A little taster of what's cooking...
Have you ever wondered how pre-made curry bases are able to have such an extensive shelf-life? The answer is simple…preservatives and additives. These ingredients may keep your jar of sauce in the cupboard for longer, but at what cost to your health?
Tastesmiths has compiled a list of a few of these nasties found in your supermarket curry, how they can affect your health and some alternative options:
1) Flavour enhancers/yeast extract
Food found in cans and jars often has added flavour enhancers to emphasise the desired flavour. A common flavour enhancer is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). There is evidence that a small subset of people do have negative reactions that are directly due to glutamate, but the science to date shows that is likely to be a rare phenomenon. More important than this, however, is the placebo effect related to MSG, which has a measurable impact on those that try to actively remove it from their diets.
To avoid MSG some companies replace it with yeast extract, food colourings, benzoates, nitrates and sulphite preservatives as well as artificial sweeteners. All of which allows the companies to maintain the pre-determined flavour they have designated to each of the different curries.
One of the major benefits of using a Tastesmiths kit is that you determine the flavour of the curry without any added preservatives. All our flavours come from the fresh ingredients themselves, whether you decide to add meat or vegetables to your dish, how much chilli you add and the freshly ground spice packs that are included.
Top Tip 1: When using the whole spices and bay leaves, letting them cook for a bit longer really brings out the natural oils and flavours of the spices, which give the curry its authentic taste. The smell of the spices coming through is an extra bonus, especially with the cassia bark*!
*If you don’t know what cassia bark is and the benefits of this spice, you can read more about it in our “Add a (health) kick to your curry” blog, here.
Top Tip 2: Slow cooking the onions draws out the sweetness from them. So if you have some extra time while cooking why not try for yourself?
2) Sugar and dried glucose
Although some jarred curries may have no artificial preservatives or colouring, there may still be excess ingredients for flavouring that are, ultimately, not healthy in large doses. One common ingredient for this is sugar. Since sugar is not an artificial flavour, companies promote the fact there are no artificial preservatives but leave out that this has been replaced with sugar. If the first ingredient listed is sugar, this means that this is the most abundant ingredient in the sauce. You may also see glucose listed separately, which is just more sugar.
As we all know, excess amounts of sugar can pose a health risk. Some of these risks include high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes and fatty liver disease.
Top Tip 3: Tastesmiths’ kits are sugar-free, giving you the option to add a little if you wish. A teaspoon of sugar is a great way to counteract the acidity of tomatoes when cooking.
3) Citric Acid / Acidity Regulators
Citric Acid is another common ingredient found in supermarket curry bases, but what exactly is it used for? There are two types: the natural citric acid found in foods such as lemons and limes, and manufactured citric acid. The latter is commonly found in jarred and canned foods.
Citric acid is used to keep food fresh for a longer duration of time, thicken food and also give a slightly sour taste.
Manufactured citric acid has been reported to have some negative health effects such as joint pain with swelling and stiffness, muscular and stomach pain, and shortness of breath.
In Tastesmiths kits, where a citric flavour is required, we use dried lime, as found in our Persian Koresh. Fresh Citric acid from dried lime has many health benefits. It is known to be a good disinfectant against a number of bacteria and viruses, enhances nutrient absorption and may also protect against kidney stones. (Add images of the dried lime)
Top Tip 4: If you like your food a little sour, why not try squeezing half a lemon into your dish towards the end of cooking?
4) High Sodium Levels
Salt is added to foods as a flavour enhancer, but in the large doses found in supermarket curries, this can cause health issues. The most common health issue caused by high sodium intake is increased blood pressure.
In our meal kits, there is no added salt, other than the salt you add yourself. This way you can monitor your intake as well as make the flavours to best suit you.
Top Tip 5: Cooking your sauce for longer (an hour or two) can bring out the natural flavours of the fresh ingredients, meaning you might not need to add as much salt.
5) Saturated Fat
Many foods include saturated fats, and jarred curries are one of them. You may sometimes see a separation of oil and paste in these curry jars, that oil is saturated fat. Saturated fat can cause high cholesterol in large doses, which then increases the risk of heart and circulatory disease.
With Tastesmiths meal kits you are able to monitor and control the type of oil you are using to avoid unnecessary amounts of saturated fat.
Top Tip 6: Coconut oil is a healthy and tasty oil that can be added to your curries – especially ones that already have a coconut flavour! Olive oil and avocado oils are also excellent to use for cooking and have amazing health benefits.
