Food report: Spice Health Heroes

Spice Health Heroes is a cookbook by American chef Natasha MacAller, who is known as the Dancing Chef as she was formerly a professional ballerina.

Both careers are performance arts and creative disciplines that demand dedication and hours of painstaking practice, MacAller started ballet lessons at age 6 and turned professional at 13. During her 30 years as a professional ballerina she performed with New York’s prestigious Joffrey Ballet and the Boston Ballet. She used the time during her seasonal layoffs to become a professional cook, eventually setting up her own catering business. For eight years she owned and operated Dancing Chef Catering, serving mainly TV, theatre, film and the food industry folks, catering for events in all sorts of creative venues, from sailboats to skyscrapers.

MacAller says, “Spices are the flavour of life and may be the source of wellbeing for life, too.” She’s been inspired by spices she’s tasted on her travels, while the book concept was sparked by an idea offered to her by London-based publisher Jacqui Small. Within the book MacAller explores the culinary, nutritional and medicinal uses of more than 30 spices, from the everyday to the more exotic. She has taken each of her spice heroes and grouped them into six chapters, from immune and cleansing, to energy and warming, to restorative and calming. She includes details the flavours and the wealth of medicinal benefits each spice may contain, supported by quotes from a team of medical doctors.

There’s also practical advice on the storage, preparation and uses of all the featured spices. There are full-page photographs of each spice and dish by Manja Wachsmuth. Each of the spices star in over 100 recipes, such as ‘California Girl Prawn Curry’ (a childhood memory of her mother’s Californian take on curry), together with many other original sweet and savoury recipes.

As well as MacAller’s own recipes there are recipes contributed by 21 internationally acclaimed chefs. Spice Health Heroes: unlock the power of spice for health, flavour and well-being from publisher, Jacqui Small.


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