Be enticed by The Book of Spice by John O'Connell »

A fabulous compendium of spices: the history and uses of the world's favourite flavours

By Laura McKinnon
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Spiced pumpkin and tomato soup on the menu at Silent Range Estate - Glenrowan

Spiced pumpkin and tomato soup on the menu at Silent Range Estate - Glenrowan

Moroccan Spiced Lamb
Ginger Garlic restaurant's exotic tours to India - Spice market
Margaret River Gourmet Escape - Curry dish
The Book of Spice by John O'Connell


What a great and timely idea! A book about spices, their history and uses from around the world. At one time unfamiliar and exotic, nowadays all types are found in homes around the globe – in prominent positions, as well as to the back of the most neglected cupboard spaces. No matter what, our lives are impacted by spices.

The Book of Spice introduces the reader to the story of their properties, both medical and magical, and the stories that are embedded in what they have become and what they were. Anecdotes, recipes and insights on history, as well as other tid-bits of information, abound throughout the chapters.

And by golly this book is accessible. Short chapters that are engaging and tell you exactly what you want to know, but also with colourful extras to entice you into the chapter further.

For example, did you know that the celery we know and love was developed from a foul-smelling wild celery called smallage that grows in salt marshes? Or that pepper should always be bought whole, as ground pepper loses its aroma very quickly? And that liquorice (the rhizome of a small perennial legume) was found in Tutankhamun's tomb and was highly desired in many ancient civilisations?

This is the type of material that will keep you reading. Who would have thought a book about spices could be so interesting? But interesting it is, and darn hard to put down. 

The Book of Spice will not lose its flavour either. It will always find a prominent place in your cook book collection, or amongst your spices as a quick reference guide for how to use particular spices. Or, if you wish to wow friends, as a go-to guide for interesting facts about the spice or spices you will be using on their food for dinner. Who doesn’t like hearing cool facts about spices whilst eating with friends?

And if there wasn't already enough information about spice, it's topped off with a directory of spice mixes, often known as masalas – some of the more common spice blends from around the world. This is a really handy book for so many reasons: for cooking, for general reading, for a bit of history and for giving as a gift to the person who 'has everything'.

If you like spices, if you like cooking, if you like personality in a book, then The Book of Spice is an extremely worthwhile purchase. It will be useful in more ways than one. It even gives you the ice-cream recipe favoured by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson.


The Book of Spice by John O'Connell is published in Australia by Allen and Unwin (Sydney, 2015; sc, 320pp) and retails in Australia for $32.99. First published in the UK (Oct 2015) by Profile Books.

The Book of Spice is available to purchase online
via Booko here »

Further reviews about spices and some recipes are below. Read about  the author John O'Connell in the media release here »


  • United Kingdom - all (UK)

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March 23rd, 2016
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