Britain has long been known as a mecca for Indian food, especially London which boasts over 1000 Indian restaurants ranging from street fare to Michelin-starred venues. As a natural extension there are an increasing number of cookbooks being published highlighting British Indian food – food that incorporates local produce, fish and meats. Capital Spice is the latest to show the best that London has to offer.
Books in the category: 3-star
Alain Ducasse is a phenomenon, more than just a chef and a restaurateur, he is a force to be reckoned with in French cuisine. This latest book to be published in English is his attempt to ‘come back to the bare essentials and regain the pleasure of cooking simple vegetables, cereals and fruit that are so key to a healthy and balanced diet’. A laudable aim but not entirely successful. Although there are some good ideas here ‘Nature’ seems to have lost something in translation.
In Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food, well-loved chef Greg Malouf has kicked off his travelling shoes and returned to his home kitchen to offer fans a breathtakingly beautiful, glossy and very, very generous tome of recipes that are rooted in the traditions of his beloved Middle East, but presented in a fresh, modern way. The food is seductive and truly inspired, but despite being a stunning piece of design, the book is not without its flaws.
Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is the American reader’s chance to jump back to his or her youth with memories of being raised on Cap’n Crunch and Corn Flakes. In a follow-up to David Chang’s best-selling Momofuku Cookbook, his pastry chef, Christina Tosi, presents her most popular recipes including the famed Compost Cookies and Crack Pie. But beware of her overly sweet recipes if you prefer your desserts a bit more subtle and understated.
Infiniment is a wonderful addition to Pierre Hermé’s growing bibliography, with more than 100 never-before-published recipes of breakfast treats, appetizers, tarts, cakes, sundaes, and plated desserts. However, the art direction takes an approach different from his previous works, with photographs of abstract representations of the desserts instead of helpful images of the desserts themselves. Nevertheless, the sheer breadth and imagination of the recipes is sure to please any fan of modern pastry.
Ladurée: Sucré is a highly-anticipated collection of more than 100 of the famous patisserie’s desserts under the leadership of Phillipe Andrieu. The variety of recipes ranges from several simple, classic pastries to a few complex signature entremets. The size and format of the book unfortunately limit the content and depth of instruction which might interest more hardcore pastry chefs, but fans of Ladurée and pastry in general will appreciate this first volume from one of the most renowned establishments in Paris.
Audrey Gordon is a respected and prolific cookery writer. She has also been a long-time contributor to BBC radio, presented numerous television series and been voted ‘Britain’s Sternest Cook’ three times. She and husband Phillip recently closed their restaurant, audrey’s, and headed to Tuscany for a chance to take a break and of course write a book about it. The result is ‘Audrey Gordon’s Tuscan Summer’, a ’sumptuously photographed and lavishly over-designed book’ written for ‘the ordinary cook, stuck at home with insufficient bench space and a set of chipped mixing bowls’.
Audrey Gordon’s Tuscan Summer looks like a regular cookbook and the recipes are certainly workable if not necessarily authentic, but Audrey is not all she seems…
Some people design couches. Others design cars. Stéphane Bureaux designs food. And what’s a food designer to do when he wants a collection of the best contemporary food design? Why, design a book to feature food design of course! Design Culinaire is a collection of notable design intended to document and inspire food artists.
How the British Fell in Love with Food is the sort of book you could either read from cover to cover, or simply pick up casually from time to time to read a chapter or two. The articles from members of the Guild of Food Writers, many award-winners, provide an interesting historical perspective on modern food history in Britain, combined with a fair range of recipes. The book is not without a few quirks, not least of which the choice of period (mid-70s to 2010). The book only includes works by the Guild’s writers, as it was published to celebrate the Guild’s 25th anniversary.
Nina Kéhayan’s classic work on aubergines (eggplants) was reprinted in English this year. It’s a very broad collection of recipes, covering a multitude of aubergine preparations and is likely to make any aubergine lover happy. The book is, however, not particularly attractive or informative, beyond what can be gleaned from the many techniques in the recipes.
