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by Kirsten Hartvig
The book starts out with some history about the spice trade through the centuries and a clarification of what parts of the world various spies come from, which I found very interesting.
Nearly half the book is encyclopedic, giving information about a spectrum of spices and herbs that are mostly available in most supermarkets, though there were a few exotics that might have to be acquired mail order or from speciality shops. I found this more interesting than one might expect. Each entry includes a description of the plant the spice comes from and what part is used, information on buying and storing, followed by a 'food profile' which explains which parts of the plant are edible and how it has been used for seasoning food.
This is followed by a nutritional profile which explains what chemicals or fats are contained in the useable part of the plant, then a health profile detailing how it has been used in medicinal purposes in its area of origin and in modern medicine and cosmetics.
The second half of the book focuses on cookery with nutritional information and recipes, as well as health benefits of various spices presented in a logical manner. The author admits to being vegan at the beginning of this section, which affected my expectations of the recipes.
There are a lot of vegetable recipes as one might expect, but the author does give some concession to meat where it's appropriate, always offering a tofu alternative. The recipes run from the familiar, like Waldorf Salad, to the strange, like Chocolate Avocado Mouse. They cover a spectrum of food types. Some examples are; Olives De Picar, Spiced Figs, Celery Seed Crackers, Sushi Rolls, African Seafood Brochettes and Paprika Latkes with Prawn Mayonnaise.
Some ethnic recipes are included, such as Jamican Jerk, Nordic Juniper Casserole, Hungarian Goulash and Szechuan Beef. A variety of spice mixes peculiar to specific countries are also given, though the recipes include grinding and cooking seeds and other ingredients rather than just mixing them.
I found the book well written, well presented, and one of the more interesting books on cookery that I've come across. The nutritional information is also of interest and I might just refer back to this book next time I have an ailment that could be addressed through natural medicine. The cover is a little dull, but the contents are definitely worthwhile.