Spice up your life

Bart Beek | VOLUME 26, ISSUE 3

Bart Beek serves up a variety of dishes that celebrate the diversity of spices and flavours freely available to today’s cooks.

People have used spices and herbs to flavour foods for thousands of years. And, over the centuries, different regions developed their own styles of cooking. When I need inspiration to produce new recipes, I simply consider a certain country and the traditional herbs and spices with which it’s associated.

The Sichuan Province in southwest China is known for its scorching, spicy cuisine. In fact, most of this region’s foods are seasoned with chillies – not just fresh, but dried, powdered, fried and stewed.

The foods of Malaysia and Singapore blend shrimp paste, lemongrass, tamarind and garlic. The famous laksa and char kway teow clearly exhibit the depth and passion of this part of the world for its unique foods.

The bouquet of saffron, turmeric, nutmeg and cloves takes you on a journey through Morocco, where aromatic, slow-cooked tagines are cooked over coals to produce mouth-watering masterpieces.

Indonesia introduced the world to the deliberate combination of contrasting flavours and textures (hot, sweet, sour and spicy). Indonesian dishes cleverly combine spices such as cardamom, galangal, ginger, cumin and cloves. Who could resist a bowl of nasi goreng, a gado gado platter or a stunning beef rendang?

In the Netherlands, the Dutch regularly enjoy a lavish feast known as a rijsttafel (rice table). Invented by the Dutch colonists in Indonesia, the rijsttafel brings together a large number of small side dishes – sometimes up to 50 – which are served all at the same time. The range includes curried meats, steamed seafood, fragrant rices, fruits, eggs in spicy sauces and anything else the kitchen deems fit to serve up.

In this issue of Club Marine Magazine, I have drawn on these inspirations to assemble some of my favourite spicy dishes from across the globe. We start with soy and ginger glazed chicken, a Chinese-influenced Malaysian recipe that combines cinnamon quills, whole star anise, cloves, soy, ginger and melted palm sugar to flavour and glaze two chicken breasts, which are then served with rice.

The fried eggs in chilli and soy dish is a Singaporean classic that uses shrimp paste (belachan), lemongrass, ginger and chilli. It’s then simmered down with tomato, dark soy and lime juice and completed by folding golden deep-fried eggs through the mix.

There are also two recipes representing northern and eastern Africa: the lamb kebabs with artichoke and preserved lemon salsa, which are spicy, sweet and delicious; and the Ethiopian doro wat, with its 12 spices roasted and ground into the famous berbere spice blend.

For the big finish, try the Dutch-inspired chocolate and cinnamon steamed pudding. It’s rich, but light, sweet and spiced and finished with a beautiful orange-flavoured vanilla custard – yes please!


1 fenugreek

2 black peppercorns

3 cinnamon quills

4 cassia

5 dried red dates

6 cloves

7 fennel seeds

8 coriander seeds

9 Sichuan pepper

10 nutmeg

11 allspice (pimento)

12 ajowan seeds

13 star anise

14 cardamom (green)

15 ground turmeric

16 cumin seeds

Hand-woven runner, platters and wooden spice bowls provided by Romany Woman, Williamstown, Vic.

Soy and ginger glazed chicken

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 2

2 small chicken breasts, skin on

2 tblsps Chinese rice wine vinegar

2 tblsps vegetable oil

2 tblsps ginger, sliced very thin

2 small shallots, quartered

1/2 cup palm sugar

1 cinnamon stick

3 whole star anise pods

6 whole cloves

3 tblsps Yeo’s dark soy sauce

½ tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (with fan assist) and place the oven shelf near the top. Rub the chicken breasts with the rice wine vinegar and set aside until required.

Heat a small, deep-sided saucepan and add the oil, then toss in the sliced ginger and shallots. Cook until lightly browned, then add the palm sugar, cinnamon, star anise and cloves.

When the sugar caramelizes, add the chicken breasts and brown on all sides. Add the dark soy, salt and enough water to half cover the chicken.

Place uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes, turning often. (Add a little water if the sauce reduces too quickly.)

Remove the chicken when cooked and slice each breast into four pieces. Skim away all the fat from the surface of the sauce. Present the sliced chicken with steaming hot rice and a bowl of the strained sauce.


