As a self-taught chef, I am constantly on the lookout for books that will expand my training. Traditionally, books published by culinary schools have been written to accompany classroom instruction making them poor tools for independent learners. Francisco Migoya of the Culinary Institute of America takes a different approach to his books and his latest is certainly a winner for serious students of pastry.
Books in the category: 5-star
Food author and world traveler Naomi Duguid explores the cuisine of Burma in her sixth book. Lovers of Southeast Asian food will enjoy cooking through this book of authentic home-style Burmese cooking, with recipes obtained from the author’s travels and interacting with cooks in the country. Various essays, brief histories, and beautiful snapshots of Burmese culture complete the portrait of this cuisine.
Eat Me is the latest compilation of food design intended by and for designers but a joy for chefs, food lovers and art appreciators. In 2010 I reviewed Design Culinaire which had similar goals, but fell short because if its lack of breadth of contributors. Not so with Eat Me. Over 250 pages representing some 87 different designers and artists with works ranging from whimsical to oblique to functional. Eat Me will surely inspire you to find your own creativity and appreciate the role of designers in our daily gastronomic lives.
Eat With Your Hands is the first book by Zakary Pellacio of New York’s celebrated restaurants Fatty Crab and Fatty ‘Cue. In this book he takes Southeast Asian classics and reinvents them with his Italian heritage and French training, or conjures new dishes with a distinct flavor profile which would not look out of place on a Malaysian table. The dishes are time-consuming, challenging, and require good sourcing of exotic ingredients, but always rewarding.
In Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, Professor Barbara Santich sets out to provide “justification and legitimacy” for those foods and ways of cooking and eating that are recognised as “distinctively Australian”. Santich draws on a wide range of sources including newspapers, diaries and memoirs, recipe books, and the work of other academics to present a thorough and approachable survey of Australia’s gastronomic heritage. Well-illustrated and with valuable and informative primary source material (newspaper articles, letters, advertising etc.) reproduced on almost every page, this book is a welcome reference for anyone interested in the historical background to the Australian diet.
Mediterranean Street Food is a celebration of both the food and the culture of the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Street food has been part of the way of life in this region for centuries and the history of all these countries, from Spain and Morocco in the west to Turkey and Lebanon in the east, is written in the food the people eat. Anissa Helou brings her natural curiosity and her innate cultural understanding to this collection of recipes gleaned from the street vendors themselves. Covering a broad range, this book is a very good introduction to both the similarities and subtle differences between the cuisines of the Mediterranean with an appealing range of recipes easily achievable at home.
Giorgio Locatelli is often referred to as one of the world’s best Italian chefs (or words to that effect) so it goes without saying that he knows a thing or two about Italian food. In this book he takes the reader on a most enjoyable journey around Sicily as he explores and explains the traditions and history of Sicilian food, meeting growers, producers and restaurateurs along the way. Locatelli’s enthusiasm and personality and the collection of recipes which admirably demonstrates the simplicity and strong flavours of Sicilian food make Made in Sicily both a good read and a good resource for anyone wanting to capture a little bit of Sicily for themselves.
Recipes that are timeless. Recipes that have endured. Recipes that hold enough cultural significance that they’ve adorned the pages of Art of Eating magazine. The Art of Eating Cookbook is a no fuss, no frills anthology of recipes that work, taste great, and are doable by any level of cook.
Jennifer McLagan’s final stage of her trilogy, including the much lauded Bones (2005) and Fat (2007), is a comprehensive exploration of those animal parts that are ignored or tossed in the bin, and the word fascinating would be the ultimate understatement in describing this book. Odd Bits is her final manifesto to the world of daring or squeamish cooks to take a new look at less common parts of the animals, and is one of the best cookbooks of 2011.
Publishers Quadrille have produced a version of Eliza Acton’s famous Modern Cookery for Private Families, first published in 1845. Essential reading for anyone interested in food and history, so much of what Eliza Acton had to say is as true today as it was more than 150 years ago. Acton gives valuable insight into the Victorian kitchen, and her prose is a pleasure to read.
Colman Andrews paints a sympathetic and informative picture of Ferran Arià, a chef who, through passion, obsession and creative focus, almost accidentally made the culinary earth move.
