Yemi’s Food Stories: Rafi’s Spicebox Harrogate
Last updated Mar 21, 2024

Yemi Adelekan is a food writer and blogger who was a semi-finalist in the 2022 series of BBC TV’s Masterchef competition.

Every Saturday Yemi writes for the Stray Ferret about her love of the area’s food and shares cooking tips – please get in touch with her if you want her to review a restaurant, visit your farm, taste the produce you sell or even share a recipe.

Anyone who knows me well will already know that I love spices from all parts of the world. I am intrigued by the unfamiliar and some of my highlights from my trip to the Middle East revolved around the spice markets, and the waft of aromas that hit you creating a beautiful assault on your culinary senses.

Walking into Rafi’s Spicebox in Harrogate took me right back to those places evoking the same memories. There is something beautiful about the colours and smells from different spices, that each tell their stories.

From saffron, the king of all spices, to golden yellow turmeric, from the redness of kashmiri chilli powder to the lemony tang and orange hue of pul biber, there is no end to the response that each spice is able to elicit.

A selection of goods at Rafi’s Spicebox

The rich darkness of tamarind belies its sourness, but this might just be what you need to cut through a rich dessert if you want to avoid the saltiness from salted or miso caramel. Add some tamarind to your sticky toffee sauce to elevate it to something special.

I love hibiscus because of the stunning colour and tart flavours it adds to dishes. Hibiscus is hugely popular in Nigeria as it is used to make a local drink called Zobo. To make Zobo, simply steep hibiscus in boiling water to extract the colours and add a sugar syrup. You can add spices like cloves, nutmeg, ginger and citrus rind to introduce some complexity.

Premixed spices can work for you

At Rafi’s Spicebox, you don’t need to be an expert to cook a curry because they have done all the hard work for you with their premixed spice blends which are suitable for vegetables, seafood or other proteins.

Spices can be customised to your taste if you describe the flavours you like. From Thai to Indian, mild to hot, creamy to nutty, thick curries to broths, spices can be blended to help you deliver the perfect results.

I love the spice blends which are designed to get everyone eating more vegetables. From adding spices to stir fried broccoli, spiced aubergine and potatoes, as well as elevating grated carrots with toasted seeds, there is something for everyone.

Rafi’s Spicebox is a family-owned business with shops in Harrogate, Sudbury and York

Each curry blend comes with instructions on how to cook it and many of their recipes can be ready in under 30 minutes which makes it a viable way to get home cooked meals ready in the same time it would take to have a takeaway delivered.

Rafi’s also curates a seasonal curry range so you can get spice blends that match the season from comforting, cooling to heating to keep the cold away.

The beauty of many dishes from around the world is that they come with ‘buddies’ so at Rafi’s you can get pre-prepped pilau rices, flours, and a range of chutneys, sauces, and flat breads to complete your meals.

Lamb curry with a Rafi’s twist

I left Rafi’s with a pack of Previn’s Thepla – a spiced roti – and a packet of ‘Paretal Spice Blend’ that elevated the Nidderdale lamb I purchased from Addyman K butchers, that I cooked with coconut, asafoetida, tamarind, curry leaves, chillies and the usual staples of onion, garlic and tomatoes.

I added some pul biber for a bit more heat and served the delicious lamb curry with saffron and turmeric rice topped with ghati masala. To accompany this meal, I pan-heated the roti, which has fenugreek, coriander leaves mixed with flour, ginger, turmeric and coriander powder.

Yemi’s lamb curry

My nervousness about pre-made curry spices has always been the salt levels. In my experience, many popular brands make their spice mixes overly salty, that can give dishes a raw and harsh taste.

However with the Rafi’s Spicebox packet, the salt level after following the instructions was perfect for me, and the spices cooked in the 20 minutes suggested time. I cooked my lamb curry for an extra ten minutes to get it more tender.

Find out more

Rafi’s Spicebox is a family-owned business with shops in Harrogate, Sudbury and York. You can pick up their spices from some local butchers, fishmongers and farm shops but for an immersive experience and a chat to their lovely experts, I would recommend popping into their main shop along Commercial Street.

Spices can be customised to your taste if you describe the flavours you like

I’m doing a chef demonstration at the Living North Food event at York Racecourse this Saturday, March 23, so I will share some highlights in next week’s post.

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