Recently released in paperback version, Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions, brings renewed life to this James Beard Foundation book award winner of 2005 (originally published in 2004). Numerous books have been written about native or indigenous cooking in the Americas, but most focus on a small subset of people, and are rarely written by accomplished chefs. Fernando and Marlene Divina, in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, have created a book that documents important cultural history, and thankfully convert it into a useful culinary tool.
Iron Chef Chen’s Knockout Chinese is a charming, lightweight book from a Japanese master of Sichuan cooking, and one of the original Iron Chefs. For better or for worse, this first translated work skips the traditional, authentic fare and goes straight for the innovative and personal recipes (with a few classics thrown in). The organization is strange and some things are lost in translation, but the recipes are often simple and inviting enough for most people to pick up immediately.
Patterned after Mario Batali’s New York pizzeria Otto, Molto Gusto takes the focus away from complicated “meat-and-potatoes” Italian dishes and towards simple, easy-to-prepare everyday fare (or as limited by your budget for the deli). The recipes are all approachable and the photographs are inviting, but some readers might be turned off by some extremely simple recipes and the dependence on a specific brand of tomato product.
Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking aims to inspire the home baker to try new variations of homely desserts and sweets, and is successful at encouraging creativity to some degree. There is a wide range of recipes and some modest but interesting suggestions. However, it is lacking in helpful explanations and is too narrow in its selection of ingredients and special brands, and the use of US-centric measures and terminology may be frustrating to international readers.
Katie Caldesi’s Italian Cookery Course (published as Cook Italy in the USA) is in equal measure an exceedingly attractive and enjoyable exploration of Italian cooking, and a mild disappointment as a “cookery course”. Caldesi, co-owner of the UK restaurants Caffè Caldesi, Caldesi in Campagna, and an Italian cooking school, seemed to embark on a voyage of discovery in order to find the knowledge to write this book. The result is an enormous range of recipes with many personal preferences, sometimes deviating from what a reader might expect of recipes in a course in Italian cooking. In the end, the book could have been titled “Katie goes to Italy”. Many people will enjoy this attractive, well written book, forgiving or overlooking the weakness of many of the “masterclasses” and occasional gaps in information.
At first glance, you may wonder what the fuss over Okashi is all about. A fairly simple book with attractive photographs, it presents appealing recipes that showcase author Ishida’s particular style, incorporating numerous Japanese flavours into many familiar baked goods and dessert items. Creative and suitable for a broad audience, this book should delight many bakers.
Field Guide to Candy packs a lot of recipes for homemade candy from around the world in a compact volume. It manages to include several lesser-known recipes from outside the US, UK and France, even though there are a few glaring omissions and curious inclusions. However, the lack of detail in the recipes make this more suitable as a reference book for more experienced candy-makers.
An enjoyable book containing an impressive range of information about common and exotic ingredients, including many pictures and nutritional information. It’s suitable for people who already know a bit about ingredients, although the organisation of the book can be quite frustrating. For beginners, this would only be suitable for US readers, with some reservations.
Once upon a time, the marking point of a chef’s success was the awarding of a Michelin star or equivalent. The professional recognition and a dining room full of satisfied diners was all that was needed to make your mark on the culinary landscape. But chefs and restaurants have now evolved to a stage where global brand recognition has become a part of the game. Cookbooks featuring the flagship restaurant are a part of that marketing strategy.
Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road is the flagship of Ramsay’s empire, and “Three Star Chef” is his homage to it. As you’d expect, it is a beautiful book that will draw attention whether you keep it in the kitchen or on the coffee table.
