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The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa Hardcover – September 19, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Born Ethiopian, raised Swedish, and now one of New York City's top chefs, Samuelsson (Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine) has written an exotic yet accessible book that will hasten the coming of the African fusion cookery he envisions. His 204 recipes and 258 color photos are enriched with personal and political history; as in his many condiments and sauces, the balance is right. While he stresses the diversity and bounty of the second-largest continent, he repeatedly describes African cuisine as poor people's cooking, crafted with simple tools and necessarily emphasizing starches, vegetables and big flavors. Whether it's rosemary for Honey Bread or turmeric, ginger and cinnamon in his Vegetable Samosas, herbs and spices are always sauteed in oil or tossed in a hot dry pan, to intensify and mellow. He even proposes toasting the cinnamon for the whipped cream accompanying his Ethiopian Chocolate Rum Cake. The recipe for the cake is typical: the batter is prepared in a single bowl, mixed with a spoon, and bakes up moist and gingerbread-like, with great keeping properties. Toasting the cinnamon takes seconds and is impressive in the complexity it delivers. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764569112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764569111
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.2 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am obsessed with this cookbook, especially now that I have had a chance to make some of the recipes. If you are looking for new flavors and interesting and challenging new foods to cook then I highly recommend you buy this book. Unlike some other reviewers, I did not buy this book for the travelogue aspect. I wasn't looking for an in depth encyclopedic knowledge of any specific country's cuisine. I was just looking for something new and different and delicious. I'm a cook and a foodie and I love ethnic cooking. This book is a great introduction to the trendiest new food in the US. My favorite so far has been the Crab Burgers, which feature easy black bean crab burgers topped with pickled cabbage and chili mayonnaise. I can still taste how unique and delicious they were. Everyone who tried them was blown away by their flavor, which can't really be imagined before you take a bite. While making all the components was a bit time consuming (but really not that bad) none of the recipes were terribly difficult. But I would say this book is geared more to more experienced home cooks and adventuresome eaters. Those with mundane palates probably should stay away.

In response to an earlier critique, I think that reviewer missed the gist of the book. The idea was to take the cuisine of various African countries and get the basic idea of it but then to expand that idea to something bigger. So the recipes keep a common ingredient but fix it in a unique way or use a technique with a unique combination of ingredients. I love this about the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I just made a meal for 10 people from Marcus Samuelsson's new cookbook. 6 of them kept strict kosher, 3 of them were vegetarian, one was allergic to the entire nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant), and another to hard cheese and chocolate. I still managed to produce a great meal with more than enough to eat for everyone and to introduce myself and my friends and family to flavors they might not otherwise have experienced.

The book is impressive both as an exploration of African culture through a Western culinary lens and as a source of widely varied, great, flavorful, and simple recipes. Marcus' perspective is intriguing because he grew up a European but was born an Ethiopian - he clearly feels a deep connection to Africa (especially Ethiopia) and somehow simultaneously commands the perspective of an insider and an outsider. A great read. I very highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
I collect historical cookbooks and cultural cookbooks. This book is both! There is a ton of information about Africa. Samuelsson has divided its cuisine into four regions. Outside of Moroccan, I know nothing about African cuisine, so I found this book extremely helpful. The beautiful photography and personal stories really bring the dishes to life.

The book is divided into the following sections:
- Ingredients
- Spice Blends & Rubs: 11 recipes
- Condiments, Sauces & Dips: 13 recipes
- Salads & Sides: 9 recipes
- Breads & Sandwiches: 11 recipes
- Vegetables: 12 recipes
- Fish & Seafood: 10 recipes
- Poultry & Meat: 19 recipes
- Desserts & Drinks: 10 recipes

My favorite sections are the spice blends and condiments chapters. They add variety to simple stuff like grilled chicken breasts.

The U.S. has fully embraced cuisines from many parts of the world. Indian cookery seems to be our latest fascination. I applaud Samuelsson for pushing the envelope futher with the favorites of Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern Africa. As we explore more with our taste buds, these flavors will become just as welcomed to use as hot and sour soup.
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Format: Hardcover
I agree with B. Marold that the writing is weak, but who "reads" cookbooks? I got the book for Xmas and have made a few of the recipes, and they are HEAVEN. Last night: a roast chicken stuffed with olives, ginger, cardamom, lemon rind and rubbed with a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, cardamom and ginger. Each bite burst with the individual flavors. I was in love. That recipe alone was worth the $26.40. And there are dozens more that I can't wait to try. This is food porn at its best.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Considering that the whole of the continental United States could fit in the North West corner of Africa alone, it was disappointing that the recipes were not clearly labeled with what region or country they were from. It's like dumping Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai food into one cookbook and calling it "Asian Food." True yes, but if anyone is going to go out of their way to buy a cookbook from a famous chef about a continent that doesn't have many cookbooks, I think it would imply that most of them would be foodies. I would hope that the clarity of what culinary tradition the food is coming from is very important to them and simply lumping it into "African Food" seems quite insulting to such an amazing continent with such diverse and amazing food traditions.

I understand that African cuisine is foreign to a lot of palates and this cookbook is arranged with this in mind. I just hoped there would be some kind of index with where the recipes came from. In that way, I could build a meal from one area.

I encourage Marcus Samuelsson's next book to take this in mind. There is a vast difference between Nigerian, Algerian, and Ethiopian food and I would love to be educated in what this difference is. I also am yearning for a real Ethiopian cookbook with modern culinary cooking technique in mind. And so far the Ethiopian cookbooks I have come across have come up very short. I hope Marcus Samuelsson might look into this too.

In short, if you want to get a generalized idea on what African cuisine is like this is a wonderful book. But if you want to get down and really dig into African cooking, I don't think this book is it, nor do I think there is any cookbook that has been published yet that can deeply educate on little explained African cooking traditions and that also dazzles and delights palates as well.
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