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Category: SPICES

  1. BITTER AND TWISTED When life gives you Lemons, make a cocktail

    Posted on

    At the back of the sideboard when I was growing up there was a strange green bottle with a densely printed lable with intriguing images, names and phrases …It came out very occasionally, usually at Christmas or my parents parties and seemed glamourous, mysterious and exciting … it was one of the things in my childhood that sparked my interest in herbs and spices … A bottle of Angostura Bitters Now, following in the footsteps of Gin, “Bitters” are enjoying renewed interest, both as a Cocktail ingredient and for digestive health … but what are they and where do they come from?

       angostura    angostura2

  2. And It Was All Yellow ....

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    Since I started tradng, I have only dropped and spilled two of the big 1kg bags of wholesale herbs and spices that I buy .... the first was a bag of Turmeric powder (of course!) ... which produced a spectacular golden mushroom cloud that covered me and the entire contents of the boat in a yellow film .... the second was ... yes, you guessed ... a bag of Turmeric, organic this time .... so messy!!!

  3. My Top 5 Herbs and Spices to Survive January

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    When the celebrations are over, despite knowing that the days are slowly and surely getting longer, January can feel like a long hard month. The prospect of going back to work, body feeling sluggish and bloated, indigestion is your new best friend, liver ruined by excess partying and all those relatives bringing germs and viruses, along with their gifts, from far flung places, the NHS stretched beyond capacity and imploring us to stay away with minor ailments ....

  4. Spring has Sprung ... and things are getting seedy on The Herb Boat

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    Well, spring has sprung … though it doesn’t feel very spring like here in Lancashire. However, seeing all the new shoots, blossom and early daffodils means my thoughts have turned to planting seeds for the coming year. The Herb Boat roof doesn’t allow for much gardening, but it is amazing what you can achieve in a few pots and containers.

  5. Herbs Help You Breathe More Easily ...

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    There are many ways to enjoy the beneficial aspects of herbs and spices. You can cook with them, infuse them, inhale them, burn and smoke them, make extracts, oils, lotions, potions and salves, bathe in them, strew them  ... the list is endless.

    Here on The Herb Boat, I have had a long history of smoking one of the most addictive herbs known to humanity, Tobacco, Nicotiana tabacca. Once commonly used medicinally as a relaxant, sedative and expectorant, it has been widely available for centuries as tobacco, tinctures and snuff.  When the truly addictive nature of nicotine was understood, along with the it's toxic, carcenogenic properties, particularly when smoked, it's medicinal use declined, though it is still widely commercially available as tobacco for smoking and chewing, and snuff. Many people cannot understand why anyone would choose to smoke, and many smokers battle with their addiction.

    Whilst the long term detrimental health effects are now well known, the highly addictive nature of this herb makes it a habit that is hard to kick. Smoking is linked to many cancers, not just those of the lungs, gum disease, premature ageing, poor circulation and inevitable damage to the delicate membranes of the lungs. This was brought home to me in a frightening way recently when a chest infection made my annoying little "smoker's cough"  worse, and worse and eventually culminated in me being admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties last week. 

    I'm now home, and feeling much better ... and yes, I have stopped finally smoking .....  but I have been diagnosed with COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. I am still learning about what this will mean in the long term, but for now just getting out of bed results in wheezing and coughing. So I have been taking things easy and using a soothing blend of herbs as an inhalation, to help ease my wheeziness and soothe my bruised lungs.

    Inhaling steam alone has long been used to help relieve coughs, breathing difficulties and congested sinuses. The addition of some herbs, spices and / or essential oils can enhance the soothing effect of the steam.


    My choice of herbs is;

    Sage, known to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties,

    Eucalyptus for it's powerful anti-bacterial, anti septic, astringent, antispasmodic , analgesic (pain killing) and expectorant properties,

    Rosemary for it's soothing, anti-inflammatory properties,

    Lavender for it's calming, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties,

    Peppermint known to be an expectorant and decongestant

    And a sprinkle of Orange Peel which provides support against respiratory distress, exerts a lung cleansing activity, breaks down and expels congestion (phlegm). It also contains high levels of histamine and antioxidants, which may help in relieving various respiratory complications like bronchitis, cold, flu.

    So I place the herbs in a deep bowl, and add water that has just cooled from boiling

    inhale2 inhale4


    Then find a large towel and form a tent over your head and the bowl, keeping a good 30cm away from the bowl, and inhale the steam for 5 to 10 minutes. If at any point you feel any discomfort, just pop your head out of the tent.


    Not only does the steam moisten and open congested air passages, it also raises skin temperature causing blood vessels to dilate and thus improves blood circulation. So you will also benefit from a mini-facial. Be gentle with your facial skin after the inhalation, splashing it with cold water and patting it dry.

