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Creole by Babette de Rozières

01 May 2008 by

Creole
Babette de Rozières
Phaidon, £24.95
ISBN 978-0-7148-4814-3

There's no guesses as to what this book's about: it delivers what it says on the tin. Penned by Guadeloupe-born Babette de Rozières, who trained in France and is chef-patron of a popular Parisian restaurant, La Table de Babette, it has all the rustic, direct-flavoured dishes that you'd expect from the Caribbean.

Creole cuisine is, of course, a fusion of culinary influences - French, African, European, Asian - and its hallmarks include spicing (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and traditional spice mixes such as allspice) and a use of sweet and sour flavouring methods. Traditionally - at least in its southern American incarnation - it's called "soul food", so its dishes are great for putting on staff restaurant menus, where they deliver a comfort rating in a more exotic vein than our traditional British fare.

De Rozières delivers all the comfort dishes that you could want, but now and then she also shows an awareness of contemporary trends and techniques in some of her dishes: in a recipe for mousse-stuffed eggs (the Caribbean nuance comes in the mousse's flavouring with herbs, local shellfish and spices) or another for banana flowers, again stuffed with shellfish, which looks rather like a Japanese version of Greek stuffed vine leaves.

There are also some interesting creole takes on European classics - cassoulet, for instance, made with salt beef and pigeon peas (a dried pea) instead of beans.

The book is set out clearly, with a pleasingly short preface, which tells you all you need to know about the author's background before launching straight into recipes. The photography is great and conveys the vibrancy of the cuisine through both ingredients and dishes.

There are five main ingredient-related chapters, each opening up with pictures of key ingredients (sometimes these are usefully listed in a glossary-style format). Look out for the opening pages of the fruit and veg, and the fish chapters, in particular. There's also a bonus section on drinks - everything from Caribbean punches to non-alcoholic frappés - all of which would be perfect for the summer if you were planning a Caribbean-themed menu or you just wanted to do a cocktail promotion.

All in all, a good introduction to a sometimes undervalued cuisine.

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