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Spice Up Your Summer Sweets

06 July 2006

Think of spices and your mind will probably leap to their uses in savoury dishes more readily than in desserts. Yet there are myriad ways in which fresh spices can be used to enhance sweet puds, by judicious use with eggs or fruit.

In her new book, chef/food writer/food stylist Kate Weatherell has explored this territory and, although her collection of recipes is clearly aimed at non-professional cooks, there are plenty of dishes worthy of inclusion on gastropub or bistro menus.

What's particularly nice, given the trend towards reviving historic British recipes, is the inclusion of once fashionable favourites such as blancmange. This is given a classical egg-spice match with a touch of nutmeg, but brought up to date with the use of coconut milk in place of the traditional dairy.

Other retro-tinged comfort puds given a lift with clever spicing include custard tarts (with nutmeg), Yorkshire curd tart (allspice), syrupy babas (cinnamon and coriander seeds), and upside-down cakes (apricot with ginger and cinnamon; Bramley apples with cinnamon). There's even a sticky date pud with sumac, saffron and cardamom.

There are 11 chapters, covering such things as cakes and tarts, compotes and custards, and the appropriately seasonal "summer" spice. Drinks, sauces and preserves also get a look-in - for example, apple and chilli jelly, which Weatherell suggests serving with cheese, sounds interesting.

At the beginning of each chapter is a list of all the recipes featured under its particular umbrella. What's refreshing is that Weatherell doesn't inundate you with recipes just for the sake of padding out the book.

Useful, too, are her explanations of spice blends, such as the Dutch speculaas, a combination of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and pepper.

Sugar & Spice

Kate Weatherell

Absolute Press, £15

ISBN 1-904573-40-1

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