Spice Health Heros. My first proper job after having my first child and starting work again after maternity leave. It was quite a big job to take on, and shooting a book can be very stressful at the best of times, let alone when you are sleep deprived and caring for a baby. But the end result just makes me so super proud! Many of the images are so stunning and definitely some of my very best work. I’m really excited to tell you a bit more about the background thoughts of my work on Spice Health Heros and to be sharing a few of my very favorite recipes from it.
Spice Health Heros by Natasha MacAller, published in UK, US, Aus & NZ by Jacqui Small Oct 2016.
When Natasha first came to me with her spice recipes, it was really only an idea for a book proposal for a followup to her Vanilla Table. Originally we put togethether 10 images for a book about pepper, but quickly the idea grew, and finally we were asked to create a stunner of a book about spices and their many health properties, including pepper. Initially I was quite keen on a very moody book where all the colour would come from the food and the spices themselves, but the publisher thought it might all get a bit dark, and asked me to re-think it. Finally I ended up adding a few lighter and a few more colourful backgrounds, which I think has really lifted the whole book, and brought it to life as you flick through the pages.
I just looove this smoothie. It reminds me of tropical beaches, a light breeze and a relaxing daze in a hammic in the sun. It makes me happy both summer and winter! Turmeric was a spice I’ve never really used before, but after being introduced to it by Natasha, it has now found a regular space in my fruit and vegebowl, ready for juices and smoothies. The pepper adds some wonderful heat to compliment the sweetness and should not be left out. (MW)
TROPICAL TURMERIC SMOOTHIE
The combination of fruit and spice and rich-but-healthy coconut milk is a favourite before a workout or just as a get-to-work beverage! If you prefer, you can use papaya instead of mango and add three leaves of coriander (cilantro). For a thicker smoothie, freeze the coconut milk in cubes before blending. (NM)
115g fresh frozen mango
2.5 x 5cm strip orange peel
5cm piece turmeric root,
or 1⁄4 tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
1⁄4 tsp cardamom seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
240ml (1 cup) coconut milk
4–6 ice cubes
1 tsp chia seeds
Put all the ingredients except the chia seeds into a high-speed single-serve blender-juicer and blend until smooth. Sprinkle chia seeds on top and serve.
The 3 images above are part of the concept for the chapter openers in Spice Health Heros. I’ve always loved coming up with the concept of the chapter openers for a book. As a natural break between all the recipes, they make up an important part of the look and feel of a book.
The hard part is usually coming up with something I haven’t seen or done before, as some of the criteria are set in stone. Usually it has to be a double page spread, and there needs to be negative space for the chapter title. For Spice Health Heros, the chapter openers would also create the intro to each class of spices, so they needed to be informative as well as beautiful and inspiring. I chose a neutral background, and a flat lay concept to keep in line with the trend of Scandi cool, which was part of the general brief for Spice Health Heros.
Shooting a lot of food for books and magazines, I’ve become somewhat immune to a lot of food.
It takes a lot to impress me these days, but every once in a while, I’ll shoot something that really blows my mind. Taste wise I mean. Anne’s Pork Chile Verde, is one of these dishes. It just knocked my socks off. You’d think I would have known what a Chile Verde is, having worked as a food photographer for so many years, but admittedly this was my first. It’s just amazing! The right amount of heat, spice and umami, to make you just want more and more. This is one of those dishes that has truly become the fooodphtographers favorite. Thank you Anne! (MW)
PORK CHILE VERDE
By Anne Conness
‘I can’t speak for the scientifc connection between spice and health, but what I do know is that eating spicy things makes me feel happy and satisfied. And when I feel happy, I feel less stressed, and that makes my doctor happy!’(AC)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1⁄2 tsp cloves
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
1.6kg (3.5lb.) pork shoulder, cut into 2cm (3⁄4in.) cubes, most of fat removed
1.2 litres (5 cups) chicken stock
For the corn:
3 ears of corn
2 tbsp butter
30g (1oz./1⁄4 cup) grated Monterey Jack or mild Cheddar cheese
For the sauce:
1 tomatillo, halved and stem removed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 jalapeños, halved and stems removed
2 Anaheim chilies, halved and stems removed
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
60ml (1⁄4 cup) canola oil
2 tbsp lime juice
11⁄2 bunches coriander (cilantro)
2 tsp cumin
1⁄2 tsp cloves
1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
1⁄4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
350ml (11⁄2 cups) reserved cooking jus (see method)
1 tbsp sauce from chilies in adobo or chipotle paste mixed with
115g (4oz./1⁄2 cup) sour cream
1 dash Tajin (a classic Mexican dry seasoning of dried lime juice, chili powder and salt)
4 lime wedges
150g (51⁄2oz./1 cup) pico de gallo (Mexican fresh tomato salsa)
small handful micro-coriander (cilantro) leaves
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4).
