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The Flavour Thesaurus – book review

02 July 2010 by

The Flavour Thesaurus: Pairings, recipes and ideas for the creative cookBy Niki SegnitBloomsbury, £18.99ISBN 978-0-7475-9977-7

The premise of this book is so simple that it is amazing that no-one has come up with the idea before. Niki Segnit, a keen home cook with a background in food and drink marketing, decided she needed a manual to help her understand how and why one flavour might go with another. On finding no such book existed, she decided to write one herself.

Based on the format of Roget's Thesaurus, The Flavour Thesaurus lists ingredients alphabetically in the back of the book and suggests classic and less well known flavour matches for each. The front section contains an entry for every flavour match listed and is organised into 16 flavour themes such as bramble and hedge, floral fruity and earthy.

As well as examining classic pairings such as pork and apple, cucumber and dill, and tomato and basil, contemporary matches like lobster and vanilla, goat's cheese and beetroot, and mango and shellfish are also explored.

In her quest for flavour pairings, Segnit has read thousands of recipes, talked to dozens of food technologists and chefs and eaten in a countless number of restaurants.

Who knew, for instance, that according to some scientifically minded chefs, tomatoes and strawberries are interchangeable as the two share many flavour compounds? Tomatoes contain what is known as the strawberry furanone, also found in raspberries, pineapple, beef, roasted hazelnuts and popcorn. As a result, strawberry, avocado and mozzarella salad is suggested as a variant on the original favourite.

The book centres on 99 popular ingredients, and includes 980 flavour combinations. It also has more than 200 recipe ideas including lamb and rhubarb khoresh, lime and cinnamon sorbet, and cherry and vanilla clafoutis.

The Flavour Thesaurus is a fascinating book for culinary geeks who like to know the origin and science behind ingredient combinations, as well as being a handy guide to dip into when stuck for inspiration and faced with a myriad of what are seemingly divergent flavours. It is a useful addition to the bookcase of both the young cook and the experienced chef.

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