Although these preservatives and additives may not be obvious at first sight they are always there and carry risks associated with your health. To become one step closer to being in control of what you put in your body make a fresh, authentic Tastesmiths curry. There are a number of curries to choose from and each of them contains fresh ingredients, as well as a quick and easy to follow instruction card that allows you to enjoy the process of cooking. If you’re feeling extra adventurous you can try cooking the curries with a range of different meats, vegetables and plant-based proteins.
This is a good one. Not to blow our own trumpet, but it is really, really good.
Pick your meal kit, we went with the Balti Masala.
Follow the step by step instructions, included with your meal kit.
Simmer – We cook this down a little longer, around 30 mins on low heat, at the end in order to thicken the sauce up. We don’t want a soggy pie base!
Enjoyed cooking your meal kit? Here’s some extra fun… The pastry.
We cheated (a little) and bought a pack of premade pastry from the supermarket.
Butter your pie dishes to help stop the pastry sticking, we found 4.5″ dishes made a good-sized pie for one adult. Line the dish with the pastry and trim around the top. To make the lid use either a single cut circle or make yourself a series of lengths and create a lattice, tricky to get it pretty, but rewarding. If you go with the simple option – poke a hole in the middle for the steam to escape.
Bake your pie at 200 degrees for half an hour, or until a dark golden brown.
Accompany with mash, rice or some steamed veggies.
We stumbled across this when thinking of something for St. Patricks Day.
Apparently quite common, we’d never heard of it so decided to give it a go!
Starting off with our Tikka Masala Meal Kit (Madras or Rogan Josh will work well too), following the instructions as normal. We chose to do ours in the slow cooker, with chunky beef and potatoes (‘extra Irish’).
If you’ve not done one of our kits in the slow cooker before, it’s really easy… Prepare your curry. Pour it in. Add 250(ish)ml of water, and leave. 8 hours is perfect, but anything over four on the low heat of the slow cooker really gets those flavours into your choice of protein.
If you’re using a slow cooker, substitute your water with… You guessed it… Guinness.
If you’re using the traditional ‘pan method’ simply pour your Guinness in at the end, turn the heat to low, put the lid on and simmer gently for up to an hour.
With either option, check in on your meal midway to ensure nothing is drying out!
We know your love for our Tex Mex Chilli Con Carne Meal Kit.
One of our more flexible kits, we see it in burritos, tacos, classically served with rice. Loaded with mince, chunks of steak, chicken thighs or done vegan voluptuous veggies or proteins.
So, you’ve taken the time to scratch-cook, maybe slow-cook your Tex Mex. How about setting aside another 15 minutes to take it to the next level and make yourself some guacamole.
It’s super simple, and will blow away those store-bought imposters!
Here’s what you need and how to do it… (Enough for four people to dig into)
De-stone and scoop out the avocados and mash. Finely chop the tomatoes, onion and coriander. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze over the lemon. Mix in a large bowl.
SO easy. SO tasty. The hardest part will be not eating it all before it gets to meet your Chilli!
Ahead of International Women’s Day 2022, we spoke to the Tastesmiths team about inspirational women who’ve had an impact on their lives, below are four women whose stories empower and inspire. We’d love to hear from you too, share your stories of women who drive change over on our socials “@Tastesmiths”.
“One of the brightest stars of London’s restaurant scene, Asma Khan stands tall as an inspirational figure in food, astounding diners with sumptuous Indian cookery from her own Darjeeling Express and relentlessly pushing the boundaries as an advocate for social change. But things were not always so easy – Asma’s journey to the top has had its fair share of twists and turns.”
Read more on Asma’s life and find a selection of recipes from her at Great British Chefs, here.
Find Asma on Instagram here.
“Born in Samoa and brought up in New Zealand, Chef Monica Galetti moved to Britain in 1999 to work alongside Michel Roux Jnr at Le Gavroche in London. She became a household name in 2008 when she joined the BBC2 team as a judge on Masterchef: The Professionals and has gone on to co-present BBC2’s Amazing Hotels – Life Beyond the Lobby.
She is the author of two books: Monica’s Kitchen and The Skills.”
There’s an abundance of material online about Monica, but we especially enjoy The Guardian’s 2021 interview, here.
For a peek into Monica’s restaurant life at Mere, find her Instagram here.
