I spend much of my life reading and reviewing cookbooks and indeed anything relating to food. I truly appreciate the hard work and passion that results in a published volume, but Spice Market is exceptional. It’s big, sumptuous, colourful and rich, and a book that I find myself dipping into for no particular reason other than to soak up its charm.
The author, Jane Lawson, has been involved with food in one way or another since the age of eight. She worked for many years as a chef in Sydney but moved into publishing, which has allowed her to combine her love of cookbooks and cooking. Jane is now the commissioning food editor at Murdoch Books. She is the author of Grub, Yoshoku, A Little Taste of Japan, and Cocina Nueva, as well as being co-author of BBQ Food for Friends which won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award.
The photography by Natasha Milne and Alan Benson is marvellous; combined with the two-tone pale grey and white pages it gives Spice Market a gift-quality feel. It has over 250 recipes which cover the whole spectrum of dishes containing spices, from Beef with Spicy Chilli Crust to Hot Cross Buns.
Spice Market has over 430 pages so it’s safe to assume that nothing much is missing. It’s not only a gorgeous recipe book but it’s also a reference book that manages to resist being dry and academic. Each spice is described, and then it’s on to the recipes. A simple and rather obscure spice like juniper has five recipes; pepper has fourteen examples, with every colour of peppercorn represented.
It’s not just savoury dishes that rely on spice to give flavour and sometimes colour. Chocolate Star Anise Cake with Coffee Caramel Cream is a stunner. Sesame Halva Ice Cream makes an apt but unusual end to a Moroccan meal. We all know that Custard Tart lacks a very important something if there isn’t that characteristic sprinkle of nutmeg on the top; Spice Market has a Peach and Custard Tart that elevates the original to a memorable dessert.
There is a whole chapter devoted to spice pastes and another devoted to spice mixes. These are the sections that make this book so inspiring. There are blends here that are almost impossible to buy in shops unless you have access to a good exotic market. Berber Spice Mix is wonderful with all kinds of lamb dishes; Dukkah is an Egyptian staple and mostly used with oil as a dip for bread. Panch Phora is aromatic and gives an authentic taste of Bengal to simple dishes like fried potatoes. I’d buy this book for the Spice Mix chapter alone.
Spice Market is splendid and I’ll not only enjoy leafing through its pages but also cooking its mouth-watering recipes and learning more about delicious blends. It’s a treat!
Spice Market – Essential information on spices, spice mixes and spice pastes
Author: Jane Lawson
Published by: Murdoch Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018