by Niki Segnit
Most cookery books have a picture of beautifully presented delicious food on the cover to tantalise the tastebuds. The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit is just as enticing but from an entirely different perspective.
It’s a large colour wheel or, more precisely, half a colour wheel that adorns the front cover. Fear not, if you open to the very first page, the full colour wheel is revealed in all its glory and immediately the purpose of The Flavour Thesaurus becomes clear.
The book’s aim is to demonstrate how different flavours can complement each other. So the colour wheel represents a number of flavours which are divided into particular categories. Meaty, cheesy, marine are straightforward definitions, more descriptive definitions include earthy, mustardy, spicy, woodland. Fruity is further split so that you can fresh, floral or creamy fruity. Then each category has sub-categories which represent the ingredients’ flavours. So meaty comprises: chicken, pork, black pudding, liver, beef, lamb whereas creamy fruity has: banana, melon, apricot, peach, coconut, mango.
And that’s just the first page. After a brief introduction to the purpose of the project, Segnit then launches straight into the thesaurus element. Each flavour category has a chapter and each ingredient within that category its own section. Where the ingredient complements another flavour in the thesaurus Segnit then writes up a paragraph explaining how the particular flavours complement each other with maybe an interesting anecdote thrown in and a high-level but perfectly functional recipe to get your creative cookery juices flowing. These also reference chefs, cooks and food critics’ recipes and opinions (sometimes conflicting) on the success – or not – of the combinations. And these recipes aren’t restricted to western palettes the flavours are derived from all over the world.
Some of the combinations are, of course, tried and tested classics, others more surprising. Who knew, for example, that the Russian Tsar’s children tucked into caviar and mashed banana for breakfast? Or that chocolate might complement cauliflower? Or that blueberries work well with mushrooms?
As well as being a cookery book that is fun simply to read, it also encourages you to experiment. Open the store cupboard, have a poke inside and see what ingredients are there to put together. Who knows what flavour combination you might discover?
You can buy The Flavour Thesaurus by clicking the picture below.