Archive for December, 2015

Is there aluminium in bicarbonate of soda?

Friday, December 25th, 2015

Fairly frequently, we are asked “is Steenbergs bicarbonate of soda aluminium free?”

In short, yes it is aluminium-free, as well as gluten-free, and Steenbergs organic baking powder is vegan and phosphate-free, while the non-organic baking powder is vegan with corn flour and free of added aluminium.

It’s a weird one this, because bicarbonate of soda is aluminium free and always has been.  But a whole lot of discussion seems to have arisen around finding aluminium free baking sodas, and describing the sins of those products that don’t state whether they are aluminium free.

To an extent, people are correct to have concerns, because aluminium is suggested as being linked to neurological disorders because it is a neurotoxin. But initial data that had suggested links to Alzheimer’s have not been proven and the Alzheimer’s Society states “importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that aluminium exposure increases your risk of dementia”.  The best information I could find on aluminium from food and other consumer products is the FAQ at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

As far as I can tell, the story started in America when Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda began to market a mined bicarbonate of soda as being aluminium free (they don’t do this anymore and only show “aluminium-free” on their baking powder).  So a myth arose that anything that did not state “aluminium-free” on the label must de facto contain aluminium.  In fact, bicarbonate of soda simply does not contain aluminium, whether mined or chemically synthesised, and so long as it is 100% pure bicarbonate of soda never has done.

I hope that clarifies things.

Where it seems the concern arose was in a misunderstanding – baking powders can sometimes include aluminium-based chemicals, but these are different from baking soda (American term used specifically), i.e. baking soda was mistaken for baking powder.  So customers should look out for aluminium-free baking powder, but this never seems to be question that’s asked online.

We do test Steenbergs bicarbonate of soda and Steenbergs baking powder for presence of aluminium using laboratories.  And we, also, test within Steenbergs for gluten, even if we don’t make any declarations on this.  Both the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder came up negative for gluten (not detected at 5ppm, i.e. less than 5mg/kg) when I tested the current batches for this blog.

However, sometimes small amounts of aluminium seem to get into baking powder.  This must come in with the cornflour or other carrier in the baking powder because no aluminium chemicals have been used in the products – I have checked a few products out there and small amounts seem to sneak in (ranging up to 100ppm), plus I have spoken with manufacturers and they say the same.  (Note: some “aluminium free” baking powders state “no added aluminium” or that no sodium aluminium sulphate is included in the mix which arguably is different; in general there is no defined level for which something is “aluminium free”).

So neither Steenbergs baking powder nor bicarbonate of soda (a.k.a. baking soda) contain added aluminium and gluten and are vegan, plus our organic baking powder is, also, vegan, phosphate-free, GMO free, organic.

STEENBERGS SPICE TASTER PANEL

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Steenbergs Lemon Chicken Rub & Steenbergs organic Smoky Paella Spice Blend

This time around our spice taster panel was in for a treat, sampling two different, delicious spice blends, created by Axel and hand-blended in the Steenbergs factory near Ripon, North Yorkshire.  Both of them have Mediterranean influences and can be used for specific dishes, but it has been interesting and encouraging to see how diverse and varied the uses have been for these products.

STEENBERGS LEMON CHICKEN RUB

lemon-chicken-rubThis new lemon chicken rub from Steenbergs is one of the few non organic mixes. It has been developed over a number of years to combine all our favourite flavours in a chunky, easy to use rub, packed with flavour.  Although the title suggests a meaty blend, it is, like all other Steenbergs blends, fully vegetarian, just using the term ‘lemon chicken’ for the complementary Mediterranean herbs that make up this flavoursome spice mix.

Ingredients include: black pepper, salt, lemon peel, garlic, fennel seeds, parsley, coriander seed, lemon myrtle, paprika and lemon oil.

Our panel was really pleased with this product, with 77% describing it as ‘fabulous’ or ‘great’.  73% also thought it a very versatile product with possibilities including stirring into hummus, rubbing on fish or meat, sprinkling on roasted vegetables & potatoes, adding to rice or mixing into a salad dressing.

Our tasters were ingenious in their creations: rubbing, stirring, seasoning and savouring as this blend was designed to inspire.  Creations included red lentil dhal, many different chicken dishes including casserole, stew, Kievs and roast; chick peas burgers; roasted vegetables; homemade hummus; rubbed onto whole fish, flavouring savoury rice and in potato salad. One of our panel commented that there are ‘a million and one uses for this product’.