Reinventing Food is worth reading both for the interested and the unbelievers. Especially for the latter group, frequently sceptical of modernist cuisine because of the media depiction of it being laboratory food lacking soul but oozing “cleverness”, Reinventing Food might shed more light on what really is significant and fascinating and (perhaps) delicious about so many aspects of Adrià’s contribution to the culinary world.
“Thai Street Food” is David Thompson’s homage to the markets, food stands and mobile vendors of Thailand. As with his groundbreaking previous book, “Thai Food”, Thompson explains the evolution of the food, and the systems and culture that sustains it. However, readers should not think of this book as being a street food version of his first book – to do so would only lead to disappointment. Thompson’s aim here is to give the reader an insight into what Thais eat every day and how it fits into their lives. The hour-by-hour changes in the food available to Thais in the street markets is constantly emphasised in the book. The combination of his writing and Earl Carter’s photographs is so seductive that it’s hard to resist the urge to catch the next flight to Bangkok to experience the culture Thompson has adopted as his own.
Nigella Lawson, queen of the celebrity chefs, is back. Kitchen is the culmination of Nigella’s life-long love affair with the kitchen. Comprising 190 recipes over 488 pages, Kitchen is a compendious tome, combining Nigella’s conversational writing style with lovely colour photographs by Lis Parsons. Its practical, delicious recipes and engaging writing make it destined to become sauce-splattered and well used in the kitchen, but also well-read and loved outside of it too.
The National Trust’s (UK) book on apples is probably everything a good British gardener would need to develop an orchard of delicious lesser-known apple varieties. One of a series of useful little books, this volume covers some history of the apple, culinary and cultural, the supposed health benefits, origins of various cultivars old and new, and horticultural tips for growing trees in various settings. This is a valuable and charming book for British readers and for curious fruit growers and apple lovers in other places.
The Modern Café is an excellent guide and inspiration for culinary professionals and those aspiring to have a great café. Beautiful photographs and informative side boxes generously fill the pages. The knowledge is invaluable, the recipes are fresh and exciting, and the business acumen could move you from failed restaurant to the star of your community.
In the world of the celebrity chef, where books are churned out every year along with the television show and the newly endorsed kitchen products, it can be easy to forget that at some point there was a reason why these people became famous in the first place. Nigella Lawson is a case in point – the same flirtatious looks to the television camera, the coquettishness of her manner, and the double entendre laden words. The constant mining of a new angle – quick food, summer food, baking, this fashion, that trend – a battle to keep the personality fresh and the profits flowing.
Lawson started her career in food as a columnist, and the quality of her work led to her writing a book. “How To Eat” was first published in 1998 and it became a bestseller. The two keys to its success were the high quality of Lawson’s writing and the common sense she offers about cooking. The first sign of a practical mind is the way she arranged this book. Chapters devoted to cooking for one or two, weekend lunches, and feeding babies and small children, shows someone who understands modern life. The recipes she provides use ingredients that are easy to find and use reasonably straightforward techniques. Ten years down the track and “How To Eat” is as joyful a read as ever. I suspect that in fifty years’ time, people will still be reading it.
Tartine is a remarkable book that allows the home baker to recreate breakfast pastries, tarts, cakes, and puddings from the renowned California bakery. The authors didn’t hold back anything in making the book, taking from most of their entire menu, yet the recipes are mostly accessible and the skill level required ranges from beginner to intermediate. Most importantly, many of the desserts from the book have a rustic charm but are still delicious and beautiful enough to be showstoppers. The photography of the book, taken behind the scenes at the Tartine Bakery, captures the dream-like quality of the desserts and the remarkable skill of the artisans who make them.
Heston Blumenthal is known as a gastro-wizard. Not only does he helm the Fat Duck, once considered the top restaurant in the world, but he also has popular notoriety through his In Search of Perfection television series on the BBC. In Search of Total Perfection is the culmination of the TV series put in print (combining his two previous books from the series into one volume), and offers not only the recipes and exploratory work leading to the recipes, but also the behind-the-scenes tales from the studio. And whereas a movie can drop a book’s plot, story lines and even characters to help the story fit into a two-hour reel, this book flips a page and gathers all of the information presented in the series and expands on the shows with useful and fun details. The reader is left as plump and saturated as Blumenthal’s roast chicken. And that’s where we’ll peck away at this book – roast chicken.
