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Posted at: Feb 11, 2018, 12:54 AM; last updated: Feb 11, 2018, 12:54 AM (IST)BOOK REVIEW: THE FLAVOUR OF SPICE — JOURNEYS, RECIPES, STORIES BY MARRYAM H. RESHII.

Scent of a SPICE

If the flavour, colour and pungency of spices mean more to you than just getting the gastric juices flowing, then this is one book that you should not miss

Geetu Vaid

Did you know that the dalchini in your kitchen shelf is actually not cinnamon but a twin of the authentic one which is grown only in Sri Lanka. Or that the best saffron with its three active compounds crocin, picro crocin and safranal responsible for colour, flavour and aroma respectively, is grown not in Iran or Spain but in Pampore in Kashmir. Or that chillies, which are always associated with the Indian cuisine, are, in fact, natives of Mexico that reached Indian shores only 450 years ago, or the subtle difference between cumin and shah zeera.

Such interesting facts strung together with anecdotes culled from the author’s extensive experience along with cultivation, harvesting and marketing practices peculiar to each of the spices covered in the book, make Flavour of Spice a delectable read. 

Marryam H. Reshii, is not an unfamiliar name for those with an appetite for food columns. Her passion for spices is what puts her in a different league altogether. Her quest to unravel the mysteries and mystique of different spices has taken her from Sikkim to Sri Lanka, Iran to Kashmir, Guntur to China, Kumarakom to  Kairouan in Tunisia among other places to collect samples and recipes besides tracing the unique journey of these “ tiny taste makers” so essential for every cuisine in the world. With this book she makes the reader privvy to her quest as  with each spice she takes the reader on an exciting journey through different corners of the world showing how different cultures and countries see a particular spice be it cardamom, pepper, saffron or nutmeg.

Given the enormous volume of information shared amazingly the content flows seamlessly as the author takes readers from one continent to another and from one expert/cultivator to another in one chapter. Her racy narrative as well as perfectly organised presentation clearly reflects her experience as a journalist. The book is divided into different parts that include the main four spices (chilli, cumin, tumeric, coriander); aromatic spices (cinnamon, saffron, nutmeg and mace, pepper, cardamom, clove, asafoetida, kalpasi); and the seed spices (fenugreek, mustard, poppy, nigella, sesame, radhuni, carrom). 

Very interestingly she has also added a chapter on spice grinders of different types and from different countries. Different variations of mortar and pestle made from limestone, granite, lava rock or bronze and how these are necessary to enhance the flavours of different spices is presented in this chapter. There is also a chapter on different spice mixes right from the all too common garam masala, panch phoren to kari vadagam.

Each chapter ends on a high note with some palate-tickling recipes by home cooks as well as expert chefs. 

All in all with Flavour of Spice Reshii presents a fully balanced as well as varied platter oozing the aroma of different spices. The reader’s interest doesn’t slacken all through the 320-plus pages of  the book. It is truly a collector’s delight and a must have on your book shelf. Go grab a copy.

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