Award-winning chef Stevie Parle and professional spice blender Emma Grazette come together in this new show to expand their spice horizons. After all, adding spice is the simplest way to make food exciting. Journeying to some truly exotic countries, they meet the experts who grow spices and use them every day.
11 Aug 2014 - 12:43 PM  UPDATED 22 Aug 2019 - 10:27 AM

Together, they head to Mexico for chilli, Cambodia for black pepper, Grenada for nutmeg, Turkey for cumin, Zanzibar for cloves and India for cinnamon. Along the way, they uncover new uses for ancient spices, and use these to cook drool-worthy meals.

View all of the recipes from the show.


Episode 1: Chillies, Mexico

Stevie and Emma head to Oaxaca, where chillies go back 7,000 years and every local is an aficionado. In the vast Abastos Market, they discover some of the 150 regional varieties. Whether fresh or dried, fiercely hot or smokily subtle, each type from chipotle to habanero has a different role to play in food. Inspired by local home cooking, they create a fresh and mild chilli fish stew, smokey pork and slaw, and a sexy chilli-chocolate cake. 

Divorced eggs

Huevos divorciados is a common Mexican breakfast dish and is basically jazzy fried eggs. This recipe is so named because the eggs are served with two conflicting sauces: one red and spicy and the other green and cooling. The green apple salsa would usually be made with tomatillos (a relation of physalis), though it works really well here with apple and herbs. Or you could make a more simple salsa by simply dry-roasting guajillo chillies and blending them with water and a garlic clove. For a more substantial meal, serve with refried beans (frijoles refritos) and a slice of avocado.

Really easy chocolate cake with chilli, salt and tequila

This chocolate cake is unbelievably easy to make. It came about through a bungled attempt by one of my chefs to make a cake. Mumbled, distracted instructions produced an unorthodox technique which gave rise to a brilliantly simple cake recipe (mix it all together in one bowl and bake it!). I'm really glad I said, "Bake it, let's see what happens," to that particular error.

Chilli fish stew

This is a really easy and brilliant fish stew that’s perfect for any occasion from a quick supper to a party or even Christmas if you aren’t into a traditional roast. Add lobster or prawns to make it feel more celebratory, or use cheaper fish and mussels for a more frugal recipe. The chilli lifts the whole dish and makes it a really exciting thing to eat. I love having the background warmth of dried chilli and the kick of fresh chilli oil.

Smoky pulled pork and slaw

This dish of tender shredded pork is seriously rewarding. You may want to cook it overnight, or start the recipe in the morning so the pork is ready in time for dinner. It doesn't take too long to set up and the final result is worth the wait. If you can't find chipotle or ancho chillies, add an extra tablespoonful of paprika instead.


Episode 2: Cloves, Zanzibar

Stevie and Emma travel to Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean to re-discover the magic of cloves, the dried buds of an evergreen tree. Exploring the alleyways of the old colonial capital Stonetown and fishing with locals in crystal clear waters, they discover how locals use cloves before heading to the island of Pemba where plantation workers harvest their crop forty feet in the air in the company of fierce biting ants. Inspired by Zanzibari cooking, they find new ways of using the spice and create a delicious mulled wine oxtail stew; polenta cake with clove and orange caramel, and grilled fish with hot fruit salsa.

Grilled fish with hot fruit and clove salsa

This simple, fresh salsa recipe brings a bit of zing to lovely grilled fish like red snapper, sardines or mackerel. Perhaps my favourite fish, mackerel is super cheap, but it needs to be really fresh for cooking.

Polenta cake with clove and orange caramel

Dark and exotic, this cake evokes memories of the Caribbean islands, where fruits abound. The bitterness of the orange and the sweetness of the caramel melt together with the pungent muskiness of the cloves. Although the amount of cloves used in this recipe might seem a lot, I am always surprised by the volume of spices that can go into cakes. The sugar, almonds and polenta just seem to absorb their flavour.

Mulled wine and oxtail stew

This is a surprising dish. I was quite delighted when I was drinking mulled wine and realised it would make a wonderful stew. This recipe works with other pieces of stewing beef but tail has a comforting, gelatinous quality to it that I love.


