CLOSED Spices for the heart and mind: a review of Raw Spice Bar – and a giveaway!

I have always wanted to know more about spices and the art of combining them to create the perfect flavors. When we lived in England I used to love the cooking shows which featured Chef Atul Kochhar. A twice Michelin starred chef renowned for his modern take on Indian cuisine, he is also what I would call “a spice genius.” Every time I watched Atul’s shows I was amazed with his artistry. To Atul, nothing was random: every ingredient had a reason to be there, and every added spice was discussed in a way which made perfect sense to the uninitiated, such as myself.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m in the same spot when it comes to spices: I would love to find out more about spices from various corners of the world and to learn to work with them, but I never have the time to go ahead and do this. When to add what, and why? – these are questions to which I have yet to find the answers. Thankfully, I have recently come across Raw Spice Bar, a monthly subscription service which delivers premium spices and spice blends from all around the world, and which makes using spices easy and convenient. They sent me a batch of spices to review and accompanying recipes to test. 

Right off the bat, I was impressed with the thought process which had gone into the spice mix I received. It was obvious that a lot of research and effort had been put into it, and that nothing was random or far-fetched. The theme of the spice box was Celebrating Nowruz: Persian New Year, and the accompanying cards contained detailed information on the origin, history and tasting notes of the spices/spice blends I was about to try.

The centerpiece of the Raw Spice Bar Persian menu were the braised lamb shanks with advieh khoresht, which is a traditional Iranian mixture of rose petals and several spices including cinnamon, green cardamom, coriander, cumin, and black peppercorns. I am not a fan of lamb (I find it too heavy, and so does my stomach!), so I was a little apprehensive about this dish. Thankfully, the result put my mind to rest and married flavors and tradition beautifully. The spice blend shone through, elevating the meat, which was falling off the bone. Out of all the spices, the cardamom stood out for me, with its strong yet accommodating flavor. I used to use cardamom a lot to make rice pudding when we lived in England, and its presence in this dish brought back sweet memories. I also loved the hint of cinnamon, which gave the meat a cheerful yet delicate fragrance.

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I did not have basmati rice in my pantry, so I used long grain rice to make the second dish, sabzi polow with dill and saffron. I had never cooked with saffron before and I was very excited to try this famous spice. I did some research beforehand because I wanted to know what to expect, but I was left with more questions than answers. It seems everyone experiences saffron differently – some say it’s bitter, others say it’s salty or fruity – so it was up to me to try it and to see what I made of it. I found it to be delicately salty, and I thought it gave the dish a wholesome finishing note. As I added the saffron to the rice, I was also amazed by its brilliant gold color, which instantly reminded me of summer, with all its heat and expansiveness. 

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Subtle and refreshing, the third dish on the menu was mast-o-khiar, a traditional Iranian yogurt and cucumber dish, to which I added Raw Spice Bar’s mast-o-khiar rose & herbs blend, a delicious mixture of dill, mint, organic rose petals and black peppercorns. This dish made a welcome contrast with the hearty lamb and rice – and it also looked great on the plate!

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You can find all of these recipes on the Raw Spice Bar website, along with information about various other spices and details on their spice subscription options, including their quarterly subscription service.

Raw Spice Bar would also like to offer Chicago Loves Panini readers the chance to win a 3-month subscription to their service. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and answer the following question: What is your favorite spice, and why?

Giveaway open to US residents only. One entry per person. Deadline for entries is 6PM central time on May 19, 2015. One winner will be chosen on or around May 20, 2015 by using a random number generator and will have 72 hours to respond to the winner notification email. I reserve the right to pick an alternative winner if the original winner does not contact me 72 hours after receipt of winner notification email. Good luck!

*Disclaimer: Raw Spice Bar sent me a package of spices to try as part of this review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own.


46 Comments

  • saady frink

    May 5, 2015

    nice

    Reply
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  • AnnaZed

    May 6, 2015

    My favorite spice changes, but currently I’m on a Cummin binge. It’s actually quite a versatile spice – from Mexican to Indian food. It has a nice lively bite.
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    Reply
  • Jennifer M.

    May 6, 2015

    I love cinnamon because it smells great and I understand it helps regulate blood sugar.

    Reply
  • Kimberly O

    May 6, 2015

    I have using smoked paprika lately. It is my secret ingredient in everything, adding just that “little something” to potato salad, tuna salad, baked chicken – almost anything! Thanks!

    Reply
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  • Heidi S.

    May 6, 2015

    My favorite spice is garlic salt! I use it on everything from steaks to salads and spaghetti! Its such a great addition to my meals!

    Reply
  • Lisa

    May 6, 2015

    Lately I’ve been using a lot of Red Pepper, it adds a get kick to a dish and you can adjust the amount you use to suit everyone’s taste.

    Reply
  • Maeghyn Koehler

    May 6, 2015

    I love garlic! It just is so versitile!

