Guest blog post by Nigel Biggar: Decoding Trends at the International Spice Conference 2016 in Goa, India.

I have been traveling with my family through Asia for the last five months, visiting South East Asia and India (our trip blog is here). While a lot of the trip is an exploration of traveling with a young family, there is also a good focus on peppercorns from Cambodia as well as India. We had heard about Kampot peppercorns before we left on our journey and so while we were in Cambodia we visited a Kampot peppercorn plantation. Wow! Were they ever tasty! We were instantly enchanted by the peppercorns’ enticing aroma and sunny, full bodied flavours. Inspired, we decided to focus part of our travels on these world class peppercorns.



We spent a month in the South Indian city of Kochi – the spice capital of the world – and during that time I attended the International Spice Conference in Goa. The conference took place from January 21st to 24th, with more than 500 delegates from 35 countries. Many of the delegates were growers and processors, including household names like McCormick.


Decoding Spices in the 21st Century

The title of the conference was Decoding Spices in the 21st Century and key discussions focused on topics such as regulations, prices, contaminants, managing customer expectations and farm management. Interestingly, at the global level, the two signature spices with a universal appeal are pepper and vanilla. This helps explain why peppercorns have such an important place in the pantheon of spices. In fact, an entire day of the conference was devoted to crops and half of the discussion about crops focused on peppercorns. Below is a summary of overall flavouring trends and specific insights related to peppercorns.

Overall Trends and Insights

There were some big names from the flavour industry and it was fascinating to hear their insights on where the industry is headed. Of note, according to Jean Mane, President and CEO of V Mane Fils, trends that will shape the flavour industry in the next few years are:

  • Food needs to be good for consumers. There is massive interest in organic foods, with no sugars or colourings.
  • Consumers want to save the planet. Consumers want to understand the journey from farm to table. They demand that companies have clear corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies around issues such as child labour and the environment.
  • Consumers demand convenience and food on-the-go. Only about half of eating experiences are in the format of formal meals. The rest are snacks, expected to be convenient and loaded with flavours.
  • Consumers are testing new flavours in conjunction with older, more familiar flavours. Think spicy chilli chocolate, avocado ice cream, etc.

Global Peppercorn Trends

Last year, world peppercorn production was approximately 450,000 tons. Global demand typically increases by 2% per year. India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, China and Brazil account for about 90% of global production.  In 2015, India and Indonesia had weak crop yields, largely the result of the “El Nino” effect, which led to water shortages. Global peppercorn stocks are at historic lows and, not surprisingly, peppercorn prices are at an all time high, around $11,000 per ton (black pepper). Many expect global peppercorn stocks and prices to return to normal levels in the medium term.

The Interplay Between Food Trends and Peppercorns

An interesting issue that arose during the conference was the interplay between peppercorns and food and flavour trends. As consumers eat more snacks and demand a more flavourful experience, pepper, organically and responsibly grown, emerges as a popular contender for enriching consumers’ eating experiences. Pepper ticks a lot of the boxes: healthy, with no sugars or colourings; sustainably grown from environmental and social perspectives; loaded with flavour; and easy to serve in new and different combinations (e.g., pepper ice cream, pepper chocolate, etc.).

The conclusions should be just as relevant for the Americas: North American participants in the conference all seemed to be nodding their heads in agreement throughout the discussions.

If you have any questions about peppercorns, please feel free to contact Nigel directly through his blog.

Yogurt made with Jamon Iberico starter culture

A year back we partnered with a company in Spain that specializes in starter cultures used for charcuterie. I did some initial tests by mixing those cultures in cream and just leaving it in room temperature. After a week they turned into some sort of cultured cream. Call it whatever you may – high fat yogurt, creme fraiche, etc. Point is, they were freaking delicious. I remember one of them had notes of lemon peel. Another developed some flavours of hazelnut. It was amazing.

Fast forward to this trial, I now attempted to speed up the process by using sous vide. Thanks to this Chefsteps video, I now had a starting reference point. It was a bit tricky though as in their video they use yogurt with live cultures. I only had the cultures. I only wanted to do 3 types with 1 litre of cream in each. I had some left over cream so ended up doing another set but with only half the cream. I also decided to use the same amount of culture despite having only half the cream. Effectively doubling the concentration. I also added 1% sugar by weight, just to give the critters more to eat.

After one night, the extra turned to be freaking beautiful. Thick, yogurty, but without the tanginess. The others were still pretty much just cream. So I decided to leave it for another night. This turned out to be a bit of a disaster. They all just went too far. The yogurt was separating, one had caused the lid to pop, and they all tasted pretty bad.

Left the good yogurt to strain in the fridge overnight to develop more texture.

So now, I know have a better idea on how much cultures to add and for how long to cook it for. Next time, I will try it with a different bacteria blend!

This dish is really about the yogurt, so I kept the garnishes simple and easy. Honeycomb, blackberries and blueberries.



Kickstarter: Ready to eat, Sous-vide steak, delivered by mail.

Here is the campaign! After over a year of research and development we are finally ready to launch our sous-vide ready-to-eat steak, delivered by mail.

If you think it’s an interesting concept and would like to try, place a pledge and we will deliver you the steaks as soon as we can! Or share it with your friends on facebook, instagram and twitter!

Ready-to-eat sous vide steak, delivered by mail!

KFTomorrow, a project that I have been involved with will be launching on Kickstarter.

