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Book review – Salt Sugar Smoke

10 September 2012 by

Salt Sugar Smoke
By Diana Henry
Mitchell Beazley £20
ISBN 978-1-84533-564-9

Salt Sugar Smoke is a comprehensive lesson in food preservation. But in her latest cookbook, Diana Henry, food writer and columnist for the Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine, has given us much more.

Although she has aimed Salt Sugar Smoke at the aspiring home cook, Henry's ethos of finding the pleasure in the small things - a good jam on your breakfast toast; a chutney made from apples gathered last autumn - extends brilliantly to the commercial kitchen.

When I look back on my most memorable dining experiences, it is often the embellishments that made them truly stand out. The fruity relish in the burger; the chunky tartare with the fish and chips. These are the things that make a dish come truly to life.

Henry's recipes can be scaled up and produced well in advance by the professional kitchen looking to stand out. New York sweet cranberry mustard makes for an unusual and memorable addition to the Christmas menu, while Thai sweet chilli sauce is not only perfect for dipping but also a great accompaniment for a veggie breakfast of roasted mushrooms, guacamole, fried egg and hash browns, according to the author.

However Salt Sugar Smoke is not just about the garnishes. The chapter on salted, cured and potted looks at the star of the dish. Henry demonstrates how to make dry- and wet-cured bresaola and explains the difference between them.

The likes of Japanese pickled mackerel and whiskey and brown sugar-cured gravlax outline the different ways that fish can be flavoured and preserved depending on the cuisine that is being offered.

But it is the chapter on cordials, alcohols, fruits and spoon sweets that is perhaps my favourite, primarily because Henry describes it as a "veritable treasure trove of sinful pleasures". And let's face it - when you're eating out, that's exactly what most people crave.

It contains a comprehensive look at vins maisons - house special aperitifs made by steeping fruit, (sometimes leaves, herbs, spices or nuts) to create a luxurious preamble to a good meal.

In an increasingly competitive eating out market, it doesn't have to be all about discounting. The addition of three or four of these recipes to a kitchen's armoury may be the difference between the booking in your dining room and the one down the road.

If you like this, you'll love these:
Country Cook's Kitchen Alison Walker
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Scandilicious Baking Signe Johansen
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Limoncello and Linen Water
Tessa Kiros

By Janie Manzoori-Stamford

E-mail your comments to Janie Manzoori-Stamford here.

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