A few days ago, while perusing for a birthday present for a friend in the lovely Prep cooking shop in Stoke Newington, I came across a brilliant book. ‘The flavour Thesaurus‘ by Niki Segnit is a wonderful compendium of “pairings, recipes and ideas for the creative cook” packed full with an array of entertaining anecdotes and scientific explanations of the interactions of flavour compounds. I obviously bought a copy for myself too, and spent the next few days going back to it with growing curiosity.
Published in 2010, it is funny and interesting, and its reference character makes it even harder to put down (“Just one more paragraph..ooh look at that..ooh cauliflower AND caviar?! Can THAT be possible?”). After all, I can’t argue with a woman who, like me, shares an almost unparalleled love for hazelnuts. “Could hazelnuts be the finest flavour in the world?”, she asks, before pointing out their flavour is detectable in some of the most prized foods and drinks around, from aged white burgundies to oysters, jabugo ham, lamb’s lettuce and even Oscetra caviar. I was bowled over.
I also love the volume’s look: very pretty with purple edged pages, the front and back covers display multicoloured flavour wheels. Chapters like ‘Sulphurous’ and ‘Bramble & Hedge’ comprise ingredients as diverse as swede and truffle, or sage and blackberry. Under the ‘Anise’ flavours you will find a whole range of ingredients, from fennel to star anise and even tarragon.
Then The Guardian gave me one more reason to carry on making this cute little book my inseparable companion. The next reader’s recipe column, to be published on the 5th of December, features quick and easy canapés: what better inspiration for unusual pairings than my latest present to my friend and myself?
So yesterday, after a few days of intensive reading and unfortunately not too much time for cooking and experimenting, I emailed my three recipes for canapés, one super-easy, which I baptised ‘The Clever”; one slightly more elaborate and nicknamed ‘The Rustic’ and the third definitely more difficult and called ‘The Refined’. Admittedly, I could have done better. If it hadn’t been for two nights spent cooking for my new venture Dishnextdoor, one day out with friends and a night hosting our Food Assembly at The Prince, I could have probably practised my pairings and canapés combinations more. But there you go, hopefully they’ll go out on The Guardian as well.
Apricots, as many as the canapés you need
1 goat cheese log, thinly sliced and quartered as you go along (about
3 grams of cheese per canapé)
a bag of raw walnuts, (walnut pieces instead of whole nuts are better
for this and cheaper too)
runny honey to taste (optional)
Take a dried apricot, open it up from the pip side and stuff it with a
thin quarter slice of a goat cheese log, top it with a piece of walnut
(you’ll need to break the whole ones to make them fit) et voilà, you
have a yummy canapé. You can also make this even more delicious, but
slightly more laborious, by blitzing the cheese with a bit of runny
honey before stuffing and adding walnut.
Makes about 16 canapés
100g Torta Montebianco cheese
30g raw hazelnuts
a sprig of rosemary
freshly ground pepper
4 thick slices of white sourdough bread, toasted
extra virgin olive oil
Maldon sea salt flakes
Blitz together a piece of Gorgonzola & mascarpone cheese (a layered cheese also known
as Torta Montebianco) with one third the amount of raw hazelnuts than
cheese, a pinch of fresh rosemary leaves and a pinch of freshly ground
pepper. Toast some sourdough, lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive
oil, a pinch of salt flakes and spread the mixture on top. Cut it in
smallish squares and enjoy.
Makes 16 canapés
8 quail eggs, soft boiled
a 16 pack ready made blinis, warmed up in a pan
200g pack of ready smoked mackerel, skin removed
16 of the more tender leaves of a celery, or 16 parsley leaves
Boil your quail eggs for 2 and a half minutes so the yolk is still
soft, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and run under
cold water. Peel them.
Take your warmed up blinis and smoked mackerel. Place a bit of mackerel on a
blini, top with half a quail egg, and a tiny tender celery or parsley