The photography is of a high quality and the dishes presented are remarkable in terms of the skills behind them and their presentation. Given the time, skill, and ingredients, this is food that would impress at a dinner party. Ramsay’s words display his customary bluntness when discussing restaurant life in the first half of the book, but change to a more encouraging tone in the recipe section. Does this book, like the restaurant, stand alongside corresponding works by the likes of Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal, and Michel Bras? While the Ramsay book matches these others in terms of recipe content and production values, it falls short in that you never truly get a sense of what drives him, his food, and his restaurant.
Rose’s Heavenly Cakes is Rose Levy Beranbaum’s follow-up to the acclaimed The Cake Bible, with almost 100 cakes that aim to please a wide variety of tastes. Beranbaum’s meticulous style may please some well-equipped home bakers in a temperate climate, but others might find them too fastidious, controlling, limiting, and overly complicated for what are really supposed to be simple cakes. Frustratingly, even following the recipe to the letter can give results that still leave something to be desired.
The Dessert Architect gives plenty of inspiration for a student of pastry arts to create his or her own impressive creations through 50 creative recipes. It also provides a few guidelines in creating your own plated desserts and what factors must be put into consideration in a professional kitchen. However, the photography needs some improvement in showing off the desserts. Also, the lack of instructions for specific plating techniques and the exclusion of newer methods in plating and construction keep the book from becoming an authority on plating in the modern pastry chef’s bookshelf.
Basic ice-cream books are fairly common, but informative or innovative ones are few. Lola’s Ice Creams & Sundaes has been hailed as a welcome addition to the innovative side of things and I’m happy to agree. This attractive book by Morfudd Richards, owner of the UK’s high-class ice-cream van Lola on Ice, presents a very good range of delicious and inspiring recipes and some flawed explanation of the knowledge needed to become a confident and creative ice-cream maker.
Lobel’s Meat Bible from the eponymous butchery in New York promises “All you need to know about meat and poultry”. It’s a bold promise and the book doesn’t deliver. This visually attractive “bible” is both very informative and incredibly disappointing.
The front cover of “Snowflakes and Schnapps” shows a dinner table with a white painted antler in the middle of it. On first impressions it looks very stylish. But then you ask yourself, “Why is it there? Is there a purpose to it? Won’t it get in the way?” Look at the photo a bit longer, and the realisation hits that there is no food on the table. This book is like the photograph. There’s lots of style, with food almost as a secondary consideration.
Despite the glossy magazine feel of the book, and the expectation that it’s destined for the coffee table rather than the kitchen bench, it does contain recipes that would tempt even the most experienced of home cooks. A very impressive winter dinner could be built upon the offerings in this book.
“Snowflakes and Schnapps” will certainly satisfy those looking for a gift and many who are looking for a good cookbook. However, anyone who wants a more detailed and authentic look at the winter foods of Europe would be best advised to look elsewhere.
The author of the massively popular blog Chez Pim attempts to guide us to appreciating food, dining, and cooking (again) with her unique brand of sass and humor. While the dining tips are useful and the recipes look delicious, some of the material appears simply a supplement to (or derivative of) the blog. Her guide is a mixed bag of earnest, well-thought-out advice and odd name- and place-dropping that somehow makes being a foodie synonymous with being well-traveled and well-connected (or synonymous with Pim’s life), contrary to her stated objectives.
From the national Country Women’s Association branches around Australia comes a collection of cake recipes, published by Penguin. This is one of a few CWA books to be released in 2009. The photos are attractive, despite the range of cakes being far from fancy, and there are many familiar classics alongside some novel twists. The personal touch saves the book from being just an idiosyncratic catalogue of recipes (not least fruitcakes!) and with a little care most readers would enjoy baking from it, despite a few recipe problems.
