In Pastries, Hermé takes on 50 monuments of the pastry world from ancient to modern times, and reimagines them in unique and inventive ways. At times the metamorphosis can be a head-scratcher, and the book doesn’t include details about the creative process behind the transformation. However, any fan of food history and pastry will appreciate up to 50 new recipes from one of Paris’s finest.
Books in the category: 4-star
As boutique chocolatiers continue to release cookbooks for their adoring fans, a clear voice must be found to have these books stand the test of time. Melt, while offering beautiful photography and ample recipes, struggles to achieve the level of accuracy desired by experienced chocolatiers, but may suit beginners just starting their chocolate adventure.
Packed with more than 250 imaginative recipes, Short and Sweet encourages bakers of every skill level to explore new ways of approaching baking without spending a lot of time, effort, or special equipment. The instructions are simple but never lacking in necessary detail, and Lepard leaves just enough room in the instructions for your own innovations and variations.
Chef Andrew McConnell, one of Australia’s most prominent representatives of high-end relaxed cuisine, has written his first cookbook. It’s attractive, broad in its flavours, and likely to stimulate and puzzle those who aren’t familiar with this type of dining. The book has a strong local feel and will be appreciated by McConnell’s devotees, despite (or because of) the rather demanding shopping list the cookbook requires.
At a certain point many foragers grow hungry for bounty beyond mushrooms and cattails. They seek meat – raw and wild – yet making the leap from acorn gatherer to elk killer is a daunting one that seems beyond grasp. Hank Shaw’s Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast narrows that gap with an entertaining, informative and approachable perspective on all forms of wild dining.
In a review with a clear personal perspective, our reviewer explores the usefulness of a book on wild foraging for his role as a chef and restaurateur. Connie Green and Sarah Scott’s The Wild Table: Seasonal foraged food and recipes is the latest in a string of books capitalizing on the foraged (also called wild crafted) food movement. Just as the movement has evolved and matured, Green & Scott’s book is a step above all others.
An impressive, compendious work about ice cream and other frozen sweets for home cooks. The much-awaited revision of an earlier book by the authors has yielded a greatly expanded range of delicious recipes, plus some additional history and trivia. The authors’ insistence on precision and recommended formulae for making ices is undermined by their own mistakes and inconsistencies, but despite this, Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide is a work worth considering for any avid home ice cream maker.
If a book’s worth can be measured by the number of dog-eared pages, then Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work could turn around the international financial crisis. In fact, my copy has so many turned page corners that I’m expecting a ‘Cease and Desist” order to arrive at my home any day now. Well over 75 pages are marked as requiring my re-reading and note taking. And lest you think I’m a chronic book destroyer, a quick scan of my most favorite and used books show less than ten dog-eared pages in any one book. This is one worthy book for anyone who cares about the inner workings of their food or for anyone who wants someone to do the homework for them so they can simply follow instructions and put out great dishes.
Chris Badenoch’s cookbook “The Entire Beast” is built around his passion for nose-to-tail eating and beer. Most of his recipes are European, but there are a couple of excursions into Chinese and Mexican food. While there is plenty to keep fans of nose to tail eating happy, there are enough other recipes to keep non-offal fans interested. His passion for beer is reflected in both his preference for using beer instead of wine in his recipes, and his beer recommendations for each dish. For those who don’t know very much about beer, he provides a glossary at the end. Badenoch’s passion, whilst sometimes going over the top, encourages readers to follow his cooking and drinking philosophy. Even without this enthusiasm, the recipes are still very tempting. For a first book, this is a very good effort.
Tartine Bread is both a tribute and a guidebook to the process of creating naturally leavened bread (no added yeast). Those with patience, dedication, and a knack for reorganizing a tremendous amount of information will be able to benefit the most from this book. The number of actual bread recipes is small but the book focuses more on the method and does not aim to give variety in terms of bread formulas. Fans of Tartine will also appreciate the various recipes in the final chapter that make use of day-old bread.
