RawSpiceBar Review - September 2015 - Meal Preparation Subscription Box

This box was provided complimentary for review. This post contains affiliate links.
  
What is it? Raw Spice Bar 
How Much? $6 per month plus $4 shipping to Canada. Save on longer term subscription. Prices in US dollars. 
What’s in it? 3 hand-picked, small batch, freshly ground spice blends and kitchen-tested, detailed recipes and ideas.

RawSpiceBar is a subscription service offering a monthly box of spices. For only $6 per month plus shipping, RawSpiceBar send 3 freshly ground spices & blends with a new regional theme plus kitchen-tested recipes. The recipes and spices yield enough to create 3 global dishes to serve 4-6 adults. The spice blends are perfectly portioned, freshly ground and expertly blended by top chefs for maximum authentic flavor. It's all done just days before shipping to guarantee freshness.  

RawSpiceBar ships their packages between the 6th and 10th of the month. It's a slim letter-mail size package that will fit in a condo-sized mailbox. The package comes to Canada via USPS International Priority Airmail, but for some reason, I always receive my package the first week of the following month. This September package arrived in mid-October. This has been the case since my first package in January. Keep that in mind if you plan to subscribe.

The theme for September is Istanbul Spice Box. 
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey is awash in multicultural influences. An important route along the Silk Road, Turkey brought exotic goods and spices westward. While not every spice used in Turkish cooking originated from Turkey, each of these spices have acquired a special place and use in Turkish cuisine. 

This is a great one for me. As you know, I was away in Europe for 6 weeks. For just over 3 weeks of that trip, I travelled around western and central Turkey. This post is a great chance to share some food photos from my time in Turkey. While in Istanbul, we were exposed to lots of sumac, which is sprinkled on salads and soups, and cumin, which is used in everything from Köfte (meatballs) to Mercimek Çorbası (lentil soup). Paprika, turmeric, cloves, and peppercorns are also common staples in the spice cupboard. Dill, flat leaf parsley, and mint are used in many dishes as well, dried or fresh. 

The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul is an experience in itself. The sights, sounds, and smells are incredible. You can also taste as you go, although the pressure to buy is quite intense! Click on the pictures below to enlarge.



The food was amazing too, and was generally the same in most places, although different regions are known for different dishes.

Simit, the Turkish version of a bagel, is everywhere, from one end of Turkey to the other. It's sold from small carts on every street corner (or sometimes in the middle of the street, like this guy), for 1 lira ($0.45 Canadian). In Istanbul you could get them slathered with Nutella or cream cheese, but elsewhere they were served plain.

Chicken pita (tavuk pide) isn't as common as you'd think. They do have donair/shawarma stands with chicken and lamb on the rotating spit, but it's not like we get here. Turkish "donner" usually comes in a flat lavash (more like a tortilla) with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mayo, or occasionally garlic yogurt sauce. It's rolled thin and long. Sometimes we could get them in bread, and only once could we find a place to get it inside a pita (on the left). I expected donair to be everywhere in Turkey but instead I learned that what we know as donair/shawarma in North America, is actually more Lebanese. On the left is a fish bread sandwich. If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, head to the Galata Bridge, on the Sultanamet side, and get yourself a fish bread from one of the boats.

In the Cappadocia region, meat stewed in clay pots was the popular dish. When it comes to the table, the server taps around the top of the pot so the two pieces come apart and expose your delicious meal. Along with chicken, this one was filled with peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. The Baharat spice blend from this month's box may be used in a dish like this.

This is Turkish pita (or pide, which is pronounced pee-day). It's thin and hollow. It's mostly used for Turkish pizza (also called pide) and also for Lahmacun. Turksih pizzas don't usually have sauce or cheese on them - just minced meats and vegetables. Lavash style flat bread was also quite common and served with many dishes. On the right is Kiymali Pide, which is a Turkish pizza made with minced beef, onion, tomato, and peppers.

