Saturday, February 20, 2010

In Search of Exotic Spices

This month I am going to cook everything in the Africa chapter of the Food Safari book. As it is my objective to learn everything I can about the food I cook and eat and the food of other cultures, I find African cuisine incredibly interesting and exciting. Copious amounts of onion are cooked slowly, without oil, for up to an hour to start off the long cooking processes to soups and meat stews; spices are used to build flavour rather than heat; curries and spice mixes are sometimes made a few days in advance to let the flavours intensify. In short, I will be spending long, long periods of time in the kitchen.

Today I paid my not-so-local African food store (Mokola African Market, Fairfield) a visit in search of spices and traditional starch staples in African cuisine. I couldn't find everything I needed but I picked up some shitto (a chilli and fish paste, served with soup and fish or plain rice), fufu mix (a thick, starchy porridge), red palm-fruit oil (used as a base for cooking) and some African dried fish (cooked in soups). I still need to track down some berbere (a red spice mix), cardamom seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, dried African basil and African mint.

For now, my mission is to find a specialty spice store. I have a feeling it'll be as difficult as finding an African grocery store. If anyone knows where I can get these ingredients, please, please, please feel free to leave me a comment! (In fact, that's not a request, it's a demand.) Otherwise, wish me luck and stay tuned for African cuisine!

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