Heston Blumenthal’s “Fantastical Feats” is the companion book to the television series of the same name. In the book and series, Blumenthal creates six feasts, each based on a theme. His aim is to capture the spirit of each theme in the dishes he creates. As with his previous books, one of the principle joys of this book is reading about Blumenthal’s thought process as he turns abstract concepts into the form of food. He writes not only about the ideas that work, but the ones that don’t. The book is immensely entertaining. He writes with great humour, and he has a gift of finding experiences that allows him to connect with the reader and help them to see the food world as he does.
Belinda Jeffery is an Australian author who has published other collections of her recipes and contributes regularly to delicious magazine. She has had a long history working in various media and as a chef and teacher.
The Country Cookbook chronicles her move to the country, the hinterland behind Byron Bay in northern New South Wales and, in her words, is both a celebration of and a thank you for the kinder and simpler life she and her husband have found away from the city.
This book demonstrates what is best about cooking in Australia – access to an amazing range of fresh produce and flavour influences from all over the world.
Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi is the culinary equivalent of one of those books you find in a museum gift shop – impressive, beautiful, inspiring… but not likely to get opened much after its first reading. And yet, this book will fill you with hope in our culinary future, inspire you to expect more out of your local restaurants, and re-examine the food on your plate.
If you’re old enough to know that a Prawn Cocktail is not some new alcoholic beverage, then perhaps you also remember a time when the Prawn Cocktail was an exotic dish, and dining in a restaurant was a rare and exciting experience. What Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham set out to do in this book is rehabilitate some of those once novel, subsequently much abused, and now almost forgotten dishes which were the mainstay of restaurant menus in the 1960s and 1970s.
The recipes here are a reminder that good food results from cooking with care and attention rather than just following the latest fashion.
As I’m typing this, a crock of briny cucumbers is sitting in my basement. In a couple of weeks, in theory, the cukes will (in theory) be big, crunchy dill pickles. I’d been meaning to try this for a couple of years. I knew vaguely that it’s not a complicated process, just pickles in salty water, with a splash of vinegar for safety. But The Lost Art of Real Cooking, a book that’s both accessible and bursting with personality, was the book that finally inspired me to stand up and do it. So I give it full credit.
In the introductory chapter of his new book, “Medium Raw”, Anthony Bourdain asks “What the fuck am I doing here?” While that statement is made in the context of a dinner with chefs that he admits are countless levels above his own abilities, he also intends as a question about how he has ended up as a fulltime writer and television presenter. While he puts it down to a series of lucky breaks, the other factors he doesn’t mention are a combination of keen observation and very good writing skills.
“Medium Raw” is promoted as a sequel to “Kitchen Confidential”, and in one sense it fulfils that with chapters that update us on the lives of the people in that breakthrough book. But the book also offers writing about his own life, the food world as he sees it and, to his credit, saying how some of his views have changed over time. The usual Bourdain elements are there: the gonzo style of writing, his refusal to sugar coat his opinion, and a healthy splash of swearing. But with marriage and parenthood, a gentler and more sentimental Bourdain emerges too.
In Roast Chicken and Other Stories Simon Hopkinson presents a collection of some of his favourite recipes for a diverse and very personal selection of his favourite ingredients. Much lauded when it first appeared in print in 1995 Roast Chicken was subsequently labelled ‘the most useful cookbook of all time’. Whilst this is a hard claim to justify the book is informative and interesting, with straightforward recipes for timeless dishes, its usefulness limited only by its narrow range.
Lebanese Australian chef Abla Amad, renowned in Melbourne for her delicious homestyle cooking, this year updated her 2001 book The Lebanese Kitchen. The new edition, renamed to Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen comes on top of the peak of interest in Eastern Mediterranean cuisines. Unlike the first edition, the 2010 version is an attractive hardcover book with numerous photographs to entice the reader, but beyond that there’s barely anything new. The lack of new content is not necessarily a drawback, however, as Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen retains the original simple, personal focus on some delicious food.
In Ottolenghi The Cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamini share recipes for the sort of dishes which have made their London Ottolenghi food stores popular. Their food is based on the generous use of fresh ingredients and bold flavour combinations, drawing heavily on a wide range of culinary traditions not least those of their homeland, Israel. The recipes here cover a range of ideas for vegetables, through meat and fish to cakes and meringues and offer a modern and imaginative approach which will appeal to the adventurous and curious home cook.
