Exploring the World of Spices Through the 'Mighty Spice Cookbook'

A new cookbook takes you to all the continents with just a well-stocked spice rack

John Gregory-Smith has traveled the world in search of flavor, and with good reason. His line of "Mighty Spice" pastes incorporate spices from exotic lands. Like the spice traders of old, Gregory-Smith has been profoundly influenced by what he has seen and tasted.

Although the spicy food of the Sichuan province of China clearly has captured his imagination, Gregory-Smith is not a cuisine monogamist. In fact, in the Mighty Spice Cookbook he switches styles from page to page, sometimes explaining the origin of a dish but often leaving it up to the reader to determine where this particular combination of favors hails from. Like most cookbooks, this one is divided by food type rather than the origin of the recipe. The effect can be a bit dizzying.

In order to keep things simple for spice neophytes, he uses no more than five spices per dish, and often quite less. The spices used are graphically indicated at the bottom of the recipe. Each recipe also has a list of complementary recipes to try in the sidebar. The photographs, with the exception of the glamour shots of spices in the sidebars, show the food in realistic images that are accurate representations rather than composed still lifes. There is also a helpful spice glossary at the end of the book with more information.

Gregory-Smith is a fearless combiner of ingredients. Educated in the cuisines of the world, he has multiple palettes of flavor at his disposal. He is definitely a fan of heat in a dish but he also uses sweet elements as a counterpoint. Kormas, curries, kebabs, and rice dishes provide hearty and satisfying fare. The author creates a variety of spice pastes which add richness and tone to the meat and poultry dishes. Spices that some may associate primarily with desserts such as cinnamon and cloves star in many dishes offset by salt and garlic.

The tone of this cookbook is mostly conversational, like a more genteel, but equally well-traveled, version of Tony Bourdain. If anything, Gregory-Smith's stories are almost too idyllic. He seems to forever be sitting down to dinner at sunset in some exotic locale with a view in the background and a talented native chef at his side. His enthusiasm for the spices definitely carries the day.

Such a fan of flavor, he can't keep from editorializing about the deliciousness of the ingredients even while delivering recipe instructions. His enthusiasm is catching, making this book a fun exploration of the world of spice. To learn more and purchase, visit Amazon.com.

— Deidre Woollard, JustLuxe


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