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Essential Tools: a Mortar and Pestle

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 12:29 am
by Sunbeam
As an aspiring amateur chef, I'm always looking for ways to improve my kitchen results.

I've taken a fancy to making my own spice blends from whole spices, as a result of my love for Asian cuisine, and also my love for Southern U.S. Cajun/Creole cooking. I discovered spice blends off-the-shelf in the U.S. which are not available in Canada, or are very expensive to have shipped here. Answer: try to duplicate them, or come damn close.

Some things, as my Punjabi chef mentor explained: "You can't buy any good. You must make your own from scratch... here, let me show you... 8-) " Nutmeg, you grate that from a whole nutmeg, don't you? (Yes, I do)

I've recently made some spice blends which I've sent as far as Newfoundland (Emeril's, see below), to rave demands for more... How'd you make that, by, we don't get that kinda thing here, you better send some more.

To the topic: When grinding whole spices and herbs, a mortar and pestle has a huge advantage over just using a spice grinder/coffee grinder.

The crushing action of the mortar breaks the cell walls in the organic structure, and releases essential oils and fragrant essences that even a spice grinder leaves trapped forever. Same thing goes for making a garlic paste, ginger paste, pesto, or mashing avocado for guacamole. Crushing coarse sea salt with dried whole-leaf herbs as part of a spice blend has magical results.

Even if the final result doesn't look as finely ground and homogeneous as a spice grinder or blender produces, flavour essences are released and intensified, as no other method can accomplish.

Jamie Oliver has a mortar& pestle which is sold on ... and+pestle

I post this link because it has great instructions for breaking in/seasoning your new mortar & pestle at the bottom of the page. Never, ever use detergent or soap, just season it as directed and rinse/dry as required.

I bought mine (identical) for $7 less from my local Home Hardware: ... %26+pestle

Final thoughts- buy an unpolished granite mortar & pestle. Not wood, not marble, not polished granite. Unpolished granite is the only real choice, or you'll just be frustrated that you wasted your time and money. Don't ask how I know this. ;)

Next up, I'll post recipes for Montreal Steak spice (refined a bit from previous version), a pretty amazing clone of Emeril LaGasse's Bayou Blast Creole Essence (based on his own published recipe, with added clues from the legally required ingredient list on an actual product package ;) ), a generic clone of Chef Paul Prudhomme's Cajun Magic, and a couple of Indian Garam Masala recipes. The mortar & pestle is required to achieve the best results with all these recipes, and I'll explain exactly how.

Cheers, and bon appetit :D