For the past year I have been working on a ready to eat sous-vide steak, delivered by mail. We’ve spent countless days working on the product development and the logistics. Now that we have completed those steps, it’s time to move forward. It’s launch time baby!

I’m proud to say that tomorrow, Monday (Nov 9), we are finally launching our Kickstarter campaign so we can put our steak out in the market. During that time, I hope that you can support us by spreading the word, or pledging to our campaign. There are different reward levels – as an example, pledging $54 CAD will get you 4 ready to eat steaks. We also offer subscription where you will have steaks delivered every month.  Our steaks are AAA grade striploins. 

Steaks will be shipped fresh and never frozen, in highly insulated packaging.

This is just a heads up. Once the campaign goes live, I will forward the link to everyone so that you can take a look for yourselves. All the relevant information will be in the campaign page once it goes live. 

We will need all the support, so please help us in this campaign!


Plating Exercise – Chicken Liver Parfait, Crackling, Raspberry Coulis, herbs

Spent a few hours trying out different ways of plating a dish. Some seem really pretentious, hah! While some resemble how many of the trendy restaurants are doing. It was fun, and a great way of exploring visual aesthetics in food. Also shows how a dish is plated can affect how a guest may approach eating it. DISCLAIMER: All things I say are just opinion, and you are more than welcome to disagree with me. How much weight my opinion holds is up to you. But I hope you enjoy the photos.

On a side note:

Parfait recipe is made lighter by using 18% cream instead of 35%. Adding iota carrageen to bring back the rich texture and body is a great way to achieve lowering fat content.

500g of poached chicken liver (poached sous vide, in milk, with star anise, bay leaves, and seasoning)

400g 18% cream (brought to a simmer with 2g iota carrageenan)

100g butter


Once all ingredients are cooked, puree in a blender until smooth. Cool overnight.

The first 2 are probably my favourite, aesthetically. Also, to me, the plating makes sense and doesn’t feel as rigid. You get bites of parfait, skin, and herbs, and you get to decide how much of the coulis you want per bite. It feels composed, without being strict.



Contrast the first 2 with the next 2 plating styles. These just screams rigid. Where’s the white table cloth? To me, if I plate a dish like this its because I want to take full control of just how much of each ingredient you get per bite. But that’s just my way of thinking. I could be wrong here.

DSCF1042 DSCF1047

The next 2, I think, is quite a common style these days, and has been for the past 2 or so years. Small bits of each ingredient “randomly” cascading around the plate. This is why I think it works – you get to spread the ingredients around, it has this very casual feel to it yet still can be very appealing. Lastly, the chef also gets to control how it is eaten without the dish appearing pretentious.



A fixation with raw proteins

The more I cook, the more I want to do it without cooking. My fixation for uncooked meat and seafood is growing!

Again, a love affair with steak tartare.

Short rib, seasoned with neutralized vinegar, soy sauce and salt. Crisped shitake, pickled shallots.


Raw salmon and sake marinated scallops, fermented rice puree, seaweed infused soy tainted with squid ink, fennel, toasted sesame, panko.


Cultured cream using charcuterie starter cultures

So a while back I got myself some starter cultures from our partners in Spain. They specialize in bacteria cultures for charcuterie and started to get into the nuances of beer production as well. They’ve even isolated some of the cultures used in producing Jamon Iberico. I got a hold of that culture too and went to making different sausages. Man, they make such a huge difference.

But after the novelty of curing sausages wore of, my scatter brain thought, what else can I do with this stuff?! I’ve seen cultured butter before, maybe that’s something I can dabble in, but with cream.

Let me tell you right now that man, the differences were astounding for some of them, as well as the textures. Keep in mind this was a spur of the moment trial. I’m also not sure if the stainless steel containers react with the cream.

Day 2 of the fermentation. Differences are starting to appear.



  1. Heat the heavy cream (35% fat) to 40 degrees Celsius and separate them into 5 containers
  2. Add 1% sugar, by total weight.
  3. Add the different strains of starter cultures to each container
  4. Allow to sit at room temperature for 3 days. My kitchen lab hovers between 20 to 22 degrees Celsius.
  5. TASTE!!!



Here are the notes.

Control – no culture added

This one was slightly unappetizing, and had some bitter notes. It was just reminiscent of spoiled cream, the kind that’s been left at the back of the fridge for 2 months. It was also a bit sour but it was not very pronounced. No trace of sweetness

Cultures 1 and 2 on the center. Control is the one on the very left.


Culture 1

This tasted like that honey yogurt you get off grocery stores, but with a milder yogurt flavour. In fact, I would say the flavour was quite mild overall, but delicious. The texture was also like smooth and soft store bought yogurt.


Culture 2

This one had a very interesting flavour – sweet and strong hints of lemon. It definitely surprised me! It also didn’t loosen up when I stirred it around, so the viscosity is consistent. The texture was like double cream.


Cultures 4 and 5


Culture 4

This was by far my favourite due to the overall balance of flavour and texture. It tasted of mild yogurt with a hint of acidity. The texture was rich and velvety like a 10% fat Greek yogurt. It would also hold its shape.


Culture 5

Last but not the least, is the Iberico cultures. Texture was not that great – in fact it was quite runny and a bit stringy, as if Xanthan gum was added to it. But the flavour…wow! Very strong nutty note, and reminiscent of hazelnuts.

All of them side by side


So the next step is to perhaps combine the cultures to try and get the best qualities. I would mix Cultures 4 and 5. But who knows, the cultures might compete with each other and I would get something completely different!