Ask my husband and he’ll tell you that I’m a sucker for great branding. Place an artfully crafted logo and a great jar together… and I’m SOLD! He always pokes fun at me saying it doesn’t matter what’s in the jar as long as it looks cool. Well a few months ago, he gifted me a couple of spice collections from SKORDO for my birthday. This time it did matter what was in the jar.
The instant I opened my first jar of SKORDO’s spice blends I was overcome with nostalgia and felt transported to the streets of Mumbai where I grew up. It was clear to me that only someone who really understood Indian food or lived in India could possibly craft an Indian curry collection with such accuracy. I just had to know the story behind the brand.
The Karonis family — John, Cari and his daughters – Erin & Annie, collectively launched the online SKORDO store back in 2016 and decided to open their brick and mortar store in Freeport, Maine the following spring and yet another in the food-centric downtown area of Portland, Maine later that summer. From the beginning their instincts were spot on. Portland recently won the Best Restaurant City of 2018 by Bon Appetit.
One morning I called to speak with Anne but her dad, John, the founder and co-owner of SKORDO, picked up the phone instead. After a brief introduction, John regaled me with stories of his extensive travels around the world while in the Navy and then as a retail consultant in Asia and India, specifically Mumbai and Delhi. I could hear the joy in his voice as he shared with me how much he fell in love with Indian food and its exotic spice blends.
John’s dream to launch a spice store (SKORDO) stayed with him for years. When John had the full support of his business savvy family SKORDO was finally born.
Anne shared a bit of her dad (John’s) story with me via email: “My Grandfather retired when my dad was in high school and that’s when they moved to Cushing, Maine. My dad (John Karonis) graduated from high school there and went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, was in the Navy for 9 years . He left the Navy, got his MBA, and was in a career as a retail consultant for many years before retiring from that career several years ago and moving back to Maine. My dad, Cari, my sister Erin and I always talked about a way to combine our interest in business and entrepreneurship with our love of food to create a shop that we wish existed… that’s how SKORDO came about.”
I was so inspired by the Karonis’ family narrative as it was similar to mine in that they shared a deep love and passion for food, family and creating meaningful narratives through their authentic spice collections. I launched Mumbai to Maine back in 2015 in an effort to reconnect with my Portuguese-Indian roots and to share culinary anecdotes of my childhood in Mumbai and my new home in Boothbay, Maine.
SKORDO’s mission is to empower the home cook with the freshest spices and handcrafted spice blends.
One thing’s for sure, my life has become much easier since I have an array of their jarred spices in my pantry. I don’t have to pull out a slew of Indian spices: cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves, cayenne and cinnamon, then dry roast them and grind them all together to make up a fragrant Rogan Josh Lamb Curry. I enjoy the process of grinding and blending spices but the truth of the matter is I know its tough to get it done during a work week. When I walk in the door after a long day, I prefer to use that time to bond and catch up with my kids and husband knowing that SKORDO’s got my back in the kitchen.
Last weekend was the first day of fall. I ADORE fall! The crisp fall air and making the first fire of the season inspired me to get in my kitchen and make a batch of wholesome spicy Madras Curry Pumpkin soup for my family. I visited our local farm stand in Boothbay and bought a couple of sugar pumpkins.
I love the idea of using real pumpkins to make pumpkin soup. Canned pumpkin just doesn’t seem to lend the same flavor and chunky texture that a real pumpkin brings to a soup. I carefully cut them in half and pulled out the guts and seeds. I sprinkled a generous amount of the Skordo Madras Curry Powder and heavy-handedly drizzled some extra virgin olive oil over the pumpkins. The oil blended right in with the curry powder.
I could almost picture these pumpkins curry-melizing with the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, fenugreek and cumin. After a solid 50 minutes, I pulled them out of the oven and let them rest for 20 minutes. I couldn’t help but snap some beautiful images of these roasted pumpkins now infused with the heady aromas of Indian spices.
These sugar pumpkins from a local Maine farm were now transformed into spiced-up curried pumpkins.
I pulled out my favorite cast iron pot, sautéed up some chopped shallots, leeks and garlic with extra virgin olive oil and a generous knob of Kate’s butter.
