Category Archives: Seafood

Cooking with Sami’s Kitchen Spice Blends (and a Giveaway!)

As a food lover, and food blogger, it can be easy to get carried away with rich food, eating out, and generally consuming too many calories. Summer is fast approaching and I’m still finding my cake-loving way to a place of balance and self-control. Happily, I know that healthy food doesn’t have to be bland and boring.

Not every day is gourmet in our house – and nor is every meal worthy of photographing ;) . In fact our usual weekday dinners are quite simple really: grilled meat of some kind with salad or vegetables, rice or couscous, or on occasion we will have pasta, omelettes, soup etc.

Healthy and simple doesn’t have to mean tasteless though. One way to turn a potentially plain meal of grilled chicken and salad into a dinner to get excited about is, of course, by using fresh and dried spices and herbs.

I love using herbs and spices but find myself continually reaching for the same ones in my after-work-oh-so-hungry auto-pilot mode. The most used herb in my cupboard is thyme (I prefer it dried to fresh), accompanied by lemon and garlic. Thyme is my favourite herb and can find its way into most of my dinners: omelettes (it’s great on fried eggs too), chicken, salad, pasta sauce, roast vegetables… Once I even had a thyme, mandarin and dark chocolate rice pudding at Fifteen Melbourne.

Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with my constant use of thyme, though Paul might disagree, but it’s good to try new things.

Claire from Food Guru, the Sydney-based online gourmet food store, recently sent me two spice blends from the Sami’s Kitchen range to sample: Shish Tawook and Shawarma. Food Guru stocks the four Middle Eastern spice blends from Sami’s Kitchen which come in 82g packets ($6.95 each or all four for $22).

The Shish Tawook blend contains garlic, paprika, pimento, nutmeg and cinnamon (and may contain thyme!). It has a sweet fragrance and is perfect for use with chicken or fish.

The Shawarma blend contains pepper, pimento, mustard, cumin, ginger, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. It has an intense fragrance and matches well with red meat.

The spice blends are versatile and can be used across a range of meat, vegetable and grain dishes. So far I have tried both blends in a few different dishes, from simply marinating free range chicken breast in shish tawook, garlic, and lemon, to my below experiments. The spice blends are bold, heady but balanced, making it so easy, convenient and simple to create a delicious (and healthy!) dinner after getting home from work. I haven’t forgotten about my dear thyme, but we’re definitely enjoying the new flavours in our kitchen.

And now to share the love, I’m excited to announce my first giveaway!


Thanks to Food Guru one lucky Cats – Love – Cooking reader will win a pack of four Sami’s Kitchen Spice Blends!

The selection pack includes Shawarma blend (ideal for meat dishes), Shish Tawook blend (ideal for chicken dishes), Falafel blend (ideal for a vegetarian feast), and Zaatar blend (ideal for salads and as a bread dip).

For a chance to win simply leave a comment below letting me know what you would be inspired to cook with the Sami’s Kitchen range.

This competition is open to anyone in Australia, one entry per person, and ends at 12.00pm (AEST) on Friday 30 September 2011. The winner will be randomly selected and notified by email and announced on this blog.


Spiced Almond Crusted Fish
Serves 4

Baked fish is super healthy, and thanks to the almond and shish tawook crust this definitely isn’t lacking in flavour. This would be great with a thicker fish fillet, for appearances sake, but I only had thin morwong fillets. Serve with your choice of grains and vegies.

  • 4 white fish fillets
  • 80g almonds
  • 2 tablespoons shish tawook spice blend
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooked couscous and salad, to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Process almonds in food processor until roughly chopped, but not too fine.
  3. Combine almonds and shish tawook, season with salt and pepper, and spread onto a plate.
  4. Brush top of fish fillets with egg then press, egg-side down, onto almond mix. Transfer to baking tray and bake until fish is cooked, around 15 minutes depending on the thickness. Serve with couscous and salad.

Stuffed Roast Capsicums
Serves 4

I invited my Mum and sister over for dinner recently to celebrate my sister’s new job, and decided to make stuffed capsicums because a. they look quite cool, b. they’re easy to prepare as both meat and vegetarian options, and c. I thought they’d go well with the shish tawook blend. I used free range pork mince for the meat stuffing, and for my Mum’s vegetarian variation I used chickpeas. The spice went well with both the pork and chickpeas, and was delicious paired with natural yoghurt, fresh coriander, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Try to find similar sized capsicums with a sturdy base – test their balance on a flat surface in the store first!

  • 500g free range pork mince
  • 2 tablespoons shish tawook spice blend
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 red capsicums
  • Olive oil
  • Brown rice salad, natural yoghurt, lemon, and fresh coriander, to serve
  1. Finely chop the zucchini, onion and garlic in a food processor. Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Carefully cut the top of the capsicums off and keep aside, then remove the seeds. Heat the capsicums in the microwave for 2 minutes to soften slightly.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and saute zucchini, onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until soft. Add shish tawook and stir for 1 minute. If your frying pan is large enough, add pork mince and cook until browned. If it’s not big enough (like mine wasn’t), transfer zucchini mix to a bowl, add pork mince to the pan and cook until browned, then add the zucchini back in. Season with salt and pepper. You can add more shish tawook here if you feel it needs it.
  4. Fill capsicums with pork mixture, then top with their lids. Transfer to oven on the lined baking tray and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Serve with brown rice salad, lemon wedges, natural yoghurt and fresh coriander.

Vegetarian variation: Replace the pork mince with a 400g tin of drained chickpeas, follow the rest of the steps

Shawarma BBQ Asado Ribs

Asado De Tira, or short ribs, are an Argentinian cut of meat. Asado ribs are one of Paul’s favourite meats to BBQ, though not one of mine. It’s a very fatty cut of meat which tends to be chewy, and after a couple of ribs I usually leave the messy greasiness to him.

Despite my usual resistance towards asado ribs, we had some that needed to be cooked. Traditionally you would simply season the asado with salt before grilling, but I decided to marinate these ribs in the Shawarma spice blend to jazz them up a bit.

Following the packet suggestion, I mixed 2 tablespoons of Shawarma with extra virgin olive oil, a few splashes of red wine vinegar, and sea salt, then rubbed it into the ribs, leaving it to marinate in the fridge for the day. Paul cooked the ribs on the Weber coal BBQ, with the lid on to smoke it, and so the meat develops a nice crust. The scent of the Shawarma spices when the meat hit the grill was intensely fragrant, and flavour-wise worked really well with the meaty ribs.

BBQ, beer & ribs

Visit Sami’s Kitchen for more ideas to inspire your entry. Good luck! :-D



Filed under Beef, Healthy, Pork, Quick, Recipes, Seafood, Vegetarian

Tuna and Rice Bake

Have you ever found a great recipe that is so easy and tasty that it becomes a frequent addition to your meal plans? This is one of them for me. Although when I say frequent, for us that means I make it every couple of months! I first saw this recipe on Taste, and one of the best things is that it is so versatile. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice, and you can add any vegies and herbs you like. You could also replace the tuna with chickpeas and make it a vegetarian dish. Don’t like zucchini? Use carrot instead! This is a base recipe – there are countless variations! Go crazy!

This time I used a silicone loaf pan but I would usually use metal, which I prefer. I think it cooks better in metal, it gets crispier on the edges and it’s easier to cut. I’d also like to make this in a muffin tray next time, which would be an easy lunch with a fresh salad.

Do you have a collection of meals you make often?

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Filed under Easy, Healthy, Recipes, Rice, Seafood