One of the things that I have discovered about being a mum is that, not only do you start buying presents for yourself from your child, you also pick up the slack for partners who fail to recognise gift-giving opportunities. This is how I ended up with the best Easter gift ever: I bought it for myself.
Spice is Christine Manfield’s inspirational reference book that’s been around for a few years. I just needed the right justification to acquire these 362 indulgent pages.
It’s all here, from wet and dry spice mixes to complicated dishes – some of which use several of the spice blends at once. I was impressed with Christine’s research, attention to detail, and the ratio of familiar to new ideas. Her opening blurb was mystical and exciting; I felt like I was being inducted into ancient rituals just by daring to peer within.
The two gripes that I have about this book are not really problems as such:
- although the book includes a glossary of raw ingredients, there are no pictures. I was au fait with most of the spices listed, however I would have appreciated photos or sketches so that I would know others if I saw them.
>That said, the written descriptions are excellent; and
>That said, there are still a lot of awesome images.
Now I can mix up my own baharat and za’atar, based on recipes from a recognised expert – although I think I will stick to the Ras el hanout recipe from Recipezaar considering it does not include Spanish fly beetle, as Christine recommends. [I am a little scared of that one, given the intriguing Wikipedia entry I managed to locate. I did wonder as to whether Christine had roadtested all the recipes she included in her book – but doesn’t take the shine off it for me.]
…and, of course, if I find it all this spice blending too time consuming, I can always look to Christine’s website to seek out her product range (with an on-site recommendation by Simon Johnson, no less!).
Spice was not a necessary purchase for me: I will still scour the internet for spicy recipes, despite this fulsome resource. I will treasure it for what it is: a touchstone for exotic flavour combinations and a means to challenge my palate.