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Book Review – Salt Sugar Smoke

Prolific cookbook author and acclaimed British food writer Diana Henry, celebrates the art of preserving in her sixth cookbook, Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish. In 2001, Henry published her first cookbook, Crazy Water Pickled Lemons which firmly established her voice in the cookery world and has led to several awards including Fortnum & Mason’s Food Writer of the Year in 2013.

Henry is a home cook that is perpetually inspired by global flavors and her honest love of international cuisines is underscored throughout Salt Sugar Smoke. Her recipes are a colorful exploration of preservation where seasonal flavors commiserate with flower essences and spices from all over the world. From its introduction, Salt Sugar Smoke conveys Henry’s deep love for her kitchen and the inspired sensory pleasures she derives from cooking drive the joyful tone of the book. Henry’s evocative writing style is further bolstered by stunning photography and approachable, well-written recipes.

Though preserving food is a traditional expression of the “waste not, want not” philosophy, Henry makes it a point to say that Salt Sugar Smoke is “not a manifesto.” Instead, she champions the practical use of her recipes – everything from Georgian plum sauce to harissa, wok smoked trout to grilled eggplants in olive oil – as accompaniments to everyday cooking. What better way to get dinner on the table in a flash than by searing pork chops and topping with homemade adobo or making a smorgasbord of preserved items waiting in the cupboard.

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Henry dives into the historical significance of various preserves from the Greek tradition of spoon sweets to the joy of the Russian zakusi table, a smorgasbord of cured, smoked and pickled items. Peppered throughout her recipes are nods to old cookery books dating back centuries. Her recipe for Queen Henrietta Maria’s “marmalade” of cherries is adapted from a 17th century British cookbook and her explanation of Russian pickles, from a 19th century Russian cookbook.

Henry furthers the enjoyment of this book by sharing her own personal food memories alongside practical tips on preservation techniques and key segments entitled “How to Use” and “Also Try” which provides additional ways to modify each recipe. Salt Sugar Smoke is a boon to the everyday cupboard offering a global array of flavors that will both surprise and delight the palate.

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