Like millions of other fans of baking all over the world, there is one spice that we cannot do without. And that is vanilla. I have learnt a lot about this awesome spice while I’ve spent time at Littlepod HQ in deepest Devon in South West England. My friend Janet Sawyer is the founder of Littlepod, the vanilla company based in Devon and she’s written a cookbook which explains the importance of vanilla and why we should be using real vanilla in our dishes. Nothing compares to the heady and captivating aroma of real vanilla, not even essence or imitation vanilla which is made up of chemicals. Personally, I can taste the difference in my cooking and baking if I use artificial vanilla or essence instead of the real stuff.
Janet’s new book offers hints and tips on how to use vanilla pods and vanilla extract and there are savoury as well as sweet recipes using this ‘Black Gold’. There are cookie and cake recipes, puddings, creams and custards, beverages, brunch dishes and curries. My personal favourites are the awesome Very Vanilla Shortbread, the eggless Littlepod Scones, the easy peasy Lemon Syllabub and of course Manju’s Coconut and Vanilla Curry, if I might say so myself. Although vanilla may be considered a regal spice, there are no heirs in graces in the recipes which are straightforward and so simple to follow with metric and cup measurements included. Steve Painter brings out the flavours of the food through his photography and Janet’s inimitable style of storytelling through gastronomy makes this more than just a book of recipes especially with quotes from the past and present.
‘Ah, you flavour everything; you are the vanilla of society’ - Sydney Smith (1771-1845), English writer