When asked to describe their perfect accompaniment to Lemon Chicken, our panel were definitely thinking healthily with 25% going for green vegetables, 25% for roasted veg (incl. potatoes) and 19% for salad, closely followed by rice (13%).

Do you ‘eat to live’ or ‘live to eat’ though, that is the question.  The majority of our taste testers definitely ‘live to eat’!

As far as the flavour was concerned, many of our team enjoyed the variety of ingredients and intensity of the blend, adding that it is ‘convenient to use for quick meals to add flavour’.  The black pepper was the predominant flavour, with some looking for a bit more lemon, but overall it was seen as a very flavoursome, versatile product.  These are the words that our taster panel used to describe the Lemon Chicken Rub.

Lemon Chicken Rub

Lemon Chicken Rub

STEENBERGS ORGANIC SMOKY PAELLA SPICE MIX

organic-smoky-paella-spice-blend-50g (1)Steenbergs organic Smoky Paella Spice Mix includes the smoky flavour of smoked paprika as well as saffron. The core blend is paprika with a hint of rosemary and loads of luxuriant saffron and garlic. The flavour of the smoked paprika is Axel Steenberg’s way of hinting at the smokiness that you get from making a traditional paella over an open fire.

Steenbergs Smoky Paella Spice seasoning is perfect with a glass of sangria to reminisce about long Spanish, balmy nights. Simply add 1-2 tsp of Steenbergs organic smoky paella spice mix to the stock when cooking paella for 4 people.

The ingredients in the spice mix, which are all organic, include: paprika (pimenton), smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, ground black pepper, rosemary herb, saffron.

Our taster panel really enjoyed this blend with 92% rating it ‘Fabulous’ or ‘Great’, and 92% also saying that they would use it again – many commenting that ‘it means that making paella is so much easier as all the flavours are in one pot’.

Many of our panel used the spice blend to make traditional paella but in different ways: from flavouring the stock to marinating the chicken or prawns, or just adding in at the end.  With 76% having made paella before, lots of people had their own recipe but it is always great to see the wide variety of uses.

Our taste testers definitely demonstrated the versatility of this blend with recipes including all of the following: roasted pepper veggie lasagne sauce; pan-cooked chicken; fideua; infusing oil before adding stock; roasted butternut squash risotto; instead of turmeric; to flavour water in which to cook rice; substituting the sweet smoked paprika in Jamie Oliver’s chicken chorizo paella, as a rub on chicken which was then stir fried with peppers & mushrooms; stuffed peppers with rice & veg; used sprinkled on chicken and grilled; with seafood; shakshuka/pipperade style dish – fried onions, peppers & tinned tomatoes with poached egg on top; used in fajitas/enchiladas and on griddled chicken strips with roasted veg; fish stew and slow cooked pork ribs.  Other interesting ideas included: adding to mashed sweet potato; with spinach and feta; sprinkled on chips and on tomato salad.

We loved one of our taste tester’s descriptions of the spice blend: “a ‘flavour’ of Spain with the smoky paprika oozing through – the intensity of flavours of garlic and paprika knocking on the door.”  When asked to give just one word to sum it up, here’s what everyone came up with…

Smoky Paella Spice Mix

Smoky Paella Spice Mix

All in all a truly versatile product!

Do let us know what you think…we’re always keen to hear and will share any top tips on social media.

 

 

Meet Sharmini – our new recipe collaborator!

Friday, December 4th, 2015

LOGO_grey_155wWe’re really pleased to announce our new partnership with Sharmini Thomas.  Originally from Kerala, Southern India, but now based in York, Sharmini runs her own cookery courses, is a cookery tutor for the City of York, and is a presenter and judge for York Food & Drink Festival.   We’re delighted to be partnering with her on some new recipes to highlight the Steenbergs Indian spices and blends and are looking forward to an exciting 2016 where we’ll be demonstrating and videoing, sharing top tips along the way.

  1. Tell us a bit about what you’re up to at the moment:

I am Sharmini Thomas and my Company is Sharmini’s Inspirational Indian Cuisine which denotes my passion for cooking and inspiring everyone to cook simple delicious homemade food. I’m originally from Kerala but I’m now settled in York where I have been teaching Indian cuisine for the past 17 years.