In the absence of a long grape/wine culture, some of these complex Asian flavours can prove a bit tricky to match with wines. But over the years, I’ve found the musky spice of gewürztraminer to be a fairly safe bet with soy and ginger flavours. Try a Skillogalee from the Clare Valley or a Springvale from Swansea in Tasmania.


A slightly off-dry riesling wouldn’t be bad, but ginger, lemongrass, coriander and mint to me suggest sauvignon blanc or a sauvignon blanc/semillon blend every time. I’m sure everyone has their favourite savvie, so stick with it, or, if going for the blend, Margaret River has made the style its own.

Fried eggs in chilli and soy

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: 6

1½ litres vegetable oil

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

1 tblsp fresh ginger, grated

1 tblsp lemongrass, crushed

4 tblsps Yeo’s sambal oelek

2 small shallots, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ tsp shrimp paste, grilled on foil for 1 minute

1 can chopped tomatoes

2 tblsps sugar

4 tblsps Yeo’s dark soy sauce

Juice of half a lime

½ cup mixed coriander and mint leaves, chopped

Heat the oil in a wok to 180°C and deep fry the eggs until golden, then remove the eggs from the oil, cut into halves and set aside.

Carefully pour out the hot oil, leaving only two tablespoons in the wok. Return the wok to the heat and add the ginger, lemongrass, Yeo’s sambal oelek, garlic, shallots and shrimp paste.

Stir until fragrant, then add the tomatoes and sugar. Cook down until the mixture is thick, then add the dark soy and lime juice.

Add the eggs and fold through the sauce. Serve hot with steamed rice and herbs.


If you were eating this while dangling your toes in the Mediterranean off the Côte d’Azure, your choice of wine would be obvious – one of those light, refreshingly dry, pale-orange-coloured rosés from the Provençal hills behind you. We don’t do the style so well here in the Southern Hemisphere, but imports are booming. So, if you see one with Provence anywhere on the label, grab it.

Seared scallops with chive and saffron aioli

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 2 minutes

Serves: 6

2 pink eye potatoes (peeled, boiled and sliced 6mm thick)

2 slices thin prosciutto, cut into halves

12 fresh grape and semi-dried cherry tomato halves

2 stems lemon thyme cut into small heads

3 tblsps Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

12 large scallops, roe off


1 egg yolk

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tblsp white wine vinegar

1 pinch white pepper

½ tsp salt

75ml vegetable oil

75ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

2 tblsps chives, chopped

1 pinch saffron

1 tsp tomato dust (available from Olivers & Co)

1 head garlic

Place the garlic head in aluminium foil with a little olive oil and bake at 160ºC for 45 minutes. Allow to cool in the foil.

To make the aioli, whisk the egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, pepper and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the two oils in a slow trickle, while whisking constantly. Fold in the chives, saffron, tomato dust and the roasted garlic. Combine well and set aside.

Smear a portion of the aioli onto four plates, followed by three potato slices and the seasoned tomato halves. Place a portion of prosciutto in the centre of the plate.

Heat a heavy pan and add the olive oil. Season the scallops and grill on high heat for one minute on each side.

Place the scallops onto the potato slices and serve immediately.

Spiced pan-grilled lamb kebabs with northern African artichoke and preserved lemon salsa

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 6

2 x 10cm rosemary sprigs

2 x 9-point lamb racks, bone and fat removed

12 small roasted baby onions

40ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tblsp cumin seeds

2 tblsps coriander seeds

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 flat stainless steel skewers


6 tblsps Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

2 tblsps lemon juice

6 roasted and pickled artichoke hearts, quartered

2 tblsps toasted pine nuts

½ cup dried currants, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained

1 tblsp preserved lemon, finely sliced

1 large tomato, flesh and seeds removed then diced

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground

2 pinches of ground turmeric

1 cup continental parsley, torn

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the cumin and coriander seeds into a small fry pan and heat until smoky and fragrant. Tip into a mortar and pestle and grind until fine.

Cut each lamb loin into six portions, butterfly open and place into a bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic, ground cumin and coriander seeds, paprika and seasoning. Rub the spice mix into the lamb loin well.