Meze are appetizers composed of several small dishes served together. On the left, is a Meze plate with haydari, stuffed pepper and eggplant, grilled vegetable salad, and green beans. Everything is served cold. On the right is a typical westernized meal - chicken shish (tavuk şiş) with rice, salad, and fries. I added the haydari extra. Normally their dishes don't comes with sauces, other than ketchup or mayo. The za'atar could be sprinkled on pita here, and the Baharat spices could be used to marinate the chicken, or added to rice to fill the peppers and eggplant.

Now let's get into the September Istanbul Spice Box!

Baharat Spice with recipe for Lahmacun
Baharat is a spice staple in Turkish cooking- the name itself means “spices” in Arabic. Used in everything from seafood to soup, our blend brings together coriander cumin and black peppercorn with warm spices like cinnamon, allspice and cloves- rounded out by sweet- not hot- paprika. 
Lahmacun is everywhere in Turkey. It's kind of a fast food meal. You can get it from restaurants (mostly ones that serve Turkish pizza or pide), but it's more commonly found from quick walk-up vendors. I'm not a fan of lamb, so I never tried true Lahmacun, but the Kiymali Pide that I enjoyed is quite similar. 

Za'atar with recipe for Za'atar & Pita Crusted Cauliflower
Originating as far back as the 13th century, za’atar is a Turkish cook’s closely guarded secret, bringing zest to every dish it touches. Thyme and sesame seeds provide a nutty flavor, balanced by floral herbs and acidic sumac. Stir into olive oil and serve on bread, dust on eggs or oatmeal or use as dry rub on chicken or vegetables.
I didn't have anything with za'atar or cauliflower while in Turkey, and from what I gather, they are both more prominent in the eastern region where there are more Middle Eastern and Arabic influences. My sister makes a delicious seasoned and crusted cauliflower dish so I'm sure this one will be just as tasty.

Urfa Pepper with recipe for Roasted Beet & Urfa Pepper Hummus
Often described as raisins meets coffee, this dried Turkish chile is smoky, almost sweet, and imparts a deep, red-maroon tinge to everything it touches. Urfa chiles pair well with braised meats, eggplants and red peppers and gives great depth to spreads with dairy or in hummus.
Turkish food is generally not hot or spicy. The only region that tends to enjoy spicier dishes is the southeast (where the Urfa region is located), as they have more Middle Eastern influences. I didn't see beets much either, other than pickled, but I do love beets and hummus!

The September RawSpiceBar box contained three spice blends influenced by the flavours of Turkey. While only one of the recipes is for an authentic Turkish dish, the other two put a Turkish spin on more familiar tastes. After spending nearly a month in Turkey, these spices aren't the first that come to mind when I think of Turkish cooking, but I am very curious to use them and see how the dishes turn out. I'm most interested in making Lahmacun since I didn't try it while abroad, but I will admit, I am going to use beef instead of lamb. For those that have never been to Turkey, it's a good introduction to what the country has to offer. If you are interested in more, check out this Turkish recipe website. It's fantastic. 

Click here to check out Raw Spice Bar.


Comments are now closed for this post. Please e-mail me if you have any questions or comments.

Comments

  1. In case you are thinking about ordering and reside in canada I heard from RawSpiceBar "It's an additional $4/month to ship to Canada"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for bringing that to my attention! I didn't realized they started charging shipping to Canada. I've updated the post.

      Delete
  2. I thought I had commented here as well but it's not showing up. . . Anyway, I had to pay $16.60 in shipping fees for a 6 month gift sub (so more like $2.50-ish) but the monthly was $4 and the yearly was something else. Disappointed that they've made this change - especially because the free shipping to Canada was part of the attraction :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't mind paying shipping, and $2.50 to $4 is reasonable, but I wish their shipping was actually efficient. It still take about 3 weeks (usually more) to receive a package. I just got the October one the other day on Nov 2nd.

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    2. Agreed that the shipping's reasonable :) I just wish it had been more clearly stated, I guess? Because it was unexpected.

      Delete

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