit compote with ginger
(for filling a 400 gm jar)
400 gm apples, peeled cored and diced
3 tbsp ginger grated fine
2 tbsp Davidson Plum powder
3 tbsp sugar
Pinch of sea salt
Cook the apple with ½ cup water, covered, till they get mushy.
Add all the other ingredients, mash the apples with the back of a spatula and cook till everything mixes well and starts sizzling in the pan.
Store in a glass jar and refrigerate for up to a week or use fresh.
Ragi banana (sourdough) pancake with Aniseed myrtle
(enough for 3-4 breakfast servings)
2 overripe bananas mashed
1 cup full fat milk
1.5 cup ragi (finger millet) flour
¼ cup of sourdough starter (ripe starter, I used whole wheat starter but you can use gluten free starter as well)
1 tsp Aniseed myrtle powder
2-3 tbsp ghee for shallow frying the pancakes and a cast iron pan (or any other) to make the pancakes
Mix everything together and make a batter similar to cake batter consistency. Rest for an hour or so to allow a little fermentation. You can also make this batter in the night and refrigerate overnight for cold and slow fermentation.
Heat a cast iron griddle, grease with ghee and drop spoonfuls of batter to make pancakes of desired size. Flip them once they cook on one side and drizzle more ghee to make them a bit crisp on the surface. Repeat to make all the pancakes and serve them hot topped with the compote or any other toppings that you like.