John Gregory-Smith has penned a unique and fascinating volume. It considers the spices themselves rather than focusing on a particular culinary tradition. So many countries have cuisines that showcase spices. Chilli is common across the globe but was unknown outside the Americas before that continent was discovered; these days we could not consider making an Asian curry without a few chillies.
Mighty Spice takes advantage of a selection of 25 or so spices and they will all be available to you in your local supermarket, or online if you live in a lighthouse. No, don’t take fright at the imagined complexity of these dishes. John uses a maximum of five spices for each recipe. Once you have your collection of powders and seeds then you’ll be set to make everything in this book: simple yet vibrant dishes.
There is an element of food-related tour guide here. John has travelled extensively and, naturally, he has been eating along the way. He wasn’t your usual backpacker: he had a successful career in the food industry but this was still a voyage of discovery, just as all good voyages should be. He ate in homes and in favourite cafés, every meal giving inspiration and an overview of that particular country’s culinary heritage.
There are plenty of dishes here that you will recognise from your own travels but many more that will be less familiar. Indonesian Nasi Goreng is a perennial restaurant favourite but it’s quick and simple to prepare at home and this recipe makes good use of leftover cooked rice. Always cook more rice than you need just to have some “fast food” the following day.
Mexican dishes are more popular than ever. Frijoles Negros – Mexican re-fried beans – are ubiquitous in Mexican homes and Mexican restaurants across the globe. This is comfort food at its finest. Creamy and substantial and a side dish for any self-respecting taco or tortilla or Mexican scrambled eggs for a memorable breakfast.
Bangkok Garlic and Black Pepper Chicken is my pick of the book. Yes, just pepper as your main spice and I bet you already have that in your store cupboard. Garlic is in every supermarket and this recipe uses 8 cloves, which is probably a whole head. That sounds like a lot for just 500g of chicken breast meat, but garlic has two faces: it’s pungent and spicy in its raw form but it becomes unctuous, sweet and rich when cooked. Chicken is still the most economic of meats and this dish is of dinner-party quality.
Mighty Spice is ideal for lovers of flavourful dishes. John Gregory-Smith’s thoughtfully-selected recipes showcase particular spices but also give an overview of culinary style. These dishes range from the chilli-hot to the mildly-aromatic. There are those that are robust and others, like John’s selection of desserts, that are sweet and perfumed. Something for every taste.
Author: John Gregory-Smith
Published by: Duncan Baird
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018