Monday, January 3, 2011

Everyone needs some inspiration at this time of year...

Has normality resumed for you? This morning, we took down our tree, stored the decorations in their boxes for another year and now my boyfriend and I are readying ourselves for the return to work tomorrow. Part of me regrets the passing of the slow, langourous days of Christmas but another part embraces the hopeful start of a brand new year.

Yet another part of me cheers the end of Christmas meals. We had a full house this Christmas and at times the amount of meals that needed to be prepared felt like too much. Turkey. Ham. Stuffing. Brussel sprouts. Mince pies. Chocolate. Chocolate. And more chocolate. Looking back on it, it seems like all I've been doing for the past week is eating food and pondering ways of using up the mounds of meat, potatoes and vegetables that have inevitably been left over after each meal.

You would think that I'd be tired of thinking about food. But I'm not and the credit for this has to go to Niki Segnit, author of 'The Flavour Thesaurus', one of the best books I found in my stocking this Christmas.

I'd been looking forward to getting my hands on this book for quite some time and although I've only read a very small section of it so far, I already know it's going to live up to my expectations.

So, what is a flavour thesaurus, I hear you ask. Judging from what I've read so far, this is a book for people who have browsed through lots of cookbooks and followed many different recipes. People who want to be more creative and adventurous with their food. If you want to be exposed to new flavour combinations and experiment with tastes that you may never even have considered before, this is the book for you.

After all, as Niki Segnit says, who would ever have thought lamb would pair so well with apricots, port with Stilton or foie gras with Sauternes? It required someone with imagination to match these ingredients and teach us all that there could be such a thing as alchemy of flavours.

The book is divided into different taste sections; ranging from roasted to sulphurous, spicy and marine . So far, I've read the roasted section which focuses on chocolate, coffee and peanuts and I'm halfway through the meaty section which features chicken, pork, black pudding, liver, beef and lamb.

It's a very small section of the book but I've already been struck by so many ideas. I'm going to experiment with chocolate, maple syrup and bacon cupcakes. (How do you think these will go down at my stall in Dingle Farmers' Market?) I'm going to try a chocolate cardamom tart (I'm salivating at the thoughts of that already). And I'm even going to try adding chocolate to savoury sauces. This is something they do in Mexico to lend a smooth and slightly bitter undertone of flavour.

I'm not expecting to like everything I try (and I am certainly not tempted by the idea of jugged hare - in whcih the animal is cooked in its own blood with dark chocolate!) but I'm looking forward to having my tastes challenged and to learning some new approaches to food.

This is a book I'd recommend to all of you who may be feeling tired of cooking after the many elaborate meals of Christmas. It's a book that will once again make you feel excited about food and the many wonderful possiblities it can offer.

Here's hoping we all have a very happy, healthy (and flavoursome!) new year.


  1. Oooh the chocolate cardamom tart, yummm! I ordered this book before Christmas but was told it's now out of print, dying to get my hands on a copy. Great review & Happy New Year :)

  2. Sheelagh (avillagepantry),
    I don't know how my mum managed to get her hands on it but she did and a big hurrah for her! I think you're really going to enjoy it when you do succeed in finding a copy for yourself. It's really inspirational.
    Happy New Year to you too!