Along with Heston Blumenthal’s “The Big Fat Duck Cookbook” and Ferran Adria’s “A Day at elBulli”, Grant Achatz’s “Alinea” was one of three highly anticipated books on molecular gastronomy released in 2008. The merits of molecular gastronomy have been argued in many forums and over countless dinners. While Blumenthal’s book provides a strong case that there is substance behind the hype, Achatz’s book may provide ammunition for those who don’t support the culinary revolutionaries. The recipes in the book are visually stunning and the techniques can leave you in wide eyed awe, but there is a gaping hole in that there are too few words from Achatz about his creations. It is also noticeable that the most satisfying writing in the book was by other contributors. It is these weaknesses that left me disappointed in the Alinea cookbook. Remove the essays, especially the one by Jeffrey Steingarten, and you may feel that the emperor has no clothes.
Daisy Garnett roasted her first chicken at thirty. It was the first meal she had ever actually cooked, something repeated – and often – throughout the pages of Cooking Lessons. A memoir by a young, emerging cook, Garnett’s recently formed kitchen wisdom is imparted with a refreshing, conversational ease. Her recipes ooze charm and wit. Unleashing this passion during a life-affirming yacht trip across the Atlantic with friends, Garnett is something of a poster girl for the still-growing movement toward reconnection with the simple pleasures of cooking. Here is someone, with the zeal of the newly converted, clearly in love with her subject.
Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio promises a lot. He seeks to teach home cooks about the basic relationships between ingredients that form the basis of so many preparations – from custard to bread to sausages to mayonnaise. Bread, for instance, is 5 parts flour to 3 parts water. These relationships, ratios or “codes” for combining ingredients, are more fundamental than the specific weights and volumes of today’s flood of “new” recipes.
I was excited in anticipation of this book, but was greatly disappointed with the outcome from this otherwise good author. Ratios are a great approach to reviving cooking “sense”, but they require skill in definition and explanation. Somehow Ruhlman’s sense for communicating about cookery didn’t conquer the demands of explaining a mathematical relationship clearly to a range of possible readers. It was never going to be an easy task, especially when trying to apply chef sense to something which domestic cooks have largely forgotten. Nonetheless, despite its failings, the existence of this book is truly valuable and can be of utility to certain readers – those who are already familiar with ratios in cooking, perceptive novices who need no visual material, and perhaps some others who might want to explore their own understanding of cooking fundamentals.
In the public imagination, the leading light of what has commonly been called the Molecular Gastronomy movement is the restaurant elBulli and its head chef, Ferran Adrià. For many years, elBulli has produced large, beautiful volumes of innovative dishes, techniques and the philosophy of their creation, first in Spanish and then, with some delay, in English. Unattainably expensive for many chefs and non-chefs alike, these books have provided one of the few clear insights into what Ferran Adrià and his restaurant is about, minus the breathless enthusiasm of food critics or hyped “weird-shit” descriptions of lesser food writers. At last there is a book that is aimed at the public, perhaps leading to better understanding of what this approach to cooking and eating is about. Sceptics might not make it through to the interesting bits, however, as this book is a vanity work of many pages and photos that only becomes interesting the further you look. In many ways this is little more than a coffee table book, yet fails in that form. It is simultaneously dull, unwieldy, informative and complex. The “potted guide” to elBulli, to use a slightly old fashioned term, just without the brevity!
Eating Between the Lines claims to be “A different kind of food tour” and sociologist Rebecca Huntley certainly takes the readers on a journey. The book is a series of discreet chapters exploring aspects of food culture in Australia. From the subtitle of the book, “Food & Equality in Australia”, you might expect the focus to be on poverty, access to food, and perhaps the ability to cook. In fact, Huntley ranges over these themes and adds a sociopolitical agenda involving gender roles, racism, Slow Food and more. At times, the reader might feel that the author lacks much insight into deeper cultural and historical issues, leaving her argumentation a little popular-conscience rather than achieving insightful examination. Nonetheless, many interesting pieces of information come out of the interviews and stories and the footnotes are interesting. I found Eating Between the Lines very irritating, but it’s well written and designed to hit the right “how terrible” buttons with certain types of readers. Huntley might, however, have cast her net a bit too wide, because there are enough touches of sneering through the book that she might well offend even some of her target audience.