Ali Bouzari
Harper Collins
2016 | 300pp | £25.00
ISBN 9780008179144

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Ever wondered why starchy foods taste bland, or why the sugar in jam keeps it from going bad? Perhaps you’re looking for the secret to making your broccoli look greener or your ice cream smoother. In Ingredient, Ali Bouzari looks at the chemical components of food and explains how proteins, carbohydrates and lipids give the things we eat their structure, taste and colour.

Split into chapters on water, sugars, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, minerals, gases and heat, Bouzari discusses the properties of each and describes how they contribute to foods in different ways. Don’t expect a highly scientific guide, however, as this book is pitched at those with limited scientific understanding. While well written and clearly explained, the biochemistry is highly simplified, and certainly nothing new to anyone with more than a passing interest in science.

Although Bouzari does his best to give practical examples of where techniques could be applied in the kitchen, he is quick to point out that this is not a book of recipes, and without more detailed instructions, this limits how much the science could be put into practice.

Ingredient is illustrated with beautiful cartoons of the various molecules in action, using watercolour for the water chapter, oil paint for the lipids chapter and so on. However, this clever use of imagery is juxtaposed with unattractive photographs of food items on a graph paper background, giving the book a rather uneven feel, which is mirrored in its content.

Bouzari certainly knows his stuff and the book is packed with information, examples and relevant facts. However, the basic level of science and lack of real application limit its appeal. I’m sure there are readers out there who would find this book useful and relevant, but it’s unlikely those with a more scientific background will learn much from it.