From time immemorial, flour has been a staple of the human diet, and in the western world, wheat flour is the one that we predominately use to make bread, as well as being an essential ingredient in other forms of baking.
While well aware of the various other flours that have become increasingly available over the past five or six years – such as buckwheat, chickpea, coconut, rice and spelt – I did not realise until reading this book just how many more can be obtained.
Christine McFadden, a home economist turned food writer who also runs a cookery school in Dorset, has carried out an exhaustive search for the variety of flours that now abound and has devised a series of recipes suitable for each one. Having previously stored flour in a single tub, McFadden now declares herself “a flour junkie” who has dedicated an entire room in her home to her “flour library”.
The book shines a fascinating light on the wide selection of flours that can be made from ground grains, seeds, nuts, pulses, tubers, roots and even insects. How about einkorn flour, made from what is said to be the purest form of wheat, which is easy on the digestion and produces well-flavoured and crisp pastry? Or, for an alternative to the more widely available gluten-free flours, what about pea flour, which must be one of the prettiest around as a result of its delicate pistachio green or primrose yellow hue? Not for the faint-hearted is a relative newcomer to the market, cricket flour, which McFadden has creatively used to produce a delicious-looking rum-soaked prune and sultana cake.
More approachable recipes include goose soup with buckwheat and bacon dumplings; spiced pancakes made with chickpea flour and served with mint, chilli and apple relish; and potato and paneer fritters, which use water chestnut flour.
With an increasing number of diners requesting gluten-free options, Flour is a must-buy for any chef, restaurateur or foodie who wishes to expand their knowledge of an ingredient that plays an essential role in every kitchen.
Flour: A Comprehensive Guide by Christine McFadden (Bloomsbury, £26)