    Other herbs, spices and essential oils to try inhaling for coughs, colds and sinus problems are Bay, Cloves, Cardamom, Tea Tree, Myrrh, Basil and Pine.

    Obviously, if you are pregnant, breast feeding, taking any medication or if your symptoms are persistent and severe, you should always consult a qualified practitioner.

    And obviously, if you are a smoker, you should get as much help, love and support as possible to help you stop.

    Keep trying and say NO to Nick O'Teen




  6. Some like it HOT !!!!

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    I have only ever dropped two of the bulk bags of herbs and spices whilst bagging and labelling .... a huge bag of Turmeric .... (there is still a general yellowness from that on the Herb Boat) ... and yesterday I dropped a bag of my new Piri Piri spice mix ... it went everywhere and by the time I had finished cleaning it up my lips and eyes were tingling .... because it is HOT .... SERIOUSLY HOT

    This is part of my "Taste the World" exotic spice range; a collection of spice blends from around the world. These are great for using in recipes, to mix with oil for a marinade, or rub dry into meat for the barbeque or just to liven up a one of your normal dinners .... beans on toast and popcorn need never be the same again.

    Talking of popcorn, it seems to be enjoying a comeback, with all sorts of flavours appearing on the supermarket shelves .... but it is so cheap, quick and easy, and such fun to make yourself, why not try this recipe for Sweet and Spicy Togarashi Popcorn. It uses my Togarashi Spice, also known as Japanese 7 Spice, a mix of sesame seeds, chilli, orange peel and seaweed, with a lovely nutty, aromatic, hot taste. You don't need much. And if you don't fancy the sweet / spicey mix, leave out the honey and try adding some melted garlic butter



    You will need 

    • about 2oz popcorn kernels
    • 1 tbs olive oil
    • 2 tbs butter
    • 1 tbs honey
    • 1 tsp Togarashi Spice

    Place the oil in a large lidded saucepan and heat over a high heat. Stir in the popcorn kernels and cover. Leave to cook for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan every now and then. As the popping dies down, remove from heat. 

    Melt the butter in a small pan and add the honey, mix well.

    Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and immediately add the butter, honey and Togarashi, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Add more butter, honey or spice to adjust taste. Try with 2 cloves of garlic instead of the honey .... TASTE-TASTIC 



  7. "I can't believe it's not Gin!"

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    Artisan Gins are the current "must have" drink ... and the "botanicals" (herbs and spices" in many expensive commercial Gins are closely guarded secrets. The Herb Boat has carefully selected a range of popular botanicals for you to magically transform vodka into your own delicious Artisan (or Bathtub) Gin. Full instructions included.

    Available on the towpath or by mail order ... contact me for a stock list 




  8. Spice Up Your Life

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    .Well, yesterday saw the launch of my new "Taste the World" exotic spice and herb blends ... each 60ml jar containing a burst of GMO free, non-irradiated flavour from far off lands, bringing the world to your kitchen. 

    I will be adding more but currently have; 

    Warm, floral flavours of North Africa in Ras El Hanout,
    Fragrant Harissa Spice from Tunisia, 
    Punchy Cajun Spice from Louisiana, 
    Hot but mellow Jamaican Goat Curry spices (equally good with lamb and veg), 
    Birmingham / Pakistani fusion flavours of Balti Spices
    Desert flavours of Arabian Z'atar
    Eye-wateringly hot Jerk Seasoning, marrying the flavours of Africa and the Caribbean, 
    And a fragrant taste of summer in the Thai Stir Fry blend

    dscn1512 (2)

    Mmmmmm ... more coming soon. Available only on the towpath at the moment, £2 a jar but mail order soon

    TTFN Bunny

  9. Mmmmm Custard ...

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    Custard is one of those Marmite things ... you either love it or hate it .... here on the Herb Boat we are BIG custard fans .... sweet and savoury (oh yes, you can make savory custards). 

    Vanilla custard is popular, but you can infuse your milk and cream with almost any herb or spice. The recent Masterchef finals featured a Star Anise infused custard. Bay leaves were often used in sweet dishes in the past, and Bay custard (or even Bay Leaf Ice-cream) is enjoying a renewed popularity. Just infuse 3 or 4 bay leaves in your warm milk and cream mix for 15 minutes, and remove before adding egg yolks. 

     bay custard

    Or how about a savoury, cheesy bread and butter pudding with Rosemary or Basil infused custard ....

    Or add dried flowers or petals .... Lavender, Rose .... the possbilities are endless ....

    Herb Boat re-usable tea / spice bags can be used so you don't have to strain the milk / cream infusion. These handy little bags are made from unbleached cotton and are £1 for two bags.

    There are many basc custard recipes online, this one from the BBC website gives basic proportions .... you can replace some of the milk with sngle cream, and omit the vanilla and sugar if you want to try savoury custards.

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