Make dinner in a hurry with Choose Spice’s tasty curry pastes

Jamie Symons and Vernon Blackmore with their product, ' Choose Spice 'Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jamie Symons and Vernon Blackmore with their product, ' Choose Spice 'Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Choose Spice’s curry pastes are now avialable in East of England Co-op stores.

How often do you get home late and think ‘great, I’ve got to make dinner now!’

Sound familiar?

The busy lives many of us now lead, often means there’s little if any time to make a proper dinner during the week. ‘Proper’ cooking seems to be the reserve of the lazy (what’s that?) weekend.

An East Anglian business that set out to make mid-week meals easy-peasy is Choose Spice. Based at Suffolk Food Hall in Wherstead, the authentic spice paste creator has just been shortlisted in the first round of the East of England Co-op’s Producer of the Year Awards 2019, and is celebrating being rolled out across 23 of the supermarkets Suffolk and Norfolk stores.

Jamie Symons, who runs the business alongside Vernon Blackmore (a well-known local restaurateur) says even the least confident cooks can whip up a tasty dinner using the pastes.

“They are so simple,” he beams. “You can make them into a curry in a few minutes or use them to do something more complicated. When I do the really simple version in stores people love them. They’re really tasty.”

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Long-time East Anglian residents may remember Vernon’s restaurant Spice Bar in Woodbridge, which had quite a reputation for its food. It was here the chef honed his three curry paste recipes, inspired by his Malaysian mother’s cooking. In fact, the range ‘Choose Spice’ is a play on words as Vernon’s mother’s name is Chiu.

The pastes – Goan, Rendang and Sri Lankan – are each made to truly authentic recipes so when you unleash them into the pan, their heady aromas take you to another place.

Go for Goan, if you like the tastes of ginger, red chilli and spice. It’s perfect with chicken, prawns, fish or vegetables says Jamie.

The Sri Lankan paste is a careful blend of roasted spices – wonderful with white fish.

While for a bit of zing you could choose the Rendang – packed with lemongrass and toasted coconut.

“What’s really important,” says Jamie, “and what makes these differ from a ready prepared sauce is you can make your dish how you like it. If you like a mild curry, add less paste or put more coconut milk in. If you want it to be more powerful, add more paste. Easy.

“If you’re using leftover, like ready-cooked chicken, you can have a meal for four ready in less than 10 minutes.

“Or rub them over meat as a marinade. Stick a blob of paste into your veggies in the roasting tray. The Cake Shop Bakery in Woodbridge has even put our Goan curry paste into one of its breads.”

If you want to try before you buy, head to one of Vernon’s restaurants (perhaps The Table or The Anchor in Woodbridge) where all curries on the menus are made with Choose Spice pastes.

The pastes are available at delis and specialist food shops across the east, but Jamie says he and Vernon are especially excited about their relationship with the Co-op.

“They’ve been so incredibly supportive. With the new store roll out they’ve helped redesign the packaging so they’re more vibrant on the shelves, and we’ve managed to drop the price too with their help. It’s been really really helpful. Andy they’ve helped us get the product from being made with two cans of coconut milk to one can plus water. Everything is getting much more expensive, so we wanted to make this as affordable as possible.

“The response from customers has been amazing and we’re building lovely relationships. Once people buy the pastes, they keep coming back!”

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