The Flavour Thesaurus

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


My new favourite book.


Niki Segnit wanted a book which would tell her what foods tasted good with each other. She was searching for something that would free her from over-dependence on recipes. But no such book existed and so she decided to write it herself.
She made a very good job of it.


She selected 99 foods (impossible to include every food) and divided them into categories on a wheel.  Each category subtly blends into the next.
Niki Segnit has explored 4,851 flavour combinations in her book. Some are familiar; coffee and walnut, bacon and eggs, horseradish and beef, apple and blackberry, chocolate and cherry. Some are rather more unfamiliar; cauliflower and chocolate, strawberry and tomato, mushroom and mint, smoked fish and cherry.


This is a book for anyone interested in food and especially anyone who lacks the confidence to cook without recipes. I am sure The Flavour Thesaurus will be a valuable aid to more deliciousness in my kitchen .
This is also a book for anyone who likes good writing. Niki Segnit has an engaging and entertaining style. Her description of the currently popular beetroot and chocolate cake as tasting like 'a cheap chocolate cake that's been dropped in a flower bed' made me laugh with agreement. I wish I could write as well. 
I will be taking it to bed with me tonight but not before trying a few dried apricots stuffed with lumps of goat's cheese. Apparently 'the sweet perfumed fruitiness of apricot emphasises the savouriness of the cheese, and the whole somehow recalls lamb.' Sounds good to me.

8 comments:

  1. As a bit of a language geek, surely this is more a book of flavour collocations; a thesaurus would merely tell you what flavours taste the same?

    Anyway, sorry! Agreed on the beetroot cake!

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  2. I've thumbed through it - I think my favourite bit are her wonderfully evocative taste words - it's hard to capture flavour in writing, but she manages!

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  3. How very wonderful!

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  4. Another book I also have looked through but I decided not to buy. Food and flavour for me is al about balance - sweet balancing out salty or sour, etc, etc (bit like the apricots and goats cheese) and I personally found that this book didn't really tell me anything different to what I already knew from reading other cookbooks and experimenting with flavours myself. I did, however, enjoy some of Niki's writing style - although really taste is a personal thing at the end of the day - what one person may find acceptable another may not. I say go experiment! :)

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  5. That last comment about the apricot sounds interesting - and I'm sure it's true. I remember the first time I tried soft goat's cheese with honey in the Pyrenees, I thought it was completely bonkers but it tasted like heaven!

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  6. Taste is a very personal thing, granted beetroot and chocolate cake does have an earthiness to it but lots of people love it.
    But like the sound of goats cheese and apricot.

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  7. I've always thought beetroot tastes like soil too.

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  8. Someone told me never to eat beetroot chocolate cake with a cup of tea, because the tea washed all the chocolate away and left you with a mouthful of beetroot.

    Personally I see no reason to fiddle about with something as decent as chocolate.

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