For those readers old enough to remember when parental warnings were placed on certain music, you might remember how that music became the ‘must have’ CDs and records for your collection. Vineet Bhatia opens his recently released Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen with “This book is probably not for the novice cook.” Such sweet warnings are rarely uttered in culinary books. In this very attractive volume, Bhatia presents a wide range of impressive, at times labour-intensive (though rarely too complex) dishes that are a pleasure to eat. Along the way you learn about new ingredients, and realise that the common cliché of Indian dishes can easily be surpassed.
Aimed squarely at the teenage market, The New Students’ Veggie Cookbook addresses not just what a young vegetarian should eat, but also how to keep fit and healthy while doing so. The book covers the basics of setting up a kitchen, stocking a pantry, offering helpful and very clear instructions on how best to chop an onion, boil an egg and, interestingly, how to store food.
I come from the school of thought that says rock bands shouldn’t release their Greatest Hits album until their career is complete. Likewise, chefs should restrain themselves from re-releasing their favorite recipes until their career enters a culminating phase. That said, David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes will be excused since some of his previous books are no longer in print, and his greatest hits truly are classics worth reprinting.
Part recipe book, part gardening guide and part primer for encouraging children to take an interest in the food they eat Australian food icon Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion is an ambitious undertaking. Covering seventy-three different food crops, the gardening section combines Alexander’s experiences in her own kitchen garden and her work with school children, with detailed cultivation notes. The recipes, some of which have appeared elsewhere, cover a variety of cuisines and dishes and in some cases have been modified to be suitable for children to prepare. This is an impressive publication, the information is well presented and there is much here that is interesting and useful, but the wide scope of this book makes it difficult to categorise and may in the end limit its appeal.
Ad Hoc at Home is the latest cookbook from award-winning chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se, featuring casual family-style dishes. Compared to his previous works, the book is charmingly earnest and the recipes approachable, consisting of mostly American dishes with a touch of French influence, and plenty of helpful hints from Keller. However, Keller’s meticulous nature still comes through, elevating the dishes in terms of flavor and presentation, but at the same time making them time-intensive and at times expensive and unfamiliar. Even with its lavish production, the book still has relatively few illustrations.
Jacques Reymond and his restaurant are institutions in Melbourne, Australia. Over the years, the French-born chef has gradually introduced Asian elements into his cuisine. In some respects, he is the other side of the coin to Sydney’s Tetsuya Wakuda, who gradually fused French methods into his Japanese cuisine.
Cuisine du Temps is a book reflecting on Reymond’s career in the kitchen. Many recipes that people will recognise from his restaurant appear in this book, as do dishes that he learned during his time working in South America and the South Pacific. The recipes and photography speak for Reymond, but there’s a part of me that would have liked to read about the man himself and what motivates him.
Line caught, farmed, wild, sustainable, line-caught, organic – for the conscientious foodie, seafood can be an ethical minefield. This is where Fish Tales comes in. More than a recipe book, authors Bart van Olphen and Tom Kime take readers on a journey across the globe, to nine different sustainable fisheries. Sharing the fishermen’s stories, they give the reader a sense of the breadth and variety in fishing practices, and show us just how precarious our seafood supply is.
Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table is perfect for the aspiring foodie with its vast array of cuisines. Although you’ll find nothing ground-breaking or especially innovative, adventurous cooks will enjoy the challenge of cooking across the globe and, ultimately, a modern definition of American Cuisine will appear right on their own dinner table.
Peter Reinhart has produced another knockout bread book… but do we need it? Whereas the advanced baker may find this material redundant, those who are still rising to the occasion will find the consolidation of up-to-the-minute techniques in Artisan Breads Every Day easy to digest and incorporate.
What if Mozart or Einstein handed you their notebook and said, “Here, go have fun.” Such a gift would be overwhelming in generosity as well as challenge. When Paco Torreblanca offers this gift in Paco Torreblanca 2, he adds, “Now let’s see what we can do together.” A serious, no-nonsense book for people who take pastry seriously, Paco Torreblanca 2 focuses on integrating natural ingredients into microcosmic eye candy.
