Review of Hot Pink Spice Saga – Peta Matthias & Julie Le Clerc

Posted: March 1, 2015 in cookbook, Review, travel
Tags: ,

hot pink spice saga

Two Kiwi ladies went to India. One wrote about it, the other took lots of photos. They collected recipes from the people they met. Finally they made it all into a book, and they called it “Hot Pink Spice Saga”. Which, I must admit, is a great title, and fits the book very well. It’s essentially a travelogue, describing the adventures of Peta, Julie and their gastronomads on a tour of India, and its most colourful culinary hot spots. I have something of a love-hate relationship with Peta’s writing. Her exuberance and the way she evokes a sense of place are amazing; but her habit of switching from present to past tense and her dodgy grammar are irritating. Julie’s photography is however consistently excellent, adding considerable visual flair to the book, and her epilogue was a welcome addition to the text. That said, I would have appreciated more detailed maps, perhaps accompanying each chapter.

The recipes are an eclectic collection, even including some classic European dishes as they are still prepared in one of the grand hotels of Kolkata. What you get is real Indian recipes which have been adapted for New Zealand kitchens by New Zealanders. With suggestions for appropriate substitutes. Thus, if you can’t find jaggery for the vindaloo, (and it is a proper Goan vindaloo), it is suggested you use molasses. There are more recipes in the book than you might think, and you would have little difficulty putting together some very interesting and distinctively regional Indian menus. I was particularly taken by the rose-petal and mint ice-creams which would go very well after a curry. You’ll have to look elsewhere for basics like how to cook rice, although there is a nice brown rice pulao (which is much nicer than plain rice). There is also a very good how-to-make-paneer, and some courgette pakoras that I must try when the zucchini glut hits.

But this is not a book you would buy for the recipes. It is a book that will take you to India, metaphorically, if not literally; and allow you to experience the sub-continent through the eyes and ears of two ladies from New Zealand. And then you can taste it in your own kitchen…


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

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