Knowledge Categories Archives: Spices & seasonings uncovered

Why is Vanilla so Expensive?

We all love the familiar, floral scent of vanilla. From the delicate fragrance drifting from your reed diffuser in the living room to the sweet tasting ice-cream that you bought at the beach, there’s no denying that we would be lost without it. But if vanilla and vanilla pods are used so abundantly, why are they so expensive?

If we start at the beginning, vanilla is a flower that grows on a vine and with the right support and climate it can scale the tallest trees. Originally vanilla was grown solely in Mexico, home of the native Melipona bee that pollenates the flower. Despite best efforts to encourage bee colonies to thrive in Europe to expand trade, Mexico continued to dominate the vanilla market.

It was some 300 years later in the nineteenth century that a 12-year-old slave working on a plantation in Réunion discovered a way to hand-pollinate the flowers. This was a global breakthrough for neighbouring countries such as Madagascar, that could use their fertile land to cultivate the vanilla crop.

However, growing vanilla is a labour-intensive process. When the crop flowers, pollination must take place within 24 hours. Therefore, vanilla crops are checked daily. Once the vanilla pods have been picked, there is a precise curing process to nurture the vanilla pods to ensure maximum flavour. This extensive and specialised process contributes to the high price of vanilla.

Vanilla pods also require specific conditions to grow, such as the right humidity and a certain amount of rainfall. Madagascar produces 80% of the world’s vanilla, due to its ideal conditions in northern regions such as Sava. However, due to unpredictable and extreme weather including tropical cyclones and droughts, vanilla pods are sometimes left in short supply and therefore the cost per kilo climbs.

Vanilla is a financially rewarding trade and social indifference means vanilla farmers and their families are subject to violence and attacks. Vulnerable farmers are often forced to patrol their fields overnight, yet at least 15% of the vanilla crop in Madagascar is stolen. A shortage in supply also increases vanilla’s price tag.

Such reasons contribute to vanilla’s high cost and companies therefore started to lean towards cheaper alternatives that obtained the taste artificially. In the 19th century, cheap replications wove their way into the confectionary market and appeared in cakes and biscuits manufactured by the likes of Nestle and Cadbury’s. The word ‘vanilla’ became synonymous with basic and boring.

However, over recent years UK companies have bowed to consumer pressure to support the sustainability of farming. Traceability is increasingly important, and the cooperative disallows exploitation of farmers. Therefore, manufacturers began to look towards vanilla pods to demonstrate their support of ethically produced natural products.

Furthermore, advertising campaigns contributed to a surge in popularity. 20 years ago, Haagen-Dazs depicted its vanilla ice cream as a luxurious, special treat indulged by the rich elite. The diagram on their packaging drew attention to the high-end quality of the vanilla pod.

For almost 10 years at the start of the 21st century, there was a surplus of vanilla because farmers from countries such as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia recognised a soaring demand and started growing vanilla pods. As a result, the cost per kilo plummeted and some farmers resorted to growing alternate crops. Middlemen manipulated the market by holding back vanilla, waiting for availability to decrease and cost to creep back up.

Today it is incredibly important to check the vanilla you buy because prices are premium due to labour-intensity, popularity and availability of high-end products. Often middlemen benefit from the high cost and farmers are forced to pick vanilla pods prematurely to make more money and the quality lacks. We work hard to stock the highest quality vanilla pods on the market only selecting those with the highest vanillin content.

Learn more about Madagascar’s vanilla industry.

Buy our Vanilla Pods


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Spices and Slimming

A New Year’s Resolution you can keep!! The Christmas binge is probably reaching its finale (ah…!).  What an opportunity to ‘kick into touch’ your eating habits and be transformed by a healthier lifestyle using spices to aid your slimming requirments!

‘Extreme’ diets deprive the body of some of the basic ‘building blocks’ it needs to function at an optimum level and though weight loss may be considerable, their restrictive nature make it so easy to ‘fall off the bandwagon’ and regain the lost weight.

Whichever alternative route you, hopefully, choose to go down in search of a healthier (and slimmer?) ‘you’-  whether it’s a popular slimming club (Slimming World or Weight Watchers), maybe Ketogenic, Paleo, Sugar Free (IQS) or any other – to avoid the boredom of the’ same old, same old…’ be a little more adventurous and  try incorporating authentic spice mixes into your cooking to add a little magic.

Make It Tasty!

Here at Seasoned Pioneers we produce super concentrated spice mixes (no fillers or preservatives) of the very best quality. Try Baharat, Chermoula, Cajun Blackening, Shawarma, and Zanzibar Curry Powder. These are great as meat rubs or marinades and also work really well with tofu, tempeh or halloumi for those of a vegetarian or vegan persuasion.  It’s a wonderful way of adding world-wide flavours and extra interest to your cooking without those extra calories! Spices are a great way keeping your diet falvoursome and helps keep your low calorie slimming diet interesting.

Don’t Break The Budget!