Over the past few years publishers Phaidon have been establishing a presence in the cookbook market. “The Silver Spoon For Children” is their first move into the area of cooking with children. Often, books in this area of cooking, like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “The River Cottage Family Cookbook”, are written for adults as a guide to teaching children how to cook. This book’s approach involves having a child read it, and then prepare the recipes with the aid of an adult. By simplifying the recipes to their essence, and using large pictures and bright colours to grab attention, this book is one that has a great chance of engaging young minds.
The book takes its recipes from “The Silver Spoon”, and is aimed at children aged at least nine years old. The recipes have been tested by children, so parents can be reasonably confident that the recipes will work. As someone who has not been impressed by Phaidon’s cookbooks, this one has been surprisingly good.
David Chang, owner of the famed New York restaurants Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ssäm Bar and Ko, chronicles his journey from noodle-eater to noodle-maker and guides us through more than 50 of his most popular recipes that showcase the fusion of modern technique and classic Asian comfort food. Throughout the book he gives us a peek into the creative process and the story behind each dish, citing his influences, failures, and inspirations. The recipes can be daunting and the flavors sometimes need tweaking, but ambitious home cooks should have little problem replicating or improving on the dishes, though the weak instructions and badly converted measurements might lead them astray. While there has been plenty of media focus on Chang’s “bad-boy” image, he still comes across as approachable and self-deprecating at best, and at worst annoying and trying too hard, but never offensive. Fans of modern Asian cuisine and the Momofuku empire will find the book both entertaining and fascinating. [Editor's note: Don't miss our book giveaway too!]
The Healthy College Cookbook is intended for American college students with no knowledge of cooking and perhaps little time. The 300 recipes range from simple healthy breakfast dishes to desserts, with a good range of savoury dishes between. The range of recipes feels modern (though maybe underseasoned) and the advice is very helpful, making this a useful and tasty book, though perhaps a little dry for some students. A good gift for many students or young people living alone.
Food historian Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra takes us on a gastronomic journey to more than twenty countries with the recipes she’s collected from her friends and artisan bakers around the world during her colorful life. For many of the recipes, she provides the history and shares the experience of tasting the authentic article. With plenty of beautiful photographs, the book will transport you out of the rut of your usual French and American breads and pastries and take you to less familiar locales.
Based on the food served at Edinburgh’s best-known Italian deli-cafe, Valvona and Crolla, this new recipe book makes for an evocative and mouth-watering read. Organised around the four seasons, there are recipes, personal stories and mini-travelogues, hints and tips, and detailed ingredient information specific to each time of year. Inspiration abounds throughout, supported by recipes which are as reliable as they are tempting. All in all, ‘Valvona and Crolla: A Year at an Italian Table’ is a veritable feast for foodlovers.
Life is Sweet is about making various types of confectionery at home, traditional and modern. The authors are the owners of the Hope and Greenwood confectionery shops in London and are experienced sweet makers. The recipes include a wide range of cooked and uncooked sweets, from rich dark truffles and chocolate with chilli and lime to marshmallows, nougat, toffee apples, old fashioned ‘pulled’ toffees and salt licorice. If you enjoy astonishing your friends with new home cooked goodies, this is a book to add to your bookshelf.
Cake Love: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch, provides a wide range of recipes from Warren Brown’s famous Cake Love bakery. Brown takes a scientific approach to cake baking, being a self-taught baker who learned through trial and error. The recipes range from basics to unusual. For beginners, all the standard recipes are included, from frostings to pound cakes to fillings, as well as comprehensive instructions and information on basic baking techniques and equipment. The level of detail in his instructions tends to be excessive in parts, which is useful for beginners, but can be convoluted and distracting for experienced bakers. However, more advanced bakers will appreciate his original creations, such as Triple Lime-Chocolate Crunchy Feet, Cranberry-Lemon Pound Cake Loaded with Chocolate or Hazelnut Sponge Cake.
