Spirit and Spice
Amongst my vast collection of cookery books are several by the very talented Scottish author Ghillie Basan.
The books occupy prime position in my kitchen and rarely a week passes without me dipping into them for recipe ideas. The books are a perfect reference for recipes and advice on North African, Turkish and Middle Eastern food. But most of all I love the stories of Ghillie’s family life, work and travels and woven through them all is a sense of her spirit, courage and adventure.
The story continues on home ground and the setting for Ghillie’s latest book Spirit and Spice is her beautiful remote Scottish home and this hugely enjoyable book combines her love of global flavours with the whiskies and natural larder of Scotland.
Readers are taken on a culinary journey around the world and back again – to Ghillie’s home in the Highlands of Scotland.
The author of more than 40 cookbooks, Ghillie’s journey into food and spices began in a very different part of the world. She grew up in Africa and has travelled extensively throughout Turkey, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, researching the links between culinary cultures forged by trade routes, colonisation and migration.
Childhood for Ghillie was one big safari. In the wide open spaces of East Africa with wild animals for company, she camped, cooked and learned about spices. Learning from locals in remote villages, she ground coconuts and pineapples on a stone in Kerala, stuffed pounded pork, ginger and spices into the hollows of bamboo stems in Saigon and picked argan nuts out of goat droppings to be pressed for oil in the Sous Valley.
On returning to Scotland, Ghillie moved to a deserted croft in the wind-battered hills of the Cairngorms. The primitive and harsh living conditions felt completely natural and it was here she brought up her two children.
Despite some very challenging times she grew vegetables, foraged for fungi and berries and cooked wild rabbits from the glen, while using the flavours, spices and techniques picked up on her travels to shine a new light on Scottish produce.
Spirit and Spice is an outstanding book with expert insights on pickling, preserving, smoking and outdoor cooking and features beautifully presented recipes detailing Ghillie’s fascinating life story and painting an inspirational, heartfelt picture of her family life in one of Scotland’s wildest and most beautiful corners.
Taking inspiration from the notes of spice lingering in the air from nearby distilleries, she has become an expert in identifying which whiskies enhance the flavours and spices of her recipes and in Spirit & Spice she explains how to pair the perfect dram to a dish.
Recipes include “Body-warming, Midge-busting Dhal”, a spicy, nourishing lentil-based dish, perfect for camping in Scotland; “Whisky and Spice Cured Venison Fillet with Juniper Berries and Wild Thyme” and “Fresh Fish on Sticks Over the Fire”, which Ghillie makes in her garden using fresh trout from Rothiemurchus Estate.
Over 6 chapters whisky and food are brought together in the most delicious ways.
- Flavour and Spice – how to concentrate and enhance flavour in spice mixes, preserves, pickles and flavoured spirits
- Breakfast in the Bush – inspirational ideas for cooking outside whether you’re camping in the glen or hiking through the mountains
- Wild Food & Foraging – making the most of Scotland’s natural larder
- Feeding Family & Friends – family favourites to savour and share
- Sweet Contentment, Sugar and Spice – treats from all over the world, from Ghillie’s kitchen to yours
- Spirit and Spice – a user’s guide to pairing food with whisky
Ghillie talks candidly about how 2 years ago she almost her home – the very heart of this book – as she had given up everything to look after her mother who has dementia. To buy a bit of breathing space with the bank she sold her jewellery and other valuable items and then sat on the deck with a dram to draw inspiration from the view – a view that has always reminded her of Africa but on this occasion the realised that she was in the heart of whisky country and had never done anything with the spirit, apart from drink it! As hospitality costs nothing and is at the root of everything she have ever done, a link up with Chivas saw her opening the doors of her home to welcome international groups to experience food and whisky in a remote smugglers’ glen. By breaking down the flavours in whisky and building them up again in the food, working with flavours from different culinary cultures, the foundation for Spirit & Spice was set and Ghillie was finally on a path to save her home.
With photography throughout the book by Christina Riley and Ghillie’s son, Zeki Basan, Spirit & Spice was published in hardback by Kitchen Press on 14th May 2019 and is available nationwide, priced at £25.