Healthy eating can still enable you to ‘watch the pennies’.  Look for fruit and vegetables that are in season or on special offer.  Go for different cuts of meat and remember that the darker cuts (chicken thighs, neck or shoulder of lamb) have more taste and can be a much cheaper alternative.  Last, but not least, experiment with the best spices and spice mixes on the market.  Each of our spice pouches contains at least 20 servings which represents superb value for money.  Such is the quality of our products that a little goes a long way and ‘watching the pennies’ does not mean making compromises.

Speed Things Up!

When time is at a premium choose the healthy, quick and easy way with our authentic, quality cooking sauces. Simmer with meat, fish and/or vegetables and serve with rice or cous cous for an amazing and nutritious meal with no fuss!

The following table can be used as a guide if you are following a Slimming World or Weight Watchers programme.

Please find below some recipes using spices which we hope will inspire you on your slimming or weight loss journey and help you use some amazing spicey ingredients along the way!


One Pan wonders great with spices and for slimming

Are you a short on time, but want to lose weight? Looking for quick and easy slimming recipes using spices? One pan/pot meals are the best way to utilise your oven and time.

Here are a few ideas you could try.

Spanish rice – This is a take on a classic Paella but takes minutes to make.

1 onion (sliced)

2 tablespoons of Paella spice blend

1 red and 1 green pepper (deseeded and sliced)

50g chorizo (sliced into coins)

2 garlic cloves (crushed)

1 tbsp olive oil

250g easy cook basmati rice

400g can chopped tomato

200g raw, peeled prawns (defrosted if frozen)

  • Boil the kettle. In a non-stick frying or shallow pan with a lid, fry the onion, peppers, chorizo and garlic in the oil over a high heat for 3 mins. Stir in the rice and chopped tomatoes with 500ml boiling water, cover, then cook over a high heat for 12 mins.
  • Uncover, then stir – the rice should be almost tender. Stir in the prawns, with a splash more water if the rice is looking dry, then cook for another min until the prawns are just pink and rice tender.


Vegan and Vegetarian Zanzibar Curry Tray Bake

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large garlic clove (crushed)

1 tsp ginger (grated)

2 tsp Zanzibar curry powder

1 tsp Nigella seeds or Panch Phoran (optional)

150ml pot dairy free plain yogurt

250g new potatoes (halved)

1 butternut squash (diced into cubes)

1 Parsnips (chopped into thick 2cm coins)

4 large tomatoes (halved)

1 red red onion (finely chopped)

small pack coriander, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4

  • Toss together all the chopped vegetables with the olive oil, and garlic, ginger and Zanzibar curry powder with your hands until coated.
  • Bake for 40-45 mins until cooked and golden.
  • Scatter the coriander and drizzle, with the dairy free yogurt*, and an optional sprinkle of nigella seeds or Panch Phoran. Can be served with rice, or chapatis/flat breads.

*If the yogurt isn’t thin enough to drizzle mix with a splash of dairy free milk or water.


Scandi Lemon Pepper Salmon

400g new potato (halved)

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp of melted butter

1 tbsp lemon pepper seasoning

8 asparagus spears (trimmed and halved)

2 handfuls cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 salmon fillets about 140g/5oz each

Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.

  1. Mix 2 tablespoon of melted butter with the lemon pepper seasoning and coat the salmon and leave in the fridge to marinade. (The butter will set)
  2. Tip the potatoes and 1 tbsp of olive oil into an ovenproof dish, then roast the potatoes for 20 mins until starting to brown. Toss the asparagus in with the potatoes, then return to the oven for 15 mins.

3. Throw in the cherry tomatoes and vinegar and nestle the salmon amongst the vegetables. Return to the oven for a final 10-15 mins until the salmon is cooked. Serve everything scooped straight from the dish.


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Indian Bay Leaves – Tej Patta

Indian Bay leaves are also known as Tej Patta which translates as ‘pungent leaf’ or Malabar leaf.

They are not to be confused with the European Laurel Bay leaves more commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine!

47866592 - cassia leaves in sack over white background

Indian Bay leaves are larger, olive green in colour and have 3 veins running the length of the leaf as opposed to the single vein that is usually present on a Laurel Bay leaf. Their Latin name is Cinnamomum tamala and they are part of the Lauraceae family, yet are often referred to as the leaf of the Cassia plant.

The aroma and flavour of Indian Bay leaves is strongly reminiscent of cinnamon, cloves and cassia. To obtain the utmost benefit the dried leaves should be crushed before adding to a dish. Never substitute a European Bay leaf when Indian Bay leaves are specified in a recipe as the flavour is entirely different. Simply omit them from the dish or consider using a piece of cinnamon bark instead.

Originating on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, they grow mainly in Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and in the mountains of North-eastern India. They mainly grow wild, but are occasionally semi-cultivated and are not widely available outside of this area.

48533782 - cinnamon leaves

However, they are one of the most commonly used spices in North Indian cooking being an integral ingredient in the mild and aromatic Moghul or Mughlai cuisine. Developed in the Imperial courts of Agra and Delhi, this legacy of the Moghul dynasty is famous for dishes such as Biryani and Korma.

Dried and ground, Indian Bay leaves are added to spice mixes – Garam Masalas – from which regional dishes such as Kashmiri curries are flavoured.

