The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa Hardcover – Sep 1 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Born Ethiopian, raised Swedish, and now one of New York City's top chefs, Samuelsson (Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine) has written an exotic yet accessible book that will hasten the coming of the African fusion cookery he envisions. His 204 recipes and 258 color photos are enriched with personal and political history; as in his many condiments and sauces, the balance is right. While he stresses the diversity and bounty of the second-largest continent, he repeatedly describes African cuisine as poor people's cooking, crafted with simple tools and necessarily emphasizing starches, vegetables and big flavors. Whether it's rosemary for Honey Bread or turmeric, ginger and cinnamon in his Vegetable Samosas, herbs and spices are always sauteed in oil or tossed in a hot dry pan, to intensify and mellow. He even proposes toasting the cinnamon for the whipped cream accompanying his Ethiopian Chocolate Rum Cake. The recipe for the cake is typical: the batter is prepared in a single bowl, mixed with a spoon, and bakes up moist and gingerbread-like, with great keeping properties. Toasting the cinnamon takes seconds and is impressive in the complexity it delivers. (Oct.)
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Samuelsson established his reputation as one of the foremost exponents of contemporary Swedish cookery through Aquavit, his celebrated New York City restaurant. Now he travels to wholly new territory by returning to the land of his birth and the glorious traditions of African cooking. From his native Ethiopia he prepares injera, the country's staple fermented flatbread. Moroccan cooking, one of Africa's most sophisticated, contributes harissa, a fiery spice paste that warms many North African dishes. Cassava stuffs shrimp for a satisfying West African meal. Samuelsson substitutes beef for lamb in South Africa's renowned bobotie but takes care to preserve the dish's curry-influenced spicing. Jerk chicken, more generally associated with Jamaica, shows how African eating traditions have spread abroad. He does not flinch at using contemporary ingredients such as arugula and Yukon Gold potatoes to make his recipes attractive. The immensity and diversity of Africa make it difficult to comprehend a continent's varied cooking styles in a single book, but Samuelsson's achievement celebrates a little-known cuisine. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Beautiful and inspiring book. The recipes are flavourful, African inspired, but definitely European/North American friendly, too (I can find the ingredients here in Canada).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In response to an earlier critique, I think that reviewer missed the gist of the book. The idea was to take the cuisine of various African countries and get the basic idea of it but then to expand that idea to something bigger. So the recipes keep a common ingredient but fix it in a unique way or use a technique with a unique combination of ingredients. I love this about the book. Samuelsson keeps techniques, such using a morter and pestle, that can't be matched with modern methods but uses modern technology, such as the mandoline, when it performs the needed task more easily, and in this case if your knife skills are lacking, with better results. I do agree, however, that the photographs that go with the recipes can be misleading. I'm still not sure what the Stir Fry Beef Stew is supposed to look like. The pictures on the pages with the recipe are vastly different and not labeled but both could be the stew in question.
All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves cooking and ethnic foods. The flavors are out of this world and the recipes are highly inspiring.
The book is impressive both as an exploration of African culture through a Western culinary lens and as a source of widely varied, great, flavorful, and simple recipes. Marcus' perspective is intriguing because he grew up a European but was born an Ethiopian - he clearly feels a deep connection to Africa (especially Ethiopia) and somehow simultaneously commands the perspective of an insider and an outsider. A great read. I very highly recommend it.
The book is divided into the following sections:
- Spice Blends & Rubs: 11 recipes
- Condiments, Sauces & Dips: 13 recipes
- Salads & Sides: 9 recipes
- Breads & Sandwiches: 11 recipes
- Vegetables: 12 recipes
- Fish & Seafood: 10 recipes
- Poultry & Meat: 19 recipes
- Desserts & Drinks: 10 recipes
My favorite sections are the spice blends and condiments chapters. They add variety to simple stuff like grilled chicken breasts.
The U.S. has fully embraced cuisines from many parts of the world. Indian cookery seems to be our latest fascination. I applaud Samuelsson for pushing the envelope futher with the favorites of Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern Africa. As we explore more with our taste buds, these flavors will become just as welcomed to use as hot and sour soup.
I understand that African cuisine is foreign to a lot of palates and this cookbook is arranged with this in mind. I just hoped there would be some kind of index with where the recipes came from. In that way, I could build a meal from one area.
I encourage Marcus Samuelsson's next book to take this in mind. There is a vast difference between Nigerian, Algerian, and Ethiopian food and I would love to be educated in what this difference is. I also am yearning for a real Ethiopian cookbook with modern culinary cooking technique in mind. And so far the Ethiopian cookbooks I have come across have come up very short. I hope Marcus Samuelsson might look into this too.
In short, if you want to get a generalized idea on what African cuisine is like this is a wonderful book. But if you want to get down and really dig into African cooking, I don't think this book is it, nor do I think there is any cookbook that has been published yet that can deeply educate on little explained African cooking traditions and that also dazzles and delights palates as well.