What’s better than a combination of butter, olive oil, leeks, shallot and garlic? Well, SKORDO’s curry powder of course! I added in a generous tablespoon of curry powder and allowed it to infuse the shallot-garlic-leek mixture for a minute. I quickly deglazed the pot with some of my favorite white wine – Gewurtztraminer – that pairs perfectly with Indian food. I then added in some heated organic chicken stock and threw in a couple of fresh bay leaves. The plan was to use sage of course, but it was not available at the store that evening and nothing was going to stop me from making this soup. So I went with fresh bay leaves instead. Fresh bay leaves are so fragrant and lend a subtle earthiness to Indian cooking, so I knew they would work in this soup. In went a stick of cinnamon. I like how the spicy but sweet notes of cinnamon pair with anything pumpkin. I stayed away from adding in more cloves and cumin as I knew they were already in the SKORDO spice blend .
After the pumpkins cooled down, I gently scooped out the almost burnt-orange colored chunks and added them to the pot. I gave it all a good stir, covered the pot and allowed it to simmer for 25 minutes.
Now for the final touches: my roasted curried chick peas. Instead of a crouton I thought the crispy and curried chickpeas would bring yet another level of texture and nuance to the soup . I opened a can of chick peas, rinsed them well, patted them dry and laid them on some parchment paper resting on a cookie sheet. I sprinkled a loaded tablespoon of the Curry powder, some olive oil, mixed it all around and roasted them off for 20 minutes at 400 degrees making sure they did not burn.
I knew the soup was ready for my immersion blender when my kitchen was filled with aromas similar to my mother’s tiny spice laden kitchen back in Mumbai.
I added a drizzle of cayenne oil and a few roasted curried chickpeas and snipped chives for color. For the final touch, I gently poured some light cream to tame the spiciness of the cayenne oil.
This pumpkin soup, inspired by SKORDO’s Madras Curry spice blend, had just the right balance of spice, sweet and savory – a perfect way to to mark the first day of fall in my kitchen. I can’t wait to make it again for Thanksgiving.
Mumbai was in Maine. At least in my kitchen.
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- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsps of butter - I used a Maine-made Kate's Butter
- 1 large leek
- 4 shallots
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 2 medium size sugar pumpkins (this yields approximately 30-oz of pumpkin puree or use two 15.5oz cans of organic pumpkin puree)
- 1 - 32-oz Low Sodium Organic Chicken Stock
- ¼ white wine – preferably Gewürztraminer ( this lends a subtle balance of sweet lychee notes to a spiced up soup)
- ¼ cup of light cream
- Salt to taste - I use Maldon salt as a finishing salt
- 2 tbsp SKORDO Madras Curried Powder
- Garnish: Fried Sage leaves or Bay leaves, Garlic Naan toast points
- Cayenne Oil drizzle - this can be bought from Eventide Specialties or Fiore Oils and Vinegars
- In a cast iron pot, sautee the leeks and shallots on medium heat until lightly brown.
- Add the garlic and1 tbsp of Madras Curry Powder, stir for a minute, do not burn. This allows the powder to bloom and infuse into the garlic and onions.
- Add the white wine and heated organic chicken stock to de-glaze the pot.
- Gently add the pumpkin puree to the pot and stir well.
- Now throw in the whole cinnamon stick , bay leaves and give it a good stir.
- Allow it to come to a gentle boil, cover with a lid, turn the heat down and allow it to simmer for 25 minutes on low heat.
- Take out the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and add in the light cream, stir gently.
- Turn off the heat and take off the stove to rest for 5 minutes.
- Use your Immersion blender on medium speed for 2 minutes to mix throughly.
- Add salt to taste. I use Maldon salt crystals.
- Garnish with fried sage leaves, cayenne drizzle, light cream, curried chick peas, garlic naan toast points.
- To reheat, gently simmer on stove, do not boil again or it will break down.
- Roasting the Pumpkins:
- Pre-heat the oven to 400.
- Slice the top stem off the pumpkins. Cut in half, scoop up the seeds and discard.
- Wash out the pumpkin, dry and set on parchment paper, cut side up.
- Drizzle generously with olive oil and 1 tbsp of Madras curried powder
- Turn them over and roast for 50 minutes.
- Cool for 20 minutes. Peel off the skins and scoop out the pumpkin flesh in a bowl.
- Curried Chick Peas:
- One can of chick peas. Rinse them well, pat them dry and lay them on some parchment paper resting on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle a hefty tablespoon of the Madras Curry powder, some olive oil, mixed it all around and roasted them off for 20 minutes at 400 degrees making sure they did not burn.
- Fried Sage or Fresh Bay Leaves:
- Heat 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Add the sage or bay leaves and allow to brown lightly for 1 minute until crisp. Lay on a paper towel.
- Garlic naan:
- I use store bought garlic naan, its too easy. Heat it gently in a warm oven after the pumpkins have been roasted. Brush generously with butter. I cut them in triangles to make toast points to go with the soup.