Indian Bay leaves are also a key flavour in the mainly vegetarian cuisine of the Terai region, located on the plains beneath the Himalayan foothills. The Terai cuisine is an even milder version of North Indian cooking. As the region is highly fertile and blessed with a perfect climate for agriculture, a constant supply of fresh vegetables, lentils (dal), rice, cereal crops and fruits is enjoyed.

These flavoursome and aromatic leaves are not readily available but are essential in Indian cuisine as they impart a truly authentic taste to numerous recipes. Consequently we are delighted to add organically produced Indian Bay leaves to our ever-expanding repertoire of the finest international herbs, spices and seasonings. We very much hope that you will enjoy cooking with them!



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Health Benefits of Saffron

32567997 - safflower herb tea also used in chinese herbal medicine, teapot, cups and strainer on bamboo.

On 11th July 2016, Kate Quilton, presenter of Channel 4’s ‘Superfoods – The Real Story’ extolled the health benefits of saffron, the world’s most expensive spice.

Apparently it is proven to help with symptoms of depression and anxiety and in trials saffron has performed virtually as well as anti-depressant medicines.

Saffron is also reputed to improve memory, reduce inflammation, improve circulation and it’s antioxidant properties can help to fight disease. It is also believed that saffron aids digestion and can help with insomnia. Not only that, a Moroccan spice trader assured Kate Quilton that she would reap noticeable aphrodisiacal benefits from using saffron!

Although mostly familiar as an ingredient of rice dishes and sauces, one of the best ways to consume saffron is to drink it as a tea. As the active compounds in saffron threads are water soluble, the health benefits can be easily obtained by drinking an infusion of saffron that will then be readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

To make a cup of saffron tea, just place a pinch (5 to 10) saffron threads into a cup and add a quarter of a cup of freshly boiled water. Leave this to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes by which time it will have cooled and the active compounds will have been released. Top up with freshly boiled water, strain and sweeten to taste with honey or your preferred sweetener.

For a pot of tea, infuse 4 pinches of saffron threads in a little hot water then add 4 cups of freshly boiled water to the pot. Pour into cups through a tea strainer.

There are many other flavours that you can introduce to your saffron tea such as fresh mint, some ginger, crushed cardamom, lime or simply your favourite teabag.

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Shrimp Paste

Shrimp paste
Shrimp Paste explained

For truly authentic Southeast Asian cuisine, you really should incorporate Shrimp paste as a seasoning substitute for salt.

Shrimp paste is integral not only to the cooking of Southeast Asia but is also used in Southern China and Bangladesh. It is used extensively in these cuisines as it imparts a rich and robust savoury flavour to food and completely replaces the need for any addition of salt.

Shrimp paste is known by many different names depending upon the region where it is made. For instance, in Thailand it is known as Kapee or Kapi, in Indonesia – Terasi or Trassi, in Burma – Ngapi, Belachan in Malaysia and mắm ruốc in Vietnam.

Thai Kapee Shrimp paste is made from tiny shrimp or krill that are fished from the sea then rinsed clean before being mixed with salt. The mixture is allowed to ferment for approximately 24 hours before being partially dried in the sun for several days. It is then drained and pounded into a fine paste before being tightly packed into containers in layers pressed hard together to exclude all air. This ensures that the paste cannot spoil as it is then left to further ferment for several months. The resulting paste is quite solid with a pungent smell and flavour.

Shrimp paste should always be cooked before consumption and used sparingly as it does have a potent flavour. The intense odour of the paste will dissipate upon cooking and it will keep for an extremely long time, particularly if it is refrigerated in an air-tight pack.

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Gluten Free Herbs and Spices

sliders_04-copyDiagnoses of Coeliac disease have been steadily increasing in the UK in all age groups of people. To suddenly discover that you cannot tolerate gluten in your diet presents a huge challenge for people that have always enjoyed a wide range of foods.

Although it is common knowledge that single herbs and spices do not contain gluten, being confident to choose foods that are gluten-free causes considerable anxiety. Some of the larger spice processing companies do handle products that contain gluten and may even add them to their spice blends, for example, McCormick who incorporate wheat into some of their spice mixes.

As a spice blend manufacturer based in Bromborough, UK, our spice factory is totally gluten free. Unlike other spice companies we are not totally mechanised, in fact we are still proud of producing most of our products in small batches by hand. Our products are authentic and therefore do not need to be filled with additives, fillers or free-flow agents.

So how can you be sure which products are free of gluten?

As this has become a more common question we recently decided to undertake some testing (see results here) of a number of products that we thought were at higher risk of being contaminated with gluten in the supply chain. Also as a precaution and to understand the risk factors in herbs and spices, we have spent quite a lot of time researching this and understanding if gluten is a risk in our products.

We can confirm that from discussions we have had with suppliers and other spice experts, we are confident that we can state our herbs, spices, seasonings, chillies, spice blends, salts,
peppercorns and specialist ingredients are free from gluten. Additionally, we recently sent samples for expert testing at a specialist laboratory, with the results confirming this.

Of our range of ten Gourmet Cooking Sauces prepared at the sauce factory, only two do contain gluten, these are the Vietnamese Kho sauce and the Chinese Sichuan Plum & Mandarin sauce.
All of the other eight sauces are gluten-free.

