How much do you know about Vanilla?  To many people, its an everyday ingredient that is used by both home and artisan bakers, and is found in many commercially produced cakes, cupcakes, biscuits and desserts to give them a recognisable flavour and aroma. Also, vanilla ice cream is the most commonly produced and consumed flavour of ice cream globally.

Aside from culinary uses, vanilla has many non-food uses – it’s fragrance is used in candles, perfumes and in the cosmetics industry as a whole. It really is an ingredient that is taken for granted as it’s such an integral part of daily life.  However, vanilla is so much more than just a everyday product, as I found out when I spoke to London-based Madagascan, Sakina Jodiyawalla, Founder and Managing Director of gourmet vanilla supplier at BBC Masterchef 2011 in London Olympia. is a specialist gourmet supplier of high quality Madagascan Bourbon vanilla.

At the show, I was really impressed by Sakina’s knowledge and passion for one of her country’s primary exports, as well as with her company’s range of vanilla-based products. I learnt a lot about the history of vanilla, how its produced and its surprising non-standard culinary uses, such as in tea and in pasta dishes.  Another interesting fact that I gleaned/discovered was that vanilla is world’s second most expensive spice, after saffron.  As a result of my encounter with Sakina and her amazing produce, I now no longer take vanilla for granted and have been experimenting with it in my cooking, especially in savoury dishes.

Here is my interview with Sakina.

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