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Book review: Safaris & Spices by Nico Verster

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Safaris & Spices: An African Food Journey by Nico Verster (Jacana, R320)

Following the success of his first cookbook Savannah to Sea – Fine Cuisine Under an African Sky, award-winning chef Nico Verster takes you on a flavourful journey through Africa with innovative recipes and vibrant dishes in this, his new book. ‘The cuisine of Africa is as rich and varied as the continent is big, and is a treat for the senses,’ Verster writes – a sentiment that is all the more pertinent when you learn that the chef’s cooking style is influenced by his travels to numerous countries in Africa and the Middle East.

The book begins in North Africa, delving into the Berber, Arab and European-inspired flavours of Morocco, before following the ancient trade routes past the spice island Zanzibar, south-east Africa’s pearl of the Indian Ocean, Mozambique and exotic Madagascar, down to Southern Africa, from where Verster hails. By including simple instructions and a short explanation of each dish by the chef himself, the recipes are both accessible and infused with a delightful personal feel.

Perhaps one of the biggest pleasures of perusing Safaris & Spices – An African Food Journey is how easy it is to navigate, thanks in large part to the fact that Verster has divided it into eight handy sections: spice mixes, pastes and rubs; pickles, preserves and chutneys; stocks; soups; sauces; side dishes; mains; and cakes, curds, coulis and custards. From a dukkah spice blend and pineapple, chilli and coriander chutney to masala fish curry, chermoula-spiced springbok and malasadas Portuguese doughnuts, you’re in for diverse dishes that have been given Verster’s signature twist, all beautifully photographed by Joe Dreyer.