There is also a facility on our website to search for gluten-free recipes, which we hope is useful.

For further information about Coeliac disease, including the causes, symptoms and treatment, please visit the website of Coeliac UK

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SumacWhat is Sumac?

Sumac also known as Sumach, Sumak, Sommak or Somak is a berry of a wild grown shrub or small tree (genus Rhus) typically found in the Middle East especially Turkey and Iran. The name derives from the arabic word summaq meaning red, which is the colour of the berries. Although there are a number of sumac species, it is the species Rhus Coriaria that is commonly used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. The fruits are typically harvested whole, dried and then processed and sold as a crushed berry, typically marketed as crushed sumac. Crushed sumac has a beautiful deep red colour and a tangy, lemony flavour. It is commonly used to flavour meats and salads or as a garnish for houmous and other meze dishes. The tangy za’atar spice blend is a combination of sumac and other spices.

Two closely related species of sumac, smooth and staghorn, are found in the USA where the native Indian population used to prepare traditional sour beverages called sumac-ade, Indian lemonade, or rhus juice.

The growing demand for sumac berries over recent decades and the popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine and Middle Eastern recipes means that it is now offered by numerous UK suppliers. Fresh, high quality sumac has a deep, rich hue. When buying sumac it is very important that you buy it from a reputable supplier that has carried out sufficient quality checks. Poor quality sumac has been known to be contaminated with illegal dyes such as Sudan and Orange II to mimic the colour of high quality sumac. The most recent product recall was in May 2015. For further details please see the Food Standards Agency website.

It is also worth noting that sumac products can sometimes contain added salt, sometimes only in very small percentages. Seasoned Pioneers only source and supply sumac that is salt free.

Sumac recipes

There are plenty of sumac recipes to try on the web these days. We have a number on this site for you to enjoy for example Baked Chicken and Onions or Spiced Persian Meatballs and lastly for any vegetarians Pilaf Stuffed Onions.

Ghillie Basan is a well know food writer and expert in Middle Eastern cuisine and Middle Eastern recipes. She has published more than 40 titles including Modern Moroccan – ancient traditions combined with contemporary cooking, where there are great recipes using sumac. Here is a recipe that Ghillie has allowed us to share with you Toasted Bread Salad with Sumac.
Nigella Lawson first mentioned our sumac in 2002. In her book titled Forever Summer there are a number of delicious sumac and zahtar recipes. Seasoned Pioneers zahtar spice contains sumac amongst other ingredients. Nigella used our zahtar (za’atar) in a pita bread recipe (page 16, Forever Summer) and in her Za’atar Chicken and Fattoush recipe (page 134).

We have just bought Rick Stein’s new book titled From Venice to Istanbul. As you might expect crushed sumac appears in quite a few of his recipes along with other Middle Eastern spices including ground cumin, wild oregano, saffron to mention a few.

In Arab cuisine and across the Mediterranean ground sumac is used as a garnish on hummus amongst other meze type dishes. Other easy ways of using ground sumac include substituting it where you might use lemon juice. For example try sprinkling it over the top of a freshly made summer salad.

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Lavender – how to use it

Lavender_French_10gA little bit about our Lavender…

Delicate purple-blue flowers of fragrant French Lavender give intense sweet floral flavours with notes of citrus and mint.
The flowers should be used sparingly due to their intense flavour. A lovely ingredient for baking, especially in shortbread and cupcakes, they can also be used in many dessert recipes.
Lavender is also fantastic in savoury dishes, particularly good with lamb and chicken. It can be used as a culinary decoration too.
And of course, it is often used to fill hand-made lavender bags for scenting drawers and wardrobes!

How to make Lavender Sugar… Mix 1kg of sugar with 2 teaspoons of lavender flowers and store in an airtight jar for up to 6 months.



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Barberry notes

Barberry_26gDried Barberries, most widely known in Middle Eastern cuisine, especially in Iranian dishes (where they are known as Zereshk) have a host of other uses too. These mild, slightly sweet, tangy little berries are wonderful in rice dishes, couscous & casseroled chicken recipes.
They are a delicious addition to homemade mincemeat at Christmas and stuffings for roasted meats.
Try a handful mixed in with your breakfast muesli or yoghurt, alternatively incorporate them into muffins or desserts.
They are rich in Vitamin C and have been used medicinally for centuries, particularly for digestive disorders.

We like the look of this idea…
Soak some barberries for 10 minutes then drain. Sauté in a little oil with chopped onions. Add cooked rice, chopped almonds, some cumin & coriander and serve with lamb or chicken.

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Beetroot Powder – colourful & healthy!

Beetroot_Powder_32gThe ultimate natural food colouring, Beetroot powder gives the cook a palette of intense pinks and reds. Highly nutritious, with numerous reported health benefits, it’s mild and slightly sweet taste does not compromise the flavour of a dish.

Widely used in Indian cooking, such as in this recipe for Rogan Josh, it can also add vibrancy to sweet & sour dishes, pastas and goulashes and extra nutrition to soups and stews. Valuable too when baking, for colouring sponges, icings & buttercreams. Particularly wonderful when added to smoothies & vegetable juice blends! Aside from culinary uses, it can also be used in hand made soaps, bath bombs and make-up.

