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March 5, 2009

Garam masala (Recipe: tandoori-spiced grilled lamb) {gluten-free}

Tandoori lamb

What happens when a good-for-nothing handsome hunk like Mac finds himself in possession of an empty flat and access to three gorgeous air hostesses, Priti, Sweety and Puja?

I have no idea, but you will, if you settle in with Garam Masala, a three-hour, Bollywood movie extravaganza. Indian movies that combine song and dance, love triangles, drama, comedy, and daredevil thrills are called masala movies, because, like masalas — spice blends — they are a mixture of many things.

Visit one hundred kitchens in India, and you'll find one hundred different versions of garam masala, the spice mixture at the heart of northern Indian and Pakistani cooking.

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February 3, 2009

Grains of paradise, a Pantry Special (Recipe: tagine of lamb with apricots) {gluten-free}

Pantry Specials are great ingredients that find their way into my pantry from time to time, but not all the time.


On a recent search for new pantry ingredients with food blogging friend TW Barritt of Culinary Types, I acquired this tin of grains of paradise -- so unfamiliar to me that I had to look it up on my phone in the middle of the store.

Popular in West African cuisine and indigenous to that part of the world, grains of paradise (also called Melegueta or alligator pepper) got its name in a medieval marketing ploy: spice traders looking for a way to inflate the price claimed that the seeds grew only in Eden, and had to be collected as they floated down the rivers out of paradise. Spices were popular in those days, but true pepper was expensive; grains of paradise was a cheaper substitute (ironically, today pepper is inexpensive, while grains of paradise is not cheap at all). The spice was widely used in England until King George III, fearing it was being used in beer and wine production, banned it.

Grains of paradise tastes pungent and fruity, a bit like pepper crossed with cardamom. A frequent component of the spice blend ras el hanout, it works well with eggplant, potatoes, lamb and poultry, squash, tomatoes, and other root vegetables. Purchased in seed form, it must be ground or crushed right before use, and is best added towards the end of the cooking time.

Is this Pantry Special new to you?

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November 30, 2008

Juniper berries (Recipe: lamb stew with juniper berries)


Guest post and photos by Marcia in Rhode Island.

Every family has one. A non-conformist.

In the pine family, juniper is the rebel. Unlike its cousin, the slender and erect red cedar, juniper spreads low to the ground, sloppily, in all directions. Another cousin, white pine, can be lumbered, while juniper is almost impossible to uproot. And a third cousin, hemlock, has feathery soft needles; juniper’s are nasty, vicious little things.

Most of the pine cousins have woody cones that send seeds flying into the wind; the fruits start off as a cluster of fleshy scale, and when they dry out, they look like the familiar pine cones.

Juniper holds its cones tightly on the branches; the scales stay fleshy and look like berries, but they’re not. What we call juniper berries are actually soft purplish “pine cones”.

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August 31, 2008

Lavender, and a purple haze (Recipe: pork tenderloin with grilled lavender peaches) {gluten-free}

Please welcome Marcia, who with this post joins The Perfect Pantry as guest blogger. She lives up the road from me, in a lovely old house with several vegetable and flower gardens, surrounded by acres of woodland. Professionally, she's been a teacher, children's librarian, naturalist and goat farmer. An avid cook and baker, Marcia will share stories and recipes once a month or so.


Guest post and photos by Marcia in Rhode Island

Lavender is a frivolous yet ever-present staple in my pantry. Occasionally my garden yields a few tablespoons, just enough for lavender madeleines when I’m feeling peckish and reminiscent, but most of the time, I buy buds and flowers embalmed in plastic packets.   

Until today.
“Pick your own lavender and distill the color of our garden into your kitchen,” promised the ad that ran in our local paper a couple of weeks ago.

And I’d been waiting. Because I am sure you don’t pick lavender on just any day.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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