This is such a clever little book! The idea was conceived by Niki Segnit when she was at a dinner party where a friend served up a dish with an unusual flavour combination. Flavours that she would never have even considered putting together. Intrigued by how people knew what flavours worked together, Niki decided that she needed a guidebook that she could refer to. But there wasn't one. So, she wrote the book that she needed!
There are 99 different flavours in the book, both single ingredients and where it is more appropriate, sets of similar flavoured ingredients, and these flavours are grouped into 16 categories, such as:
bramble & hedge
green & grassy
Niki has then compiled lists of different pairings for each of the flavours. If this sounds like a dry, monotonous reference book full of lists, then I can assure you that it isn't! The flavour combinations are brought to life with anecdotes, historical and scientific references, recipes and Niki's own personal preferences.
It may not cover every flavour that you'll ever use, that would be a mammoth task, but this book is a real gem when you're lacking in inspiration or just simply want to try something different. I quite often dip into it when I'm devising a recipe and want to see what other flavour combinations might work. Not just what may work, but why too which then often triggers another idea that may not be in the book.
Here's a few of the flavour pairings taken from the book:
"Chilli & Mint: Vada pav, a popular fast-food snack indigenous to Mumbai ... [is] spread with a vibrant chutney made of mint leaves ground with fresh green chillies, lemon juice and salt.
Rosemary & Chocolate: A backdrop of dark chocolate shows off rosemary's cool, evergreen flavours ... the dominant flavour compound in both rosemary and cardamom is cineole, common to bay leaf too (think how all three make great milk based desserts). Cineole has woody, eucalyptus slightly minty notes ...
Walnut & Celery: ... share distinctive aroma compounds called phthalides, which you can also detect in lovage. ... This flavour overlap ensures they combine beautifully in stuffing and Waldorf salad.
Cinnamon & Orange: Cinnamon not only combines beautifully with orange but its sweetness offsets the fruit's sharpness ..."