“Ifeyinwa Frederick is a writer and entrepreneur. Writing alongside her full-time job as co-founder of the world’s first Nigerian tapas restaurant, she has been featured in Forbes’ list of 100 Women Founders in Europe. As a writer, her debut play The Hoes was shortlisted for the Tony Craze Award (2017) and Character 7 Award (2017) and longlisted for the Verity Bargate Award (2017). Fuelled by a childlike curiosity and fascination with people, her stories explore the intricacies of people and the dichotomy between how we really are and how society or we portray ourselves to be.”
“Kaushy learned to cook as a child on her grandmother’s farm in northern India, coming to live in the UK in the 1960s. The success of the deli in Bradford she ran for 22 years with her husband led to the opening of Prashad, the restaurant, serving authentic Gujarati cuisine. Award-winning Prashad has now become a destination for food lovers and fans of vegetarian cooking. Last year saw the launch of a new venture: Bundobust, in Leeds, championing traditional Indian street food dishes with craft beers. Kaushy’s skills both as a professional chef and as a home cook, and her wide knowledge and enthusiasm will inspire you to get into the kitchen!”
There are lots of reasons you may want to throw a dinner party. Perhaps you’re living out your ‘Come Dine With Me’ fantasy or you love to cook and share recipes with those close to you. You could just want to get together with your friends over some good food and catch up.
Whatever your reason, there’s no doubt that you’ll want the night to go as smoothly as possible. Fortunately for you, Tastesmiths has created some tips to help you prepare an amazing night.
Step 1: Decide What You Want To Cook
Arguably, the most important part of your dinner party will be the dinner! Be mindful of any food intolerances and allergies of your guests and prepare your menu accordingly. For dinner parties, it is best to keep it simple but tasty. Tastesmiths curry kits are authentic tasting and use all fresh ingredients. They are also relatively easy to prepare as the spices are pre-mixed and instructions are easy to follow, leaving almost no room for error!
Step 2: Entertainment
A dinner party doesn’t end after dinner! Once your guests have enjoyed their delicious meal, it’s time for the entertainment. Sometimes, this can seem like the most daunting part of the dinner party and there can be a lot of pressure to keep guests entertained.
Karaoke is a fun way to let loose and be silly with friends, especially after a few drinks! Alternatively, for the quieter types, a game of monopoly or charades is always good fun.
Step 3: Keep The Drinks Flowing
Make sure you know your guests’ drink of choice and have these ready on the night! A glass of their favourite drink along with some good food and good company will ensure your guests enjoy their evening. If you’re preparing a Tastesmiths curry, why not try our artisan beers? They’re made to compliment the range of curries that Tastesmiths has and are entirely vegan too. You can’t go wrong…
Step 4: Ambiance
Now that you’ve planned what your guests will eat and drink and how to keep them entertained for the evening, the only thing left to do is create a nice ambience to make your guests feel relaxed. Choose soft music to play in the background, but be weary of playing it too loud! There’s nothing worse than trying to talk over loud music. Soft lighting and candles help to make the atmosphere feel warm and inviting and the candles will also send pleasant smells through the air.
With these tips, you will be set to host an epic dinner party! Good vibes and good food are the recipes for a great night surrounded by friends or family.
Our Craft Beer and Curry Kit bundle is the perfect platform on which to build any dinner party around and is great value at £39 find it here.
Our marinade collection is SUPER flexible. It’s that simple. Use it how you please, to re-create your favourites, liven up leftovers or level up the simplest of dishes.
In this blog, we’ve created a vegan option for each, but these creations will work just as well with your favourite cut of meat!
Whether you’re visiting the butcher or the grocer, make sure you’ve got a Tastesmiths Marinade waiting at home for you!
Easy, peasy, lime squeezy this one!
Prepare your Jamaican Jerk Marinade by following our instructions, dice up your tofu (we used TofooCo’s in this example, always absorbs the flavour well), then leave to soak in a Tupperware or covered bowl overnight. We sometimes like some diced new potatoes at this stage too…
When it’s food time, fry your tofu with spring onions, courgettes, and anything else you fancy. Serve with basmati rice and a squeeze of lime to taste.
Classic fajitas featuring The Vegetarian Butcher’s chicken-style chunks.
Follow those included marinade instructions then pan-fry your ‘chunks’ with sliced onion, red pepper and your marinade mixture.
We filled our wraps with rice, vegan cheese and loads of homemade guacamole (more on that soon).
A little more involved this one, but worth it for a slightly unusual way to sneak a whole load of veg into your diet…
Prepare your marinade as per the instructions.
