In a nutshell: The West Indian bay leaf is unlike any you’ve tasted with complex notes of vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and menthol, all of which combine to create an exotic and potent tool in the kitchen.
The West Indian bay tree (pimento racemosa), also known as 'Spice tree' or the 'Bay rum tree", can be found all over the Caribbean. It is such a beautiful tree with white flowers when in bloom and these amazing leaves with a rich and pungent fragrance. The leaves are used to make Bay Rum, one of my favourite old-fashioned Jermyn Street "Gentleman's Colognes'. The West Indian bay leaf is unlike any you’ve tasted with complex notes of vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and menthol, all of which combine to create an exotic and potent tool in the kitchen. It is also one of the secret weapons in most Caribbean homes and not just for its cooking prowess - its great to ward off bugs and makes its way into all sorts of herbal remedies and teas. As one of the trademarks of Caribbean cooking, you see it in goat and meat curries, rice and vegetable dishes , spice rubs and sauces. It also goes into a popular porridge with plantains and forest honey. We love to add it to our Creole curries and sauces and have been known to tuck a few leaves into our chicken as it roasts!
About Épices de Cru
Épices de Cru began in 1982 as a catering partnership between Philippe and Ethné de Vienne. Their mission was a kind of “cooking pot anthropology:” learning the secrets of family cooking around the world and applying these techniques to the needs of hungry Montrealers. The secret, they learned, was spices. Over the last two decades, Philippe and Ethné have searched for the world’s best spices, accompanied by their children, Marika and Arik. The de Viennes believe in direct sourcing spices: visiting growing regions, spending time with growers, and developing personal relationships that last decades. In 2004, they officially opened their first spice shop in Montreal’s fantastic Jean Talon market– it’s since become a mecca for foodies from all over the world. I first visited in 2008 and have been buying and using their spices on a regular basis ever since that first exciting visit. They steadfastly maintain that they do nothing original, only facilitating the exchange of culinary common sense from one place to another. But, what they do is simply quite brilliant - by providing us with the finest quality ingredients, and their superb spice mixes, we can all experiment with unusual spices and recreate delicious recipes from around the world.