The Flavour Thesaurus
Bloomsbury ISBN 978-0-07475-9977-7
Bloomsbury ISBN 978-0-07475-9977-7
|Also available for virtual book-worms on Kindle|
Hopefully that's not just me.
Niki Segnit worked as a high-powered marketing executive handling some of the biggest brand names in the world such as Coca-Cola. A keen home cook, she realised that she was simply following recipes from her arsenal of cookery books; she didn’t really have real knowledge about combining flavours to make tasty food. She decided to do what any good book worm would do: Buy a book that would help her.
But there wasn’t one, so, with what she admits herself was‘touching naivety’, she set about writing one herself.
The result was this Flavour Thesaurus.
Segnit eventually settled upon 99 flavours and set out to link the flavour traits of each in a pleasingly cyclical way. For example – Mango is listed as the last flavour in the Creamy Fruity section of the wheel which leads into the first flavour in the Citrus section, Orange.
The book splits the 99 flavours into 16 broad groupings that run from Roasted through Meaty and Cheesy right round the wheel to Bramble and Hedge, ending on Floral Fruity. Segnet takes each of the groupings and painstakingly goes through each of the flavours in that category, showing how they work with the other compatible flavours in the wheel.
To illustrate, one of the smallest flavour groupings is Mustardy. Segnet takes the Watercress, Caper and Horseradish flavours and shows how they work with dozens of flavours, from Anchovy to Grapefruit, citing usage and recipes from all over the globe.
From the word go, Segnit happily acknowledges the limitations of her system – there are more than 99 flavours (Irn Bru flavour is suspiciously absent, I noticed) and flavours can, of course, be braided together in many more combinations than simple pairings. However, as Segnet points out, even limiting herself to 99 flavours and to only pairing them up (there are no illustrations or pictures in the book) the book runs to well over 350 pages!
A book like this could easily have ended up a dusty mausoleum creaking with humourless science (although there are plenty of scientific principles squirrelled away in there); neither is it an arid tome baked dry by school-teacherly condescension; no, this is a warm and colourful journey into the world of taste that you will enjoy reading in your bed as much as in the kitchen.
Here’s a small snippet, taken at random:
On Avocado and Bacon: ‘As rich as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart and just as gorgeous. When these two meet it’s not exactly murder, but you might want to have your cardiologist on speed dial. The green flavour of avocado makes a fresh counterpoint to bacon’s heavy, salty meatiness, but it’s as least as fatty. Get the max out of these in a salad made with baby spinach or in a hefty wholemeal sandwich with mayonnaise.’
Any food book that can reference 70s TV show Hart to Hart gets the thumbs up in my world!
You might read the above excerpt and think: ‘Meh. I knew that. So what?’ But would you think to pair Avocado and Lime? Avocado and Mint? What about Cardamom and Saffron? Oyster and Nutmeg?
Segnet draws upon a hefty reference library with the Bibliography section running to 5 close-typed pages, so there are plenty of expert opinions backing up her musings.
I thoroughly enjoyed dipping out and in, devouring little snippets of flavour wisdom from this book. I can’t imagine anyone not being delighted to graze their way through it.
Well, except maybe Heston Blumenthal.