Beetroot powder is suitable for both vegetarians & vegans and anyone with intolerance to artificial food colourings.

Historically, beetroot has always had a place in human society. Reportedly found as charred remains dating back to Neolithic times, it was then revered by the Romans as a cure for fever, constipation and other ailments. It has long been considered to contribute to general good health and is reputedly an effective aphrodisiac, due to the presence of the mineral boron and the amino acid arginine!

More recently, beetroot has been recognized as highly effective in the reduction of blood pressure, due to the presence of nitrates. Health benefits abound including high levels of iron, which can assist in combating anaemia. Abundant in anti-oxidants, beetroot is also a good source of a wide range of other vitamins and minerals. One teaspoon of beetroot powder is approximately the equivalent of one fresh beetroot, so it’s easy to reap the benefits of this fabulous super-food by incorporating it into your cooking!

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Asian Herbs and Spices

Our passion for Asian cuisine here at Seasoned Pioneers has led to us offering a unique and innovative range in excess of 75 Asian herbs, spices, chillies, seasonings and hand-made spice blends.

Asian cuisines

Encompassing the varied cuisines of India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Japan,Asian herbs and spices we supply the requisite spices necessary to achieve authentic results.

Staple Asian ingredients

These include core ingredients such as Indian Kashmiri chillies, Asafoetida, Curry Leaves, Fenugreek, Thai Kapee Shrimp paste, Galangal, Lemongrass, Tamarind paste, Muntok peppercorns, Star Anise, Sichuan Pepper and Wasabi, to name just a few.

Unusual Asian ingredients

Added to that is a selection of the more unusual products, that are often difficult to find elsewhere – Anardana, Beetroot powder, Gomashio, Mandarin Peel, Ground Cardamom and many more.

Asian spice blends

Using traditional recipes, we roast, grind and hand blend spice mixes that capture the regional flavours of Asia. Whether you desire a chicken Goan Xacuti, an Indonesian Seven Seas sambal, a Malay curry or a bowl of Japanese noodles sprinkled with Shichimi Togarashi seasoning, our array of over 30 distinctive blends will not fail to inspire you in your culinary exploration of Asia.

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Saffron spice

Saffron is painstakingly harvested by hand, from fields carpeted with vivid purple crocus sativus flowers. Each individual crocus has three stigmas and it is these that are prized for their rich red colour and unique flavour. Harvesting takes place in a few short weeks, when the flowers are picked at sunrise. The stigmas are then carefully removed from the petals before being dried.
It takes approximately 200 to 250 crocus flowers to produce just one gram of Saffron, that’s about quarter of a million flowers per kilo, which is why it is one of the most expensive spices in the world!

Saffron spice

Spoon filled with saffron

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Kaffir Lime Leaf Powder

The fresh dark green, glossy leaves of the Kaffir lime tree are used to impart a refreshing aromatic lemon and lime flavour into Thai and other _MG_9662 - resize for new siteSoutheast Asian cuisine.
An unusual double leaf shape, resembling an hour-glass, the whole leaves are extensively used in soups and curries. Finely shredded Kaffir lime leaves are often added to Asian salads and fishcakes.
However, the fresh leaves are not always readily available and whole leaves require removal from a dish prior to eating, similar to when using bay leaves in Western cuisine.
When picked, dried and ground into a fine powder, the intense flavour and aroma of Kaffir lime is captured, ready to conveniently add to your Asian dishes, ensuring delicious authentic results.
The powder is especially versatile as it can also be used in desserts, sauces, biscuits or marinades, in fact any time that a distinct and exotic citrus flavour is desired.


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Passionate about Peppercorns!

The most traded spices in the world are peppercorns, both in monetary value and time, having been traded for thousands of years.

These days, we have access to an awe-inspiring array of peppercorns, with variations in colours, shapes and flavours. In fact, some of the peppercorns available to us are not true peppercorns, but the berries of unrelated plants.

True peppercorns are tiny little fruits, known as drupes, which grow in clusters on a vine called Piper Nigrum of the Piperaceae family. The majority of peppercorn cultivation takes place in Asia, particularly India and Vietnam. The vines need support to grow, which can be provided via living trees, bamboo frames or wooden posts.

Black, white and green peppercorns are all from the Piper Nigrum plant, the variations being the result of harvesting at various stages of ripening.

Black peppercorns are left on the vine to fully mature, then are picked and dried in the sun or blanched before drying. They have a strong spicy flavour due to the presence of the chemical piperine and varying amounts of essential oil.

White peppercorns are the seeds of black peppercorns, soaked to remove the dark coloured casings before drying. The resulting flavour is hotter and more pungent than black peppercorns, with a slightly fermented odour.

Green peppercorns are harvested whilst young then preserved or dried, hence their milder flavour.