    Reply
  • Mary

    May 7, 2015

    What a great way to increase your recipe collection an learn about other cultures! Cinnamon is my favorite spice because it is so versatile. It enhances the flavor of everything from my main course to my after dinner coffee1

    Reply
  • lexxii88

    May 7, 2015

    I like cumin.

    Reply
  • bn100

    May 7, 2015

    black pepper because it goes with almost everything

    Reply
  • Neha Kaul

    May 8, 2015

    Cinnamon for its versatility; it enhances the flavor of and/or pairs well with a wide range of dishes and ingredients be it rice or coffee.

    Reply
  • I love smoked paprika…I love the smell of it and would rub it all over ME so I could smell it all day if I could but that would be weird, right? LOL. I love the flavor it brings to foods.

    Reply
  • jberry

    May 8, 2015

    If I had to pick just one, Cumin. Having a comforting quality, tasting like home in a way. It represents so many ethnic palates as well.

    Reply
  • Stephen

    May 8, 2015

    Turmeric because of it’s health benefits

    Reply
  • LaTanya (@sweetums82)

    May 8, 2015

    garlic powder because it provides a good flavor

    Reply
  • charj

    May 9, 2015

    My favorite spice is Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning because it has a great depth of flavor without the harshness of liquid smoke

    Reply
  • adriana

    May 10, 2015

    cinnamon and cloves l just the flavor they give

    Reply
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  • sarahacool

    May 11, 2015

    I like fennel its great mixed into rice for more flavor and its great when i make homemade breads for a savory kick

    Reply
  • Jalisa Brown

    May 12, 2015

    It’s hard to pick just one spice, I love cumin particularly for all of it’s health benefits. I love paprika for the color it adds to dishes but I would have to say my favorite is mint. I love the flavor it adds to dishes and drinks!

    Reply
  • Spice Girl

    May 12, 2015

    I’ll take em all

    Reply
  • Mia Flower

    May 13, 2015

    peppercorns

    Reply
  • Albert L Peruzzo

    May 13, 2015

    Cinnamon. It is so warm, and it is an antioxident.

    Reply
  • Anna

    May 14, 2015

    I liked seasoned salt because my grandmother used to use it and it reminds me of her.

    Reply
  • Kristina

    May 15, 2015

    My favorite spice is smoked paprika. It smells so good and can be added to many dishes.

    Reply
  • Tammy Baranoff

    May 17, 2015

    Tumeric, because of it’s anti-inflamatory properties, great for arthritis

    Reply
  • Lisa Bouch

    May 17, 2015

    I love Cayenne Pepper because it makes anything taste great and its good for gut health

    Reply
  • Allison K

    May 17, 2015

    I love cinnamon for the warmth components. The versatility and the fact it’s a aphrodisiac

    Reply
  • Laurels Bruner

    May 17, 2015

    Smoked Serrano Chili Powder….Love the smokey flavor and the heat it brings to a dish.

    Reply
  • Heather Voorhees

    May 17, 2015

    I like cinnamon because it has a strong, sweet flavor and helps regulate blood sugar levels.

    Reply
  • jkbbkj

    May 18, 2015

    My favorite spice is cardamom because it reminds me of my grandma’s coffee bread and it’s sweet, earthy and rich.

    Reply
  • Annamarie V

    May 18, 2015

    Recently my favorite spice is cumin, I have been using it in a lot of recipes and in my homemade salad dressing it goes so well with fresh garlic in the dressing.

    Reply
  • Lorena Keech

    May 18, 2015

    My favorite spice is cinnamon. I like the flavor in food but I’m using it for its health benefits.

    Reply
  • Melissa Mazzur

    May 18, 2015

    I love cinnamon because it has great health benefits and can be sprinkled on so many things!

    Reply
  • Lisa Lann-Green

    May 18, 2015

    My favorite spice to date is nothing chic or glamorous, but we love it! It is TUMERIC !! LOVE to use it in chicken, salads, veggies! Of course along with everyday spices and flavorings!

    Reply
  • Birdiebee

    May 18, 2015

    Garlic is my favorite spice as I love the flavor, put it in many of my recipes and also the health benefits that come from garlic.

    Reply
  • Kay RT

    May 18, 2015

    Garlic because it is used in so many different things!

    Reply
  • Christy R

    May 19, 2015

    My favorite spice is garlic. Everything garlic.

    Reply
  • Bee Bee

    May 19, 2015

    Garlic for sure!

    Reply
  • bluebell

    May 19, 2015

    My favorite spice is cardamom, because it makes some of the most delicious baked goods (cookies) and french toast, but also delicious pho and other savory foods!

    Reply
  • Ness R

    May 19, 2015

    My favorite spice is saffron because it adds such beautiful color and aroma to every dish!

    Reply
  • Kathryn Mcneal

    May 19, 2015

    Getting to the comments looks like almost everyone likes the same thing I do, cinnamon. I put cinnamon in just about every baking or breakfast item I make or I’ll eat it by itself.

    Reply
  • Wendi

    May 20, 2015

    paprika really you can us it in everything!

    Reply

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