How to make unusual food combinations according to the woman who wrote The Flavour Thesaurus

Niki Segnit, the cook behind The Flavour Thesaurus, reveals the combinations she wish she could have put into her cult book 

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The Flavour Thesaurus – a bible for anyone who cooks by grabbing ingredients from the fridge – includes tips on imaginative food combinations from white chocolate and olives to bacon and pineapple.

But the book, which has been translated into over a dozen languages, still isn’t comprehensive enough for its writer and tireless food-lover Niki Segnit, who has revealed to The Independent the combinations she wishes she could now include.

“In the south of Italy they pair aubergine and chocolate. It’s like a chocolate pancake,” she said. “Slice and fry the aubergines, and put booze in a chocolate ganache with dried peel and nuts. It’s incredibly delicious."

The combination works because aubergine has a neutral flavour, she explained. 

Floral raspberry and deep and musky elderberry is another combination she wishes she could have included. “It’s one of those very harmonies matches."

Pear cooked in sauvignon blanc, rather than the traditional red, is another winner, she added.

“Red wine can dominate but this combination gives that crispness and the herbal qualities of a sauvignon blanc.”

But pear and nutmeg, she cautions, is one flavour she certainly wouldn’t include.

“My poor husband blind tasted the combinations and I gave him a very nutmeggy pear pudding and he thought it was parsnip.

“It was really horriblem but those mistakes can teach you things," she said.

Segnit hopes her book, which she spent three years working on before it was released in 2010, will also have an impact on food waste by giving people the confidence to step away from recipe books and experiment with what is in their cupboard.

Novices in the kitchen who are daunted by flavours should simply allow themselves the time to gain a footing, says Segnit.

“When you are cooking something up that you are using for the first time always take a bit, try to be on your own, concentrate, close your eyes, and really taste it.”

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The Flavour Thesaurus author Niki Segnit warns against combining pears with nutmeg.

Try some of Segnit's flavour combinations taken from The Flavour Thesaurus below. 

Olive & White Chocolate: The chocolatiers Vosges make a white chocolate bar with bits of dried kalamata olive in it. Not so unusual when you consider other chocolate/salty combinations, such as Domori’s Latte Sal (a milk chocolate with flecks of salt).

Cauliflower & Chocolate: When Heston Blumenthal wanted to show cauliflower how much he loved it, he came bearing chocolate. The result was a cauliflower risotto with a carpaccio of cauliflower and chocolate jelly. The idea was that each component would release its flavour in sequence, culminating in a burst of bitterness from the specially encapsulated chocolate that Blumenthal compared to an espresso at the end of a meal. To prepare the dish, he made a cauliflower stock, a cauliflower cream, cauliflower discs, dried cauliflower, a cauliflower velouté, chocolate jelly cubes and chocolate jelly discs – and then he made the risotto

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(Bloomsbury)

Coriander Seed & Blueberry: Coriander seeds can contain up to 85 per cent linalool, a flavour compound with a woody, floral, slightly citrus quality that’s a key component of synthesised blueberry flavour. Freshly ground, they can lend a fragrant background note to your home-baked blueberry muffins. Or be more adventurous, like the Ottolenghi deli in London, and make a couscous salad with bell pepper, red onion, wild blueberries, pink peppercorns and coriander seed

The Flavour Thesaurus, published by Bloomsbury, is out now.

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