Some peppercorns are named after the places from which they are exported or the regions where they are cultivated. Examples are:

  • Lampong Pepper – an Indonesian black peppercorn from the Lampong region of Sumatra. These peppercorns are pungent, fruity and smoky.
  • Tellicherry Pepper – From the Malabar coast in Kerala, Southwest India, these peppercorns are grown near the port of Thalassery, which is also known as Tellicherry. Considered to be the finest of Indian peppercorns, they have a complex rich fruity flavour and mild pungency.
  • Muntok Pepper –The name given to white peppercorns cultivated in the hills surrounding Muntok on the Indonesian island of Bangkla. Soaked in natural spring water for seven days, they are then separated from their casings before being left in the sun to dry and bleach to a creamy colour.


Exotic peppercorns have established a presence in adventurous cuisine and as table condiments. These more unfamiliar peppercorns are not all true peppercorns from the Piperaceae family, some are from other species of plants.

  • Cubeb Pepper – Piper Cubeba is also known as ‘tailed pepper’ due to the berries being dried with their stalks attached. Cultivated mainly in Sumatra and Java (Java Pepper), they have a pungent flavour of pepper and allspice with a camphorous aroma. Historically they were used to ward off spirits and demons, as an aphrodisiac and an aid to fertility. Nowadays they are believed to have wide-ranging medicinal properties, partly due to their antiseptic properties. As such, they are considered to be beneficial to oral health, throat and respiratory conditions, amongst others. Cubeb pepper is also used in cigarettes, gin and vodka and was a recent addition to a range of Japanese anti-aging products.
  • Grains of Paradise – Having many alternative names including Guinea Grains, Alligator Pepper and African Pepper, these seeds do resemble peppercorns. They actually belong to the ginger family and are the fruits of a rhizome, not a vine. Mainly cultivated in Ghana, the grains are used throughout Africa as an everyday seasoning. They have a place in African folklore medicine and are even believed to assist with the cardio-vascular health of wild lowland gorillas, being an integral part of their natural diet. Their complex flavour of pepper, cardamom, ginger, cloves and lemon with accompanying delightful aroma has assured them a place in international cuisine and pepper connoisseurs spice mills.
  • Long Pepper – Piper longum is native to India but its close relative Piper retrofractum is native to Java. Both varieties have a hot and sweet flavour, being more pungent than ordinary black pepper. So-called due to their slender elongated shape, they resemble catkins in appearance, having tiny fruits embedded in a flower spike. In India, they are mainly crushed and used in spicy vegetable pickles. They also feature in the cuisines of Malaysia and Indonesia. Historically introduced to North and East Africa by Arab traders, they are a regular ingredient in the spice blends of Morocco and Ethiopia. In the West, their peppery flavour works well in cheese dishes, particularly fondues.
  • Sichuan Pepper – Unrelated to the pepper family, these are the berries of a prickly ash tree, native to the Sichuan province of southwest China. The berries split open when ripe and look like tiny versions of the buds of beech trees. It is the pinkish outer husk that has all the flavour and aroma, not the black seed within. When chewed they cause a numbing sensation on the tongue, known as ‘ma’ in Chinese which has a similar meaning to pins and needles. Sichuan pepper is very aromatic, with a scent of anise and a sweet fresh citrus flavour. It is an essential component in the blend of Chinese Five Spice and is also used on meats, in stir-fries and in Sichuan cakes and biscuits.
  • Allspice – A member of the myrtle family, the berries are called peppers in many languages, eg. Jamaica Pepper, due to their resemblance to peppercorns. Allspice berries are the dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica tree, a bushy tree native to the Caribbean, Central America and Southern Mexico. They are picked whilst unripe and dried in the sun. Allspice is used in many Mexican dishes such as mole and in most European cuisines, particularly in England in pickles, chutneys and cakes. In the Caribbean it is considered to be the most important spice and is an essential ingredient in Jerk seasoning, along with its leaves. It has an aroma similar to cloves, with flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper.
  • Pink Peppercorns – Not peppercorns at all, but the berries of the shrub Schinus terebinthifolius, the Mexican pepper tree and Schinus molle, the Peruvian pepper tree. Although mild and sweet, they are quite pungent but not peppery. Once crushed, they are very fruity and sweet with spiciness and flavours of juniper, aniseed and pine. They are mostly used for their attractive appearance and are often mixed with other peppercorns in peppermills. They were hugely popular in the era of nouvelle cuisine until the United States banned the importation of the berries as they were believed to cause respiratory and intestinal problems. This ban has since been revoked following extensive analysis. Pink peppercorns enhance light dishes such as fish, poultry and vegetables. They are also a great addition to sweet jellies, syrups, biscuits and cakes.