A meal isn’t complete without a sauce – and this is just the book to help any aspiring cook with the preparation of a huge variety of sauces, including all the classics. Michel Roux makes it as simple as possible with clear, step-by-step instructions which are illustrated throughout with beautiful photographs. With this book to hand, you’ll be able to transform your meals into something altogether more magical, whether you’ve made sauces before or whether you’re a complete beginner.
Marco Pierre White’s publishers took advantage of his re-emergence on television in the mid-2000s by reprinting “White Heat”. First published in 1990, this book proved that the public had an interest in recipes that were not intended to be made in a home kitchen.
“White Heat” has been a book sought by collectors, professionals and foodies since its original release. Justin North, the owner/chef of Sydney’s Becasse restaurant commented recently that “This changed the way I saw food. I was an apprentice in New Zealand and it gave me an insight to the manic life of a chef; it made me hungry for knowledge about Michelin chefs.” Its impact in terms of kitchen skills, as a source of inspiration for chefs and cooks, and on the design of cookbooks, is still being felt twenty years later.
“White Heat” also set standards in other areas. The stark black and white photographs are so integral to the feel of the book that the photographer, Bob Carlos Clarke, received a prominent credit on the cover. The layout with its blocks of white space and oversized quotes by White owes more to cutting edge magazines like “The Face” than to the cookbooks of years gone by. Finally, there is the no-holds-barred commentary by White about the many aspects of the life of a chef. “White Heat” was an extraordinary book in its time, and it remains so today.
Spring in Sicily, the fourth book in Manuela Darling-Gansser’s series of seasonal recipe books, is a medium-sized hardback book of 260 pages filled with recipes, photographs, commentary, brief chats with chefs, market stall holders, bakers and café owners, fishermen, artisan makers of cheese and wine, and a brief overview of the rich history of Sicily and some of the nearby islands.
The text is brief, informative and a pleasure to read, while the recipes are simple but different enough from the more usual regional Southern/Northern Italian cooking of mainland Italy to be interesting.
A buzz of joy courses through some readers when they discover certain books of special note. Sicilian Food by Mary Taylor Simeti had this effect on me. The author’s prose has that rather stiff, knowledgeable and cheekily irreverent prose familiar in parts from writers like Elizabeth David or MFK Fisher. From discussion of the probable diets of different classes of people in classical times to descriptions of contemporary foodsellers to notes about making your own tomato extract, Simeti captures the culinary atmosphere, context, attitudes and flavours of deepest, hottest Sicily.
Chef Gerald Hirigoyen and writer Lisa Weiss have produced an enjoyable, tasty book of Basque tapas — Pintxos. Every time a cuisine becomes popular, booklovers see too many poorly done chefs’ books land on the shelves. Pintxos shows how a book can capture a chef’s style and cuisine traditions without feeling forced, pretentious or too much like a self-promotional device. Pintxos is an enjoyable book to cook, eat and entertain from.
Big. Bold. Burning! Those words summarize this near flawless book from famed South American chef and restaurateur, Francis Mallmann, and author Peter Kaminsky. Seven Fires refers to the techniques that Mallmann uses when cooking: Chapa, Little Hell, Parilla, Horno de Barro, Rescoldo, Asador and Caldero. You ask, “Where are hibachi and sterno?” Not to be found in this book. Seven Fires is about serious grilling – the type that you dream of doing. The cover teases us with Mallman genteelly grilling over burning embers, but open the cover and whole hogs are split wide, splayed above massive infernos. But not to fear, this book is truly accessible to all.
Jennifer McLagan’s book of bones attracted rightful acclaim for its presentation of recipes, knowledge and tips about cooking and eating meat on the bone, eating marrow from the bone, and using disfavoured cuts of meat to produce delicious dishes. Each section gives refreshingly clear, concise descriptions of where cuts of meat come from on each animal’s carcass and how best to cook them, tips about buying good meat, and a number of tasty recipes. McLagan’s clarity of explanation and evident passion makes Cooking on the Bone stand out.
Hilary McNevin’s Guide to Fish is a handy, modern reference for Australian consumers. Not only does it provide helpful information about sustainable species, buying and cooking tips, but also a great range of interesting, tasty recipes for each of the fish presented. Although you could always wish for more detail, this book achieves what it needs to within its clean, compact format.