The culinary literature in English about Portugal is a bit patchy, often the work of emigrés reproducing the recipes of family and friends. The latest contribution about Portuguese cuisine is David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table. Unlike all previous books, this one sets out to innovate and modernise. Why this is the goal isn’t entirely clear, but it’s an interesting work containing tasty recipes and useful additional information from this Portuguese-American food writer.
Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans are the creators of the popular gastrokid.com website. The book, like the website, is focussed on cooking for families. While there is an emphasis on simplicity and the use of fresh ingredients, the authors strongly encourage their readers to try new foods. They believe that parents should not prejudge what their children will or will not eat, and that finicky tastes are something to be expected. As a parent of two children, it is an attitude that I agree with. The book’s recipes cover the day’s three main meals, snacks, and picnic food. Many of the recipes are designed to allow children to be involved in the preparation, with the pleasing consequence that techniques are often simple and quick. The book is littered with bits of trivia and tips, and overall, it is a package that many families will find very useful.
In an era when pastry chefs are whisking unpronounceable ingredients into batters, creating neon floating effervescent micro cookie espumas, this collection of Alain Ducasse recipes anchors pastry artists with solid and glorious fundamentals. With little fuss or fanfare Ducasse Pastry Chef, Frédéric Robert, offers 250 fine-tuned dessert and pastry recipes that are a sure success. But this volume is not for everyone. A solid foundation in pastry arts is necessary. And that sparse, focused writing style is what I find most appealing. Reading three page recipes for cookies wears on my patience, and here, we find recipes that take lines, not pages, but they assume you know your basics.
Japanese Kitchen Knives is a beautifully photographed guide to the three main knives (Usuba, Deba, Yanagiba) and the various cutting and filleting techniques specific to each knife. Aimed towards those interested in advanced Japanese cuisine and admirers of a traditional Japanese art, the book is one-of-a-kind. However, some steps of the techniques may be too difficult to be constrained within the smallish photographs and even with the flawless photography, diagrams are still needed for clarity.
“(T)he book vividly evokes the country households of two generations ago. It includes personal opinion, trucs and tours de main (personal tricks), even alternative versions of the same dish, all offered in a warm, practical and personal voice.”
That was Australian chef and food icon Stephanie Alexander on La Mazille’s La Bonne Cuisine du Périgord, but I would say much the same of Alexander’s own work, Cooking & Travelling in South-West France, published in 2002. A record of Alexander’s visits to the region between July 1999 and November 2000, this is part travel diary, part cookbook and 100% addictive.
The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook takes you on the journey of a restaurant one month at a time with ambitious menus that capture the flavors of the season. Though some recipes might sometimes be long and involve too many steps, they are not usually out of reach of the home cook and patience will be rewarded with an impressive feast. Each month also features the profile of a person close to the restaurant and a story about the area, giving the reader a vivid portrait of a hidden culinary gem.
In Cake Chic, London’s queen of couture cakes, Peggy Porschen, shares the secrets of her celebrated sugar designs. From cookies to miniature cakes, to stunning tiered creations, Porschen’s style is unrestrainedly chic and girly. Her unique style and enthusiasm are inspiring and will motivate home bakers to get busy in the kitchen, rolling fondant and piping royal icing. However, despite its casual, accessible tone, this book is aimed squarely at advanced bakers, with some discrepancies between the base recipes and decorating guides requiring careful and skilled adjustment and planning.
This comprehensive book of Greek food offers an assortment of delicious dishes, from salads and soups to mezedes (appetizers) for the summer to slow-cooked Greek dishes we grew up with as Greeks. Vefa’s Kitchen also showcases a huge array of regional desserts and pastries, breads and other baked delights. At more than 650 recipes, the scope of this book is nearly unparalleled.
In Kim Sunée’s coming-of-age-memoir, she travels the world and uses food to find herself and the home she never felt she had. Sunée’s narrative is an intensely honest, earnest telling of her story, with a poetic, yet unfussy writing style. Trail of Crumbs details Kim’s life, from early memories of her childhood abandonment in Korea, to her adoption and upbringing in New Orleans, to her travels around the world. Most chapters conclude with a few recipes, appropriate to the setting. The recipes don’t necessarily inspire the reader to jump into the kitchen, but they are a nice touch and complement Kim’s journey in this heart-warming story without a classic happy ending.