Here at Seasoned Pioneers, in addition to offering the above products, our range also includes the following:

  • Vietnamese Peppercorns – One of the world’s largest producers, peppercorns from Vietnam are vibrant with strong spicy tobacco notes.
  • Wynad Peppercorns – cultivated in the Wynad district of Kerala, India, these peppercorns have a warming heat with a full, rounded flavour.
  • Cracked Black Pepper – conveniently coarsely crushed ready for use in sauces, rubs, on peppered steaks and for general seasoning.
  • Ground Black Pepper – highly versatile, for use in everything with a subtle, warm & complex flavour.
  • Lemon Pepper Mix – a traditionally dry roasted blend of black peppercorns, garlic and coriander mixed with lemon powder, thyme and onion powder.
  • Mixed Peppercorns – an attractive and vibrant mix of pepper flavours and heat, perfect for the pepper mill. A blend of white peppercorns, black peppercorns, allspice, pink peppercorns and green peppercorns.
  • Exotic Mixed Peppercorns – The ultimate gourmet mill blend for pepper connoisseurs. A blend of white peppercorns, black peppercorns, grains of paradise, allspice, cubeb pepper, pink peppercorns, green peppercorns and Sichuan pepper.
  • Gourmet Peppercorns Selection – An inspirational gift box containing Tellicherry black peppercorns, exotic mixed peppercorns, pink peppercorns, grains of paradise and Sichuan pepper.

We hope that the above information clarifies the dazzling array of peppercorns and accompanying spices that we are fortunate to have at our disposal.

Rejoice in using and experimenting with these fabulous flavourful little berries!

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Tamarind unveiled

Originally native to Africa, but used for centuries across all continents, the tamarind tree yields long seed pods with a hard, brown shell. Contained within these pods are up to 12 seeds, surrounded by an edible sweet & sour fleshy pulp, which is a staple ingredient in many cuisines around the world.

The name ‘tamarind’ is of Arabic origin, meaning ‘date of India’, but nowadays the majority of tamarind is produced & consumed in Mexico & South Asia. In both Asia & South America, tamarind is often enjoyed as a snack, the pulp either eaten straight from the pod or rolled into balls and coated in sugar.

Unusually for a fruit, tamarind contains calcium, as well as being rich in B vitamins, sugar & acid. In fact, the acidic fruit pulp is used to polish brass shrine furniture in Buddhist temples. (Having tested this out at Seasoned Pioneers, we found that a bottle of regular brass polish is a little less messy!)

Tamarind is mostly supplied as a paste, which is the fruit pulp usually containing some seeds and fibres. Before use, cover the paste with hot water and once it has become soft and pliable, any stones and fibrous material can easily be removed.

Widely used across Asia & Indonesia in soups, curries, noodle dishes, marinades, sauces, pickles, chutneys & fried seafood dishes, we think it’s time everyone discovered the delights of tamarind.

Here’s a link to our recipe for a delicious Chicken Goan Xacuti

Alternatively, have a go at one of Karen’s favourite Thai dishes, Pla Rad Prik, easy to prepare & utterly scrumptious!


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Kashmiri Chilli

After being unavailable from Seasoned Pioneers for a number of years, Kashmiri chillies are once again available to buy online.

Originating from South India, the chilli has a sweet flavour which overlays a fierce heat but is also famed for its long, deep red pod which adds great colour to a range of dishes, dressings, marinades and salsas.

Matt from Seasoned Pioneers: “We’re delighted to have secured ongoing stock of Kashmiri Chillies. It was a hard decision to stop offering this popular chilli, but over the last few years we’ve struggled to source a good quality and reliable supply and the authenticity and integrity of all our seasonings is of utmost importance to us so we knew that the best thing would be to wait until we felt confident in a new supply.

“As seasonings can often be the most important ingredients thanks to their essential zesty flavours that create the depth of taste that adds so much to the final dish, it is vital to ensure that the very finest seasonings are used in order to achieve the most flavoursome, authentic results. We pride ourselves on offering this to our customers and didn’t want to let them down.”

Other fans of the deep red chillies include Rick Stein and Madhur Jaffrey who use them in a number of their recipes. Click on the link below for a great recipe which could come in handy for any Christmas dinner leftovers!

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Indian Spices – Indian Restaurant Curry Range

A selection of the classic Indian spice restaurant curries…  each resealable foil pouch has an easy to follow recipe on the back and contains all the authentically dry-roasted Indian spices needed to recreate that Indian restaurant experience for 4 people at least 5 times over! 

In India, ‘korma’ actually refers to the cooking technique of braising rather than the mild, creamy dish we are used to in the West. This style of cooking has been perfected by the Moghuls over many centuries, traditionally served on special occasions using the very finest cuts of meat… 
(Ingredients: Black Cumin, Mace, Paprika, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Black Cardamon, Black Peppercorns, Cloves, Coriander)

Another classic dish of Moghul origin from Kashmir – it is best slow cooked with lamb to fully develop the flavours. Our recipe really captures this truly fine dish, unlike many restaurant ‘versions’ which  are often too compromised…
(Ingredients: Coriander, Black Cumin, Paprika, Paprika, Cinnamon, Black Peppercorns, Cayenne, Roasted Red Chillies, Green Cardamom, Black Cardamom, Cloves, Nutmeg)

A more recent dish, evolved from the days of the Raj as a way of quickly stir-frying cold meats, with medium hot spices. It’s more moern roots do not detract however from a deliciously simple dish…   
(Ingredients: Fenugreek Seeds, Black Peppercorns, Red Chillies, Cayenne, Ginger, Turmeric, Cardamom, Cumin, Cloves, Amchoor, Coriander Seeds, Cinnamon)

