It is time to spice up dinner as Charlotte Harding discovers in Lewes.
Most people have a collection of herbs and spices, but very few probably use any of them.
“There is often an air of mystery around spices,” explains Chloe Edwards.
“People think that they are unfamiliar and unmapped territory and often struggle to have the confidence to go ahead and cook with them themselves.”
Chloe is the sole proprietor of Seven Sisters’ Spices a catering and teaching kitchen, which includes spice workshops.
“Because of people’s confidence with spice that is where my joy of teaching spice workshops comes in,” she smiles.
“I love empowering people with the confidence to create flavours with spices.
“I also love it as it combines my teaching degree and experience from my time at City Lit (an adult education college in Holborn) with the food-based work I do now.”
The business was officially launched in 2013, but the idea was planted when Chloe moved to Lewes from London eight years ago.
“I was immediately bereft of all the food we had lived amongst in Hackney - particularly access to spices and aromatics,” she explains.
“When in 2012 our daughter became ill with cancer, she is now well and her treatment was completed in 2015, I had to cease the work I was doing at that time, working with deaf adults in further and higher arts education.
“I was fortunate to have a little savings to allow me to be at home and focus on Agi, but also knew I needed to do something to keep me sane, and that was when I decided to use the blow of Agi’s diagnosis as an opportunity by seeing if my plans for Seven Sisters’ Spices could grow.”
Chloe also produces small batches of spiced larder goods including fresh and hand ground spice blends and dukkahs, chutneys and pickles, fresh and preservative free curry pastes, which are sold by weight and curry kits.
There is also the Seven Sisters’ Spice Club, which was born out of a need to generate a foundation income for the business.
“I was looking for something that could establish a relatively stable and committed income and had long wanted to create products that were based on recipes and packet of spices so the two ideas came together,” explains Chloe.
For the kits Chloe follows the seasons and her personal tastes, saying that the weather and locally grown vegetables available at different times impact her food cravings and the recipes she produces.
“Most often the feedback I get is that people really enjoy having a break in the routine of things they usually cook,” she reveals.
“They enjoy the variety of my recipes and spices and cooking up something different for themselves, family and friends.”
And what spices does she recommend everyone should have?
“Cumin, coriander, chilli and turmeric are my top four,” she answers.
“Then comes back mustard, cardamom, cinnamon, paprika and fennel, I could go on.
“One spice I think is really underrated is black pepper, which may seem an odd thing to say as we all have it pretty much every day.
“But this is why I think it’s essential flavour is overlooked, we apply it to our food almost without thinking.
“Black pepper plays an important role in the Thai Green Curry Paste I make. It’s sweet hard heat is an essential component. The quantities that we sprinkle on our dinner aren’t often enough to actually taste.”
The spices are sourced via organic fair-trade wholesalers and Chloe supplements what she buys from them through Asian wholesalers.
“There are a few spices that I am not yet able to acquire organically and some that I currently use in such small quantities that buying over a kilo would be a waste,” she explains.
“One of my passions is for keeping my spice products as fresh as possible. This is why I buy my spices whole and toast and grind them myself.
“It is also why I make up such small batch quantities. When you buy a spice blend from me it is going to be at most a few weeks old ensuring it’s freshness and vibrancy of flavour. I could go on about the provenance and relative flavour of mass produced spice blends.”
Sometimes all you need is a bit of inspiration and thankfully Seven Sisters’ Spices can provide just that.
Seven Sisters’ Spices products are available at the weekly Lewes Food Market, Fridays 9am until 1pm in the Lewes Market Tower; monthly at Lewes Farmers Market on the first Saturday of the month and at HiSBe in Brighton and Wild Sussex in Pulborough.
You can also see Seven Sisters’ Spices a the Lewes Chilli Fayre, Saturday, September 22 in the Paddock, Lewes.
For the website, visit sevensistersspices.com