Any comprehensively stocked kitchen will have many scented ingredients in the spice rack, drawer or cupboard, ranging from pungent to aromatic, depending on the types of dishes prepared and enjoyed in each household. This book is not concerned with any of them.
The subject matter of The Scented Kitchen is perfumed flowers from the flower garden, using them in various ways to impart flavour and aroma, and in some instance, colour also.
Had I come across this title on a shelf, I might well have passed it by, thereby missing an interesting read.
Planet Cake is the book from the famous Sydney boutique cake shop of the same name, renowned for its elaborate sugarcraft creations and celebrity customers. The book promises beautifully decorated cakes that are “fabulous, professional, and easy”, and it seems to deliver in most respects, combining Planet Cake’s distinctive decorative style with good base recipes. The chapters of this book are very well structured, making it easy for beginners or more advanced decorators to find their way around. Whilst no-one would pretend that becoming a cake decorator is a simple feat, for the motivated home cook, Planet Cake can give you the tools to get there.
In Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts, Claire Clark, head pastry chef of The French Laundry, shares 100 memorable desserts from her 25 years of experience as a pastry chef. The range is wide, from her mother’s recipe for shortbread, to complex multilayered desserts worthy of a four-star hotel. As a result, the skill level required of this book ranges from novice to intermediate as well. Her skill as a pastry chef and as a teacher shines through in the text, and the result is a solid volume of desserts that have spot-on flavors.
At 255 pages with glossy color photos on nearly ever page, there is plenty of eye candy in Pastry in Europe 2009. However, at $119.95 on Amazon US the book moves out of the price range of most frugal bakers. The book feels like a hard-bound glossy book you find in finer hotel rooms that seeks to serve the Edward Behr (Art of Eating) audience. It is a beautiful, densely packed book full of wonderful material, and not just recipes, but articles about culture, people, technique, yet they are abbreviated articles that leave you wanting more. If you have knocked out some killer mousse or chocolate bon bons, and have a fairly solid grasp of the concept and techniques, grab the book. It is unique, interesting, and informative. The book was worth the investment for one who is constantly seeking new techniques, ideas and flavor combinations, although it may not get the mileage of an Hermé book or an Art of Eating magazine
Walk into any chef’s kitchen, and dig around long enough, and you’ll find a buried treasure of recipes. Mine is a humble stack of tattered, splattered papers sitting on a shelf in unruly fashion. A more experienced chef will have a file cabinet, a binder with sheets neatly tucked into plastic protectors, or laminated sheets clipped on a wall. The Complete Robuchon is that treasure chest for Joel Robuchon and his army of cooks. “French home cooking for the way we live now” is the apt subtitle and this book, and deserves its place next to the other fat books in your kitchen. In fact, I suggest placing it right next to Bittman and between the two you really could cook anything.
Chocolate is a mammoth work from the Chocolate History Group at the University of California, Davis. The culmination of ten years of anthropological and archival research, this is a book for a narrow range of readers with interests in food research, anthropology and history, or for those whose curiosity will be sated by an enormous range of fascinating tidbits about chocolate. As a volume representing the final output from the group, it is a collection of 56 academic essays covering anything from the religious significance of chocolate in pre-Colombian and post-colonisation societies to advertising cards in 19th century Europe and North America. As might be expected, this is no light reading and generalist readers may find it hard going. Despite the title, the remit of the research group was strongly oriented towards the Americas, leaving European chocolate history rather neglected in the final product.
The Seafood Handbook is a well-illustrated and easy-to-read guide of 210 species of seafood in North America, and is a great resource for buyers of seafood, or even your everyday seafood fanatic. However, parts of the introductory chapters, “crash courses” in the seafood industry and seafood handling, are poorly written and seem to evade issues that people who are serious about the seafood business should care about.