A dish of antiquity, originating from from Iran (the Persian ‘berenj’ means rice). An elaborate pilaf again mastered by the Moghuls – a classic dish of alternately layered fragrantly spiced rice & meat…
(Ingredients: Cloves, Black Peppercorns, Cinnamon, Mace, Black Cumin, Green Cardamom, Red Chillies, Black Cardamom)

Perhaps the finest of Parsi dishes, the Parsis fled to India from Persia due to religious persecution. Their traditions and religion have thankfully survived and flourished with their food retaining its Persian origins and a unique place in Indian cuisine…  
Ingredients: Cumin Seeds, Cayenne Pepper, Turmeric, Coriander Seeds, Amchoor, Fenugreek Seeds, Cardamom

A dish of North Indian origin, ‘do’ meaning two and ‘piaza’ meaning onions is testament to the importance of this ingredient in the finished dish… 
Ingredients: Cumin, Fenugreek Seeds, Tureric, Coriander Seeds, Red Chillies, Fennel Seeds, Cloves

‘Pasanda’ means fillet and this dish involves strips of eat bein beaten and pounded until thin before being marinaded until incredibly tender and flavoursome… 
(Ingredients: Cumin, Black Peppercorns, Turmeric, Cloves, Green Cardamom, Fenugreek Leaves, Red Chillies, Cinnamon, Black Cardamom)

Vindaloo (or ‘vendaloo’) is famously fiercely spiced dish from Goa, orginally introduced to India by the Potuguese in the 15th century. Traditionally made with pork which is slowly marinaded, then fearsomely spiced… 
(Ingredients: Roasted Cayenne Chillies, Turmeric, Paprika, Mustard Seeds, Roasted Naga Jolokia Chillies, Cumin Seeds, Cinnamon, Cloves)

The traditional mix of  Indian spices to make the fragrantly spiced pilau rice, another dish evolved of antiquity originally from Iran…
‘Earthy’ cumin & citrus coriander with spicy cinnamon & aromatic cardamom notes.
(Ingredients: Cinnamon, Cumin Seeds, Coriander Seeds, Cardamom Pods)

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Gourmet Salt & Pepper

Those essential condiments used to season our food every day come in many different guises and flavours. From the finest sources worldwide, each has their own highly distinctive flavour to add an extra dimension in your kitchen…

Gourmet Salts…

  • Sel Gris (£2.25) – hand-havested french sea marsh salt: unrefined, natural flavour
  • Fleur de Sel (£2.25) – delicate taste for the true salt connoisseur
  • Himalayan Pink Salt (£2.95) – hand-mined from the Himalayas: subtle, distinctive flavour
  • Australian Murray River Salt (£2.95) – sun-dried river salt: subtle flavour with spicy notes
  • Hawaiian Red Sea Salt (£2.95) – unrefined, mineral-rich sea salt: mellow, unique flavour

Gourmet Peppercorns…

For the ultimate ‘pepper resource’, we thoroughly recommend ‘Pepper’ by Christine McFadden. Christine is a very well-established food writer with a passion for spices and seasonings. This book is dedicated exclusively to the world’s most valued and fascinating spice, with 100 stuning recipes. In our view it is the definitive work and essential reading…

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Discover… Seasoned Pioneer Seasoning Collections

Is your spice cupboard in need of a freshen up? Need a gift for someone who’s just starting to get creative in the kitchen or for a spice aficionado?… at Seasoned Pioneers we’ve used our spicy expertise to carefully select a range of Seasoning Collections to cater for the needs of all real food lovers whether you’re starting from scratch or you’re looking for the ultimate gift for the spice aficionado.

All spices lose their flavour over time and it is important to make sure your spice cupboard is up to date and giving you the best flavours in your cooking – Seasoned Pioneers’ clever resealable foil packaging and dry-roasting of spices both intensifies their flavours and helps the spices to keep their flavour longer. So if the time has come for you to have a clear out or if you are just starting to get creative in the kitchen (or maybe looking for a gift for a budding chef, a new homeowner or an unusual wedding gift), then look no further than our Essential Store Cupboard Seasonings: a collection of 30 spices that no kitchen should be without, including staples such as black Peppercorns, Bay leaves, Pimenton and Allspice. For a more adventurous twist on the essentials, try the Exotic Store Cupboard Seasonings.

If you want to spice up your seasonings cupboard or need a gift for a more adventurous chef why not take a look at The Spice Aficionado Collection: 60 seasonings including Japanese Wasabi powder, Indian Anardana and Chinese Cassia bark.

But if you’re looking for a gift for the really serious chef who has everything then look no further than The ULTIMATE Spice Aficionado Collection which is a selection of 100 of our most interesting and unusual spices and blends including Indonesian Laos powder, Iranian Advieh rice seasoning and Mexican Epazote leaves.

Alternatively if you’re trying to re-create the cuisine of a holiday or time spent abroad, or if you have a friend from abroad living over here who’s longing for the tastes of home, then be inspired by our World Spice Blends Collections. As with all the Collections, the seasonings have been carefully selected for food lovers and include Asia and Far East (with 20 authentic spice blends) and, for those who can’t get enough, The Definitive Selection (40 spice blends).

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