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, a collection skillfully pieced together by Elizabeth David herself, is the perfect introduction to the breadth and depth of her writing. First published in 1984, this collection of articles spanning many decades was inexplicably out of print in Britain for some years (but still available in the US). Here you will find remarkably candid – often hilarious – reviews of books and restaurants; historical essays sit comfortably with the well-loved romance of markets in rural France. Culinary gems are peppered throughout.
In Notes on Cooking, Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich provide us with 217 insights into what it takes to be a good cook – what they call a “concentration of the culinary craft.” Though each item is brief, most are immediately useful, insightful, and will have an impact on your kitchen habits. It makes an excellent gift for the starting and intermediate cook, but even experienced cooks will benefit from reflecting on the wisdom in it.
It’s 43cm long, 33cm wide, 8cm thick, weighs about five kilograms, has 534 pages, and was one of the most anticipated cookbooks in 2008. From the silver embossed slipcase to the photography and artwork, the writing and the feel of the paper, it would be hard not to notice and admire the Big Fat Duck Cookbook on the shelves of a bookstore.
On initial impressions, perhaps like the restaurant itself, the book appears to be an intimidating creature. Open it and you will be hit by Heston Blumenthal’s passion. Inside is the story of Blumenthal and his restaurant, the recipes and stories behind many of the dishes from the Fat Duck, and a series of essays explaining the science behind the food. Beyond the science, there are journeys into food history, philosophy, personal anecdotes, humour, and the sheer dumb luck that can trigger a great idea. It is a dizzying amount of information in one book. But for those who have read Blumenthal’s previous books, his newspaper columns, or seen his TV show will know that he has a gift for explaining complicated concepts in terms that the layman can understand.
Food served in small glasses — verrines — has been popular in France for at least four years. José Maréchal’s book Verrines, published by Murdoch Books, is only the second book in English to focus strongly on this type of dish. Two of Maréchal’s French books on verrines (published by Marabout: Verrines, Verrines toutes fraîches) have been combined to produce this compact 128 page volume in English which gives an excellent introduction and provides lots of inspiration. This is a title that deserves five stars because it achieves what it needs to so well, combining a feel for the dishes with tips and inspirations. The book suits cooks who enjoy food presentation and bright flavours and who have at least basic technical confidence.
In “The Clatter of Forks and Spoons”, Irish chef Richard Corrigan covers the food that he grew up with as the child of a farmer in Ireland, traditional recipes, and the dishes he serves at his restaurant. Many of the dishes are simple and comforting, and will rarely require any searches for exotic ingredients or specialist equipment. Corrigan is also a storyteller, so you will find essays, anecdotes, and observations throughout the book. He presents his views with a great passion, but it’s done in a similar manner to what you would get from having a feisty debate with a good friend over a beer. He is also a champion of artisanal producers and allows many of these producers their own voice in his essays.
This is an outstanding book from three viewpoints. Firstly, in Corrigan’s writing, no words are wasted and his essays could be a book in their own right. The second are the recipes. It is food for the soul, the ingredients are listed in a clear manner, and the instructions are presented in a conversational tone. Finally, it’s a beautiful book. The photography suits the book in that it has a feel more like a family photo album than food porn. Many people will find this book a worthwhile purchase, including those who want to rediscover their Irish and British roots, those who simply enjoy good food writing, and anyone who simply wants to cook a delicious meal.
Occasionally I have friends or acquaintances who ask me for pastry book recommendations. I cook for a living, but am also a home baker at heart. Even though I have many far more impressive looking books relating to pastry and baking, a particular one stands out amongst the rest. I turn to it when I want to whip up something comforting and it’s the book I’m confident will yield me a very pleasing result, even if it’s a previously unattempted recipe. It is also the one with batter-stained pages and the odd chocolate smudge – surely the good sign of a well loved book (or a careless cook). The book? Belinda Jeffery’s Mix & Bake.
