The book essentially divides into two parts - the first third or so being a world tour, with a page on a country or region and the spices typically employed in its cooking and a spice blend commonly used, the remainder being mostly coverage of the individual spices, with the occasional recipe included. Each such spice gets a double page spread with more general information to the left, the right hand side containing all the useful information regarding preparation, blending with other spices (via consideration of various compounds in the spice), recommended food partners and reference to blends in the earlier regional section.
The notion of a "periodic table of spices" is a bit daft and gimmicky to make it all sound more scientific (apart from anything else, the diagram on pp. 14-15 is grouped by colour coding and not by column, and I'm not sure why for example ginger, turmeric and galangal, which are all related, would be in different groups). The basic idea is to start thinking of one or two spices in a particular colour group and then by use of the individual entries for those combine with further spices. There is a glaring usability deficiency here though in that the table does not supply a page number for the entry for the spices, requiring looking up in the index.
There are 54 spices listed on pp. 14-15, though the back cover says 60 so there are presumably more in the later listings. The designation "spice" is a little loose in some cases as it also covers ingredients like garlic, and leafy items such as bay and rose. Having broken out a little from items not normally called "spices", it's a pity that it doesn't go on to cover certain other items for example coriander & fenugreek leaf as well as their seeds.
Not as comprehensive overall as would be ideal, but certainly a very good starting point for experimentation with spice.
This is a fascinating book and although it is not a cookbook as such, it does contain a few recipes which are listed at the front of the book so you don’t have to search through the book to find them.
First and foremost it is a book about spices - from their chemical make up to the way they are used around the world.
It starts with a section called Spice Science which describes spices and identifies the compounds that create their unique flavours. It then groups them into twelve families which share the same compounds describing their particular characteristics and common uses. Taking this idea further, the author has created a spice periodic table which clearly identifies fifty-four spices and their flavour groups. He then shows you how you can use the table to make your own spice blends.
The next section is the World of Spice. It takes us around the world (the whole world including Europe, the Americas and Australasia which are usually ignored in spice books) showing how different spices are used in different cuisines. It gives the recipes for all sorts of spice blends – dukkah, za’atar, panch phoran to name but three. You will never have to spend hours searching supermarket spice shelves for some spice blend required by a recipe but not explained. I think they are all in this book. Each section explains a bit about the origins of the spice use, why that group of spices became important in that location and how they are used separately and in combination. There are some illustrative recipes, though not for all countries.
The final section is detailed profiles of the spices grouped in their flavour families. These are fascinating. Each spice has two or more pages full of information and ideas.
This is not a book for those who like to follow recipes slavishly. It is a book for the curious cook who likes to experiment and play around with flavours. My advice would be to keep a notebook and pen clipped to the book so you can note down your experiments and record successes and failures.
I have already started to play with the effect different spice combinations have on rice and lentils – very interesting and, so far, very successful.
A fascinating addition to any kitchen library. A must have for anyone interested in spicing up their favourite dishes or experimenting with new ones. Apart from checking out a variety of spices by taste, it highlights where each originates, what they look like and how they can best be combined in a range of recipes to titivate the taste buds. Introduced by Stuart Farrimond who specialises in food science, he and his team of fellow contributors have produced a treasure trove of well researched facts, figures and recipes that will challenge and delight most who delve in its pages. As one now expects from DK Publications, it is a beautifully presented book crammed full of illustrations designed to catch eye and grab the reader's attention.
This is a terrific book and makes for a great companion to another DK book I bought a little while ago, "The Science of Cooking: Every question answered to give you the edge": The Science of Cooking: Every question answered to give you the edge, also by Dr. Stuart Farrimond... (which is a brilliant but nerdy book on cooking), I only wish this book covered even more spices.
As it is, there are about 114 pages on spice profiles, most of which are double page spreads on any given spice, but some spices occupy more than this. There’s also about 60 pages depicting 7 principle regions of spice flavourings from around the world, each further broken down into individual countries and their predominant ‘tastes’ for spices and explains appropriate pairings for different spices.
I’m not so keen on some of the serif font type styles as it’s too thin and tricky for me to read without glasses but, all in, a fascinating book for rummaging through, I just wished it covered an even bigger selection.
This is a good book. It does have some recipes, but not that many. However its strength is that it lists each spice and what it matches with, so the experimental cook can work out what flavours they are working towards and build up a taste signature from this. This is one of those books which will really help an absolute beginner move towards being a cook who understands flavour and so not be so reliant on recipes.
My wife is a keen cook with a great love of spices, several of which she grows herself. She has pronounced this book a good read, interesting and informative about blending different spices that compliment each other and very well set out and illustrated. It's the sort of book she'll dip into whilst eating her lunch or when she's planning a meal as it only has a few actual recipes. Overall, a very nice and useful book for anyone looking to use more spice combinations in their meals.