I am a presenter and judge at the York Food and Drink Festival and won the ‘Yorkshire Vision Curry Contest’ through public vote against several reputable York curry houses.

I also deliver cookery demonstrations for Radio York and local schools, as well as offering team building events, hands-on cookery workshops and networking events to corporate clients through the ‘medium’ of cooking.

  1. Who was your inspiration?

Indian cooking is an art handed down from generation to generation in India and my mother was my inspiration, she shared her love through food.

  1. Tell us about some of the recipes you will be cooking for Steenbergs:

I’ve recently done a version of Bombay Potatoes, which is a very popular dish in the UK and a great accompaniment to any Indian dish.  I’ve also shared my version of Tandoori Shammi Kebabs, made with minced lamb.  Kebabs originated from the Middle East and were made famous in India during the Mogul reign.

Sharmini Bombay potatoes Sharmini tandoori shammi kebab

  1. What are you looking forward to about the partnership with Steenbergs?

A marriage of ‘Spices with recipes’!

Steenbergs had sent some of their spices and I decided to use them in preparing my usual curries. Wow! To my surprise, the curries tasted so much better as the spices took it up another notch.  It then dawned on me what I have been missing all these years…

These are some of partnership ideas to share with you all:

  • Sharing some of my classic recipes using Steenbergs spices and blends.
  • Recipe development – coming up with new dishes using different organic Steenbergs blends
  • Use of Steenbergs spices in my cookery workshops and courses
  • Cookery demonstrations – joint cookery demonstrations next year
  • Customer involvement – asking customers to post pictures of their versions of the recipes.

We will be happy to hear from you on any other ideas?

  1. What is your favourite Indian dish?

Chicken/Lamb biryani: a one pot dish with memories of family get together back in Indiaturmeric-powder-organic-fairtrade-40g

  1. Which spice could you not live without?

Turmeric powder: it has so many health benefits.

  1. Who would you most like to have dinner with?

Family and friends- looking forward to our Christmas lunch at home.

  1. What is your favourite piece of Yorkshire?

Villages of Yorkshire-very scenic and lovely fresh air –we are really blessed to live in such a beautiful county.

 

For full details of her recipes, visit: www.steenbergs.co.uk/recipes

For more details on Sharmini’s cookery courses visit her website: www.sharmini.co.uk

Ingredientia – a new wiki from Steenbergs

Friday, December 4th, 2015
Ingredientia Logo

Ingredientia Logo

Ingredientia the cook’s encylopedia is a simple idea – to build a free, food and drink related encyclopaedia that is open to all to use and all to contribute to.

The concept is to build Ingredientia from the base up.  And to develop it collectively as a wiki, rather than by any one person or organisation.  So it’s ultimately up to the contributors to decide how this idea progresses.

My starting thoughts on its Ingredientia’s outline structure have been to start with ingredients (hence ingredientia), moving on to techniques and then to recipes.

For the recipes, the idea is not to include every version of everything, but rather the most representative of key recipes,.  So for example, one lasagne recipe and not every version from every family or chef.

Finally, there is an area to discuss other aspects of food and drink – whether cultural, historical or ethical aspects.  Why? Because food and drink is not only existential, but also cultural and often controversial.  That’s the place to thrash out contested ideas, e.g. meat vs plant-based diets, organic vs conventional farming, processed vs raw etc. etc.

How do I see Ingredientia as differing from other wikis or websites on food and drink:

  • Most are commercially-driven whereas there is no intention to commercialise the wiki core, so if practical it may be moved to some form of self-financing state at some point in the future and/or a premium service for food technicians might be developed
  • Most food and drink related resources are recipe-driven, either to market particular chefs, cookery shows and brands or to collect every single version of every single recipe that exists, whereas most cooking in the home comes from what ingredients we have and then whipping up a meal from the techniques and core ideas we have in our repertoire
  • Many other resources, e.g. Wikipedia, tend to be academically-driven but Ingredientia is more culturally-driven, while still being underpinned by written resources where appropriate
  • Finally, it’s a wiki so, like Wikipedia, it’s a collective project not a commercial sensible proposition

If anyone’s interested, all are welcome to visit the wiki.  If you have questions, you can look at Ingredientia’s FAQs section, add comments to the blog, or contact us by email: axel@steenbergs.co.uk, and I will try and answer any queries.  However, bear with us, because this is early stage and is a concept that needs developing collectively.