The “Blue Ribbon” of this title is the traditional blue ribbon awarded to winning entries in country shows and specifically the various cookery sections (Classes) of the Horticultural and Agricultural Shows throughout South Australia. From cover to cover this is an attractive book, with well laid out pages, clear and easy to read text and nice sharp images to delight the eye and stimulate the taste buds. The prize winning cooks are women, men and children of all ages and mostly from towns and farming communities close to particular show venues. The recipes range from the humble tomato sauce, various preserves, jams and jellies, through baked goods from biscuits to sponge cakes and a State Competition winning entry of a rich dark fruit cake.
Anjum’s New Indian offers inviting recipes, useful background information and a warm but not over-the-top enthusiasm for food. The book features recipes from a BBC television series, Indian Food Made Easy, focusing on regional dishes of India.
The book could easily have been yet another one of those “inspired by the flavours of …” titles, leaving the user none the wiser about what really makes a cuisine, but thankfully the author not only tells the reader how many dishes are traditionally prepared, but is also open about what changes she has made and why. It makes this book doubly valuable: helping you understand traditional methods and flavours while giving you at times lighter, simpler or just personally preferred alternatives. The results are delicious and attractive for omnivores and vegetarians alike.
Extensively researched and beautifully photographed, Izakaya is an inspiring, enjoyable tour into this cornerstone of Japanese food culture. In addition there are more than 60 authentic recipes straight from the chefs of some of Japan’s best izakayas, making this book a must-have for anyone interested in Japanese cuisine. More than a cookbook or a guidebook, Izakaya is the next best thing to being there.
Everyone who has ever tried to make macarons will know that it is not as simple as it might look. Like Pierre Hermé’s famous macarons, it would be difficult for any macaron book to surpass this one. There are 57 macaron recipes, each one very detailed. Something which is extremely helpful for both macaron newcomers and veterans: photo-illustrated step-by-step instructions for making shells and fillings. Although this book is in French, the recipes and instructions are clear enough that most macaron lovers would find a solution to the language barrier.
Si vous avez déjà essayé de faire des macarons, vous savez sans doute que la tâche est bien plus difficile qu’elle n’en a l’air. Tout comme les macarons célèbres de Pierre Hermé, son livre sur ces petits délices est sans égal. Cette œuvre contient pas moins de 57 recettes pour macarons, chacune bien détaillée pour aider tant ceux qui savent déjà en faire, que ceux sans aucune expérience. Les photos illustrent chaque étape dans la préparation des coquilles et des garnitures. Bien que ce livre soit rédigé en langue française, les recettes sont suffisamment claires d’ailleurs, même les amateurs de macarons non-francophones pourraient surmonter la barrière de la langue.
An Edge in the Kitchen provides a focused, readable guide that begs to be re-read as your skills improve. Well worth the purchase, this book has allowed me to whittle through countless vegetables with precision and ease, and to make my knives razor sharp.
The recipes contained within this unassuming, un-illustrated reissue glow. They openly embrace the full spectrum of ethical eating. The vast majority, in fact, are vegan. None of the ingredients (bitter almonds excepted) are difficult for a home cook to locate but, most importantly, this is a book of delicious, exquisite food; simple to make, exotic enough to tempt jaded palates and written in an elegant, spare style. Instruction is straightforward and, where appropriate, Haroutunian’s introductions, themselves short and sweet, are peppered with wisdom from classic Arabian literature. I only wish the word Vegetarian could be replaced with the word Vegetable in the title. It deserves a wider audience.
It seems like we’re forever being told to eat healthier, lighter food yet at the same time there aren’t exactly a mountain of attractive food books that really focus on interesting healthy options. Too many healthy-eating books make food much less fun than it needs to be. To my surprise, Jill Dupleix successfully combines the ideas of lighter eating without making you feel like you’re launching into a 100% fat-free nightmare. Lighten Up offers a welcome diversity of good, appetising recipes in an attractive package. The tone won’t suit everyone, and the trendy ingredients might put some people off at first, but this is a book well worth looking at. I was surprised at how interesting I found the range of recipes.
Beautiful. This is a stunning production imbued with the personality of the author, local context, and an appealing warmth, packaged with style and a sense of understanding of the author’s values. Maggie’s Harvest is, in keeping with the author’s own philosophy and the prevailing food ideology, organised by season. And in what feels quite Australian, it starts with summer and ends with spring (take that you northern hemispherics!). The only downside? There’s some content reproduced from Maggie Beer’s previous books, but this isn’t revealed.