When I first opened this cookbook, I was thrilled and discouraged at the same time. When reviewing a cookbook, I keep in mind certain things (index, recipe format, ingredients) to determine whether or not a cookbook will find space on my shelf. I often look for cookbooks that become more of a reference, a way to spark my own imagination as well as a place to find basic recipes that I can expand upon over time. Recalling my "criteria" for a cookbook, Raising the Heat, by London based Chef Paul Gayler, took its first points from the beginning section "The hot store cupboard." This included a wealth of information on Chiles, Sausages, and other spicy ingredients. This book is about more that just chiles. It encompasses all things hot; watercress, mustards, ginger and the like.
When I began to flip through Raising the Heat for the recipes I would use, my excitement soured. Each recipe contains many, many ingredients. Most also contained a spice mix, which has its own recipe in the back of the book. For some, this is no problem. For me, it is. I have little time to actually cook at home for myself, and therefore my pantry is bare. However, I pressed on. I found recipes that intrigued me and whet my appetite.
"A Simple Mediterranean Spice Roasted Chicken" (10 ingredients, plus 10 for the Harissa) was indeed simple. Once the harissa was made, this was an easy dish to prepare and scored high on taste. However, it wasn't spicy, as expected. So either the chiles I bought were weak or something was lost in the translation from English to American. But I would certainly make this recipe again.
Being a peanut butter fan, "Braised Chicken with Spiced Lentils and Peanut Butter" (14 ingredients, plus 12 for the Berbere) was an obvious choice and a big hit. The bigger hit was the Berbere. After using a mere 2 teaspoons for the chicken, I had quite a bit leftover. So I smothered pork tenderloin with the spice mix, marinated it for a few hours and roasted. Wow. Spicy and flavorful, it was worth taking the time to make the Berbere.
After trying out a few more recipes, I was left with Harissa and Berbere. I checked in the index to find other recipes that utilized these spice mixes. Strike two. Outside of flipping through each recipe, there is no way of finding out what recipes use what spice mixes. Except for this (not so minor) detail, I found the index to be helpful and useful.
Another area I found issue with was the format of the recipes. The ingredients are listed, and then the instructions follow in paragraph form. This is nice for reading, but can be hard to follow in the kitchen.
In the end, I can't help but like this cookbook. I want to use it. Now it's a matter of when. I'm sure that later in life, when I make dinner 7 nights a week instead of 2, I will have the time, and pantry, to make these multi-ingredient, yet delicious recipes.
The final verdict: Check this book out! You may really like it.