RawSpiceBar Subscription Box Review – November 2015
RawSpiceBar is a monthly subscription that sends freshly ground, small batch spice blends and recipes that utilize them.
My Subscription Addiction pays for this subscription. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
The Subscription: RawSpiceBar
The Cost: $6 per month
The Products: 3-4 freshly ground spice blends from one country or region, enough to create 3 dishes serving 6-10 people.
Ships to: US (with free shipping) and Canada (for an additional fee).
Each month, RawSpiceBar sends spices from one region or geographical area. This shipment features spice blends from Ethiopia!
This month’s featured spices are: Berbere, Ethiopian Mitmita, and Pumpkin Pie Spice.
Berbere- .4 oz.
Berbere is arguably the most famous Ethiopian spice blend. It’s smoky, spicy, and often used in stews and on meats and poultry. RawSpiceBar’s version is a mix of dried chiles, sweet paprika, coriander, ginger, cardamom, fenugreek, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and black peppercorns.
Ethiopian Mitmita- .4 oz
Mitmita, RawSpiceBar points out, is likely the second most famous Ethiopian spice. It’s a blend of African birds eye chilis, dried red chiles, cardamom, black peppercorns, and garlic.
Pumpkin Pie Spice- .4 oz.
I’m not sure if Pumpkin Pie Spice is a traditional Ethiopian spice blend, but I’m happy to see it included in this shipment nonetheless. It’s a mix of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, mace, and star anise.
I tried Ethiopian food for the first time about 8 years ago, and it’s since become one of my favorite cuisines. Luckily, I live in a city with a sizable Ethiopian community and a fairly large number of Ethiopian restaurants, so I’m able to indulge in the tasty fare fairly regularly. Despite having eaten Ethiopian food many times, though, I’ve never tried to make it at home. When this month’s shipment arrived, I promptly cleared my dining schedule and made a trip to the grocery store for supplies! This month’s menu features: Berbere Roasted Carrots, Fennel, & Mint, Key Wat (Spicy Ethiopian Stewed Beef), and Pumpkin Spice Dabo Kolo (Ethiopian Pumpkin Spice Ricotta Donuts).
Berbere Roasted Carrots, Fennel, & Mint
My favorite local Ethiopian spot has a fantastic range of meaty dishes, but my favorite thing to order is their vegetarian platter. It’s filled with dishes like tomato salad, buttery cabbage, soft greens, and spiced, pureed lentils. I’ve never seen a dish like this featured before, but it sounded fantastic.
I prepared carrots and fennel, tossed them with olive oil and berbere, and roasted them at 400 degrees.
When they softened (after about 40 minutes), I removed them from the oven and tossed them with chopped mint.
Wat is a popular Ethiopian meat stew. This particular wat is made by browning stew beef in a dutch oven and then slow-cooking it with onions, garlic, spices, and tomatoes.
RawSpiceBar recommended cooking the wat for at least an hour, and I ended up cooking mine for nearly two hours to ensure the meat was nicely tender.
Before serving, I shredded the beef using two forks. RawSpiceBar suggested serving the wat and veggies with injera, couscous, or butternut squash puree. For me, this wouldn’t be a true Ethiopian meal with injera (a spongy Ethiopian sourdough bread), so we made sure to pick some up from the Ethiopian market.
I was SO excited to eat my homemade Ethiopian dishes, but, sadly neither my husband nor I could get through more than half of our meal. Both the Key Wat and the veggies were unbearably spicy. Now, I won’t claim to be a spicy food superstar, but I do like spicy foods, and I consider myself to have a fairly reasonable tolerance for them. Even accompanied with a glass (okay, several glasses) of milk to try and mitigate the burn, I wasn’t really able to enjoy this meal. In theory, I’m fine with a subscription like RawSpiceBar sending potent spicy blends, but I suppose I would have appreciated a warning. (Like: “Hey RawSpiceBar Chefs! Be forewarned that this recipe is VERY spicy. If you aren’t accustomed to popping ghost peppers like gummy bears, you may want to use 1/2 of the recommended spice quantity.”)
Pumpkin Spice Dabo Kolo
We finished out our Ethiopian feast with Pumpkin Spice Dabo Kolo, Ethiopian-style doughnuts made with ricotta and served with honey. I love when RawSpiceBar includes dessert recipes, but I often find I’m too full after their entrees to truly indulge in them. Since I couldn’t make it through this month’s main dishes due to the spice level, I was particularly excited (and hungry) for this month’s dessert.
My husband is our resident fry-master, so he stepped in to help prepare this dish. We mixed up the batter from ricotta, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, and RawSpiceBar’s Pumpkin Spice Blend. (Note: the recipe calls for butter to be added to the batter instead of baking powder, but I believe this is a typo.)
My husband heated oil in a deep frying pan and brought it up to about 350 degrees. He then added dollops of dough into the hot oil and fried them until they turned golden brown.
When they were done frying, he transferred them to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. To serve, we dusted them with powdered sugar (a la beignets!) and served them with a side of warm honey.
Happily, the doughnuts were delicious (and not at all spicy)! The ricotta lent them a lovely, moist consistency, and they were crispy on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside. They were great on their own and even better with the honey.
Verdict: I was so excited for this month’s RawSpiceBar, and I’m disappointed that two of the dishes were too spicy for me to enjoy. As I mentioned previously, I don’t have a problem with a spice subscription sending blends and recipes for spicy dishes (I like spicy foods!), but I think that the berbere and the mitmita were SO spicy that they should have come with an accompanying warning and perhaps instructions for creating a milder version of the recipes. I also find it strange that I eat Ethiopian food pretty regularly and that I’ve never encountered dishes as spicy as these. Luckily, I did have better luck with the dessert recipe. This month’s dishes aside, it’s a little disappointing to see that the recipe cards are still being sent with typos. (There was a mistake in the doughnut recipe and “roasted” is misspelled in the title of the roasted carrot dish.) This has been a regular and ongoing problem for months now, and I think it’s a little sloppy that the problem has not yet been addressed.
What do you think about RawSpiceBar’s Ethiopian Box? Did you make the ricotta doughnuts? Where you better able to handle the spicy main dishes?