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Monday, 10 February 2014

5 Questions - Seasoned Pioneers


I first became aware of the Seasoned Pioneers brand when Delia Smith launched her controversial "How To Cheat at Cooking" book. In the book, Delia sourced a range of pre-prepared foods, (from tins, chilled cabinets, freezer & store cupboard) to help the home cook put together a tasty meal in reduced time. One of the items that she recommended was a collection of spice blends produced by Seasoned Pioneers, a great way of adding instant flavour into a wide range of dishes.
As luck would have it, my local delicatessen happened to stock a small range of the flavour packed silver pouches, and over the years I have worked my way through quite a few little bags of spices. Since the early days when 'the godmother of TV chefs' made reference to Seasoned Pioneers, more well known TV chefs have also given the thumbs including, Nigel Slater, Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson.
I recently attended the Scottish Speciality Food Show at the SECC and was slightly surprised to see Seasoned Pioneers exhibiting. I say surprised, because as someone who has been using their spices for a number of years, I simply assumed that they were a well established brand and a recognised household name. It would seem that that isn't quite the case.......yet.
Here's their story;
How did you get started?
Mark Steene, an avid lover of food and the great outdoors, started Seasoned Pioneers in 1996. He’d been away travelling around the world & on his return home he wanted to recreate some of the fascinating cuisines that he’d enjoyed on his travels.
Frustrated by the limited spices available, he set to work in his Liverpool flat, roasting, grinding & blending spices using recipes gathered from people he’d met whilst travelling.
Later that year whilst skiing in the French Alps, Mark met Matt and after becoming friends they eventually decided to work together, having established that they shared a passion for both the world of spice and the great outdoors!
A few years later, the fledgling company started trading from a small industrial unit in Liverpool but soon outgrew those premises. The company moved to our current location on the Wirral, equidistant between Chester and Liverpool, where we are now a team of nine people.
Things rapidly moved forward, boosted by endorsements for our products from certain celebrity chefs and food writers.
Today we have a repertoire of over 300 herbs, spices, seasonings, chillies, peppercorns, salts and spice blends. We have also branched into the world of gourmet cooking sauces, offering an exciting international range of ten sauces made with our own spice blends.
Matt is now director of Seasoned Pioneers, whilst Mark has taken time out to pursue his love of climbing, hiking & cycling!
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Put good systems and practices in place from the very beginning, you will be so glad you did when business starts to pick up and you’re not having to rummage through piles of scribbled notes to find that vital piece of information! Don’t over extend yourself financially in the beginning and most of all, do not compromise.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Going from strength to strength, remaining fit & healthy, with steady expansion & seeing at least one Seasoned Pioneers foil pouch of spice in every kitchen in the nation!
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
We love all of our products, but at a milestone Birthday party in the garden of one of the team last summer, the unanimous favourite dish was Cajun Chicken. It was a very simple dish, chicken pieces marinaded in our Cajun spice blend, roasted in the oven and finished off on the barbecue, served with lots of exciting salads & breads, but everyone went wild for it! A pack of that spice blend is now packed in the luggage for every weekend away and holidays!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
We would invite Nelson Mandela.
He was such an inspirational, courageous man and it would be fascinating to talk to him about all that he endured and achieved during his lifetime. Amongst the many issues that he addressed for the good of people everywhere, was his recognition of the absolute necessity of education to break the cycle of poverty, which is particularly inherent in his own country.
We are privileged to have visited and supported a wonderful South African organisation called Breadline Africa. One of their ongoing projects is the provision of libraries for children that would normally have no access to books. These libraries are housed in containers and are called ‘Mandela Day Container Libraries’ of which there are now 35 across the nine provinces of South Africa.
As for the meal that we would serve to Nelson Mandela, our menu would commence with an aperitif of mulled wine. Then, a starter of avocado pears with prawns in a spicy seafood sauce, followed by the traditional South African dish of Bobotie, laden with our spices and accompanied by a green salad of exotic leaves. For dessert we would simply serve fresh fruits and a big wedge of our local Cheshire cheese with home-made sea salt water biscuits!
With over 300 different blends of spices and seasoning, there seems to be no end to the flavour combinations that you can react in the kitchen. Whilst at the Scottish Speciality Food Show, I was given a sample sachet of the Seasoned Pioneers Chermoula spice blend, which I used to marinate a couple of cod fillets overnight before roasting and serving with garlic potatoes and sesame spring greens. The Chermoula, blended to a Moroccan recipe, with paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic and black peppercorns, worked wonderfully with the cod and packed a huge punch of chilli heat.
Delia might call it cheating, but I prefer to call it 'helping with style'. I see nothing wrong in using a little help in the kitchen and Seasoned Pioneers offers a massive helping hand, not just with the huge range of spices that they carry, but the website also has a page that is jam-packed with recipes that are influenced and incorporate the little silver pouches. So do yourself a favour and check out the Seasoned Pioneers website, I'm sure you'll find something that gets your taste buds tingling.

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