You’ll also need:
1 large yellow onion, sliced
6 large red bell peppers, sliced
0.5kg carrots, grated
1l vegetable stock
In a large pot add oil, brown your onion (5mins), cook through the peppers until softened (10mins), then add carrots and vegetable stock. Simmer for around 20 minutes and add your marinade mixture. With a stick blender, whizz the mixture until smooth.
Serve with crusty bread and a sprinkling of grated vegan cheese for maximum smugness.
You’ve guessed it, prepare the marinade as directed on the pack.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
Remove the leaves from around the cauliflower, but don’t remove the bulb at the bottom, as this is what will keep your steaks intact. Halve the cauliflower and, working from the cut side out, slice each steak around 1½ cm thick… You will probably only get two full steaks from each half but you can roast the remaining florets in the same way.
Generously brush the steaks with the marinade. If you want to do this ahead of time, you can leave them to marinate in the fridge until you need them.
Place the steaks on a roasting tray and loosely cover with foil. Roast for 15–20 minutes before removing the foil for a further 10 minutes, turning once.
We accompanied ours with mixed veg and couscous.
With the start of a new year, we all tend to be a bit more mindful of our bodies and often set goals to eat healthier or go to the gym. Whether we actually follow through with these goals throughout the year is another story, but while we’re in the healthy spirit we thought we’d let you know about some benefits of the spices used in our kits.
This lesser-known spice is found in our Persian Khoresh and Makhani kits. You may be surprised to find out that Cassia is actually a type of cinnamon and is often called the ‘Chinese cinnamon’ because of its origin in Southern China.
Both cinnamon and cassia are harvested and used in similar ways but the main difference is the slightly thicker texture and stronger flavour Cassia has in comparison.
Did you know that cassia can…
This more familiar herb is typically found in the Mediterranean and is typically used in its leaf or oil form. It can be found in our newest kit, the Berbere Curry in its lead form.
Did you know rosemary can…
Last but not least, turmeric. Commonly found in India, this ingredient is a staple in many of our kits. This wonder-spice has built up quite a reputation and is well known for its health benefits.
Did you know turmeric can…
Whether you’re on a health kick this new year or just want to nourish your body after eating too many Christmas treats, Tastesmiths kits are packed full of nutritious spices and herbs to help nurture your body. Enjoy delicious, home-cooked food without feeling guilty and reap the benefits of these amazing spices and herbs!
Yet another way to save on food waste… The Tastesmiths team are known for their veg consumption, we love it, so much so that we always prepare too much!
For this example, we used our Goan Fish/Prawn Curry Kit but tagged in a whole load of tasty veggies we had left from a Sunday dinner.
Even if you’re not over-cookers like us, this is a great curry to roast some veg specifically for…
We took inspiration for our veggie tray from Wicked Kitchen’s Vegetable Centerpiece on youtube, then took it a step further by doing what we do best and upcycling it into a curry, those roasted onions were a revelation!!
This cracking curry is super easy. Follow your Goan Kit’s instructions as normal, then after you’ve added your tomatoes, slide that veg into the mix.
For best results simmer your curry on a low heat for an hour, or prepare the day before and rest overnight to allow the curry’s flavours to really get into those veggies.
Potatoes, carrots, parsnips and broccoli all work well, add peas cauliflower or whatever you have laying around the pantry to fill the dish out.
We have a full ‘walk through’ of this dish over on TikTok, click the image below if you’d like to give it a watch, if you give it a go make sure and tag us “@Tastesmiths” on social media, we love seeing your creations, almost as much as we love eating ours and each month we pick a ‘Home Cook Hero’ from the tagged submissions who’ll win a substantial prize bundle!
In the UK, 6.7 million tonnes of food is wasted per year which totals to costs of £10.2 billion!
We’re not going to use this space to discuss food waste any further, if you’d like to read more, click here.
Below we’ll show you a great way to repurpose and reinvigorate some potentially wasted food this festive period!
Mix your leftovers into the sauce at the ‘add the meat or veg’ stage, and stir it all together.
Most important when working with leftover food – leave it to simmer on a very low heat for as long as your patience allows (an hour would be perfect). If you have time – cook the day before and rest overnight – to really get those flavours into your meat and veg!
We were pushing our luck with those stuffing balls, but they came out beautifully (there were some sceptics in the team)!
There’s also a little cook through of this dish over on our TikTok if you’d like to see the stages, click the image above, or here to see it.