Episode 3: Black pepper, Cambodia

In a journey through Cambodia, where pepper is considered the King of Spices, Stevie and Emma discover the berries of the pepper vine have much more to offer our cooking at home. They meet farmers who are re-establishing the champagne of peppers, Kampot, after its destruction by the Khmer Rouge; the regime that turned the land over to rice-growing paddy fields. Along the journey, Stevie and Emma create a fiery chicken curry; green peppercorn prawns, and a delicious strawberry and pepper ripple ice-cream.

Black pepper and strawberry ripple ice-cream sundae

This ice-cream sundae is a play on the classic pairing of pepper and strawberry. This recipe works best if you use an ice-cream maker.

Fiery black pepper chicken

Peppery and nutty with a kick, this curry demonstrates the different levels of flavour that pepper can bring to a dish. In this recipe, it is toasted and cooked into the sauce and then sprinkled on at the end for extra aroma and heat.

Green peppercorn prawns

This is a version of the amazing Kampot green pepper crab we had in Cambodia. It is one of my all-time favourite recipes. This variation with prawns works well, as it’s hard to get soft-shell crabs. Thai shops sell fresh green peppercorns on the stem, or you can buy them brined in little jars in the supermarket.


Episode 4: Nutmeg, Grenada

We occasionally sprinkle nutmeg on rice pudding, but in Grenada the spice is so  ever-present it features on the national flag. Stevie and Emma head to the Caribbean island and learn that the island’s main export, dubbed 'liquid gold" by locals, is believed to add more than just flavour to food. Inspired by the local cooking, Stevie and Emma create nutmeg roast chicken with squash and spinach, fiery jerk-spiced pork, and creamy buttermilk puddings with honey nutmeg peaches.

Jerk-spiced pork chops with sweet potato salad

Any leftover jerk-spiced marinade from this recipe can be stored in the fridge for a few days. You can use it with any grilled meat or fish, and it’s great any time of the year.


Episode 5: Cumin, Turkey

We know cumin as a spice used in curries and kebabs, but in Turkey it flavours everything from pizzas to delicious pistachio and honey-soaked pastries. In Istanbul, Stevie and Emma explore Europe’s biggest spice market before discovering new ways to cook with cumin from the city’s King of Kofta, who also alludes to the legendary magical powers of the spice. Inspired by the journey, Stevie and Emma cook Turkish pizza, steak with grilled vegetables and cumin yoghurt, and a delicious pistachio rose and black cumin cake.

Steak with grilled vegetables and cumin yoghurt

I’m always looking for lighter ways to eat beef. People love to serve it with a substantial side and sauce, but sometimes it’s just not what you feel like eating. Steak takes beautifully to grilled vegetables and yoghurt.

Turkish pizza

These are called lahmacun in Turkey and they’re one of my favourite snacks. This is a classic recipe, but there are loads of different versions so experiment as you like. You could make the dough the day before, as it will keep in the fridge overnight, but needs an hour to wake up before you roll it.


Episode 6: Cinnamon, Kerala

We sprinkle cinnamon in apple pies, but in the southern Indian state of Kerala where many families grow cinnamon trees their gardens, they use it with fish, fruit, in curries and serve it to Hindu gods. It is also a key spice in the ancient Ayurvedic system of medicine. After fishing with the famous Cochin fishing nets, Stevie cooks a delicious prawn and cinnamon stir-fry. Exploring the backwaters, Stevie and Emma join a family of cinnamon peelers and track down one of the region’s best home cooks. Along the way they cook braised chicken with preserved lemons, ricotta and cinnamon hotcakes, and a Keralan fish curry.

Ricotta and cinnamon breakfast hotcakes

Fluffy ricotta hotcakes are a perfect breakfast whatever the weather. You’ll be hugely popular if you whip up this pancake recipe for brunch one Sunday.

Chicken braised with preserved lemons and cinnamon

This is one of those dishes you could happily eat once a week, so learning to make this braised chicken dish by rote will certainly have its value. It uses small and mild preserved lemons, so reduce the quantity you add to the recipe if you only have stronger ones.

Cinnamon and coconut fish curry

This recipe, from my Dock Kitchen Cookbook, is based on the classic Keralan fish moilee. It’s a bit time-consuming because you have to make your own coconut milk, but is worth it. Homemade coconut milk is much more delicate and lighter than shop-bought. If you don’t have the time, water-down tinned coconut milk by half.