The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, Bloomsbury, London, 2010
I got this book for Christmas as a gift and I think I have a crush on it. I secretly get butterflies in my tummy when it is time for bed because I get so excited at the prospect of reading about mad flavour combinations. The only problem is I usually get hungry at the thought of all this good food and end up having dreams about asparagus or something.
This book is great for the amateur who is afraid to break free from recipe books and trust their own instincts. However, it is also brilliant for those who have an appreciation for food, like me. In my opinion, this is just a good read let alone a wealth of knowledge about the food world.
The author, Niki Segnit, has a good sense of humour and is not afraid to say if something sounds disgusting if she finds something so. Although in her introduction Segnit does state that everyone’s taste buds differ and that your cultural background also determines to an extent how you sense and describe flavour. I thought this to be very perceptive of her as a writer catering to a wide audience. This is reflected in the selection of recipes and foods in Segnit’s book. They vary from American to Chinese, to Japanese, to French etc. Segnit makes the book accessible for those who may not be master chefs and familiar with the lingo of the kitchen. She also gives recipes of her own. But she does not shy away from recipes of renowned chefs, such as Nigel Slater, Ken Hom, Antonio Carluccio and Nigella Lawson, either.
The book is informative and gives the history of certain foods e.g. how the bulking out of chocolate with ground hazelnuts eventually led to the invention of Nutella. Each food is given an introduction which gives a general description of its appearance or taste, titbits of history and how to prepare it. Included in the rear of the book, as well as a general index, is a pairings index, which I have found most helpful to glance through, when I am looking for some quick inspiration.
What have I learnt from this book? Trust your instincts (and taste buds) and don’t be afraid to experiment with flavours.