Toast the whole spices, cool, then grind to a powder. Stir in the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt. Toss the pork in the spice mixture and put in a roasting pan. Pour over the chicken stock, cover tightly with foil, put in the oven and cook until tender, about 11⁄2 hours. Strain the jus, skimming off the fat, and reserve 350ml (11⁄2 cups) for the sauce. Break up the meat if necessary.
Char the sweetcorn: Shuck the corn and remove the silks. Place the corn cobs on a baking tray on the top shelf of the oven or under the grill (broiler) on a high heat until charred. Leave to cool then place the corn cob in a cereal bowl and, using a sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cob in a downward motion; the kernels will collect in the bowl. Set aside.
For the sauce, toss the tomatillo, onion, jalapeños and Anaheim chilies and garlic in a bowl with the oil. Spread out on two baking trays and roast until caramelized, about 30 minutes at a medium–high heat. Leave to cool.
Blend the caramelized veggies in batches with the lime juice, coriander (cilantro), spices and strained cooking jus. Check the avour and season to taste.
Put the pork in a pan with this sauce and heat up.
Melt the butter in a hot ovenproof pan then add the charred corn. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese on top and put in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.
To serve, put the pork on a plate and top with the corn. Garnish with the chipotle cream, a sprinkle of Tajin, a lime wedge and some pico de gallo. Finish with the coriander (cilantro).
This ice cream is both refreshing and surprising. I love the combination of cinnamon and basil, and it kinda fits perfectly as a Christmas dessert in the warm weather here in New Zealand, if anyone dares to swap out the pavlova! (MW)
CINNAMON BASIL ICE CREAM
By Mindy Segal
makes 1 litre
‘This ice cream was inspired by some beautifully roasted peaches that I bought one year at the farmers’ market for a special dessert. I decided that it needed a little of the garden in the ice cream I served them with so I steeped fresh basil in my cinnamon ice cream. Eureka – delicious! It’s also good served with poached berries. Indonesian (Ceylon) cinnamon is a milder, softer avoured cinnamon also known as true cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is also fine to use but as the flavour is stronger, the basil-cinnamon balance will have a stronger cinnamon taste when using the cassia variety.’ (MS)
4–6 fresh Indonesian cinnamon sticks
475ml (2 cups) double (heavy) cream
475ml (2 cups) full-fat (whole) milk
13 large egg yolks
225g (8oz./1 cup) cane sugar
leaves from 1 bunch (70g/21⁄2oz.) cinnamon basil, regular basil or Thai basil, finely chopped
1⁄2 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
pinch sea salt
1⁄4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Put the cinnamon sticks on a baking tray and toast in the oven until hot to touch. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the cream and milk to a simmer. Remove the cinnamon sticks from the oven and crush into pieces. Put the pieces into the warm milk and cream mixture and leave to steep for 1 hour.
Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a 2-litre (2-quart) bowl, whisk thoroughly and set aside. Strain the cinnamon sticks from the milk and cream mixture and discard them. Return the liquid to the pan and bring to the boil, then pour the liquid over the eggs and sugar, mixing thoroughly.
Pour back into the pan and cook over medium–low heat, stirring constantly until the custard coats the back of a spoon (nappe). Pour the hot custard into a bowl and set over an ice bath.
Steep the chopped basil in the hot custard until cool. Add the ground cinnamon and salt and mix thoroughly. When cool, strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer then whisk in the vanilla extract.
Freeze the custard in an ice-cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
© Spice Health Heros, available at your local bookstore (in UK, US, Aus & NZ) and online from Amazon
Recipes © Natasha MacAller
Photos © Manja Wachsmuth