If you’re a bloke with barely a pinch of kitchen knowledge (or with an overdose of indolence), Beat Heat Eat might be your cup of tea. Dean Lahn has created a slim, very visual cookbook for the unreconstructed male. The recipes are short and quite novel in their low-effort approach, presented with fine engineer-like graphics that are mostly useful. Textual instructions are clear and the introductions and asides for each recipe could make you laugh or cringe, depending on your temperament. It’s fun. At times it’s brilliant. It will irritate many experienced cooks. And women.
This enormous volume inspires awe and some moments of disappointment. James Peterson presents an amazingly rich collection of recipes (600) and information about techniques in his book titled very simply “Cooking”. Just opening to the table of contents, spanning six pages, is enough to convince you that this could be the one, the book that covers all the bases you might need for a strong standard repertoire of dishes. The table of contents lists every major recipe in the book. Wonderful. Not only a wealth of classics, but a long list of technical explanations with photographs (1500), tips and recommendations turn this into a book which many owners would be satisfied with. It’s aimed at a USAmerican audience and is probably of most use to cooks with some confidence in approaching cooking, even if they aren’t experienced cooks.
With more than 250 easy-to-follow recipes, My Love for Naples packs a lot of punch into a light volume. Callen makes no compromises in authenticity, but neither are any of the recipes unachievable for the home cook. However, with only a few pictures of select recipes, the book may not appeal to those who need them for inspiration and direction.
The 2008-2009 class of modernist cookbooks was stellar. It seems that chefs and authors have recognized that a growing class of home cooks has filled their pantry with calcium lactate, agar agar, gelatin sheets and lecithin. The days of flashy coffee table books filled with out-of-reach food porn have been pushed aside for star studded cook books filled with National Geographic worthy photos and accessible (albeit challenging) recipes. Among this class we can find Johnny Iuzinni, Grant Achatz, Joel Robuchon and Thomas Keller. The latter leads the class in its yawp to cooks and chefs across the globe that its time to look forward while keeping your roots solid and well honed.
At just shy of 300 pages with high quality color pictures on half of the pages, and more recipes than my vacuum packer can handle, this cookbook packs a wallop. Consider sous vide’s espoused virtues – “Fruits, which are especially susceptible to rapid oxidation and discoloration, remain bright when cooked sous vide rather than becoming dull and brown,” or “Fish, perhaps more than any protein, has such a small window of doneness that it requires the most finesse on the part of the cook. Sous vide makes cooking fish easier and more consistent, especially in a busy kitchen.” These are tidbits that welcome the home cook into the industrial kitchen with open arms.
If you’re interested in rolling up your sleeves, plugging in the circulator, and cranking out some amazing foods, then this is a great option for you.
Tessa Kiros’ latest offering, Venezia, will no doubt have turned up in many food lovers’ Christmas stockings. From the gilt-edged pages, to the stunning photographs of Venice, to the ornate food styling, it is a truly beautiful book, enhanced by Tessa’s romantic prose.
Marketed as “Tessa’s diary jottings on the life & food of Venezia”, one can’t help but wonder, why Venice? Apart from a brief mention of her “half Venetian sister-in-law”, Kiros doesn’t seem to have a personal connection with the city, nor does it seem that she has spent an extended period of time there – all the pictures seem to be from the same, distinctly wintry period. A strength of her previous books was the impressive authenticity of her international recipes – from Finnish meatballs to South African babka – no doubt testament to Kiros’ famously global upbringing. So whilst I wouldn’t count her recipes as authentically Venetian, her status as a veteran traveller makes her an excellent guide for us outsiders to Venice.
Cook With Jamie, released by British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in 2007, is a bestseller and was awarded the 2007 IACP award for best cookbook under the General category. While the photographs are breathtaking and Oliver works his magic and makes simple food beautiful and inspired, it still has it flaws—but it may very well still be one of the best Jamie Oliver cookbooks around, and worthy of an award even.
François Payard’s chocolate-flavored follow-up to his award-winning Simply Sensational Desserts is also a winner, packed with 99 new recipes that explore the massive potential of chocolate in an amazing variety of desserts. Payard’s French roots are definitely evident in this book, though there are a few American, Italian, and Spanish influences. Chocolate Epiphany is the perfect book for the adventurous home baker with a love for all things chocolate.