I've suddenly got a thing about nutmeg, and very recently have been using it quite a bit in my cooking. It's hard to define its flavour: aromatic, yes. Musky? Perhaps. Slightly sweet?
As I was driving to the Blacking Factory this morning, a thought occurred to me: we go to the supermarket, and out of a) laziness and b) a genuine lack of time, buy our spices in those little jars on the supermarket shelf without having any idea whatsoever where these spices actually come from. Do we know anything about their history? The answer is quite probably no, we don't.
Take nutmeg for example. You buy a few nuts in a little jar, which you then grate in the over-complicated nutmeg grater your mother gave you for Christmas; it's all very convenient. But how many of you out there in cyberspace know that nutmeg comes from the evergreen nutmeg tree, indigenous to the Banda or "Spice" Islands of Indonesia? Or that "nutmeg" is actually a seed, and that the growers have to wait a staggering seven to nine years before the first nutmeg is harvested?
Nutmeg oil is also used in toothpaste. Yup, that's right. Toothpaste. And taken in large doses, nutmeg can have a similar effect to marijuana, though for health reasons, this is not especially to be recommended. It's also supposed to be an aphrodisiac for men if mixed with avocado.
In the superlative The Flavour Thesaurus, Niki Segnit lists a collection of interesting pairings for nutmeg, some of which are more obvious than others: nutmeg and apple, nutmeg and aubergine, nutmeg and butternut squash, nutmeg and cabbage, nutmeg and cauliflower, nutmeg and celery, nutmeg and chocolate, nutmeg and lamb, nutmeg and shellfish, and last but certainly not least, nutmeg and oysters.
I love the idea of this, and it's given me the inspiration for a new dish. Maybe something with smoked oysters? A terrine, perhaps? Terrine of Smoked Oyster with Nutmeg. It's got a certain je ne sais quois about it, hasn't it? Simplicity is often the way forward. I need to get my thinking cap on and report back. Over and Out.