The Alchemy of spice

Mortar and Pestle spice mixing
This is the best way to create Curry and Spice paste

Turning Gold into……better Gold!

It has to be said in no uncertain terms that spice mixing is an art form…….in fact, I’ll go one step further – spice mixing is more than an art form it’s actually alchemy. Spice and understanding spice takes a little bit of time, trial and error but when you crack it and get it right it is essentially the equivalent of turning lead into gold!

Here’s a bizarre idea – think about the Beatles – John, Paul, Ringo and George. All fantastically talented independently of each other, all having their own unique characteristics and defining traits but when you bring them all together in the right proportions then you have an entirely different thing….an amazing thing…a melding of all of these individual traits that create a new unique whole.

Same with spice alchemy.

The best way to understand this spice mixology is to ‘play with it’ – I would watch my old mentor play with spice for hours in the kitchen before service even began, she would test out what spices could or would flourish next to each other and which ones wouldn’t…all the while the heading aromas sending me into a trance.

There is something deeply satisfying and rewarding when you blend your own spices to create amazing Asian pastes, in the pics here I’ve been building ‘paste bases’ for Indian and Thai style currys and meat rubs and the biggest thing have learned is that the best way to create these is in a mortar and pestle. These curry pastes and rubs can of course be made in a standard kitchen blender, but for me there is something  a bit clinical about that….but that’s just me!

The following recipe will give you enough paste to create a curry for 4 people

Red Thai Curry Paste

1 medium red onion finely diced

4 cloves garlic

1 tbs tomato paste

1/2 tps Shrimp paste

1/2 thumb size lump Galengal (or Ginger)

4 dried red chillies (seeds in)

1 tps castor sugar

2 tps coriander seeds

2 tps Cummin seeds

Peanut oil – enough to create a wet paste.

Method (like there really is one!) – pound everything above into a paste!

Spice paste
Really dam hot Red Curry Paste


To use the paste you can go 1 of two ways:

1. Rub all over chicken pieces, leave for a few hours then roast – this is good stuff by the way!

2. Cook out in a shallow pan for a few minutes, then add a full tin of coconut milk – instant curry sauce – add raw prawns and boom, instant Thai Red Prawn curry.





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