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Spice up Your Dinner with Raw Spice Bar

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Braised lamb shanks with advieh on a bed of sabzi polo with dill and saffron and mast-o-khiar with rose and mint.

That’s what we had for dinner tonight. How about you?

Ok, so this isn’t a post just to brag — I certainly would never have cooked this without the prompting of Raw Spice Bar, a company that wants to send you a set of small batch, handcrafted spice blends each month, along with recipes to use them.

Kind of a cool idea, right? I thought so, so when they contacted me and asked me if I wanted to try it, I was all for it.

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My package came in March, when the theme was Iran for Persian New Year.

The packaging was beautiful.  I immediately wanted to take pictures of it! Lovely package, lovely presentation. Felt like I was receiving a gift.

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Then I started reading about the spices and the menu.  Woah. This wasn’t your typical “spice mix” packet of spices!  The menu would be intense, but I was definitely up for the challenge.

While the spices were clearly high quality, the recipes might be the weak link in this chain.

All three turned out delicious, don’t get me wrong, but together this was one of the most challenging meals I’ve made in a long time.

First, I had to visit three different grocery and specialty stores to collect all the ingredients for the recipes. While the exotic spices are included, other relatively exotic ingredients like fava beans (had to go to Trader Joes to find those frozen) and rose water (a trip to a specialty store) weren’t.

Then, I kept putting off the actual cooking of the meal because the lamb has to cook for three hours plus prep time. I kept forgetting about that, glancing at the clock, and realizing we wouldn’t be eating until well after my toddler’s bedtime if I started then.

But I finally got all my stuff together to cook it yesterday. Starting at 2:30 in the afternoon, I started chopping onions and searing lamb. The other thing about these recipes is that they’re written for 8–10 people. This means you get a generous amount of spices, but also means that if you’re an average family, you have to be planning a dinner party to use them as written (or plan on a LOT of leftovers). Since we are a family of 2 and a half, I opted to halve the recipes.

The lamb was not hard to make; as long as you remember to start it early enough, it mostly braises by itself in the oven for three hours.  Easy peasey.

The rice — or sabzi polow — on the other hand… This is one of the most complicated recipes I’ve made in a while, and somehow, I had a hard time following the recipe. (I kept losing my place and getting confused about what went where.) There were also several typos in the recipes when it came to ingredients; the ingredients for the lamb listed orange juice while the recipe called for zest, and the rice recipe called for butter that wasn’t in the ingredients list at all.

I am pleased to say that it came out (I think) the way it was supposed to, with a lovely crust on the bottom — and it actually came out of the pan! (Even though there was a little spillage because I really didn’t have a platter large enough to make it work turning it out the way I was supposed to.) But as we ate, I couldn’t help thinking it wasn’t that exciting a dish for all the work that went into it.

The mast-o-khiar is a yogurt dip that was easy to put together. I whipped it up a few days early to serve with crudite at a get-together (because the recipe makes more than FIVE CUPS of yogurt dip) and the first day, it wasn’t that spectacular. The flavors weren’t very prominent. However, after it sat in my fridge for a couple of days (and, admittedly, became a bit more like yogurt cheese than yogurt) the flavors intensified beautifully. The recipe says to refrigerate until ready to serve, but I would suggest letting it marinate overnight at least for better flavor.

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Overall, the meal was delicious. Everything was very, very tasty and the quality of the spices were top notch. But I would say that a subscription to Raw Spice Bar would be best suited to a true gourmand, a home chef with decent culinary chops.

Because these are not weeknight suppers, per se. I consider myself an accomplished home chef, and I found these recipes challenging. If, however, you love a challenge and regularly have 8–10 mouths to feed, this might be a wonderful addition to your kitchen. It might be an excellent way to challenge yourself to throw more dinner parties — your guests will no doubt be delighted!


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