Fire and Spice – Parsi Cookery

A Book Review by Franz Scheurer


Joyce Westrip is an old hand at Indian cuisine. An avid collector of ancient and rare Indian cookbooks, she’s written several books on the topic. Her latest, the food of the Parsi, the descendants of the Zoroastrians who left Persia some 1300 years ago and settled along India’s west coast, is a thoroughly researched documentation of a cuisine that combines the sophistication of Persian cooking with the spices and flavours of the Indian subcontinent.


Culturally the Parsi are Persians and remained true to their cultural heritage because of their strict rules on marriage (within the community) and food being part of many of their rituals. Although their food slowly began to borrow flavours from the Indian communities around them it never lost its strong Persian heritage as basic ingredients and preparation methods did not change. Joyce has managed to give us a snapshot of their lives and communicates their ‘essence’ through their food.


The book is divided into: Meat Dishes, Chicken Dishes, Offal, Fish and Shellfish, Egg Dishes, Vegetables and Pulses, Rice Dishes, Breads, Desserts and Pastries and Chutneys, Salads and Sauces.  The food is glorious; it’s aromatic, spicy and combines a lot of fresh and dried fruit with savoury components. Although I hate the fruit/protein combination in the European cuisine, it is both culturally appropriate and flavour/texture-wise terrific in Parsi recipes. I could eat the ‘Orange Flavoured Rice with Dates’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


This must be one of the most interesting cookbooks around and I for one intend to work my way through all of the recipes in time.


ISBN 1 897959 41 9 First published by Serif, London, released by Wakefield press in Australia. To purchase, try:

The Cookery Book in Northbridge 02 9967 8211

Books for Cooks in Melbourne 03 8415 1415

Wakefield Press, Kent Town 08 8362 8800