The introductory section of The Red Hot Chilli Cookbook contains a history of chillies, May's own experience with them and how to grow them. He outlines the benefits and different varieties of chillies. It's interesting with lots of information but having it all in one big chunk makes it a bit dry to read straight through. The contents page is quite general but there is a full list of recipes at the start of each section which makes the book very easy to navigate.
Each recipe has recommendations for the type of chilli which should be used which is not only handy for the recipe itself but gets you used to lots of different types of chilli and what type of meal they suit best so you can apply it to others as well. The notes at the start of each recipe are generally useful but can sometimes be a little too long and unfocused.
This is a very original cookbook with lots of very disparate influences showing through in the food and flavours. As well as a number of classics there are many dishes that you wouldn't ordinarily associate with chilli. There are more meat than fish dishes and the sweets section is rather small as you would expect with such a niche cookbook. On the whole the vegetable dishes are excellent and there is a good range of ingredients used throughout. Some of the types of chilli might be hard to get hold of but there are usually a couple of different selections and you can always try growing them as May does!
The photography is beautiful and rustic. The presentation is simple and the styling suits the recipes very well and it all looks really tempting. Almost all of the recipes have pictures. Ryland Peters & Small are excellent in this respect, I love to see lots of pictures when I'm cooking. May has included a nice combination of simple and more complex dishes to suit most occasions. The recipes are clear with good steps laid out as well as handy menu combinations linking meals throughout the book.
My favourite recipes were the Spanish Potato, Garlic and Chorizo Soup, the Seriously Tasty Traditional Texas Chilli, the Mango and Chilli-Marinated Chicken and the Chilli Chai. I especially enjoyed reading the meals based around finding new uses for chilli and seeing all of the different types to experiment with.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of 'The Red Hot Chilli Cookbook' from Ryland Peters & Small.
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