By Lindy Wildsmith
Jacqui Small, £30
The latest book from food writer Lindy Wildsmith, Cured, devotes nearly 300 pages to the ancient art of preserving food. It is a craft which, as she points out, allowed man to stop playing the role of hunter-gatherer and settle down in one place.
In keeping with that sense of tradition, the book provides a diverting history of seven methods of preserving foods: salting, spicing and marinating, drying, smoking, potting, pickling, and raw.
It also demonstrates in extensive detail how to cure foods using a range of modern and traditional methods, including European practices as well as those used in the Americas, Japan and historic Rome and Greece.
That means the range of dishes is broad, from traditional French confit de canard, to Spanish boquerones, to Japanese shimi saba (pickled mackerel) and Oriental venison jerky. Then there are examples of dishes such as Taruschio salt or corned beef, created by Franco and Ann Taruschio, founders of the Walnut Tree Inn, with whom Wildsmith works closely.
The book, which makes little secret of the fact it is trying to tap into the recent fashion for Slow Food, is well illustrated, with step-by-step photographic guides for some of the more challenging dishes.
Even so, it is a book that would probably benefit the more experienced and confident chef, with most receipes assuming a certain amount of pre-existing knowledge. That is reflected in the fact that highly regarded chefs and producers such as Alan Murchison and Alan Leviseur, master of the Organic Smokehouse in Shropshire, have been asked for their tips and comments. Meanwhile, some of the more difficult methods of curing, such as cold-smoking, will, as the book admits, require equipment that may not readily be available in most kitchens.
Despite that, Cured will undoubtedly appeal to anyone who wants to get serious about curing their own food and producing dishes based on the results. Wildsmith, who has already produced the 2004 tome Preserves, is clearly a real authority on the subject.