A book review by Franz Scheurer
What Ian and Elizabeth Hemphill have forgotten about spices is considerably more than most of us will ever learn. They think, breathe, imbibe, eat (and no doubt listen to) spices, every day, scour the world for the best and take the time to educate anyone who’ll listen. When Ian (Herbie) Hemphill released his ‘Spice Notes’ book a few years ago it became the instant ‘spice bible’, an invaluable reference book for any foodie’s library. Now he and wife Elizabeth have released ‘Spicery’, a cook’s guide to culinary spices.
The book takes you from Ajowan to Wattleseed on a culinary pleasure trip that gives your tastebuds an affordable and legal high whilst educating your mind. The starting chapter, Spice Essentials, tells you the basics and dispels a few myths. It will make you a better shopper and educate you on how to store your precious acquisitions without them going to waste in the shortest time (light, humidity and many other things can spoil spices pretty quickly). You’ll learn how to get the most flavour out of your spices, what spices are fundamental to which country’s cuisine and how to blend your own spice mixes.
Then it’s time to move into the kitchen!
Each individual spice is described in detail, followed by a few recipes. The recipes are short, easy to follow and show off the spice you have just read about. If you cook your way through this book you will have been on a roller coaster spice ride around the world and probably discovered a lot of new flavours that, in time, will become trusted old favourites. The appeal of this book is in discovering new spices. Opening the book at random I land on page 81, ‘fenugreek’. Learning that this spice is also called methi, bird’s foot, cow’s horn, goat’s horn, Greek hayseed and hilbeh, I am told that its flavour is sharp, slightly spicy and bitter, leaves are leguminous and grassy and the flavour group of the seeds is pungent. After a two-page introduction to its history, how to chose and use it, it’s on to the recipes: ‘Tandoori Spice Blend’, ‘Hilbeh’ (a Yemenite dip) and ‘Methi Muttar’ (peas with fenugreek leaves). Choose a recipe, cook it and you’ll never forget this particular spice’s taste profile (and if you like it there is even a paragraph on how to grow it in your garden). Keep it up, throughout the book and you’ll be a spice expert (well, almost, anyway).
I love the book’s simple and clean design and easy to read typeface. The photography is illustrative and the illustrations superb. I thoroughly recommend this book and wouldn’t be without it.
Available from bookstores, published by Hardie Grant Books
ISBN 1 74066 169 9