I have to admit, this book left me taken aback when I first flipped through it. Each recipe takes up a 4-page spread with 3 photos; 1 of the aromatic blend, 1 of the simple basic ingredient the blend is to pair with (spinach, pumpkin, or mackerel, for instance) and one of the finished dish. Only then do we see the recipe for the blend and the final product.
If this seems like a backwards way of creating a dish, that’s not far off the mark. Chef and cookbook author Enne says:
Instead of creating yet another cookbook, with a classically structured collection of recipes, I’ve done the exact opposite. I’ve taken out all the noise, and cut it right back to the bone.
So instead of a dish that happens to have some herbs, spice or other aromatics, in Enne’s book, the aromatics come first; the blend designed to make the basic veg or protein a star. And in almost all of the recipes, that star ingredient is the only ingredient outside of the blend, save for the occasional garnish.
If that seems like a weird way to cook, it’s important to remember that Enne is an avid gardener, so each recipe was created to bring out the best in both the main ingredient and in the blend itself. She points out that, while she offers one example of what each of the 50 blends can be used on, the reader should feel free to experiment and play with the flavours.
The majority of the ingredients in each blend will be easily found in the average home kitchen or backyard herb garden. A trip to a good spice or bulk shop should track down the less well-known items such as sumac or loomi (dried lime). As an aside, I have a bag of dried limes that I purchased at my local supermarket, so in this era of global cuisine, nothing is really all that rare anymore.
Recipes for seasonal veg (carrots glazed with a blend of yogurt, cumin and loomi, or spinach with Thai seasoning such as lime and fish sauce) can be paired with offerings of various fish and meat dishes such as mackerel roasted with cumin, lemon grass and peanut, or glazed lamb meatballs with cinnamon and mint. Desserts are based on single fruits such as chilled rhubarb soup with rose, or strawberries with honey, apple cider and flowers. Enne fudges her “aromatic” theory a little bit in the recipe for blackcurrant brownie, including the flour and eggs in the aromatic blend as opposed to the finished recipe, but these mostly work to her formula.
Photography is gorgeous and inspiring without feeling pretentious, and the recipes are clear, with a good balance of white space and text. Everything is offered in both metric and imperial measurements, and while there is a fair amount of other text where Enne discusses her cooking philosophy, it’s not intrusive. My one complaint is with the glossary of aromatic ingredients at the back, which is printed in a font so tiny I’m sure it’s smaller than the last line of that card the eye doctor makes me try and read at my annual check-up.
I’d recommend this book for anybody who loves experimenting with herbs and spices, or for anybody with a garden who is looking to make the most of their seasonal fruit and vegetables.