From The Flavor Thesaurus: More Flavors: Plant-Led Pairings, Recipes, and Ideas for Cooks by Niki Segnit, forthcoming May 23rd from Bloomsbury Publishing. Copyright © 2023 by Niki Segnit. All rights reserved.
Pairing: Maple Syrup & Fennel: The flavor of maple syrup is unimprovable. Or almost. Fennel might narrowly qualify. Fennel seeds agree with a note in the syrup attributable to the organic compound cyclotene, otherwise known as maple lactone. Aside from maple syrup, the tasting notes for cyclotene include coffee, toast and licorice. Fennel seed also has a fresh, green quality that cuts through the syrup’s sweetness. It’s comparable to the effect lemon zest and juice have on Lyle’s golden syrup, heightening its citric streak.
Recipe: Tarte au Sucre
Sprinkle 1 cup breadcrumbs over a 7-inch part-baked tart crust (plain shortcrust is best).
Pour over 1 2/3 cups maple syrup, then sprinkle a pinch or two of crushed fennel seeds over the top and bake for 30 minutes at 325°F.
Additional "Flavor Thesaurus" Pairing Ideas:
Raisin & Cheese: Hold off regifting that fruit cake. Eat it with cheese. It’s a classic pairing either side of the Pennine Hills, and rightly so. Rich, vinous, bittersweet fruit cake, packed with raisins and currants, is like a slice of Shiraz, simultaneously setting off and cushioning the salty sourness of the cheese. Seek out a creamy, sharp cheese, with lemony, buttery or even yogurty qualities, similar in style to a British Lancashire or Wensleydale. Lancashire is heaven with a warm Eccles cake and a glass of white burgundy (or cup of tea). If you prefer to drink your raisins, Amarone di Valpolicella is an Italian red wine made with dried grapes. The traditional method is to spread the grapes out on straw and leave them to dry for about three months. The moisture loss makes for a concentrated, sweet wine with almond-cherry, fig and plum flavors. Perfect with Parmesan slices. Or make a plum-colored risotto with the pair.
Mint & Date: In Britain, according to Anthony Burgess, tea drinking is as essential a fact of life as breathing. In Morocco, it’s more important than that. Visit a friend in Marrakech and you’ll be offered mint tea between breaths. Mint tea is customarily served with either a small pastry or a few dates, the herb and the fruit teasing out each other’s perfumes. Mint is never lovelier than on a date with date. The combination works beautifully stirred through couscous, the cooling bitterness of mint tempering the hot, sweet date. Add some barberries for sourness, and a kick of chiles, and you hardly need anything else – maybe just some salty halloumi fresh from the grill. The Saudi date brand Bateel recommend coffee, rather than mint tea, to accompany their rich, toffee-flavored Kholas dates, which makes for a more harmonious than contrasting match.
Cumin & Yogurt: Tastes like washed-rind cream cheese. Cumin brings the mild animal/sweaty note, yogurt the lactic tang. Use a thick yogurt for a citrusy, satisfying sauce or dip. Or blend with ice and a pinch of salt to make a jeera (cumin) lassi. It’s less like a mango lassi than an ajo blanco or gazpacho – savory, potent and refreshing. Make each drink with 1 tsp freshly ground cumin to generous ¾ cup yogurt. Blend all but ¼ tsp of the cumin, reserving that to sprinkle on the top. Or add sugar for an unusual sweet perspective on cumin.
Sesame & Chocolate: The New York-based Lebanese chef Philippe Massoud says that the best after-school snack of all time is a sandwich made with shaved chocolate, halva and butter. When I was young enough for my metabolism to keep up with such a thing, I would have considered shaving chocolate to be on a par with swimming the English Channel. But chocolate halva, gouged from the container with a teaspoon, would have been a very acceptable alternative. It’s not unlike a 3 Musketeers bar that has melted in your beach bag then resolidified in the fridge. For a more chocolatey experience, Lindt make a bittersweet chocolate and sesame bar made with whole toasted seeds: the tiny, crisped hulls crackle and fizz in your mouth while the chocolate quietly melts.