Next, place one roasted onion, the lamb, another onion, a second piece of lamb and a third onion onto each flat metal skewer. Set aside until required.

To make the salsa, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, ground cumin seeds and turmeric. Fold in the other ingredients and check the seasoning.

Place the rosemary sprigs into a pre-heated grill pan and top with the lamb skewers. Cook to your desired rareness and serve with a portion of the salsa.


The spices and smoky lamb here call for the weight, texture and exotic flavours of viognier, the white grape of northern Rhone. Yalumba introduced the variety to Australia and still does it better than most. Try The Virgilius if feeling extravagant, or its far cheaper – and almost as good – regular viognier.

Doro wat (Ethiopian chicken braise)

This chicken recipe is prepared with an Ethiopian spice blend called berbere. The blend is very pungent, yet quite fragrant. The preparation is very easy, once all the ingredients have been obtained.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

Berbere (the basic dry spice mix)

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp whole ajowan seeds

2 tsps coriander seeds

2 tsps cumin seeds

1 tsp whole allspice berries

1 tsp whole fenugreek seeds

4 cardamom seeds

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tsps salt flakes

Using moderate heat in a heavy pan, dry roast (without oil) the peppercorns, ajowan, coriander, cumin, allspice, fenugreek and cardamom. Stir continuously while on the heat for five minutes or until fragrant. Pour the mix into a mortar and pestle.

Grind the spices with the mortar and pestle until fine, then add the remaining ingredients. When cool, place into an air-tight container and store until required.


I can’t think of a wine that would complement the fragrant pungency of this dish. So I’d go for a contrast, something fresh and fruity that would benefit from a light chill. A rosé or a light, cool-climate pinot noir should do the job.


4 chicken thighs, skin off

40ml Jingilli extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 small brown onions, sliced

2 tblsps berbere spice

2 tblsps tomato paste

½ glass red wine

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups coriander, coarsely chopped

Heat a heavy-based, wide saucepan and add the olive oil. Next, add the garlic and fry for 10 seconds, then add the onions. Cook for several minutes more then add the berbere and tomato paste.

Fry for several minutes, then add the red wine. Stir well, then add the chicken portions and lemon juice. Add the chicken stock to just cover the meat. Stir well, then cover and cook at a simmer for 30 minutes or until just cooked but tender.

Add some freshly-chopped coriander and present with soft wood-fired white bread and a light salad.

Chocolate and cinnamon steamed pudding with Grand Marnier crème anglaise

Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of genus Cinnamomum. It is available as small sticks or ground into a fine powder and can be used with both sweet and savoury foods. This combination of chocolate and cinnamon is delicious and addictive and complemented further by the orange-flavoured vanilla custard.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 24 minutes

Serves: 8

1 tblsp unsalted butter (for the dariole moulds)

2 tblsps caster sugar

100g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

4 eggs, separated

100g melted dark chocolate

100g ground almond meal

100g self-raising flour

2 tsps ground cinnamon


There’s probably enough raw Grand Marnier in the custard of this recipe to keep everyone happy. So perhaps the best suggestion is a port or muscat from Rutherglen, with a coffee to follow.

Brush one tablespoon of melted butter into the moulds, lightly coat with the two tablespoons of caster sugar and set aside.

Place 100g of softened butter and caster sugar into a mixing machine and beat until light. Slowly add the egg yolks, one at a time, and then add the melted chocolate.

Combine the almond meal, self-raising flour and cinnamon. Then fold into the chocolate mix.

Beat the egg whites until you have firm peaks, and then gently fold through the mix.

Place into the buttered cups, cover with a small piece of aluminium foil and steam for 24 minutes or until fully cooked.

Present with a dusting of icing sugar and a spoon of Grand Marnier crème anglaise.

Crème anglaise (English custard)

250ml cream

250ml milk

1 vanilla bean, split

6 egg yolks

150g caster sugar

60ml Grand Marnier

Heat the cream, milk and vanilla bean to a simmering point, then set aside.

Whisk together the sugar and eggs, then slowly combine in the milk mix.

Place the mixture in a bowl above simmering water and stir until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be careful not to over-heat, as the eggs in the mix will cook and the sauce will curdle.

When cooled, add the Grand Marnier. This dish can be served warmed or chilled.